Last week, Orlando State Representative Steve Precourt wrote an editorial to the Tallahassee Democrat talking about a new caucus that he and some of his fellow Republicans have created. This caucus, called (I think) the Religious Freedom Caucus, seeks to “protect religious freedoms”, specifically in Florida.
Obviously Mr. Precourt is not familiar with the US Constitution, especially the First Amendment which states, exactly “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.” That is alright, Republicans do have a hard time understanding the Constitution from time to time.
While Mr. Precourt does not understand that the protection of the freedom of religion is a federal matter, he and his gang decided to create this group to, apparently, “protect religion”. Precourt says in his letter to the Tallahassee Democrat “The founders of these caucuses believe that thoughtful leaders of all faith communities — Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh and others — should have a voice in lawmakers’ decisions about how to protect our peaceful religious freedom.”
Even though Precourt says this is a group for everyone, I’m sure in a year or so, Precourt and his cohorts will use their caucus to claim that there is some “War on Christmas” and promote other far-right Christian ideas.
What is interesting about this letter from Mr. Precourt is that he decided to write it to the Tallahassee Democrat and not the Orlando Sentinel, his hometown paper. With the Orlando Metropolitan area becoming more liberal and Democratic, maybe Mr. Precourt did want his constituents to know that forming religious caucuses is one of his top priorities. The fact that Mr. Precourt wants to hide from the idea of associating himself with this group is very sketchy indeed.
These “religious caucuses” were created throughout the Untied States at the state legislative level. Even though the idea of them is purely in contradiction of federal constitutional law, the groups feel that they can exercise their so-called “religious freedom”. But, of course, this will more than likely be used in a pro-Christian manner than truly helping “all religions”, as Precourt claims.
Let’s take the example regarding the mythical “War on Christmas”. If this religious freedom caucus were to say that they were against this, they would be perfectly within their rights. Still, three questions need to be asked. First, “who” is conducting the “War on Christmas”? Is it another religious group? If that is the case, then they are already in contradiction of what the group stands for.
The second question to be asked is about extremism. Who are the extremists? Will this caucus determine that Christianity is mainstream and anyone that doesn’t agree with them are extremists? The idea of claiming who is extreme and who isn’t purely falls into the hands of Christian ideologues, a highly biased group.
The third question is if all religious groups will be treated equally. When I talk about equality, I mostly speak about non-Christian groups being treated as equals. This group can constantly talk about how extremists are attacking Christianity, which would still be in line with what this group supports. But as soon as the tables are turned, will this group support the religion that is being attacked by Christianity? Maybe at first they will throw a bone to some of the smaller groups as a token gesture. But once this caucus starts trucking along in full gear, a dollar to a doughnut says that they will be primarily a Christian-only caucus.
This Religious Freedom Caucus is nothing more than a thinly disguised right-wing Christian group that will eventually seek to put Christianity in every form of Florida government and society. While the idea sounds nice, just give it time. What Precourt says it is now will be a far cry from what it will eventually become.