And A Nazi New Year

One of the most notable responses to the election of Barack Obama has been the virtually endless parade of right-wing warnings that his administration is leading the nation down the path to communism, socialism, Nazi tyranny, or somehow all the above. The latest example is the eye-catching cover of the January 2010 issue of the American Family Association Journal. It’s a large bright red Nazi flag against a dark cloudy sky, with the headline, “THE EVIL LIVES.” The cover points to two related stories inside, one on secularism and another on abortion:

The secularism story, “What Hitler Knew,” is punctuated by a picture of the dictator in a stiff-armed salute. The article attacking church-state separation is essentially a reprint of the speech given by AFA’s “director of issues analysis” Bryan Fischer at last fall’s Values Voter Summit making the case that the First Amendment does not apply to the states or any entity other than Congress:

It is constitutionally impossible for a governor, a state legislature, a mayor, a city council, a principal, a teacher or a student speaking at graduation to violate the First Amendment, for one simple reason: they’re not Congress.

Perhaps Fischer apparently failed to take into account the 14th Amendment which makes the First Amendment applicable to the states.

Fischer equates Hitler’s efforts to silence Christian opponents of Nazi evils with American church-state separationists:

Secular fundamentalists in the United States know the same thing that Hitler knew. The only thing that stands in their way of the total takeover of our culture, the final removal of any mention of God from the public arena, and the shredding of the last remains of our Judeo-Christian value system, is the church of Jesus Christ.

Fischer also has an extremely narrow interpretation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause as it applies to Congress. He writes that the only way Congress can violate the First Amendment would be “to select one Christian denomination, make it the official church of the United States, and compel citizens to support it with their tax dollars.”

Apparently, according to Fischer’s dubious constitutional analysis, there would be no federal constitutional problem with a state government declaring itself a Baptist state and requiring state taxpayers to support a particular denomination. (In fairness, it should be noted that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas also believes the First Amendment's establishment clause does not apply to the states.)

According to Fischer’s analysis, it would seem that the First Amendment’s protections for free speech would also apply only to Congress and not to governors or state or local governments. If Fischer finds that the least bit troubling, he doesn’t let on.