Just days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion, Colorado’s Western Slope Rep. Lauren Boebert said churches should direct the government, not the other way around.
Boebert’s comments, made Sunday to a crowd at the Cornerstone Christian Center in Basalt, take aim directly at the separation of church and state.
“The church is supposed to direct the government. The government is not supposed to direct the church,” Boebert told the crowd, which applauded. “I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk.”
“It was not in the Constitution, it was in a stinking letter and it means nothing like what they say it does,” she continued.
The first-term, far-right congresswoman’s comments are disturbing, several political experts said and were likely inspired by recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings. Richard Collins, a retired constitutional law professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, called the statements unsurprising.
The case in favor of the separation of church and state is strong, Richard Collins, a retired constitutional law professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, said.
“But like so many issues, you can debate it,” Collins said. “It’s not completely unassailable and that’s what encourages people like Boebert to go after it.”
Thomas Jefferson wrote the letter, described by Boebert, to the Danbury Baptists in 1802.
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State,” Jefferson wrote.
But there are other examples in the country’s founding documents and legal precedent to bolster the separation of church and state, Collins said.
“People just have to judge for themselves,” Collins said.
Andrew Seidel, of Americans United, said Boebert is flat out wrong.
He pointed to the first three words of the Constitution’s Preamble, “We the people,” as evidence.
America’s Constitution was the first not to mention a deity, Seidel, whose organization is dedicated to the separation of church and state, said. And the only reference to religion in the founding document is to prohibit a religious test for those seeking to hold public office.
“We are about to get a very brutal real-world lesson in what it’s like to live in a country that doesn’t have that separation,” Andrew Seidel, of Americans United, an organization dedicated to the separation of church and state.
“And that looks like conservative, white Christians as this privileged class and everybody else as these second class citizens,” Seidel.
Boebert, of Silt, spoke to the church crowd for more than an hour, calling its members saints and telling them she was called to politics by Jesus. She also said that former President Donald Trump was “anointed” to the highest elected office in the country, where he appointed three conservative Supreme Court justices who voted to overturn Roe v Wade.
“This is the second day that we woke up in a post-Roe nation. Glory to God,” Boebert said. “This is the fruit of your labor, of your votes and your prayers. This is your harvest.”
But the work isn’t over, she told the crowd. More must be done to end access to abortion in other states.
Women’s health experts, health care providers and abortion proponents have repeatedly warned that overturning Roe — which triggered abortion bans in 13 states with more likely to follow — will ultimately end in the deaths of pregnant people across the country.
Boebert also praised church members who have worked in “crisis pregnancy centers,” which seek to talk women out of abortions rather than providing legitimate medical advice.
Ben Stout, a spokesman for Boebert, said the congresswoman stands by her comments.
“She supports that our country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and those should be implemented on government,” Stout said. “She believes the church has a role to play.”
Boebert does not, Stout said, support a theocracy.
But Annie Laurie Gaylor, one of the founding members of the nonprofit Freedom From Religion Foundation, said a theocracy is exactly what the congresswoman depicted.
“It’s not liberty when you start forcing your dogma on everybody else,” she said.
The congresswoman was likely empowered to make her comments not only by the Roe decision but also by another decision from the court last week which held that a high school football coach can pray on the field after games, Gaylor said.
That ruling effectively gives school officials in a position of power the ability to coerce or pressure students into praying with them, Seidel said.
“(Boebert) feels like she’s got some friends in high places,” Gaylor said of the Supreme Court.
During her address, Boebert lambasted politicians, mask mandates and what she called government overreach. She called for members of the congregation to involve themselves in politics.
Boebert also shared her vision of America’s purpose.
“I believe that there have been two nations that have been created to glorify God. Israel, whom we bless, and the United States of America,” she said. “And this nation will glorify God.”
The comments mirror white Christian nationalist talking points, Gaylor and Seidel agreed. And that demographic is clearly linked to efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 insurrection, they said.
“It’s dangerous to try and ignore that,” Gaylor said.
Seidel called for a national reaffirmation of the separation of church and state while Gaylor said her organization’s lawyers are looking into whether Boebert’s remarks, made in a church the day before a primary election in which she is a candidate, were legal.
Collins said it’s unlikely Boebert’s comments hurt her in the primary — where she faces a challenge from Republican state Sen. Don Coram — but could be used against her in the November general election.
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