Why I Support Bernie Sanders in 2020

A 2014 study conducted by Princeton and Northwestern universities concluded that: “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence” and “Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organisations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.”

The study found that the influence of the average American is at a “non-significant, near-zero level.”

Earlier, George Carlin argued that:

“The real owners are the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians, they’re an irrelevancy. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the statehouses, the city halls. They’ve got the judges in their back pockets. And they own all the big media companies, so that they control just about all of the news and information you hear. They’ve got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying ¬ lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else.”

Carlin argued that we only have the ‘illusion’ of choice. The Princeton and Northwestern study indicates this may be the case: that we already have an oligarchy posing as a democracy.

Probably the #1 progressive issue –above and beyond all others–is the legalized corruption that is taking place in our government which has undermined our democracy to the point that the influence of the average American is at a “non-significant, near-zero level.”

Now, if one REALLY believes that climate change is an EXISTENTIAL threat to humanity, and that we only have about 12 years to turn things around before we are screwed like the climate scientists are telling us (which obviously means that we need to START taking BOLD action ASAP in order begin to turn things around by the 12 year mark), then we will need someone LEADING who will PUSH to take the BOLD action we need to save ourselves.

Of course, politicians bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry aren’t going to be interested in taking strong action on climate change. Just like politicians who take money from the NRA aren’t going to be interested in any gun control, politicians who receive money from the pharmaceutical industry and health insurance companies aren’t going to be interested in “Medicare for all,” politicians receiving large donations from corporations aren’t going to be interested in raising the minimum wage, politicians who have been corrupted by Big Money donors aren’t going to be interested in getting money out of politics and returning us to our Democracy, and so on and on.

Polls continue to show that this kind of legalized corruption is a top concern among all voters.

Why would anyone want to vote FOR a candidate who is corrupted by corporate interests over ours? Why would anyone want to vote FOR an oligarchy that doesn’t represent them?? Why would anyone want to vote FOR a candidate who may be willing to compromise humanity’s future regarding climate change by not taking bold enough action in time???

So, if Trump gets reelected, we’re screwed, BUT if we elect a candidate who is willing to compromise humanity’s future by not taking bold enough action regarding climate change in time, we are just as screwed.

This is just ONE reason I support progressive candidates like Bernie Sanders and Justice Democrats like AOC. They’re NOT corrupted by the establishment oligarchy, so they can actually represent the People instead, and they are already pushing for BOLD action regarding climate change.

I would not be willing to bet humanity’s future on anyone who is corrupted by corporate interests, no matter what they might promise to get elected.

Here’s the second reason…

If it’s purely a matter of who stands the best chance of beating Trump, regardless of who it is, I think the best argument could be made for Sanders…

The energy in the Democratic Party is in the progressive wing. That’s the wing that has the most grassroots support.

Not long ago the NYT published a map of candidates with the most individual donors across the U.S. (see below).

Bernie Sanders was represented in blue, and blue so dominated the map across the country they had to provide another map that didn’t include him so people could see where all the support for the other candidates were.

Polls continue to show Sanders has the highest favorability ratings of all candidates. He’s the candidate who seems to have the most grassroots support and grassroots energy; he’s the candidate who might do more to motivate the key younger demographic everyone says is most important (as well as those who don’t normally vote); he’s the candidate who did well in 2016 in red states like Kansas, Idaho, and Indiana, and key Trump swing states like Michigan and Wisconsin; he’s the candidate who might be able to peel off the most Republicans (he’s even the top second choice among Biden supporters for some reason); he’s the candidate who we might trust most to fight for the things he’s advocating for (because he has decades of receipts); he’s the candidate who always polls well in head-to-head match-ups against Trump, and so on.

I could also make the argument that despite many of his policy positions being labeled as “radical” and “far left,” they are actually popular and mainstream, but I’ll save going into that here for brevity’s sake.

Right now, the two most viable progressive candidates running are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The polls are currently showing them 2 and 3 behind Biden (but together they make up a larger share of Democrats who support them).

Biden is polling best at the moment, but I expect that gaffe machine to eventually self-destruct. And he doesn’t have nearly the grassroots support that Bernie does… or any of the energy.

IMO, anyone with a pulse SHOULD be able to beat Trump in 2020. However, I think the ONLY way Democrats MIGHT lose is if they run another establishment Democrat against a populist once again.

IMO, running establishment, so-called “centrist” candidates (who would rather reach out to Republicans and get their hands slapped every time than inspire their base) is what caused Democrats to lose 1,000 seats across the country leading up to 2016, and it’s what caused all three branches of government to fall into Republican hands before the last mid-terms.

IMO, Trump was so detestable, he inspired enough Democratic voters to get off their asses and give us back the House in the last mid-terms–and hopefully that is evidence of what will happen in 2020–BUT a sure way to KILL that motivation is to spit in the eye of progressives once again.

My hope is that Sanders and Warren come together for the win in the end. I think that will inspire the most enthusiasm and give us the best chance for a landslide that will carry over to the House and Senate (so it will be easier to get progressive policies passed).

Here’s the third reason…

EVEN IF, we elect someone as supposedly “radical” as Sanders (or even Warren), it’s going to be a tremendous uphill battle to bring about the changes needed to get back our democracy and save our planet for humanity.

REMEMBER: for those who may still think progressive ideas are too radical… we don’t elect monarchs or dictators, so whoever is elected probably won’t be able to get all of what they want done to the extent they want to get it done. They will still have to FIGHT for it, and what they do get done will probably end up getting watered down by the opposition (even the opposition in their own party).

But I think Democrats (in general) have forgotten how to get things done.

You DON’T START OUT by trying to compromise.

Democrats should relearn how to play the game Tug-of-War…

When you play Tug-of-War, the objective is to move the opposing team to your side. At the beginning of the game, you DON’T position your team on the boundary between the opposing sides, NOR do you initially position your team on the opposing team’s side and try to drag them onto yours from there. You position your team well on your own side, BEYOND where you expect to eventually pull them!!!

In my opinion, the best and easiest way we can “unify” is for those who would normally back an establishment candidate to back a REAL progressive this time. That way we can keep the energy on our side and bring in younger voters (who might not normally vote).

Now is NOT the time for incrementalism or compromises with corrupt politicians.

Now is the time for bold and dramatic action to save ourselves, our democracy, and our planet.

Right now, I think Sanders and Warren are the most viable candidates who stand a ghost of a chance of doing that.

We can’t afford to waste time trying to reach out to Republicans or compromise with corporate influence, and we can’t afford to waste time with incrementalism and gradualism.

MLK argued against the “tranquilizing drug of gradualism” when he said, “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there ‘is’ such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”

If we ever had a time when there was the “fierce urgency of now,” this is it.

If that doesn’t happen, we are screwed.

And it may already be too late.

I have more reasons I could go into, but this should be enough for now. 

The Elephant In The Room

So, the U.S. spends more on defense than the next 7 countries combined, and—according to the article below—”the Pentagon receives 54 cents out of every dollar in federal appropriations.” That would seem to be the proverbial “elephant in the room” when discussing where our taxpayer money goes. And evidently, the books are cooked and trillions of dollars can’t be tracked.

Yet, many U.S. military families seem to struggle to survive financially.

Something seems to be very wrong with this picture.

Evidently, some other parties besides military families are benefiting from all this money. The ‘Military Industrial Complex’ former President Eisenhower warned everyone about in his Farewell Address is part of a problem that seems to have gone unchecked since his time. Earlier, in his “Chance for Peace” speech (aka: his “Cross of Iron” speech), Eisenhower said:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

“This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. . . . This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”

But it seems that BOTH Republicans and Democrats don’t bat an eye when asked to approve military budget spending, which seems to keep increasing and is now the biggest in history. In fact, they were almost falling over each other to see how big of an increase they could approve earlier this year. The amount of JUST the increase–$82 billion—was more than the Trump Administration asked for, and it well surpasses Russia’s entire military budget each year.

I think it’s interesting that when Progressive Democrats propose things like universal health care or free college education (that a majority of Americans support, according to polls), everyone in the establishment wing of the Democrat Party, and most everyone in the establishment mainstream press, starts pushing back about how impractical they are being, and they always ask, “How do you expect to pay for it?”

Maybe we can START by looking at that proverbial and ponderous “elephant in the room.”

Exclusive: The Pentagon’s Massive Accounting Fraud Exposed

A Case of ‘She Said/He Yelled’

“The whole country will reap the whirlwind.”


I can’t know if Brett Kavanaugh really believes he is innocent or not. Despite his denials about ever having an alcoholic blackout, he may have been so drunk that he doesn’t remember (which I think is much more likely considering all the overwhelming evidence of his excessive drinking than it is that Christine Blasey Ford mistook him for someone else), and/or he may have spent so much time polishing up his own halo over the years that he has convinced himself he could never have done such a thing. An alcoholic blackout is the best explanation for those who think they were both credible and don’t know who to believe. Regardless, I find her much more credible.

The contrast between Ford and Kavanaugh’s testimonies on Thursday were striking…..

While she was accommodating, he was angry.

While she was polite, he was petulant.

While she was courteous, he was aggressive.

While she was deferring, he was threatening.

While she was apolitical, he was nakedly partisan.

Had Ford acted like Kavanaugh, she would have been dismissed as a “hysterical woman.” Instead, he is praised by Trump and Fox News (sic).

Also… while she welcomed further investigation, he wasn’t able to bring himself to say that he did when asked directly.

I thought that part was interesting. In his opening statement he said, “I know that any kind of investigation—Senate, FBI, Montgomery County Police, whatever—will clear me.” Yet, when he was asked to request just such an investigation, he couldn’t do it. Instead, he didn’t seem to believe a FBI investigation would be able to accomplish anything, and he was dismissive about it.

He would have been much more credible had he asked for one, and even more so, if he had demanded one. He could have at least said that despite not believing such an investigation would accomplish much, he would ask for one. That he didn’t was clearly a mistake in retrospect considering one will be conducted anyway.

I also think it was interesting that when pressed directly about his excessive drinking, his go-to move was to evade and start reciting his resume… as if a straight A honor student and captain of the football team couldn’t drink so much he could have an alcoholic blackout. It was the same strategy he tried to use in his Fox interview by implying that a church-going virgin couldn’t sexually assault anyone. Also in his Thursday testimony, he kept bringing up the testimonies of people who had said they weren’t there or couldn’t remember (including Ford’s friend) as if that was evidence in his favor (when it wasn’t evidence for either of them). You would think a judge would know what constituted relevant evidence.

James Roche, Brett Kavanaugh’s roommate at Yale University in Fall 1983, said, “…although Brett was normally reserved, he was a notably heavy drinker, even by the standards of the time, and that he became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk.”

Kavanaugh evidently didn’t need to be drunk to display his “aggressive and belligerent” side when he gave his testimony. He talked over senators’ questions and inappropriately/irrelevantly threw their questions back at them. He was angry, petulant, and occasionally indignant and sneering. At times he seemed to be out-of-control.

There are also examples of him being evasive and deceptive about what he wrote for his 1983 yearbook personal page that are being cited elsewhere, so I’ll not go into all that here.

Additionally, unlike his previous appearances before the committee, he was blatantly partisan and threatening saying, “what goes around comes around,” “The consequences will extend long past my nomination; the consequences will be with us for decades,” “You sowed the wind for decades to come,” and “The whole country will reap the whirlwind.”

When comparing his behavior in earlier testimony before the committee with Thursday’s, it was like watching Dr. Jekyll fight against transforming entirely into Mr. Hyde on live TV (complete with the contorted facial expressions).

Virginia House Del. Danica Roem (D) had this to say about his testimony on Twitter: “Tip: If you’re being nominated for a nonpartisan position as a neutral arbiter on the Supreme Court, attacking ‘the left,’ ‘Democrats,’ ‘the Clintons’ and ‘the media’ in your opening statement while noting there will be reprisal for years to come is, well, disqualifying.”

Agreed.

If anything was proven beyond a reasonable doubt coming out of Thursday’s hearings it is that Brett Kavanaugh doesn’t have the judicial temperament to sit on the highest court in the land. And it was Kavanaugh who provided that proof.

Trump’s Assessment of Himself (Selected Quotes)

LIKE A SMART PERSON

“You know, I’m, like, a smart person.” “I am a really smart guy.” “I’ve been known as being a very smart guy for a long time.” “I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.” “I’m intelligent. Some people would say I’m very, very, very intelligent.” “And then people say oh, is he a smart person? I’m smarter than all of them put together, but they can’t admit it.” “My IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault.” “My two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart…. I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star, to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius….and a very stable genius at that!”

A GREAT ATHLETE

“I was the best baseball player in New York when I was young.” “I always knew I was good. I was always good at it. I was the best athlete.” “I was always the best athlete, people don’t know that.” “I’ve won many club championships and I was always the best athlete.” “Always the best player. Not only baseball, but every other sport too.” “I was good at wrestling. I was really good at football. I was always good at sports. I was always the best at sports.” “I had it [innate ability]. I always had it.” “I like being a great athlete.”

ATTRACTIVE

“My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.” “All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.” “I’m so good looking.” “I feel like a supermodel except, like, times 10, OK? It’s true. I’m a supermodel.” “Do I look a president? How handsome am I, right? How handsome?”

RICH AND SUCCESSFUL

“The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.” “I have made myself very rich.” “I was always the best at what I did.” “I don’t think I’ve made mistakes.” “Everything I’ve done virtually has been a tremendous success.” “I was successful, successful, successful.” “I’m the most successful person ever to run for the presidency, by far. Nobody’s ever been more successful than me.” “I’ve been, you know, pretty successful in the courts over the years, I’ve been a very successful person, you can check — USA Today said, ‘he does great in the courts’ OK?” “If you don’t tell people about your success, they probably won’t know about it.”

A NICE PERSON WITH GREAT TEMPERAMENT

“I had some beautiful pictures taken in which I had a big smile on my face. I looked happy, I looked content, I looked like a very nice person, which in theory I am.” “I think I am a nice person.” “I’m actually a nice person.” “I have a strong temperament.” “I think I have a great temperament.” “I have a great temperament. My temperament is very good, very calm.” “I think I’m a sober person… I’m a very sober person.”

RAN A FLAWLESS CAMPAIGN

“I’ve had a beautiful, I’ve had a flawless campaign.” “I won an election that should never be won, because the Electoral College is far harder to win than the popular vote. The popular vote, for me, would have been much easier.”

MOST RESPECTFUL OF WOMEN AND ‘THE BLACKS’

“I have more respect for women by far than Hillary Clinton has.” “Nobody respects women more than me.” “I was the one that really broke the glass ceiling on behalf of women more than anybody in the construction industry.” “There’s nobody who has done more for equality than I have.” “Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person.” “I am the least racist person that you have ever met.” “I am the least racist person that you’ve ever encountered.” “I am the least racist person, the least racist person that you’ve ever seen, the least.” “I have a great relationship with the blacks.” “I have a great relationship with African Americans, as you possibly have heard. I just have great respect for them. And they like me. I like them.” “And did you know my name is in more black songs than any other name in hip-hop? Black entertainers love Donald Trump.” “And at the end of four years, I guarantee you, that I will get over ninety-five percent of the African-American vote. I promise you.”

MULTI-TALENTED & KNOWLEDGEABLE

“I build the best buildings.” “Nobody builds walls better than me.” “I created maybe the greatest brand.” “Trump Steaks are the world’s greatest steaks.” “I have the best [golf] courses in the world.” “My Twitter has become so powerful that I can actually make my enemies tell the truth.” “I know all about knives and belt buckles.” “And I know more about wedges than any human being that’s ever lived.” “I know more about [campaign] contributions than anybody.” “Nobody has better toys than I do.” “Nobody loves the Bible better than I do.” “I’m the king of debt. I understand debt better than probably anybody.” “Nobody knows more about debt than I do.” “I think nobody knows more about taxes than I do, maybe in the history of the world. Nobody knows more about taxes.” “Nobody knows more about taxes than I do — and income than I do.” “I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest C.P.A.” “Nobody even understands it but me. It’s called devaluation.” “Nobody knows more about trade than me.” “I’m really a great negotiator. I know how to negotiate.” “Deals are my art form. I like making deals, preferably big deals.” “Nobody knows banking better than I do” “I understand money better than anybody.” “I know the details of health care better than most, better than most.” “I know more about the big bills than any president that’s ever been in office.” “I know the H1B. I know the H2B. Nobody knows it better than me.” “I know the best people.” “I know the smartest negotiators in the world. I know the good ones. I know the bad ones. I know the overrated ones.” “I’m really good at war.” “I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.” “Nobody would be tougher on ISIS than Donald Trump.” “Nobody is bigger or better at the military than I am.” “I know more about offense and defense than they will ever understand.” “There’s nobody that understands the horror of nuclear better than me.” “Nobody is fighting for the veterans like I’m fighting for the veterans.” “Nobody’s better to people with disabilities than me.” “There’s nobody more pro-Israel than I am.” “Nobody knows jobs like I do!” “Nobody knows politicians better than I do.” “Nobody knows the game better than I do.” “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” “Nobody in the history of this country has ever known so much about infrastructure as Donald Trump.” “I know more about renewables than any human being on Earth.” “Nobody’s ever had crowds like [I’ve] had.” “Nobody can do it like me. Nobody. Nobody can do it like me, honestly.” “Nobody is stronger than me.” “It’s all because of me.” “I know words. I have the best words.”

MODEST

“I think I am actually humble. I think I’m much more humble than you would understand.”

–  Donald Trump

 

[NOTE: I didn’t exhaust all the quotes I could have included, but many of them were repetitive.]

The ‘Rigged’ U.S. Election System

How many ways is the election system rigged in the U.S.?

First, there are various voter suppression tactics used by those in power. Wikipedia currently list examples including: impediments to voter registration, photo ID laws, purging of voter rolls, limitations on early voting, felon disenfranchisement, transgender disenfranchisement, disinformation about voting procedures, inequality in Election Day resources, closure of DMV offices, caging lists, gerrymandering, and off-year elections (Voter suppression in the United States). Other tactics can include changing polling locations, changing polling hours, reducing the number of polling places, and under-staffing and limiting the number of voting machines in select areas. There may be others I failed to cover here.

Second, the antiquated Electoral College system which allows the possibility that the winner or the popular vote could still lose the election. It also causes the votes of some to count more than the votes of others, and it causes parties and politicians to pander to and focus more on the concerns of some states over others.

Third, the two-party system has become so embedded that makes it almost impossible for third party candidates to have a realistic chance of winning, and the two major parties that have the power have an incentive to keep it that way. Independent or unaffiliated voters (which are currently 38 percent of the country vs. 32 percent Democrat and 23 percent Republican) may have difficulty finding candidates to represent them, and, depending on the state and party, they may or may not be allowed to vote in the Republican or Democratic primaries.

Fourth, there may be other issues with candidates going against those in the “establishment” within the respective parties. Possibly the most obvious example is the power of so-called “Super-Delegates” in the Democratic Party.

However, possibly the most significant way the election system is rigged is the influence of big money in politics….

Some time back, Larry Lessig presented a great TED Talk about ‘Lester Land’ and how we all live in it. The idea is basically that it’s the people with money who decide what our choices are. It costs quite a bit of money to run for office, and the higher the office the more it costs. Unless someone has money or wins the favor of those who do, they are less likely to get elected. So, our choices come pre-selected and only those candidates who are willing to support the interest of the ‘Lesters’ will come into power.

A 2014 study conducted by Princeton and Northwestern universities concluded that “In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule — at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”

The peer-reviewed study also said, “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence” and “Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organisations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.”

The study found that the influence of the average American is at a “non-significant, near-zero level.”

I’ve seen many people reference George Carlin’s comments on the matter to explain why they don’t vote. Carlin argued that “The real owners are the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians, they’re an irrelevancy. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the statehouses, the city halls. They’ve got the judges in their back pockets. And they own all the big media companies, so that they control just about all of the news and information you hear. They’ve got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying ¬ lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else.”

Carlin argues that we only have the ‘illusion’ of choice. The Princeton and Northwestern study indicate this may be the case, that we really have an oligarchy posing as a democracy.

This is not inspiring, and it may largely explain why a great many Americans don’t bother to vote, why they might vote for a third party, or why they might be so frustrated they are willing to see it all burn down.

Unless we can begin to address the main issue concerning “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests” running the show, we aren’t going to be able to do much to address the other issues. Some Supreme Court cases will need to be overturned, or new laws or amendments need to be passed by Congress (which they will not be inclined to do). Larry Lessig has some suggestions, as do others like Cenk Uygur of the online TYT Network (see: Wolf PAC). Perhaps there are others….

However, until we can get big money out of politics, we aren’t going to have much control of anything.

Major Study Finds The US Is An Oligarchy

The US is not a democracy but an oligarchy, study concludes

Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens

Church/State Separation

Written: 08/04/2013
Presented at a General Meeting of the ACLU-Charlotte

In 1788, the United States Constitution was ratified, replacing the Articles of Confederation, and in 1789, the United States of America was born. The Constitution significantly did not establish religion. The establishment of a secular government, based on Enlightenment Principles of Reason, was unique in the history of the world. It was a new day dawning. No longer would a king or church rule over the minds and bodies of the People by a claim of divine right.

This new government was based on the authority of “We the People” alone, deriving its “just powers from the consent of the governed.” Now, the People would elect their representatives in a democratic republic, and the freedom of conscience of the individual would be held sacrosanct. Article VI, paragraph 3, of the U.S. Constitution states that: “….no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” As George Washington observed, “In this enlightened Age and in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States.”

In 1791, the Bill of Rights were adopted. These were the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution. The First Amendment reads in part: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and of the Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom in Virginia (on which the First Amendment was inspired and based), wrote that the First Amendment erected a “wall of separation between church and state.” He thought that mixing church and state would lead to the “corruption” of religion and “undermine all our civil rights,” and that keeping church and state separate was “absolutely essential in a free society.”

James Madison, known as the “Father of the Constitution,” and the “Architect of the Bill of Rights” expressed his interpretation of the First Amendment as a “perfect” separation between Church and State, commenting that: “The civil government … functions with complete success … by the total separation of the Church from the State,” and “I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”

It was Madison who also warned: “Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.”

He was right to be worried….

During the Civil War era, eleven Protestant denominations began a campaign to add references to God to the U.S. Constitution and other federal documents. Their efforts resulted in the phrase “In God We Trust” being added to some Union coins.

In 1956, during the McCarthy era and Cold War “red scare” of communism, Congress passed a joint resolution making “In God We Trust” our National Motto. This replaced our former de facto National Motto, the Motto our Founders gave us, “E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One).” Two years earlier, the words “under God” had been inserted in between “one nation” and “indivisible” in the Pledge of Allegiance making those words into a lie.

Both the Motto and Pledge were originally secular and all-inclusive, now they were both made religious and exclusive.

In each case, these actions excluded anyone who didn’t believe in a monotheistic God, making them feel like second-class citizens in their own country.

Sadly, North Carolina takes this discrimination further. The North Carolina state constitution bars state office to “any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.” This prohibition is ranked first, even above treason, in the state constitution (see: Article VI, Sec. 8. Disqualification for office).

In 1961, the United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously that such restrictions constituted a religious test incompatible with the First and Fourteenth Amendment protections (see: Toraso v.Watkins) and are therefore unenforceable. Nevertheless, North Carolina, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas retain restrictive religious requirements in their Bill of Rights, Declaration of Rights, or in their constitutions.

The problem with having such restrictions in the state constitution can be illustrated by the example of self-described “post theist” Cecil Bothwell. In 2009, Bothwell won the election for a position on the city council in Asheville, NC. He was challenged by his opponents on the basis that North Carolina law does not allow atheists to hold public office. Regardless of the fact the challenge was ultimately ineffective and irrelevant, based on federal law, it was still used as fodder against him and can be used against him in the future when he runs again. It can also be used against any other nonbeliever who might desire to run for office, intimidating them from running. The net result is: nonbelievers without adequate representation.

Some might argue that issues like these are holdovers from the past. Unfortunately, and most disturbingly, North Carolina’s current representatives on the state level seem intent on further flouting federal law and the U.S. Constitution.

For example, over the past couple of years they have been starting sessions with clearly sectarian prayers. In 2012, North Carolina politicians crafted and passed a law that restricted marriage to one man and one woman, based solely on religious ideas. In 2013, they have passed a bill, and the Governor has signed it, that restricts a woman’s constitutionally protected right to control her own reproductive system. Earlier in this last session, some attempted to have Christian Bible study included in public education and to even establish religion.

This flouting of federal law and the U.S. Constitution is not limited to the state level. There are other examples in cities and counties across the state, of sectarian invocations being sanctioned by government representatives. Two recent examples come from Forsyth and Rowan Counties, where their respective City Councils were sanctioning clearly sectarian prayers before their meetings. In both cases, legal action was required to bring a halt to it. This was costly for taxpayers and created dissension in the communities that were affected. While not as blatant, even the Charlotte City Council seems to push the boundaries of the law as far as possible with their invocations and they will dance over the line on occasion. They are certainly intentionally violating the spirit of the law, if not the letter. It is likely this kind of thing is happening in other city councils and public schools across the state.

In fact, there seems to be a concerted attempt to undermine and destroy the public school system. The North Carolina Legislator has passed a tax bill that applies to every school district in the State of North Carolina and which will allow for transferring money, our taxes, from the public school budget to fund vouchers which may be used at religious, as well as Charter schools.

There are even those hoping to subvert the public school system by engaging in a campaign to “implant after-school ‘Good News Clubs’ in every public elementary school in the United States.” Mathew Staver–President of Liberty Counsel and leader of the Child Evangelism Fellowship initiative–wrote that Good News Clubs are a “high-powered Sunday school which can now be established in the public schools immediately after school.” The Child Evangelism Fellowship now has Good News Clubs operating in public school systems in all 50 states, and there are currently at least three Good News Clubs operating in North Carolina. Two are located in Fuquay Varina and one in Indian Trail.

James Madison’s warning about “the danger of encroachment” should never be taken lightly. In the past several decades, religious fundamentalists have launched a concerted effort to revise history to suggest that this country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles despite the clear evidence to the contrary. In order to do this, they have propagated false, altered, or out-of-context quotes from founders to further their agenda and to rewrite history wherever and however they can. Many of them seem intent on establishing their religion by whatever means necessary, even if they have to lie and deceive to accomplish their objectives. They seem to be willing and able to dispense with their own prime directive of doing unto others as they would have done unto them in order to accomplish their goals.

They are a clear and present danger to our democratic republic, to freedom of conscience, and to our country’s founding ideals of equality, liberty, and justice for all.

As many others have said before, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” This is certainly the case here. We need to keep ourselves informed about the actions of individuals, groups and politicians who attempt, by whatever means, to break down the wall between church and state. We need to draw attention to it when we see it happening, and we need to act–and to encourage others to act–to stop it. We can act by speaking out against it, by organizing protests, by exercising our right to vote, and, where appropriate and possible, to take legal action to mitigate and remove these activities.

The encroachment of religion into government is a threat to everyone’s civil rights. It isn’t just a threat to the irreligious; it’s a threat to everyone. Note that our founders weren’t just concerned that religion might corrupt government, but they were also concerned that government might corrupt religion.

What is ultimately corrupted is the freedom of conscience and civil rights of the individual.