Opinion: Josh Hawley is disturbingly wrong: The US Constitution is not based on the Bible

Photo by Alex Brandon / The Associated Press / Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee hearing on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri gave a speech last Monday explaining what he views as the biblical foundations of American government.

"Without the Bible, there is no modernity," Hawley told the National Conservatism Conference. "Without the Bible, there is no America."

You can guess what came next: a confusing stew of inaccurate history, dubious theology and extreme hypocrisy that should worry everyone who believes in the separation of church and state.

Hawley's views must be resisted, and his fumbling theocracy rejected. He's at the forefront of a dangerous, growing movement: White Christian nationalism is overtaking the Republican Party, endangering religious freedom for everyone.

"We are a revolutionary nation precisely because we are heirs of the revolution of the Bible," Hawley said. No. Our constitutional government, and therefore our nation, isn't based on the Bible, or any religious text.

While most of the nation's founders generally believed in a creator, they were skeptics about the Bible's potential influence on secular government. Many were deists who believed in a God who created free thought, and did not interfere in the affairs of men and women.

Revolutionary writer Thomas Paine attacked the Bible relentlessly. Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, literally used a razor on the New Testament, taking out parts he thought were based on superstition or nonsense.

James Madison co-wrote the Federalist Papers, and is considered the primary author of the Constitution. "During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial," he wrote in 1785.

"What have been its fruits?" he asked. "More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution." That hardly sounds like someone using the Bible as a template for self-government.

Other parts of the Hawley address were equally absurd. The Republican senator said the Bible, and therefore the Constitution, enabled the "common man" to rule, and not a "clique or an elite."

The founders were many things, but they were hardly representatives of the "common man."

In his speech, Hawley called the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and riot -- which he helped provoke -- legitimate dissent, which insults the truth. He repeatedly referred to the "woke left" as elitists, which sounded strange coming from a man who went to Yale and Stanford.

Normally, we might reject these ideas as the ramblings of an arrogant, partisan senator. But imposing a biblical structure on American self-government is a real danger in our own time: Hawley and fellow travelers continuously seek to impose their beliefs on school curricula, equal rights, bodily autonomy and a host of other issues.

Roughly 90% of white evangelical Christians believe their faith is under assault. Many of them have responded by trying to impose their beliefs on everyone else.

Make no mistake: Americans have an absolute right to worship as they see fit, or not to worship at all. Their votes can reflect their religious beliefs, or purely secular concerns. We have no quarrel with faith, which has been the author of too many good deeds to count.

In fact, faith has been an integral part of America's most important social movements.

We oppose any attempt, by Josh Hawley or anyone else, to impose any religious framework on our government. Americans are free to think for themselves. That's what the First Amendment guarantee of free religious exercise is all about.

In his speech Monday, Hawley insulted that idea. That should worry all of us.

The Kansas City Star