Huckabee Hustles Religion (April 1995)

Since this article was written, Lt. Gov. Mike Huckabee once again waited until the Governor left the state to proclaim a 1995 “Christian Heritage Week” for April 23-29, 1995, with an event scheduled at the capitol rotunda on April 23 to kick off the week.

By Brian Bolton

At a news conference in the Capitol rotunda last February, 1994, Lt. Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas defended his signing of a “Christian Heritage Week” proclamation. He said that he would be willing to sponsor similar declarations for other religions.

Speaking at a Republican Party dinner in Hoxie a few days later, Huckabee decreed that “In America we ought to be open and tolerant of various religious viewpoints.” And he again said that he would support official recognition of contributions made by other religious groups.

Last March, I requested that Lt. Gov. Huckabee proclaim Humanist Heritage Week by signing a declaration modeled after the Christian proclamation. Interestingly, the Humanist proclamation included quotations from four of the six American founders cited in the Christian declaration.

Huckabee declined to sign the Humanist proclamation for various reasons. For example, he said that the quotes from the six Founding Fathers were not documented so that their accuracy could be verified and that my request had not first been presented to Gov. Tucker.

The justification given by Huckabee for not signing the Humanist declaration was a transparent subterfuge. To illustrate, Gov. Tucker has a well-known policy of not issuing proclamations favoring specific religious groups. In fact, he had rejected the Christian proclamation in October, 1993!

Nevertheless, I addressed each of Lt. Gov. Huckabee’s concerns. References for the quotes by the six Humanist founders were provided and I asked Gov. Tucker to sign the Humanist proclamation. After the governor predictably declined, I again requested that Huckabee endorse the Humanist declaration.

In his hostile reply, Lt. Gov. Huckabee once more refused to sign the Humanist proclamation. He listed several reasons to rationalize his decision.

For example, Huckabee characterized the Humanist proclamation as consisting of “out of context and isolated statements by various historical figures.” Ironically, this describes exactly the Christian declaration. Furthermore, four of the six founders quoted in the Christian proclamation and commended as “Christian statesmen” were not even Christians! They were Humanists.

Another charge by Huckabee was that I had not demonstrated how Humanism “has benefited our culture or our society in a significant way.” I had assumed that an educated individual would be acquainted with the milestone intellectual epochs in the history of Western civilization.

Humanism originated in classical Greek and Roman antiquity and reemerged in the 15th century literary and philosophical movement called the Renaissance. The values and attitudes of Renaissance Humanism were amplified in the 18th century Enlightenment. For over two millennia the religious philosophy of Humanism has contributed substantially to the intellectual and moral foundation of Western thought.

The American founders were products of the Enlightenment, as evidenced by their allegiance to the naturalistic religion of Deism. Language in the Declaration of Independence and other source documents indicates the pervasive influence of Deism (“Nature’s God”).

Humanism is the philosophical precursor of Deism and thus constitutes the historical basis for many American political principles. The religious philosophy of Humanism embraces many contemporary groups and denominations, such as Religious Humanism, Humanistic Judaism, Ethical Culture, Freethought, Unitarianism, Secular Humanism, Rationalism, and Christian Humanism.

Huckabee also rejected the Humanist proclamation because he “could not recall having seen hospitals, homeless shelters, and educational institutions built in the name of advancing Humanism.” What the Rev. Huckabee has done, of course, is to enumerate a set of exclusionary criteria that eliminate all minority religious views from consideration for official state recognition.

More than 80 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians, with one-fourth associated with fundamentalist theologies. So the dozens of small faiths like Bahaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Mormonism, Scientology, and Unity, as well as the Humanist denominations noted above, are dismissed by Huckabee as undeserving of official recognition because they don’t satisfy his personal requirements.

This is simply religious bigotry. How ironic that the nation’s founders, who were misrepresented in the Christian proclamation that Huckabee signed, were staunch advocates of religious tolerance, respect for the beliefs of others, and freedom of conscience in matters of faith.

Huckabee has routinely used his office to promote his own fundamentalist views while denigrating the values and beliefs of citizens with whom he disagrees. For example, he asserted that April 1st (“Fool’s Day”) should be celebrated as “Atheist Day.” And during his first year in office, Huckabee’s income from Religious Right activities exceeded his taxpayer supported salary.

Foundation member Brian Bolton is a psychologist, an ordained Humanist minister, and a university professor with the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center in Fayetteville.

Brian Bolton’s Proclamation

Whereas, The U. S. Constitution contains no mention of God or Christianity and states specifically that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust” (Article VI); and

Whereas, Benjamin Franklin, American statesman, asserted “When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself, and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, ’tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one”; and

Whereas, Under George Washington, first President of the U.S., the Treaty of Tripoli was written, with the assurance that “the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion”; and

Whereas, Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, wrote “Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear”; and

Whereas, James Madison, father of the U. S. Constitution, stated “During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution”; and

Whereas, John Adams, second president of the U.S., declared “I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of [hu]mankind has preserved–the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!”; and

Whereas, Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense, wrote “Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon that the word of God It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize [hu]mankind”; and

Whereas, These, and may other truly great men and women of America, giants in the structuring of American history, were Humanists of the Deist, Freethought, and Unitarian persuasions, and staunch advocates of religious tolerance and freedom of conscience;

Now, Therefore, I, do proclaim

Humanist Heritage Week.

Freedom From Religion Foundation