The first amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
For additional context…
Public officials in the State of Arizona are required to take the following oath of office:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution and laws of the State of Arizona; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, and defend them against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of the office of __(name of office) ___according to the best of my ability, so help me God (or so I do affirm).
With an educated grasp of these two facts, and, presumably, with no reluctance to swear an oath before God, Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen believes there should be a law requiring mandatory church attendance for all Americans. Her comments were made during hearings regarding citizens’ rights to carry concealed weapons in public spaces.
At first look this appears to be a bit of a non sequitur, aside, of course, from the general fondness Tea-vangelicals have for morphing religion and firearms (along with racism and xenophobia) into their own particular brand of patriotism. Senator Allen explains, people should be allowed to carry concealed weapons into public buildings because “there’s a moral erosion of the soul of America” and people now feel the need to arm themselves, even in public spaces.
“It’s the soul that is corrupt – how we get back to a moral rebirth I don’t know, since we are slowly eroding religion at every opportunity that we have, Probably we should be debating a bill requiring every American to attend a church of their choice on Sunday to see if we can get back to having a moral rebirth.”
The Senator gives a nod to at least the appearance of having respect for diversity by allowing that people be allowed to attend “a church of their choice on Sunday”. I’m forced to wonder whether anyone is actually so stupid as to think calling it “a church” and requiring attendance “on Sunday” is anything other than a mandate requiring all Americans worship as Christians. Apparently diversity, to Senator Allen’s thinking, means Americans need not be actually be Christians as long as they obey the law and attend Christian services. I guess that’s not technically anti-Semitism, in the same way that a Tea Party activist wearing a t-shirt that reads “Put the white back in the White House” isn’t technically racism. Presumably, one could choose whether to sit in with the Catholics or the Protestants. That’s empowering.
After her comments drew media attention Senator Allen spoke on the Senate floor saying she didn’t understand why her comments would be viewed as controversial, expressing surprise that the remarks were offensive to some, also telling those assembled she didn’t understand why making church attendance mandatory would even be newsworthy.
She does not understand how forcing people in other communities of faith (to say nothing of those whose lives do not include organized religion) to change their religious practices under penalty of law might be offensive?
She cannot understand how eliminating even the pretense of a separation of Church and State in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution would even be newsworthy?