In a recent piece, I described striking similarities between Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich, and why Newt would be such a compatible running mate. After the attack in Nice, France, and just before Trump picked Mike Pence as his running mate, it appears that Gingrich made one last attempt to show he could be even Trumpier than Trump. Gingrich said, "We should test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported." Aside from violating the U.S. Constitution, how impractical would it be to round up all Muslims in the country and give them such a religious test? Many patriotic Americans who practice the Muslim faith would undoubtedly become anti-American if required to take that test.
America is an exceptional country because our founders wisely established a secular nation whose authority rests with "We the people," not "Thou the deity." Our Constitution makes no mention of God, Jesus, or Allah, and our government must not favor one religion over another or religion over non-religion. Secular values are American values that benefit all of us, religious and nonreligious. We may believe anything we want, but we can't break the law without paying the consequences.
Religious liberty means you can promote your religion, but you can't impose your beliefs on others. We are free to practice any religion as long as that practice does not harm others. Sharia law is certainly a problem in some countries, but in this country I worry more about conservative Christians who try to use the law to impose their beliefs on other people. Under the guise of religious liberty, some invoke their religion to discriminate and take away rights from those who don't share their religion. While the majority in this country may be Christian, we are no more a Christian nation than we are a white nation.
Ironically, conservative Christians who seem most worried about Sharia agree with more tenets of Sharia law than do atheists like me. From what I understand, Sharia is opposed to abortion, contraceptives, and sex education, considers being gay a sin, has little tolerance for other religions, and treats women as subservient to men while claiming women are privileged within the religion. Sharia also wants a religion-based government. Hmm, seems to me I've heard that song before.
Trump's "safe" choice of Mike Pence gives Christian evangelicals a more comfortable excuse for supporting Trump besides his being a good family man with his most recent wife. Pence's religious views are consistent with Republican positions that include discrimination against women, gays, and other minorities. In fact, the Republican Party's latest platform demands that lawmakers use religion as a guide, stipulating "that man-made law must be consistent with God-given, natural rights."
So what about man-made laws in our Constitution that members of Congress have sworn to uphold? While I don't recommend deporting people because of their religion, here is a legitimate question to ask all who seek public office: "Will support and enforce the laws of the land even if you believe your religion or your god tells you to do otherwise?" Neither Sharia nor Christian law should take priority over our secular Constitutional law. Theocracies rule by "God's law," but we are not now and must never become a theocracy even though there have been numerous attempts by Americans to bring this about.
I would be just as worried living under Christian Reconstructionism as under any version of Sharia Law. R.J. Rushdoony founded Christian Reconstructionism in the 1960s, and his most influential book was The Institutes of Biblical Law. His theonomy, or government by God, leaves no room for tolerance or other points of view. Rushdoony wanted our American laws to be based strictly on biblical principles, including death sentences for homosexuality, adultery, lying about one's virginity, idolatry, and blasphemy.
While some of his more inflammatory rhetoric has not gained much traction, he has influenced Christians like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and many others to become engaged in politics and advocate for homeschooling, creationism, and opposition to all scientific and social issues that conflict with a literal interpretation of the Bible. Many Christian conservatives are advocating for a kinder and gentler Reconstructionism than Rushdoony's, but that is just as un-American as Sharia law.
"In God we trust" became our controversial national motto in 1956 at the height of the Cold War, replacing the more inclusive E pluribus unum, Latin for "out of many, one." We are one nation under the Constitution, and our bedrock, secular principle is in the Constitution we trust.