Conservative plans for holy war are (obviously) un-American

Last Friday’s attacks in Paris demonstrated the need for a broad international coalition to take on ISIS and defeat the organization of radicalized religious demagogues.

Ironically, several conservatives believe that, in tandem with attacks on the group, the United States should engage in a different kind of war campaign: promotion of Judeo-Christian beliefs.

And we wonder why we get accused of waging a holy war of our own in the Middle East.

Ohio governor and Republican presidential candidate John Kasich is proposing a new federal agency that would exist to promote Christian ideals around the world, brought to you courtesy of the red, white and blue. Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush have further suggested that we shouldn’t allow any refugees in our nation unless they can pass a religious test identifying themselves as Christians. Watch Bush fail to explain exactly how that would work:

President Barack Obama rightly identified this as foolish and wrong. As he said yesterday, quoted by CNN:

When I hear folks say that maybe we should just admit the Christians and not the Muslims (refugees), when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that’s shameful. That’s not American.

The constitutional law professor has a point.

One needs only to look back to one of the earliest treaties in our nation’s history to find such evidence. The Treaty of Tripoli ensured friendship between the U.S. and the people of Tripolitania (now part of Libya). As part of this treaty, the Americans wanted to reassure the people of that region that no disputes rising out of religious differences would ever come up. Inserted into the document is Article 11, which states (emphasis added):

Thomas Jefferson, via Wikimedia Commons

Thomas Jefferson, via Wikimedia Commons

As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, – as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen (Muslims), – and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan (Muslim) nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

It’s also worth noting that the first nation to officially recognize America as a sovereign nation was not a so-called Western country. It certainly wasn’t England, and it wasn’t even France; it was Morocco, which recognized the United States of American in 1777. We then signed a treaty of friendship with that nation in 1786, which is the longest unbroken treaty in our history.

All this is to say that religious pluralism in US foreign policy predates our own Constitution. Which, by the way, makes no reference to God.

There is no doubt that the Islamic State poses a threat to the Western world, including the U.S., its allies and global interests. Still, we needn’t turn this campaign against terrorists into something that it isn’t — a holy war. Doing so doesn’t just go against the First Amendment, but it also runs counter to everything our founders tried to establish.

Cruz, Bush, Kasich and others who would have American foreign policy end with “in Jesus name amen” are foolish and, as President Obama would correctly say, un-American.

Suffice it to say that they either don’t understand America’s history with regards to religious pluralism here and abroad, or they’ve chosen to ignore it.

Chris Walker has been a political writer for more than ten years, contributing freelance opinion pieces to several online publications as well as managing his own blog, Political Heat, for more than six years. With a B.A. in Political Science and Journalism, Chris tries to bring a unique angle to every article he produces, including Millennial perspectives on the issues he's covering. Chris resides in Madison, Wisconsin, and proudly owns both a cheesehead and stock in the Green Bay Packers.

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