FFRF Action Fund is taking to task Michigan state Rep. Josh Schriver for his comments asking for the removal of tax-exempt status of churches he disfavors.
In a recent appearance on a conservative Christian podcast, “Your Defending Fathers,” Schriver announced he was working on a policy to establish a legal distinction between Christian churches and what he referred to as the “Church of Satan,” actually the Satanic Temple – West Michigan, which erected a holiday display outside the Michigan Capitol in December. The display, intended to “celebrate the year and celebrate our own achievements and celebrate religious plurality,” according to a spokesperson for the temple, was met with predictable outrage by seven state representatives, who signed a letter to the Michigan Capitol Commission demanding its removal.
Schriver said his proposed policy would “really focus on making a distinction between the church — the church of Jesus Christ — and this, quote unquote Church of Satan. …You really have an issue where they’re seen as equal in the eyes of the state, and that doesn’t seem right to me for many, many legitimate reasons.”
FFRF Action Fund, the legislative arm of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which has 40,000 members (including 1,000 members in Michigan), is asking Schriver to recognize the diversity within his community and work to protect the freedom of expression of all of his constituents. In a letter to Schriver, FFRF Senior Policy Counsel Ryan Jayne writes, “It is ironic that you made such comments on a show whose title refers to the U.S. Founders because one of their most important contributions to the history of Western society is the creation of a constitution recognizing the fact that true religious liberty is incompatible with state-sponsored churches. The government must treat those of all religious beliefs — and those with no religious beliefs at all — equally under law.”
Schriver’s expressed favoritism to Christian churches would irrefutably violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which bars state or federal governments from setting up a church or passing laws which aid one religion, all religions or prefer one religion over another. Disfavoring nontheistic religions would not only harm the Satanic Temple, but also Unitarian Universalist Association congregations, Buddhist temples that practice nontheistic forms, and other religions.
Schriver shows abysmal ignorance of the constitutional prohibition of a religious test for public office by saying, “We have a duty to lead people as representatives who are appointed by God to make sure that we have a state that is not just good, not just great, but godly.” He also displays arrogance in grandiosely parading himself as answering only to “Jesus Christ”: “Honestly, I work for God not for man. And so at the end of the day, I answer to one person and that’s Jesus Christ.”
“In fact, Schriver’s paycheck is provided by the good people of Michigan, so he works for them, and his duty is to uphold his oath of office to ‘support the Constitution of the United States and the constitution of this state,’” notes FFRF Action Fund President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The U.S. Constitution is a godless document, whose only references to religion are exclusionary.”
FFRF Action Fund urges Schriver to recognize the diversity of his constituents, including the growing population of the nonreligious in Michigan and the rest of the U.S. The nonreligious are the fastest growing religious identification in the United States, with 35 percent of Americans being non-Christian and three-in-10 adult Americans (29 percent) identifying as religiously unaffiliated. An eye-opening 21 percent of young Americans born after 1999 identify as atheist or agnostic.
FFRF Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that develops and advocates for legislation, regulations and government programs to preserve the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. It also advocates for the rights and views of nonbelievers, endorses candidates for political office, and publicizes the views of elected officials concerning religious liberty issues.