It didn’t take long for religious-righters to use the horrifying tragedy in Connecticut last week as another opportunity to bash America for supposedly ignoring God. Today, for example, a Texas-based group with too many names — Liberty Institute presently, formerly Free Market Foundation, and now with a special offshoot called Texas Values — proclaimed its agreement with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee’s assessment of the murder of 20 young children and a half-dozen educators in a Connecticut school. Speaking on his Fox News show this weekend, Huckabee suggested that the shooting happened because America has been too busy “escorting” God “out of our culture” and the public square. Liberty Institute’s Facebook post today:
“Where was God during the Connecticut shooting? Liberty Institute agrees with Mike Huckabee, and we will continue to stand up for those who believe this should still be one nation under God.”
The group’s Facebook post then links to a video clip (see below) from Huckabee’s December 15 show. Here’s an extended excerpt from what Huckabee said (emphasis added):
“For 50 years we’ve systematically attempted to have God removed from our schools, our public activities, but then at the moment we have a calamity, we wonder where he was…. It’s far more than taking prayer or Bible reading out of the schools. It’s the fact that people sue a city so that we’re not confronted with a manger scene or a Christmas carol, that lawsuits are filed to remove a cross that’s a memorial to fallen soldiers. Churches and Christian-owned businesses are told to surrender their values under the edict of government orders to provide tax-funded abortion pills. We carefully and intentionally stop saying things are sinful and we call them disorders. Sometimes we even say they’re normal. And to get to where we have to abandon bedrock moral truths, then we’re asked, well, ‘where was God?’ And I responded as I see it. We’ve escorted him right out of our culture and we’ve marched him off the public square, and then we express our surprise that a culture without him actually reflects what’s it’s become…. Somebody’s going to suggest that we pass a law to stop all this kind of thing. I might want point out that we don’t have to pass a new law. There’s one that works if we teach it and observe it: ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ Oh, there are about nine others, but to tell you about them would require bringing God back, and we know how unacceptable that might be.”
So Huckabee thinks deranged people are gunning down innocent children and adults — in a Connecticut school, a Colorado theater, an Arizona congressional town hall meeting and so many other places — because government can’t dictate what prayers students should recite in school but requires that people have access to health care.
Remember when Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson blamed the 9/11 terrorist attacks on those who were “throwing God out of the public square”? Here was Falwell, speaking to Robertson at the time:
“I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.’”
Mike Huckabee and Liberty Institute are making essentially the same outrageously cynical and offensive argument again. Moreover, they say, we don’t need any new laws to help stop these massacres of innocents. We need only obey God’s commandments, but government, the courts and those evil civil libertarians won’t let our schools and civil authorities lead the way to that truth.
Really? The gunmen who have committed these horrific acts never learned at home, in church or anywhere else about God’s commandment not to kill other human beings? Please. The problem here isn’t an attack on God in the public square. The vigils and religious services across the country after these and other tragedies, the millions of people who fill our houses of worship every week, the religious displays and decorations on just about every street in America at Christmas and during other holiday seasons — they all speak to the power of faith in the lives of most Americans.
No, most people see the real theme tying so many of these shootings together: the intersection of mental illness and easy access to assault weapons that can be used to kill so many people in mere minutes. Should we change our gun laws? Should we do more as a society to intervene and treat people with mental illness? The answers to these questions are complex, requiring a balance between rights and freedoms on one side and public safety on the other. If Americans should turn their backs on anything, it’s the simplistic argument made by Huckabee and others like him that our communities are under siege because we have somehow turned our backs on God. In fact, it’s worse than a simplistic argument. It’s a self-serving lie intended to obscure reality and promote a political agenda.