Government Advocacy of Social Justice is Unconstitutional: Here’s Why
by John Klar
Social Justice ideology has saturated American governmental institutions. President Biden’s Executive Orders and press conferences burst with references to “marginalized groups” and “equity.” Public schools are implementing “critical” queer, gender, and race “theories” as required content, including in sex education. Woke ideology is pervading healthcare, government grant policies, “diversity and inclusion” committees and training requirements, criminal law, labor practices, and every other facet of government operations. Is “wokeness” a religion, and are these practices a violation of the Establishment Clause?
The U.S. Constitution proclaims that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…. U.S. Supreme Court interpretations of this language have been less than lucid in defining “religion,” though the Court has firmly prohibited government from favoring one religion over another. The saturation of government programs and administration by the revolutionary tenets of woke-ism is patently violative of this secular-sacred boundary.
A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court declared in Torcaso v. Watkins:
We repeat and again reaffirm that neither a State nor the Federal Government can constitutionally force a person “to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.” Neither can constitutionally pass laws or impose requirements which aid all religions as against nonbelievers, and neither can aid those religions based on a belief in the existence of God as against those religions founded on different beliefs.
In a footnote, the Torcaso Court referenced “….religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God [such as] Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism and others.” Many have seized upon this language to define atheism as a religion, including the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, in Kaufman v. McCaughtry:
….we have suggested in the past that when a person sincerely holds beliefs dealing with issues of “ultimate concern” that for her occupy a “place parallel to that filled by . . . God in traditionally religious persons,” those beliefs represent her religion. ….We have already indicated that atheism may be considered, in this specialized sense, a religion. ….The Supreme Court has recognized atheism as equivalent to a “religion” for purposes of the First Amendment on numerous occasions….
The federal government has recognized the Satanic Temple as an organized religion for IRS tax exempt status. This “modern” version of Satanism purports to be secular, consistent with Kaufman’s ruling that:
Atheism is, among other things, a school of thought that takes a position on religion, the existence and importance of a supreme being, and a code of ethics. As such, we are satisfied that it qualifies as [a]religion for purposes of the First Amendment…. [It is] religious in nature even though it expressly rejects a belief in a supreme being.
The social justice movement clearly “takes a position” on these same core beliefs. Numerous theology schools gush with classes themed around salvific social justice doctrine. Northeastern Seminary offers a Masters of Arts degree in Theology & Social Justice; New York Theological Seminary offers a certificate; Phillips Theological Seminary and Union Theological Seminary provide Masters in Social Justice; United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities created a Leadership Center for Social Justice “to equip, inspire, and empower [spiritual] leaders to faithfully and reflectively engage in concrete, contextual ministry for social justice.” Articles abound crafting Social Justice in a Liberation Theology vein, touting explications such as Calvin’s Theology of Social Justice, Bonhoeffer, Theology, and Social Justice, The Theological Perspective of Social Justice, and Jesus Valued Social Justice and So Should You.
The Supreme Court has strongly preserved the importance of maintaining separation of church (or churchlessness) and state, repeatedly. In McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky, the Court summarized the vital primacy of this doctrine:
The Framers and the citizens of their time intended not only to protect the integrity of individual conscience in religious matters… but to guard against the civic divisiveness that follows when the Government weighs in on one side of religious debate; nothing does a better job of roiling society, a point that needed no explanation to the descendants of English Puritans and Cavaliers (or Massachusetts Puritans and Baptists).
Wokism is a bold, radical cult. James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose explain in Cynical Theories that “….postmodernism applied its cynical Theories to deconstruct what we might agree to call “the old religions” of human thought…. and replaced them with a new religion of its own, called “Social Justice.” John McWhorter plainly states the theological case in Woke Racism (p. 23):
I do not mean that these people’s ideology is “like” a religion. I seek no rhetorical snap in the comparison. I mean that it actually is a religion. An anthropologist would see no difference in type between Pentecostalism and this new form of antiracism. ….With the rise of Third Wave Antiracism we are witnessing the birth of a new religion, just as Romans witnessed the birth of Christianity.
McWhorter details the various attributes of the social justice movement that display its religious ferocity, calling the cult’s adherents “medievals with lattes.” Many clerics concur, including Owen Strachan (Christianity and Wokeness) and Voddie Baucham (Fault Lines). Baucham writes:
The antiracist movement has many of the hallmarks of a cult, including staying close enough to the Bible to avoid detection and hiding the fact that it has a new theology and a new glossary of terms that diverge ever-so-slightly from Christian orthodoxy. ….This new cult has created a new lexicon that has served as scaffolding to support what has become an entire body of divinity.
This is not a system compatible with Christian faith. ….The Gospel announces forgiveness and resulting innocence; wokeness announces guilt and unending condemnation. God’s good news is the ministry of freedom; wokeness is the ministry of imprisonment. ….A more technical description of this new religion… is “Utopian Judicial Paganism.” .…the worldview of wokeness is not a Christian one where God is Creator and Ruler, but an atheistic one where man is divinized.
By these arguments, this is not merely a Democrat political movement, but a dynamic and transformative religious exaltation of secular humanism. In The Marxification of Education, James Lindsay stridently critiques this “Marxist theology,” most especially in erstwhile secular public education influenced by Marxist Paolo Freire:
….this is a replacement of the Christian theological beliefs regarding the central event of their faith, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, with a blatantly Marxist counterfeit in which the individual dies to the existing world and is resurrected into a Marxist (conscious “Socialist Man”)—his own Marxist “Christ.”…. This heresy is not just a blurring of the boundaries between school and churches, it’s also an advancement of Liberation Theology and a repurposing of that Marxist faith into educational theory and practice.
The words of Paolo Freier affirm Strachan’s characterization of this belief system as human divinization:
Our pedagogy cannot do without a vision of man and of the world. It formulates a scientific humanistic conception that finds its expression in a dialogical praxis in which the teachers and learners together, in the act of analyzing a dehumanizing reality, denounce it while announcing its transformation in the name of the liberation of man. (The Marxification of Education, p. 105).
The failure of proficiency in core subjects in today’s schools is not just because racial, queer, and intersectional “studies” have displaced core subject learning. Lindsay illustrates this is a product of a deliberate “conscientization” by which children are inculcated into unconstitutional political/religious state learning:
.…to the degree that this pedagogy has informed public schools in the United States and its fifty states, one might suspect it butts up against a heretofore unrecognized Establishment Clause challenge. Visible are a conception of the world, life in it, and its ultimate questions such that duties of conscience arise from the belief system. These points, though, are the usual criteria for recognizing a belief system as a religion according to First Amendment jurisprudence on the U. S. Constitution. These, the state cannot mandate or compel.
John McWhorter raised similar alarms about the saturation of public schools with social justice religiosity:
.…as I write this, religion is being preached in one school after another nationwide, even to children who aren’t even reading chapter books yet. In other words, the Elect are founding the equivalent of Sunday school – except that, because they have penetrated actual schools, they get to preach at our children five days a week.
Adherence to the new faith is increasingly viewed as a requisite qualification for public office. Toscano v. Watkins struck down a dubious Maryland state Constitutional provision that “[N]o religious test ought ever to be required as a qualification for any office of profit or trust in this State, other than a declaration of belief in the existence of God….” In a recent Vermont episode, a black member of a local governmental “Belonging, Equity and Inclusion Committee” named Keith Longmore was expelled by the mostly white group because he challenged the racial justice orthodoxy:
“The reason for removal of Mr. Longmore is he has repeatedly derided the mission and need of the committee, calling it, quote ‘unnecessary, a hoax and an affront to the families of this city,’” City Manager Dominic Cloud said….
This Great Delusion is sweeping all before it: the dam between church and state is being washed away as in a Great Flood. Douglas Murray recounts the anti-traditionalist nihilism in his timely work The War on the West:
.…the religion of antiracism fills people with purpose and a sense of meaning…. Perhaps most crucially, it allows them to war on what were their own origins. The appeal of this conflict should not be underestimated. It is a very deep-seated instinct, the instinct to destroy, burn, and spit on everything that has produced you. And of course, there is one final appeal. The opportunity to treat other people badly beneath the guise of doing good.
This reverse-Christian religion thirsts for chaos and retribution, echoing the warning of Aldous Huxley:
The surest way to work up a crusade in favor of some good cause is to promise people they will have a chance of maltreating someone. To be able to destroy with good conscience, to be able to behave badly and call your bad behavior ‘righteous indignation’ — this is the height of psychological luxury, the most delicious of moral treats.
The religious zealotry of social justice seeks to usurp all political and state power, to subsume child education, the economy, media, and all means of production (including food). It seeks to devour the Constitution and all its protections of individual liberty, and it is now improperly Established in the halls of local, state and federal governments.
This newfangled movement has been boldly woven into every layer of American governance. When Ketanji Brown Jackson refused to define what a woman is, she signaled her adherence (“wokeness”) to the new state faith. When Kamala Harris proclaims “Equitable treatment means we all end up at the same place,” she is reciting the Marxist Theology’s pervasive hermeneutic, a liturgy diametrically opposed to Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous proclamation.
Americans are witnessing not merely a subtle intrusion of an evolved liberalism into public institutions. This quasi-religious sect is as much anti-liberal as it is anti-Judeo-Christian. Growing hostility toward Christianity, Christians, and America’s Judeo-Christian heritage is evident in the rapidly radicalized alarmism over so-called Christian Nationalism and increasing bellicose declamations against the State of Israel.
Islam is theologically distinct from Christianity and Judaism in that it does not envision any separation of church and state. The Woke Cult shares the same theological perspective, and thus not only pushes a theocratic worldview but is rapidly implementing a Taliban-like takeover of every aspect of American government into which it insidiously seeps. It is a wolf in wolf’s clothing – a religion that has no place in government, especially in schools.
Doubtless this new religion will eventually be challenged by American secular jurisprudence. The outcome of that court battle will determine whether America remains the land of the Constitutionally free, or “establishes” a Neo-Marxist Cult as official Religion of the Land.