As the media blitz over president-elect Donald Trump‘s constant badgering of the truth continues, it’s easy to forget that lurking in the background of his upcoming presidency is the shadow of the extreme Religious Right, most notably personified in Trump’s pick for Vice President, Mike Pence.
In addition, the media blitz over Trump’s nominee for Attorney General Jeff Sessions‘ alleged racist past also eclipses his apparent religious extremism.
Jay Michaelson of The Daily Beast recalls a speech Sessions gave after receiving an award from far-right activist David Horowitz, where he claimed that “freedom of speech” depends on one’s ability to ascertain “the truth.”
“And if you don’t believe there’s a truth, you don’t believe in truth, if you’re an utter secularist, then how do we operate this government?” Sessions said. “How can we form a democracy of the kind I think you and I believe in… I do believe that we are a nation that, without God, there is no truth, and it’s all about power, ideology, advancement, agenda, not doing the public service.”
According to Michaelson, the speech has not been reported on by the media. During Sessions’ confirmation hearing this week, none of the senators brought it up during their questioning.
While plenty of elected officials may hold similar beliefs, Sessions is a nominee for attorney general, the chief law enforcement officer in the country. His comments raise questions as to which set of “truths,” religious or secular, would motivate his Justice Department’s decisions on which laws to prosecute, which liberties to protect, and which interpretations of legal and constitutional texts to adopt.
Indeed, to describe freedom of speech as being about “ascertaining the truth” flies in the face of 200 years of Supreme Court precedent, which protects artistic expression, commercial speech, and free expression of all types, regardless of whether they are intended to ascertain the truth.
Sessions’ documented laudatory remarks for Horowitz are just as disturbing as his apparent feelings towards secular people. Horowitz has played a significant role in disseminating fraudulent claims about Hillary Clinton‘s alleged affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, along with accusing Barack Obama of being a secret Muslim. Along with his usual cavalcade of Islamophobia, Horowitz is annoyed by “demands for special treatment” by black people.
“But it is the 2014 remarks that raise the greatest questions about the prospective attorney general,” Michaelson writes.
“[For] they constitute not merely an embrace of Horowitz’s extremism but a theocratic vision of American democracy at odds with that of the Founding Fathers—not to mention a misunderstanding of ‘secularists’ who, from Mark Twain to Stephen Hawking, Thomas Jefferson (a deist), to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, have often been very interested in the pursuit of truth.”
Watch Sessions’ 2014 speech in the video below: