Scott Garrett (R-NJ) says he's not a bigot.
"I am a devout man of faith," he announced in January. "Calling me names or implying that I have malice in my heart for any person or group of people is false and completely disingenuous."
Garrett was responding to Wall Street's Bigot in Washington, an article about him (shown below) that had just appeared in the January 11 print edition of BusinessWeek. The article's online version has a different title. Charges of bigotry had been spreading ever since last summer when Politico first reported that Garrett refused to support Republican candidates who are gay.
Keeping the faith
Rep. Garrett has often cited his faith in defending his views on issues that come before Congress. My review of some of the past sermons posted online by the church where Garrett has been a regular parishioner for more than a decade—the Evangelical Lafayette Federated Church, in Lafayette, N.J.—found numerous expressions of bigotry and intolerance towards gays as well as other religions.
Homosexuality is a "sexual disorder" and sin, Aaron Robb, Senior Pastor, told the congregation in a July 19, 2015 sermon that you can listen to online. "AIDS, in some sense, is the end result of homosexuality and sin but, let's be honest, so is cancer."
As for respecting and being supportive of one's gay friends and relatives, Pastor Robb denounced "the shameful exchange of some Christians in the name of love and in the name of tolerance to somehow communicate to people they love, their friends, their classmates, their co-workers, that somehow what they're doing is fine."
Heredity is no excuse for being gay, according to Pastor Robb. To his own question, "What if there is a genetic component to homosexuality?" he answers, "If there is or there isn't, it doesn't make it right or natural."
Intolerance is so abundant on this pulpit that there's plenty available to toss at other religions. In a sermon in 2013, one of the church's pastors told the congregation, "A Christian has no business praying at a multi-religious gathering with other religions as some sort of act of unity and good will." Those who practice other religions, he said, are "worshipping and praying to demons." In 2015, one of the church's pastors explained "why cults, like the Jehovah's Witness or Mormons, are not Christians, why it's sub-Christian."
Scott Garrett may not agree with every sermon his pastors deliver. But even if he did, that would be his absolute right as an American and a private matter.
What is not a private matter is that, for years, Rep. Garrett has been acting in his capacity as a member of the United States House of Representatives to trample, or try to trample, on the Constitution's separation of church and state, then trying to justify it by citing his faith. That's a matter of public concern.
Garrett doesn't deny that his faith influences his politics. He told the New Jersey Herald, for example, that "All aspects of how you're raised—where you come from and your faith—play into how you look at issues today."
A Garrett sampler
One example of how Rep. Garrett disrespects separation of church and state is a bill that he recently co-sponsored, the First Amendment Defense Act, which would have turned upside-down the Amendment it claimed to defend.
This bill is truly Orwellian. It defines as "discriminatory" any punitive action the federal government might take against those who actually do discriminate against gay couples—so long as the accused justify their biased behavior on the basis of a religious belief or moral conviction. It also authorizes those so accused of discrimination against gays to sue and collect damages from the federal government for prosecuting them.
In 2010, Rep. Garrett voted against the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act. Perhaps tolerating openly gay Americans who are willing to risk their lives to defend the United States was too much of a "shameful exchange" for Garrett, as Pastor Robb might put it.
In 2013, he voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, which extended protections to lesbians and transgender women. Why help sinful women?
Just this past May, Rep. Garrett voted against an appropriations amendment that protected LGBT employees of government contractors from discrimination, even though that amendment contained language explicitly prohibiting any violation of the First Amendment.
Garrett's full track record of opposing civil rights and respect for members of the LGBT community is too long to list here.
He has no excuses
When Scott Garrett uses his faith as a cover for unconstitutional faith-driven votes, he knows exactly what he's doing. He has a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from Rutgers School of Law. And he's Chairman of the Congressional Constitutional Caucus, a "forum for education on constitutional principles," whose website describes him as "highly respected among his House colleagues as an authority on constitutional issues."
As such an authority, he knows that when the U.S. Supreme Court banned the religious practice of polygamy in 1878, it ruled that "laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices."
He also knows that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1890, in another case against polygamists, that "crime is not the less odious because sanctioned by what any particular sect may designate as 'religion.'"
And yet he sponsors legislation to protect illegal behavior in the guise of defending freedom of religion. Rep. Garrett has let his religious convictions override his commitment to Constitutional separation of church and state. He has, therefore, violated his oath of office.