Some Christians interpret the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” to mean the government cannot prohibit Christians from freely exercising their right to establish laws that impose their religious beliefs on everyone else. Contrary to their beliefs, the First Amendment gives everyone freedom of religion and, necessarily, freedom from religion. They are two sides of the same coin and one cannot exist without the other. Everyone has the right to freely exercise their religious beliefs and to be free from secular laws that impose evangelical, fundamentalist Christian values on them. One look at President Donald Trump’s Cabinet though, or the four Republican candidates running for governor in Maine, will give one pause.

Most of Trump’s Cabinet nominees are evangelical, fundamentalist Christians. Generally they believe that God created the Earth 6,000 years ago, that men and dinosaurs co-existed, that everything is part of God’s plan and that Armageddon is just around the corner. Collectively they oppose civil rights, LGBT rights, a woman’s right to choose, and public education, while they deny climate change, all based on their Christian beliefs.

Many Cabinet members attend the Capitol Ministries’ bible study program, a Christian program specifically designed to bring the word of God to Cabinet members and to make them disciples of Jesus Christ. Cabinet members who help sponsor the group include Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and Mike Pompeo, the outgoing CIA chief who is Trump’s nominee for secretary of state.

Pence has said, “I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.” Apparently being an American comes in no better than fourth, if at all. He denies evolution and climate change, and believes employers have the right to impose their religious beliefs on their employees.

Sessions ruled that all employers no longer have to provide birth control if it offends their religious beliefs because, “We will not allow people of (Christian) faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore,” and supports the administration’s plan to create a religious freedom division in the Department of Health and Human Services so religious doctors, nurses and other medical professionals can legally discriminate against anyone who is gay or transgendered, or is a woman who wants to terminate a pregnancy. Harper Jean Tobin, the director of policy for the National Center for Transgender Equality, said, “This is the use of religion to hurt people because you disapprove of who they are.”

Pruitt said his Christian belief helped him conclude that, “the biblical world view is that we have a responsibility to manage, cultivate and harvest the natural resources that we’ve been blessed with to truly bless our fellow mankind” without regard for the effects on other species. He has called climate change a hoax, and believes evolution as an unproven theory.

Pompeo shows he doesn’t understand that the secretary of state’s job is to promote and maintain world peace when he claims that politics is a “neverending struggle until the rapture.” He claims that “to worship our lord and celebrate our nation at the same place is not only our right, it is our duty,” and often mentions “God and Christianity” in official public speeches.

DeVos advocates teaching the Christian creation myth in public schools, supports publicly financed Christian schools and apparently places a higher value on an educational system based on mythology than on objective, verifiable facts.

All four Republican gubernatorial candidates in Maine have said they oppose women’s reproductive rights, opposition to which cannot be separated from their religious beliefs. Liz Hays, a member of the Maine Family Planning board of directors, reports that anti-abortion protests at the Augusta clinic have been going on for years. Although only a handful of protesters show up now, the election of yet another anti-choice governor could result in more protesters harassing women “who have every right to seek a legal medical procedure,” Hays argues.

Make no mistake about it; all four Republican gubernatorial candidates heed the advice of the religious right to ignore your First Amendment right of the separation of church and state.

Louise Melling, the ACLU deputy legal director, said, “Religious liberty gives you a right to your beliefs, but it doesn’t give you the right to impose your beliefs on others or harm others, including (discriminating) against others.”

I urge you to learn more about your First Amendment rights to freedom of and freedom from religion.

Tom Waddell is the president of the Maine chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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