Dominionism and The Constitution in Exile Movement
Joan Bokaer printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Jun 28, 2006 at 04:54:40 PM EST
Part I of a series

What do dominionism and the Constitution in Exile movements have in common? Both believe that federal protections along with social programs are unconstitutional. Programs such as social security, public education, protection of the environment, minimum wage requirements or worker and consumer safety are unconstitutional. In otherwords, programs that interfere in any way with free enterprise are unconstitutional.

And, for dominionists, those programs are unbiblical as well. According to a dominionist textbook for Christian schools and the Christian homeschool movement, America's Providential History, "Scripture makes it clear that God is the provider, not the state." (p. 187)

The Constitution in Exile movement believes that many of the laws underpinning the modern welfare state are unconstitutional. (See The Unregulated Offensive, New York Times magazine, April 17, 2005)  The "exile" began in 1937 when the Supreme Court finally stopped declaring Roosevelt's New Deal programs unconstitutional.

One of the movement's better-known adherents is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In 1995 he wrote an opinion for the 5-4 majority in United States v. Lopez, striking down a federal law banning guns in school zones. Thomas' position makes originalists such as Scalia look almost moderate by comparison. From the New York Times' article:

 ... most adherents of the Constitution in Exile movement are not especially concerned about states' rights or judicial deference to legislatures; instead, they encourage judges to strike down laws on behalf of rights that don't appear explicitly in the Constitution.

The greatest right of all, according to adherents of this movement, are economic rights, particularly the right to property, and anything that takes away those rights -- such as environmental or workplace safety laws -- are, or should be, unconstitutional.

Compare the "right to property" with those rights declared in the Texas GOP Platform, a blueprint for dominionism:

p.2 #17: "We reaffirm belief in the fundamental constitutional right of an individual to use property without governmental interference."

p.2 #10: "We oppose conservation easements on our natural resources administered by organizations unaccountable to tax payers and voters." (That means land trusts and conservation groups would be declared unconstitutional.)

p. 2 #18: "We oppose the Endangered Species Act."

p.2 #7: "We believe that groundwater is an absolute, vested right of the landowner."

P. 2 #13: "We oppose passage of any international treaty that overrides United States sovereignty including the Kyoto agreement and Biodiversity Treaty."

Cass Sunstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago has published a book on the Constitution in Exile movement called Fundamentally Wrong: How Extremists are Transforming the Courts and the Constitution. Sunstein explained to the New York Times that

success, as the movement defines it, would mean that ''many decisions of the Federal Communications Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and possibly the National Labor Relations Board would be unconstitutional. It would mean that the Social Security Act would not only be under political but also constitutional stress. Many of the Constitution in Exile people think there can't be independent regulatory commissions, so the Security and Exchange Commission and maybe even the Federal Reserve would be in trouble. Some applications of the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act would be struck down as beyond Congress's commerce power.'' In what Sunstein described as the ''extreme nightmare scenario,'' the right of individuals to freedom of contract would be so vigorously interpreted that minimum-wage and maximum-hour laws would also be jeopardized.

The Texas 2004 GOP Platform is very explicit in its disdain for a federal government that can regulate business:

Abolish the Bureau of Tobacco and Firearms, the position of Surgeon General, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Departments of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Education, Commerce and Labor. We also call for the de-funding or abolition of the National Endowment for the Arts, and Public Broadcasting System.

note -The 2006 platform  is now on the web, but I can only access the preamble as of this writing. Both in the 2004 and 2006 preambles we find an innocuous sounding sentence:

" We believe that the future of our country depends upon a strong and vibrant private sector unencumbered by excessive government regulation.

Who can disagree with "a strong and vibrant private sector unencumbered by excessive government regulation?" But few people realize that eliminating the regulatory and social functions of the federal government, ie "unfettered" capitalism, opens the doors to theocracy. After all, who will step in and deal with the many problems those agencies were established to address? Christian Reconstructionism picks up where the Constitution in Exile movement leaves off. The churches would step in. And how will they govern?

Coming next week: what would a Reconstructed America look like?

How much of a role should the federal government play in society? This is a key question for theocrats who believe their religious institutions should replace most of the functions of government. The Constitution in Exile movement has created both a legal framework and a legal infrastructure for disempowering the federal government which, in turn, serves the interests of dominionists who can step in to fill the void. Does this make sense?

by Joan Bokaer on Thu Jun 29, 2006 at 01:00:58 PM EST

History has shown repeatedly that all too often, government has been called on to jump in where private citizens have refused to tread. "Unfettered capitalism" has been done before, and all too often it has led to hell on earth for much of the population.

Our own nation's history is a tragic case in point. While the few American "Captains of Industry" in the 19th century carried on with the Industrial Revolution, amassing their fortunes and pointing proudly to the booming growth of industry and technology and the nation's rapid westward expansion, the many at the other end of the economic spectrum made that progress possible by:

working 16-hour days in dangerous, even life-threatening conditions;

suffering from widespread disease due to overcrowding, lack of sanitation and health care, and poor nutrition; and

watching their children forced to drop out of school to help support their families and thus miss out on the education that would enable their informed participation in a democratic society.

The prevailing conditions didn't affect only the poorest of the poor; even the relatively well-off were frequently exposed to industrial air and water pollution and tainted food.

But aaaaahhhhhhhhh, Progress! The new prosperity will trickle down and improve everyone's life. Sound familiar?

The rise of labor unions and the Social Gospel movement improved conditions (at least for some), but it really wasn't until the advent of the New Deal in response to the Great Depression that our country as a whole began to look out for all of its own and not just those who looked out for Number One.

If all of us who claim to follow the Bible would actually read the whole book and follow the many calls in both Testaments to be generous in caring for "the least of these" and to be good stewards of God's good earth and "the fullness thereof," maybe - just maybe - it would be "safe" to turn capitalism loose, or at least somewhat looser than it currently is. But for now, we all must depend to some degree on the "Godless" government to do the "Christlike" thing for the common good, while the "Godly" Dominionists try their darnedest to disassemble that work, create a Christian" nation in their own image, and return the country, and eventually the world, to the "bad old days."

by anomalous4 on Thu Jun 29, 2006 at 04:58:06 PM EST

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