We noted last week that at a recent Religious Right political gathering, conservative activists and Republican staffers were salivating over the ways that a federal judiciary filled with right-wing ideologues like Neil Gorsuch could fulfill the far-right dream of radically shrinking the federal government by rolling back the New Deal and perhaps even Progressive-era reforms. We can add that Religious Right activists are explicitly hoping that such a judiciary will also do away with the separation of church and state, which Pat Robertson famously called “a lie of the left.”
Thursday evening, anti-LGBTQ-equality activist Ryan Anderson, a Heritage Foundation fellow and founder and editor of Public Discourse, a magazine published by the right-wing Witherspoon Institute, tweeted a link to an article in the publication entitled, “The Urgency of Restoring the Biblical Values of America’s Founders.”
The author of the article, Arthur Goldberg, was described by Jewish Week in 2015 as a “convicted fraudster.” Goldberg is a former co-director of JONAH, a Jewish conversion therapy group that was ordered to close in 2015 after a New Jersey court found that JONAH’s claims to be able to change people’s sexual orientation through bizarre practices violated state consumer fraud protections. Goldberg is also the author of “Light in the Closet: Torah, Homosexuality and the Power to Change.” During the JONAH trial it was revealed that the American Psychotherapy Association had revoked Goldberg’s credentials in 2011 after learning that he had lied on his application “by failing to disclose his felony conviction as a Wall Street municipal bonds manager.”
But, sure, let’s have him lecture us about the urgency of America returning to biblical values.
Although Goldberg brings a Jewish lens to his take on American history, his arguments in some ways parallel the Christian-nation history promoted by Religious Right activists and Republican operatives like David Barton and David Lane. Goldberg appeals to the example of the Massachusetts Bay colonists, who he says, quoting scholar Gabriel Sivan, “believed their own lives to be a literal enactment of the Biblical drama of the Hebrew nation.”
The Puritans who settled Massachusetts wrote their laws with biblical principles in mind, such as the expectation that all sexual activity would be confined to marriage between a man and a woman. Today, of course, on the topics of sexuality, marriage, life, and gender, the laws of Massachusetts are a far cry from its colonial origins. As the first state to redefine marriage (through the courts, of course) and to force Catholic adoption agencies to stop providing adoption services, it has pioneered “politically correct” laws regarding sexual behavior.
Of course, the Massachusetts Bay colonists were no great champions of religious liberty and in fact persecuted people whose religious beliefs differed from the dogma enforced by community leaders.
Goldberg writes that “we are doing a dramatic disservice toward our country” by promoting political correctness and “calling evil good and good evil.” He says that instead we “need to reinstill knowledge of the biblical values upon which our country was based.” Making America great again, he says, means going back to biblical values, something he sees Donald Trump’s judicial nominees accomplishing:
America is undergoing a populist revolt against an entrenched elitist ideology within the media, academia, and our politics. Donald Trump’s election tapped into these resentments. One of the objects of this grievance is “the aggressive secularization and repression of the culture of faith as the moral anchor of society and the individual.” Thankfully, President Trump has nominated to the judicial branch of government many who understand the principles of originalism. These principles will hopefully prevent the judicial imposition of the secularism which Tocqueville warned about. He observed that without religion as an internal moral compass, “each man gets into the way of having nothing but confused and changing notions about the matters of greatest importance to himself and his fellows.”
The populist revolt in America seeks to restore people’s natural affinity with their Creator and to live by values inherent in the Judeo-Christian worldview. …
The Witherspoon Institute, publisher of Public Discourse, financed the notorious Mark Regnerus study on “family structures,” which has been widely discredited but is still cited by conservatives to support their arguments against gay couples being allowed to marry or adopt children.
Anderson has been a leading Religious Right voice calling for massive, generational resistance to the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling. He has said that the sexual revolution “has largely made a mess of human sexuality, the family and marriage,” and expressed hope that a backlash against gay marriage might lead Christians to come to realize the “immorality of contraception.”