Linguist George Lakoff is right about framing. And this is an instance in which the right phrasing helps us to crystallize the frame in a way that defends the Constitutional rights of all against the dominionist excesses of the Christian Right. The entire episode is worthy of some study as an exercise in reframing by standing up for the constitution rather than debating religion; and in how the longer term answer lies in electing better people to public office.Jeremy Learming, writing at the blog, Wall of Separation, tells the story of the Raskin’s testimony (which was covered by The Baltimore Sun) at a hearing in the Maryland legislature on proposed state constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage. Raskin, a professor of Constitutional Law at American University had been asked to testify by Equality Maryland, a marriage equality organization. More dramatic than his tesitimony was his exchange with Republican State Senator Nancy Jacobs who said, “As I read biblical principles, marriage is intended, ordained and started by God – that is my belief, … For me, this is an issue solely based on religious principles.”
“People place their hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution. They don’t put their hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.”
Wow!In one stark colloquy, the dominionist Christian view of law was demolished and rebutted as effectively as I have ever seen.
In a recent issue of The Public Eye, I noted that dominionism is a term used by outside observers to understand a complex yet vitally important trend. For people trying to figure out if a conservative politician, organization, or religious leader is a “dominionist,” I noted three characteristics to listen for:
… Dominionists celebrate Christian nationalism, in that they believe that the United States once was, and should once again be, a Christian nation. In this way, they deny the Enlightenment roots of American democracy.Dominionists promote religious supremacy, insofar as they generally do not respect the equality of other religions, or even other versions of Christianity.
Dominionists endorse theocratic visions, insofar as they believe that the Ten Commandments, or “biblical law,” should be the foundation of American law, and that the U.S. Constitution should be seen as a vehicle for implementing Biblical principles.
Nancy Jacobs, in this one public statement exhibits at least two of the three characteristics of a dominionist, promoting religious supremacy; promoting theocratic notions of law operating under “Biblical principles.” According to her official biography, she was a longtime leader in Concerned Women for America before being elected to office. She currently sits on the Judicial Proceedings Committee of the Maryland State Senate, which was considering the proposed Constitutional Amendment when she met up with Jamie Raskin.
Jacobs epitomizes the trajectory of dominionist activists during the rise of the Christian Right over the past two decades. She learned the ropes, ran for office, and now she sits on a powerful committee of the Maryland State Senate.
What to do?
There are candidates for public office who are quietly supportive of such things as marriage equality. And there are those who publicly articulate their views with clarity and conviction. And then there are those who can also face down Christian right activists who have attained elected office. Raskin is clearly such a candidate.
Raskin’s fearless and and focused response to the religiously-informed and anti-Constitutional statement of a top Christian Right state senator sets a new standard for what we should expect from our elected officials and candidates for public office.
Raskin is running in the Democratic primary in September against 20 year incumbent Ida Ruben.