Whatever the outcome of the Senate showdown over President Bush's judicial nominees, the Christian Right is a stronger political force as a result of its now infamous "Justice Sunday: Stop the Filibuster Against People of Faith" telecast on April 24 of this year. The nation is not yet a theocracy, if mullah-run Iran or Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is the standard. But after four years of unprecedented access, far-right Christian fundamentalists are deeply embedded in government structures and ready to call the shots over the biggest prize, the U.S. Supreme Court. We are on the brink of a de-facto Christian state, and we should be very frightened for the future of religious freedom and diversity.

Consider the facts. The Christian Right has worked closely with the Bush administration from day one, and arguably they're within reach of what they want: funding for religious agencies, more religion in the public square, scientific research that reflects fundamentalist beliefs, a proliferation of restrictive laws and regulations governing sexual behavior and family relationships, limits on individual freedoms, a second chance to discredit evolution, shredding the New Deal safety net, and the opportunity to reverse Supreme Court decisions such as Roe v Wade and Lawrence and Garner v Texas. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has often spoken about imposing his biblical worldview through his work in Congress. This vision of the United States as a Christian nation with a mandate from God is being realized.

Why is it so hard to convince moderates about what is happening nationally and in their communities? There is nothing abstract about the "theocratization" of America. Ask parents in Montgomery County, Maryland, who are fighting for accurate, respectful sexuality education in their schools. Or the nine congregants who were ousted from their Waynesville, North Carolina, church last week because they refused to support President Bush. Or women who cannot have their prescriptions for birth control filled because a pharmacist doesn't approve of contraception on "moral" grounds. Theocracy is not an academic concept. The nature of life in America is changing.

Legislation has been re-introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to ensure that politicking in churches will be legally protected. The Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act of 2005 would amend the Internal Revenue Code to "protect the religious free exercise and free speech rights of churches and other houses of worship." The Workplace Religious Freedom Act has also been re-introduced in the House, under the banner of protecting religious expression by requiring employers to accommodate the religious needs of employees. The positive side of this legislation--as a remedy for regrettable instances such as Jews being fired for refusing to work on the Sabbath, Muslim women losing their jobs over their request to wear a head-scarf, and Sikh-Americans being fired for wearing turbans--while compelling, must be weighed carefully against legitimate fears that it would provide a refuge for discriminatory actions and unwelcome proselytizing in the workplace under the auspices of abiding by one's religious principles.

In the area of women's private decisions about abortion, Christian fundamentalist religious beliefs about the fetus have been legislated for so many years, under the "right-to-life" cover, that the nation is virtually insensitized to the fact that there are pro-choice Christians who have completely different views about fetal life and women's moral agency.

The "Justice Sunday" telecast showed us how American theocracy might look--preachers and self-appointed men of religion literally directing the faithful about specific political actions to install friendly judges in lifetime positions. One of the speakers, Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, put it in terms as chilling to religious liberty and diversity as any I've ever heard.

Like other fundamentalists, Mohler believes there is only one correct interpretation of the Bible--his--and he equated the inerrancy of his interpretation of the Bible with the inerrancy of the Constitution, based on his biblical beliefs. In bringing the Bible and the Constitution together, fundamentalists like Mohler are moving toward mainstreaming their biblically based interpretation of the Constitution. Judges would be held to the standard of biblical teachings, as interpreted by fundamentalists.

The theocratization of America has already stifled free expression on controversial social issues and is forcing politicians to out each other about their religious beliefs. Right now, polling data show that no one could be elected President of the United States who was not openly and traditionally religious. The mullahs in Iran would find that quite reasonable. Soon, ordinary American families may find that it is un-American not to profess a religion.

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