The Scary Thing About the Tea Party

Allow me to start off this post by rehashing a little thing called the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:

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 assmeble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

That bolded part right there is commonly referred to as the “Establishment Clause,” and is the basis for the concept of the separation of Church and State.  That means that the U.S. Government—or any state or local government, for that matter—cannot declare an official national religion, nor can they discriminate against any religion or any individual or group because of their religious beliefs.

Pretty simple concept.  It’s something that (I thought) we all learned in the first grade.  I mean, one of the first things we are taught about Thanksgiving is that the Pilgrims embarked on their flight from the Old World to flee the religious persecution at the hands of the British monarchy (or at least that ‘s the way I remember it being taught).  The Pilgrims had their own religious beliefs, and they wanted the freedom to practice their beliefs in peace and without being thrown into jail for being different.

It’s long been a source of pride; something that distinguishes the United States from most of the rest of the world.  And the United States is the pioneer of religious tolerance and acceptance.  Ok, so we may not have always been perfect in that regard.  The Jews haven’t always exactly been welcomed by all in this country with open arms.  Prior to the election of John F. Kennedy to the presidency, being Catholic was considered a hinderence to national office.

But our courts have always held that the right of individual expression, religious or otherwise, is absolute.  Santeria may not exactly be an accepted “mainstream” religion, but people are free to practice Santeria as they so choose.

But now comes the Tea Party, whose leaders incredibly don’t seem to believe that there is any such concept of “separation of Church and State” in our Constitution at all.  These are people who claim to be Constitutional experts, who want to “return our country back to the Constitutional concepts that the founders intended.”  Except that they don’t even remotely understand even the most basic of concepts laid out in the Constitution of the United States of America.

Take Nevada Senate candidate, and Tea Party hero, Sharron Angle:

The Constitution “does not” guarantee the freedom of religion, does not provide for the separation of Church and State.  Got it?  So Sharron Angle knows what thousands of Constitutional scholars and every Supreme Court Justice in the history of this country apparently does not:  That there is no establishment clause, and those “darn liberals” are just wrong, and that Christianity should be declared the official and only accepted religion in this country.  None else need apply.

And then there’s the brilliance of Christine O’Donnell, the whackjob Delaware Senate candidate who………aw, hell, I’ll just let you see for yourself.  Here’s Rachel Maddow brilliantly laying it out for us:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The best part of that whole piece is that SHE ACTUALLY THINKS SHE WON THAT ARGUMENT!!!  The debate with Chris Coons was held at Widener University Law School in front of law students.  You can hear the audience gasp and then laugh.  Watch as Ms. O’Donnell smiles and laughs with the audience, thinking that they’re with her.  She thinks she scored major points.

Newsflash, Christine:  THEY’RE LAUGHING AT YOU, NOT WITH YOU!!!

This is the problem with the Tea Party.  They claim to be Constitutional experts; that they LOVE the Constitution, and yet repeatedly demonstrate that they have little to no understanding of what is actually IN the Constitution and what it means.

They love the Constitution so much, they want to change it.  Do away with the parts they simply don’t like.  They want to get rid of the 14th Amendment, the 17th Amendment.  They have a twisted view of the 10th Amendment.  They believe that the Second Amendment means that everyone should be allowed to own a bazooka, or stockpile any amount of machine guns, and that they should be preparing for war against their own government (and sadly, I’m not exaggerating here).

These people are really dangerous.  They clearly don’t understand the world in which we live, but they want to set policy on how we live and interact in that world.  They’re anti-government conspiracy nuts who see the bogeyman around every corner.  Their tin foil hats are picking up all kinds of signals the CIA, NSA, FBI, and lord knows what other government agencies are using to spy on each one of them individually.  They’re terrified of Big Brother, yet what they want to do, in effect, is ensure that Big Brother, in many ways, has even MORE control over our lives.

They don’t understand that with individual freedom comes certain responsibility.

Be afraid, all right.  Be afraid of what will happen if these wingnuts actually manage to win positions of authority in this country.

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