Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Wyoming should support Senator Scott’s bill to protect children.

Photo credit: Torsten Dederichs on

Senator Charlie Scott (R-Casper), longtime chairman of the Senate Labor and Health Committee, is drafting a bill that would add a section to Wyoming’s child abuse statutes, criminalizing so-called “sex-change treatments for children.” This is a commonsense initiative that everyone should support. 

The tragedy of misguided medical treatments and the disabled people they leave in their wake is staggering. Large-scale sex change treatments for children began a little more than a decade ago, and those children are only now realizing what was done to them. Unethical psychologists, surgeons, and hospitals promise children the moon in order to sell pricy pharmaceuticals and six-figure surgeries. They get rich while children are irreversibly damaged and left to live with the life-long consequences.

Both the psychological and physiological facts of gender transition treatments are documented in scholarly books on the subject. “When Harry Became Sally,” by Ryan T. Anderson focuses on biology, while “Irreversible Damage,” by Abigail Shrier examines psychology. But Anderson’s book is banned from Amazon and Shrier’s search results are suppressed.

Scott’s legislation shouldn’t be necessary. Wyoming has always protected children from sexual abuse. Statutory rape laws (A.K.A. sexual abuse of a minor) are designed to protect the victim who “consented” to the act. Centuries of common law jurisprudence have determined that “consent” is not legally possible for minor children for at least three reasons.

First, human beings take many years to develop fully in mind and body. Nobody expects a toddler to be mature enough to consent to run in the street, nor a teenager to self-regulate alcohol. While their children mature, caring parents will override the child’s choices. They do not do so not to withhold affirmation, but to prevent harm to developing minds and bodies.

Second, the development of human sexuality is not a gradual sliding scale. Rather, it takes a quantum leap at puberty. Before that quantum leap takes place, young people cannot fathom the powerful emotional, physical, and spiritual realities that come with being mature men or women. They lack the information to give informed consent about sex. Even during the Dark Ages, minors could not legally take lifelong vows of celibacy. But minors today who swear that they want a change in sex, have no recourse when they grow up.

The third reason for statutory rape laws stems from the axiom: “the most important sex organ is between the ears.” A human’s prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until the age of 25. Thus, long after the body is grown, true informed consent is elusive. Some laws give full agency to 18-year-olds while alcohol, tobacco, and firearms are withheld until 21. The addictive hormones and elective surgeries of sex change are more like the latter than the former.

Britain’s National Health Services already went down this foolish path and is now reversing course. In 2011, its Tavistock gender-identity clinic, in London, began to give pre-pubescent minors cancer drugs that interfere with the progression of puberty. These are followed, after puberty, by artificial hormones that mimic hormones of the opposite sex. In ten years, referrals to the clinic had multiplied by 36 times, and 98.5 percent of these referrals were minors.

Kiera Bell

Then their patients started coming of age. A former patient,  Kiera Bell, sued and won. She had been prescribed the drug protocol as a minor and a double mastectomy at 20. In 2020 the High Court ruled that the clinic was wrong to give permanently body-altering treatments to minors unable to comprehend what they are agreeing to. While that court battle rages on, the Tavistock clinic now faces one of the largest “medical negligence cases of all time,” and is shuttering next year. 

Opponents of Senator Scott’s bill claim that these permanent and elective pharmaceuticals and surgical procedures are legitimate health care and should be left to the medical and psychological “experts.” But the experts do not agree. After Tavistock started doing these things to minors, numerous psychologists resigned in protest. During one three-year span alone (2016-18), 35 resigned from the clinic. 

Meanwhile, more than 50 years after sex-change operations began, and more than a decade after minors began to receive them, the current AMA “standard of care” still has nothing to do with longitudinal research and positive outcomes, and everything to do with the wishes of the patient. Thus, as children come of age and realize that they have been permanently sterilized and/or will be unable to breastfeed their own children, they are denied even the recourse of a medical malpractice suit. 

Wyoming has always protected minors from adults who would convince them to engage in harmful behavior. It shouldn’t matter whether those adults are drug pushers, human traffickers, doctors, or surgeons. Harm is harm. We should all stand up and say, “not in our state.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Political parties and the power of friendship

Photo credit: Hannah Busing, on Unplash

Today’s partisan rancor—both between parties and within parties—tempts many into fevered dreams of a utopian, party-less world. But more sober thinking realizes that even if all party lines were erased, it could not be a party-less system, but only a single-party system. That’s no dream. It’s a nightmare.

The right to form political parties is written into the First Amendment. “Congress shall make no law respecting …the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” These words are not merely about picket lines. Taken together, they recognize the right of individuals to amplify their voices by unifying their concerns into a single petition or a single candidate. That’s what political parties do.

To accomplish this, political parties have the right to determine who may join their assembly, and who may not. And governments may not intimidate individuals from joining. Nor may they mandate the inclusion of members that oppose a party’s “beliefs and ideas.” In 1958, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Alabama could not even require the NAACP to reveal its membership list without violating the First Amendment.

Nevertheless, Wyoming’s state legislature has both taken over the membership lists of our political parties and used its power to influence their internal decisions. These deep encroachments on First Amendment rights were, no doubt, made with good intentions. 

Since the county clerks already had the equipment, the voter registry, and the expertise to run elections, why not piggyback party primaries onto municipal and county elections? This arrangement made sense until government officials began to exert state control over party primaries. 

Governments have the authority to register voters. But they have no inherent right to track party affiliation. It is only by the leave of political parties that the state can do so. Nevertheless, this summer, the Secretary of State usurped control of the party registration lists and directed county clerks to withhold information from elected party officers.

As the Joint Corporations committee discusses LSO-190 Voter registry list at Friday’s meeting, it would do well to keep NAACP v. Alabama in mind. That landmark case requires states to keep their noses out of party membership lists, not to withhold party membership information from the parties themselves.

But it gets worse. In 2021 the Wyoming Republican Party central committee overwhelmingly voted to conduct its primary elections by way of run-off instead of plurality voting. A vote at the statewide convention ought to have been enough to effect this change. Instead, the GOP had to take it to the state legislature, where current House leadership would not even let it be considered

2020 Wyoming GOP Convention, Gillette

Now, the Joint Corporations committee has asked for bill draft, LSO-0192 Election revisions, to introduce ranked-choice voting. Runoff elections make certain that a clear majority of the party supports the party’s candidate. This bill strips political parties of their right even to have a party candidate.

The entire point of forming political parties was to use the power of free assembly to petition the government for a single candidate of the party’s choosing to be listed on the November ballot. Ranked-choice voting hijacks this process and bypasses the political parties altogether. It is such a total takeover of party primaries that citizens are stripped of any power to organize in the fielding of candidates.  

Elected legislators—whether Democrat or Republican, Libertarian or Constitutional—who don’t want runoff elections can petition their own party convention for the type of election that suits them. But never should they use state power to override the will of parties. Any reduction of the power of individuals to organize is a power grab by the state.

This is a First-Amendment issue, but it rests on something even deeper. The very reason that the United States Constitution recognizes the right of free assembly and petition is because it recognizes the more fundamental power of friendship. Mobs have awesome power. But friends acting in agreement can even turn aside an angry mob.

The mob has power because it is large, and it is loud. Friends have power because they care about each other and are willing to defer to one another for a greater cause. We should not confuse these powers. 

Both cooperate to get things done. But mobs can be manipulated by heartless crowd psychology, while friends who defer willingly are more stable and less easily manipulated. Mobs use the vote to dominate the loser, while friends use the vote to find the candidate or idea that they want to put forward. It is the willingness to defer—and not the power of the vote—that gives the party power. 

That’s why good legislation will always prefer to give power to parties rather than to mobs.

Friday, October 7, 2022

Get ready for fireworks at next Friday’s Corporations committee meeting

Joint Corporations Committee, 2021 (Photo credit: Nick Reynolds)

Next Friday’s meeting of the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions committee in Cheyenne is slated to take up a number of controversial bill drafts relating to Wyoming elections. Log on at 8:30am and break out the popcorn.

The day starts tamely enough with a continued discussion LSO-132 Political Expenditures. It proposes a federal constitutional amendment to restrict the flow of dark money in political campaigns. 

The remainder of the morning is devoted to the Secretary of State’s office presenting an “election fraud investigation” of the Coal Country Conservatives (CCC). This PAC, with a budget of $1,800, registered with the FEC. But the Campbell county clerk wanted them investigated for not also registering with the SOS office. Wyoming Statute is explicit that “federal political action committees shall not be required to file [with the SOS if] the committee is required to comply with federal election law reporting requirements” (Wyo. Stat. 22-25-106(g)).

The CCC PAC’s $1,800 is dwarfed by the Western Conservatives PAC’s $355,133 spent to unseat conservatives. It seems small potatoes, and a strange use of two-and-a-half hours of the committee’s time. On the upside, it is heartening to know that some people can allege “election fraud” without being labeled as “election deniers.” 

After the lunch break, the bill draft, LSO-191 Municipal nonpartisan ranked-choice elections, will be discussed. This proposes to bring Utah’s ranked-choice voting (RCV) to Wyoming. Cities can deny any political party the right to run municipal officers of their own choosing. Rather, RCV imposes a uni-party scheme that transfers the votes of the loser to a second-choice candidate and counts the ballots again.

LSO-192 Election revisions, will be the next bill draft considered. It would prohibit political parties from fielding a candidate of their own choosing for statewide or federal office. Instead, RCV would be used to select four candidates—regardless of party—for listing on the November ballot. RCV is currently bluing states like California, Delaware, Colorado, Oregon, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Alaska.

Both RCV bills neuter political parties. Such a deliberate kneecapping of party relevance begs the question of why we have them in the first place. We will discuss this in a future column.

Next up is LSO-190 Voter registry list. It would stipulate that, when asked, county clerks must provide voter registry lists with voter I.D. numbers and absentee ballot data. This is a good thing.

The bill was necessitated by a unilateral change in policy on the part of the SOS office. Prior to 2022, candidates and interested citizens routinely requested and received this information. But this summer the SOS office, without legislative approval, instructed county clerks not to release that information any longer.

LSO-196 Vacancies in elected office is designed to strip political parties of their statutory rights in filling vacancies to elected office. Currently, when a Republican or Democrat resigns from office, the state central committee of that party must give the governor three nominees from which he chooses a replacement. This bill would end that long-standing law. 

LSO-189 Election equipment-federal certification tethers Wyoming election laws to the changing recommendations of the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSGs) that are farmed out to the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC). Thus, Wyoming’s elected and accountable state officials will no longer be answerable to voters for their own competence and judgment. Instead, they will blindly impose whatever new edicts these anonymous and opaque federal bureaucracies might decree in the future.

LSO-271 Specified election records not subject to disclosure would alter state statutes to prevent Wyoming citizens from examining cast ballots, cast ballot images, and cast vote records. In response to dozens of public records requests from citizens, county clerks all over Wyoming have claimed that the constitution prohibits release of these records. The committee obviously thinks this claim is dubious. But rather than instruct the clerks to follow the law, it drafted a bill to put these election records out of reach. So much for transparency. 

For its final act, the committee will take up LSO-186 Wyoming elections commission. This drastically alters Wyoming’s long-standing law by stripping the Secretary of State of his election oversight duties. It is hard to read this bill as anything other than a slap in the face of every primary voter who went to the polls to vote for election reform. 

Rarely do committee meetings promise to be as electric and noteworthy as this one. If you are interested in any of these topics, make your way to the Capitol Extension (W006) next Friday (October 14, 2022). If you cannot be there in person, register beforehand to testify via Zoom. I am sure that the Corporations Committee would love to hear from you.

Friday, September 30, 2022

The Managerial Revolution stifles true humanity.

Early during the second world war, while all of Europe was locked in a death grip involving the liberal democracy of London, the fascism of Berlin, and the communism of Stalingrad, James Burnham published “The Managerial Revolution.” In it, he noticed that even though they were mortal enemies, they also shared a common, unhuman impulse.

The trend had already been working its leaven through the world’s governments for more than half a century. True to its enlightenment roots, it discounted and devalued the soul, the local, the individual and the unique. Rather than honoring these as the very heart of human existence, it saw them as irrelevant differences that could be tolerated only so long as they did not interfere with the rational uniformity imposed by the detached and scientific management of experts in increasingly specialized fields.

Stalinism imposed uniformity through a brutal centralized governing apparatus. Nazism imposed uniformity through collusion between government and business. London (and Washington) used the tools of democracy to build bureaucracies that were nominally under the control of the executive branch, but in reality, imposed uniformity through impersonal and anonymous bureaucrats.

In the fourscore years since Burnham’s book appeared, hot and cold wars between overt totalitarianism and the façade of liberalism have continued unabated—all while the managerial revolution has continued unrelentingly. Had we paid more attention to Burnham, we would have foreseen the global dominance of fast-food chains, defense industries, high finance, and big tech.

Lest I lose my reader in the weeds, it is time to cut to the chase: Our humanity is at stake. Therefore, understanding the essence of humanity is the first task in choosing sides. Can life be boiled down to adequate food, housing, and clothing? How much cultural cuisine are we willing to lose to put “a chicken in every pot”? How much should we suppress religious differences to have a “values-free” education? What free speech are we willing to silence to make everybody “nice”?

Put in these terms, the choices before us cut across political skirmish lines. This, too, is to be expected. Globalist managers vying for control know how to divide and conquer. The uniform talking points fed to media outlets keep liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans busy screaming at each other so that neither one notices that their common humanity is being peeled away layer by layer.

The 70/30 split in Wyoming politics does not have to be a death match. Neither does it have to be a bland blend or political bromide. There is a third, more humane, alternative. Vive la différence! The things that make us different don’t need to be relegated to a place of irrelevance to get along. What makes you human cannot be boiled down to mere biological needs and desires.

Basic needs are the things that unite you with the animal world. It is the soul, the local, the individual, and the unique that are the essence of your human nature. The pursuit of happiness requires cultivating these humanities—not in stamping out these differences.

Of course, Levi Strauss will not make as much money if some people prefer to wear lederhosen over blue jeans. Walmart will not make as much money if some prefer to get their groceries from a different store than the one from which they buy their tires. Taco Bell will not make as much money if some people prefer the cuisine of Mexico City while others choose the nuances of Cancun. 

A few years ago, I could not understand why my extremely liberal friend was so upset when Walmart drove our local food market out of business. Now I get it. He was reacting the same way I react to threats directed at my local parish and against our small-town culture. I should have seen then that both of us were pushing back against the inhumane homogenization of our world.

I hope that you can see it, too. Once both the hyper-conservative and the hyper-liberal understand that globalist interests are seeking to bury them both, we will be motived to unite in a struggle to preserve our humanity. Real Republicans and Democrats—the grass roots of every party—can still have vigorous discussion and disagreement on many details. But what unites us is the truth that these details matter.

Jesus asked, “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25). Yes, it is. We are not cows in a feed lot, but human beings. We have souls, moral convictions, and wills that cannot be manipulated like lab rats. We seek eternal truths beyond the creature comforts. The soul, the local, the individual and the unique are not quirks to be tolerated, but the things that make us human.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Education Triangle: Parents, teachers, and the best interests of every child

Photo credit: Brad West on

In the shadow of the University of Wyoming, the Wyoming Pastors Network gathered for a conference that brought together speakers David Gibbs, Bob Schaffer, and Wyoming’s own Superintendent of Public Instruction, Brian Schroeder. Its theme: Stand for Parents and Children.

Two members of Wyoming’s legislature were in attendance, and we were honored to have Megan Degenfelder, Republican candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction, with us as well. It was a joy to meet so many distinguished educators. Above all, it was extremely encouraging to see a unanimous commitment to Wyoming’s parents, teachers, and children.

David Gibbs III, President and General Counsel of the National Center for Life and Liberty, started the day with an informative survey of the constitutional rights that children, parents, teachers and citizens have at school. He helped the conferees understand how we can all come alongside teachers, administrators, and school boards in a way that is helpful, hopeful, and constructive.

Next, Bob Schaffer, headmaster of Liberty Common School (k-12) in Fort Collins, Colorado, told his story. While he served as a Colorado state senator for nine years, and a United States representative for six, the most inspiring part of his story was how an ordinary father of kindergarten-aged twins became involved in his local school and rose to the head of the most successful k-12 system in Colorado.

Bob Schaffer

By his telling, the key to successful schools is choice. When education becomes a marketplace, rather than a monopoly, every child benefits. At the same time, the rancor and bitterness of debates about public education are diminished. One of Schaffer’s most brilliant insights was the observation that when two parents disagree on how to raise their children, it is never necessary to pit them against one another. Rather, school choice accommodates both.

Take, for instance, the vitriolic opinions exchanged on this page about critical race theory. Why waste so much time and energy on forcing those who support it to submit to those who don’t? Obviously, there are people who want their children to be schooled in CRT. So, let them have a school that will meet their needs. And, let those who do not want their children to be indoctrinated with CRT have a school that meets their needs. Problem solved.

All education is religious education—even if many religions do not consider themselves religions. For instance, both sides agree that progressive Christianity is incompatible with orthodox Christianity. This, in itself, does not poison our public discourse. Rather, the use of government power and money to coerce one side to accept the religion of the other is the problem.

When we focus on the needs of parents and children, rather than the need for conformity, we are being true to American ideals.

Outgoing superintendent, Brian Schroeder, ended the day by sharing his optimistic vision for Wyoming. “According to the vision of our founding fathers,” Schroeder said, “the community schoolhouse was uniquely positioned to be an extension of and a support for the home, as well as an incubator for, and a bridge to, society.” He continued, “Wyoming, I believe, is one of the few places in our nation that still, for the most part, operates that way instinctively.” This, he believes, positions us to lead the nation in education.

Brian Schroeder

Of first priority is the triangular relationship of parents, teachers, and children. “The educational enterprise…only works well when all three work well together.”

Parents are the foundation because they are the ultimate customer of the education system. Education is always about what’s best for the child. And what’s best for one child may not be best for another. “But ultimately the parents know their kids best,” he observed, “so it goes without saying that the decision should rest with them, the parents.”

Teachers form the second side. Those who care about the proper education of children have one of “the most difficult job[s] on earth.” Therefore, we must, “thank them, honor them, care for them, support them, equip them, empower them, and pay them well.”

Children, the third leg, is what education is all about. “If this is really about our kids,” the Superintendent said, “then territorialism has no place in this equation. This is not—and never should be about public schools vs. private schools vs. parochial schools vs. home schools vs. charter schools vs. virtual schools vs. private tutoring. It is all of the above because it’s always about …what’s best for the child.”

Although duty took Megan Degenfelder away before we could invite her to our panel, we greatly appreciated her time with us. To be sure, Wyoming faces many challenges. But by working together we are very hopeful that Wyoming can lead the nation in serving the best interest of every child.

Friday, September 16, 2022

The Australian ballot comes to Wyoming

In recent months, dozens of Wyoming citizens from across the state have been denied access to public records. Many of these denials have included a reference to Article 6, Section 11 of the Wyoming Constitution. Such widespread public interest merits a closer look.

Section 11 begins, “All elections shall be by ballot.” Perhaps surprisingly, when this language was ratified in 1889, ballot elections were a recent innovation. As late as 1892, citizens in West Virginia rejected new ballot requirements and demanded a return to the voice vote.

Paper ballots, in fact, were at the heart of election reforms across the globe. In 1856, Australia first enacted the so-called secret ballot. As similar laws were enacted from London to Cheyenne they were known as “the Australian ballot.” These reforms were designed to counteract the widespread practice of voter intimidation. 

Robber barons, bosses, and corrupt politicians had learned to game the system. It was common to demand that employees or tenants vote a certain way, under threat of being fired or evicted. Observers at the polling place would enforce this intimidation either by eavesdropping on their voice vote or by observing which ballot was cast into the box.

At that time, ballots were printed by political parties and given to voters in advance of election day. They were easily identifiable by shape and color. So, it was nearly impossible to vote free of external pressures. The Australian ballot countered this with four specific reforms. 

  • First, every ballot listed all candidates running for office, and not only one party’s slate.
  • Second, instead of each special interest printing its own ballot, the Australian ballot was standardized and printed at public expense. 
  • Third, ballots could not be distributed outside of the polling place, or before voting day. Thus, fraudsters could not pressure voters to mark ballots before coming to vote. 
  • Fourth, polling places supplied a privacy booth to prevent fraudsters from observing how voters marked the ballot.

After the presidential election of 1884, all American states rapidly adopted the Australian ballot. Kentucky was the last to implement it in 1891. Wyoming’s constitution was ratified during this time and Article 6, Section 11 enumerated all four elements of the Australian ballot.

It says, (1) “all candidates… shall be printed on the same ballot,” (2) “at public expense,” (3) “and on election day [the ballot shall] be delivered to the voters within the polling place,” and (4) “All voters shall be guaranteed absolute privacy in the preparation of their ballots.”

Provisions one and two are relatively non-controversial. But early voting conflicts with our third provision. And the fourth provision recently has been stretched beyond recognition. 

“Preparation” is what happens before the ballot is cast. That is where privacy is guaranteed. But public record requests to look at ballots after they have been cast are being denied based on this sentence: “All voters shall be guaranteed absolute privacy in the preparation of their ballots, and the secrecy of the ballot shall be made compulsory.” 

The secrecy guaranteed here is in the voter’s preparation and in the ballot itself. It is a guarantee that anyone who looks at the ballot will not be able to identify the voter. Secrecy is secured not by hiding ballots from some while allowing others to inspect them. Rather, it is secured by preventing anyone who looks at them from being able to identify a voter. 

Monique Meese

So, who is saying otherwise? The former communications director for the secretary of state, Monique Meese, testified before the Corporations Committee (August 25, 2022): “I should read this sentence as broadly as I can because I want to protect my office from someone who is upset or might have a claim of action against my office for giving out information that’s constitutionally protected.” 

Two things should be said about this claim. First, the job of the Secretary of State’s office is faithfully to interpret the constitution. It is not to protect his office by stretching the words of the constitution “as broadly as I can.”

Second, the constitution demands that the ballot itself be made secret. If the Secretary’s office has not ensured that the ballot is secret so that anyone—from the county clerk to the janitor—might be able to identify the voter, the secretary has failed in his constitutional duty. But if the secretary meets his constitutional obligation, no one can be identified. And so, no one can be “upset or …have a claim of action.”

For the entire history of Wyoming millions of ballots have been inspected by clerks, election judges, and election observers. Every single one of them is a direct refutation of Meese’s novel interpretation. After 133 years of constitutional precedent, even statutory enactment of this interpretation would be hard-pressed to survive a constitutional challenge. Much less should it survive as a bureaucratic dictum.

Post Script:

  • The Reporters' Committee for Freedom of the Press has done a state-by-state analysis of which election records are publicly available. Colorado, Georgia, Texas, Vermont, and West Virginia explicitly permit public inspection of ballots. Many other states have not addressed the issue. The report concludes: "All election records of a county [in Wyoming] are public unless specifically exempted."
  • Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, issued an August 17, 2022 opinion stipulating that both legislators and the general public have the right to inspect secret ballots.
  • To varying degrees, states and counties throughout the United States have already set precedents by treating paper ballots, ballot images, and cast vote records as public records. In one example, Maricopa County, Arizona made 2.1 million available for public inspection in 2021.

Friday, September 9, 2022

The establishment clause should be rightly understood

Many who watch political discourse have noticed an alarming trend. Increasingly, pundits and policymakers paint an opposing position as “religious” and then dismiss that position out of hand—as though the position itself violated the so-called “separation of church and state.”

This attitude stifles public discourse. Not only is the “separation of church and state” an extra-constitutional dogma. It misinterprets the legitimate and necessary distinction between church and state. Worse, it disrespects fellow citizens at the very core of their being—their deepest identity.  

This trend was on full display last March when the “trigger bill” (HB 92) was being debated on the floor of the senate. It also appears regularly in anti-religious screeds on the opinion page—often, but not always, in connection with abortion. There are three things seriously wrong with such arguments. 

First, the claim that a child in the womb is a living human being, protected under Article I, Section 2 of the Wyoming Constitution, is not a religious claim. It is a medical claim. You can test it by checking to see if the DNA is human. You can test it by looking for signs of life—like a heartbeat. You can test it by seeing if a separate and unique individual exists.

None of these medical markers requires an act of faith. What requires an act of faith is to believe that a living human being does not merit full protection in law. Usually, this claim is connected to “personhood theory.” This dogma holds that not every human life is equal, but that there is an unseen and uncertain quality that some people have that makes them full persons under the law. 

The Supreme Court recently pointed out, in Dobbs v. Jackson, that it is unacceptable to “impose on the people a particular theory about when the rights of personhood begin” (p. 38). This—and not the demand for equal protection under the law—is tantamount to the establishment of religion.

Second, the U.S. Constitution was written precisely to allow people of all religions to participate in public discourse and to hold public office without discrimination. Since ancient times, governance and religion were joined at the hip. Only adherents of the dominant religion could have any say. Before Constantine, governing privilege required public adherence to the Roman gods. 

After Constantine, sometimes the Christians were in power and sometimes their pagan counterparts. Eventually, governance stabilized around Christendom until the Reformation of the 16th century. That made some governments Catholic, others Reformed, and others Lutheran. 

But America’s founders changed course entirely. They explicitly invited every person to use the power of persuasion to convince fellow citizens of the rightness of their beliefs. Quaker, Episcopalian, Catholic, or Jew—every citizen could enter public office without first passing a religious test (U.S. Constitution, Art. VI).

The assumption was that each citizen would fully represent his or her religion in the public square and build consensus on the basis of commonality. Nobody thought that religious people had to hide their deepest and most meaningful thoughts to be taken seriously in policy debates. The ideology of “Secularism” was not even invented until George Holyoke introduced the term in 1851. 

Third, religious neutrality is a lie. Every assertion is, ultimately, a religious statement. It rests on unspoken assumptions about the nature of the universe. Even the statement, “two plus two is four,” assumes that “is” means “equals,” and not merely “similar.” It assumes immutability—that it will always equal the same amount. It assumes that language has actual, objective meaning. These assumptions are unapologetically religious.

All public discourse is religious. It’s time to stop pretending otherwise. Secularist claims should not be privileged over Christian claims. The only privilege any claim merits is the power of persuasion. 

That was the foundational idea of America. People are not excluded from the debate because they refuse to expunge God from their vocabulary. Claims about the nature of life, marriage, family and citizenship can, and should be, debated in the public square. We owe that courtesy to our fellow citizens.

It is legitimate to question beliefs and challenge fellow citizens to defend their beliefs in the court of public opinion. Faith, after all, is adherence to the truth. It does no one good to outlaw the testing of truth claims. But it is a disservice to public discourse to disallow an otherwise true argument just because it has religious adherents. Let’s talk.