The Freedom From Religion Foundation is calling out a Tennessee state senator and congressional candidate for his religion-based opposition to government social programs.
A concerned constituent recently alerted FFRF to a video in which state Sen. Mark Green explained in the following way his opposition to Medicaid expansion in Tennessee:
Government has stepped in, at least in this country, and done all the work for the church. So the person who’s in need goes — they look to the government for the answer, not God. And I think, in that way, government has done an injustice that’s even bigger than just the entitlement — creation of an entitlement welfare state. I think it’s even bigger. And in this setting, I’ll share the story, I think it interrupts the opportunity for people to come to a saving knowledge of who God is. [emphasis added]
“This is a shocking display of callousness to admit that you would be willing to deny constituents benefits, in this case possibly life-saving health care, because you conclude that constituents will then allegedly ‘look to the government for the answer, not God,’” FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor write to Green.
Green has, needless to say, taken an oath to uphold the U.S. and Tennessee constitutions.
The United States was first among nations to adopt a godless Constitution, whose only references to religion are exclusionary. The wise framers of our secular Constitution knew that there can be no true liberty if the government takes sides on religion, which is why they deliberately placed sovereignty not in a divinity, but in “We, the People.”
The preamble of our Constitution reads:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. [emphasis added]
The Tennessee Constitution itself affirms that no citizen can be “compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or to maintain any minister against his consent; that no human authority can, in any case whatever control or interfere with the rights of conscience; and that no preference shall ever be given, by law to any religious establishment or mode of worship.” (Article 1, Section 3)
Green’s comments clearly indicate that he is violating the spirit of both the U.S. and Tennessee constitutions. The U.S. Supreme Court has explained that “if there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.”
And Green is out of step with the times. Today, nearly a quarter of adults in the United States identify as nonreligious, and an additional 6 percent state they believe in faiths other than Christianity. That number is rising: Among millennials and younger Americans, those born after 1981, 34–36 percent are unaffiliated, and 8 percent practice a minority religion. The constitutional separation between state and church is the crown jewel of the Bill of Rights, guaranteeing that Americans will not be told by their government what to believe on matters of religion. Green is flouting both the constitutions he has taken oaths to uphold — an act made more egregious by the country’s changing demographics.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 32,000 members and several chapters across the country, including 400 members in Tennessee and a state chapter in Knoxville. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.