Brunei has banned public Christmas celebrations, and the usual promoters of the War on Christmas are apoplectic. The commenters of Jihad Watch are calling for a ban on Islam, while others snark that Muslims must be weenies (my word, not theirs) if their faith can’t stand up to Santa Claus hats.
This is from the same people who threw an epic fit over the building of an Islamic center in lower Manhattan and who whine incessantly about being oppressed because people wish them “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” These are the same people whose god is such a wimp he can be ordered out of public schools by Supreme Court decisions. And these are the same people who insist they can use government offices to enforce their own religious beliefs, such as by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Many of these people would vote for Marco Rubio, who declared the United States is governed by God, not the Constitution. And don’t get me started on Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.
(Note that several GOP candidates have claimed God told them to run for president. Why does God hate America?)
What these meatballs don’t get about Brunei is that this is what happens when there is no separation of church and state.
On my other website I devote several articles to Buddhism in China. It seems lots of people in the U.S. think China bans religion, and that is not true. Officially, the government in Beijing supports religion. In recent years, Beijing has sunk a lot of money into restoring temples (many destroyed during the Cultural Revolution) and building big religious displays, such as the gigantic Guanyin of the South Sea.
They do this for other religions, too. The government has restored many cathedrals destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. Sounds nice, right? But the cathedrals are administered by the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, part of the Chinese Communist Party bureaucracy. The CPCA also appoints bishops and, I believe, pays the salaries of clergy. The Vatican doesn’t recognize Chinese clergy as authentic. See also China’s Outrageous Reincarnation Policy.
In the case of Buddhism, Taoism, and other traditional Chinese religions, much of this investment is about tourism. Monasteries, shrines and temples are expected to make money. I understand the fabled Shaolin monastery is a regular cash cow for Beijing. See also The Disneyfication of Tibet.
This is what happens without separation of church and state.
As most of you know, the establishment clause of the First Amendment essentially forbids Congress (and through the Fourteenth Amendment, state and local government also) from favoring one religion over another. This is not about banning religion from the public sphere outright, just not showing favoritism. Governments can either ban nativity scenes on public (as in government) property or allow other religions to promote their holidays as well, including Muslims, Satanists and Pastafarians. Lots of groups are demanding that Festivus poles be displayed on public grounds this year, in protest of nativity scenes.
Last month a Pew survey found that white Christians are now less than half of the population. Conservative Christians who continue to claim separation of church and state is the work of the Devil had better think about what might happen if a non-Christian religion ever claims enough followers to become a majority in the U.S. Without separation of church and state, what happened in Brunei could happen here.