The presidency of Donald Trump was remarkable for many things – among them, the poor quality of many of the people he hired. Remember Anthony Scaramucci, who was White House communications director for 10 days in July 2017?
Michael Flynn, who was Trump’s national security adviser for less than a month, is another gem. A former Army general and noted Islamophobe, Flynn resigned in February 2017 after it came to light that he had lied about conversations he’d had with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States. Flynn later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. The only reason he’s not languishing in prison right now is that Trump pardoned him.
Because people like Flynn have no shame, they won’t quietly go away after disgracing themselves. Hence, Flynn, who in the wake of Trump’s defeat in 2020 suggested that Trump suspend the Constitution and declare martial law to remain in office, appeared recently at a right-wing conference in Texas where he called for the United States to adopt “one religion.”
“If we are going to have one nation under God – which we must – we have to have one religion,” Flynn said Saturday during remarks to the “ReAwaken America Tour” event hosted by televangelist John Hagee’s Cornerstone Church in San Antonio.
Flynn went on to say, “You have to believe this, that God Almighty is, like, involved in this country, because this is it ... This is the shining city on the hill.” (The “hill” reference, a popular one among evangelicals, is from a 1630 sermon delivered by Puritan leader John Winthrop and draws on a passage from the Book of Matthew.)
It’s unclear why Flynn has of late decided to go on a religion tear like this. Some observers of the far right believe Flynn is trying to fend off allegations from the quacking cuckoos of QAnon that he worships Satan. (Nope, not making this up.)
In any case, the claim that the United States needs one religion – I’m going out on a limb here and guess that Flynn would choose his own – is offensive and fundamentally un-American in that it runs counter to the spirit of our founders, who were big proponents of religious diversity.
The search for “one-size-fits-all” religion is also a fool’s errand – one that tends to leave a lot of bodies in its wake. Anyone who reads history, or indeed looks at some of the countries in the world today, knows this.
Thomas Jefferson said it well in his Notes on the State of Virginia. Remarking on the long-running quest by governments to make people conform to an official orthodoxy, Jefferson observed, “Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.”
Roguery and error – those are topics Flynn and his ilk ought to stick to. They’re experts on those. On religious liberty, not so much.