About Attack of the Theocrats!
At no time in history has the United States had such a high percentage of theocratic members of Congress—those who expressly endorse religious bias in law. Just as ominously, especially for those who share the values and views of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, at no other time have religious fundamentalists effectively had veto power over one of the country’s two major political parties. As Sean Faircloth argues in this deeply sobering yet highly engaging book, this has led to the crumbling of the country’s most cherished founding principle—the wall of separation between church and state. While much of the public debate in the United States over church-state issues has focused on the construction of nativity scenes in town squares and the addition of “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance, former politician and lobbyist Faircloth moves beyond the symbolism to explore the many ways federal and state legal codes privilege religion in law. He demonstrates in vivid detail how religious bias in law harms all Americans—financially, militarily, physically, socially, and educationally—and directs special attention to the outlandish words, views, and policy proposals of the most theocratic politicians. Sounding a much-needed alarm for all who care about the future direction of the country, Faircloth concludes by offering an inspiring 10-point vision of an America returned to its secular roots and by providing a specific and sensible plan for realizing this vision.
About the Author
Sean Faircloth served five terms in the Maine Legislature on both the judiciary and appropriations committees. In his last term, he was elected Majority Whip by his caucus colleagues. Faircloth had the idea for the Maine Discovery Museum and led the four-year project from conception to completion in 2001. Of the twenty-five children’s museums in New England, the Maine Discovery Museum was then the second-largest children’s museum outside Boston.
An accomplished legislator, Faircloth successfully spearheaded over thirty laws, including the so-called deadbeat-dad child-support law that saved Maine taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and became a model for federal law. Faircloth had numerous legislative successes in children’s issues and justice-system reform.
Faircloth has spoken around the United States about the Constitution, secularism and law, children’s policy, obesity policy, and sex-crime law. Faircloth chaired a commission on sex-crime-law reform that led to substantive improvement in that area of law. He chaired a commission on early childhood, as well as a commission regarding the citizen-initiative process.
Faircloth graduated from the University of Notre Dame and has a law degree from the University of California Hastings College of the Law. Faircloth served as a state assistant attorney general and as a lobbyist for the Maine State Bar Association. In 2009 Faircloth became executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, advocating for separation of church and state and for greater acceptance of nontheistic viewpoints in American life.
As executive director of Secular Coalition for America, Faircloth conceived of, drafted, and orchestrated the Secular Decade plan, and has worked with secular americans nationwide to continually improve this plan, which offers a specific strategy for returning America to its secular roots.
In 2011 Faircloth become Director of Strategy and Policy for the Richard Dawkins Foundation in the United States.
Quick note: I’ve been careful about not making this blog particularly political, but thought this title was relevant for review given our upcoming elections stateside on Nov. 4. I’m a few years late to the party in reading this one, but, now that I have, I would encourage everyone to give it a shot, irregardless of your religious beliefs or personal convictions, simply for your own personal edification and for a quick, easy read that can provide some terrific intellectual stimulation and food for thought. It’s a great bit of education and elucidation.
Sean Faircloth is a man with strong credentials to back up his work in Attack Of The Theocrats! How The Religious Right Harms Us All – And What We Can Do About It. As a five-term politician on the Main Legislature, serving as Majority Whip during his last term, former executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, as well as director of strategy and policy for the US branch of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, he has a solid history from which to draw upon in examining the significant strain of theocracy that is running amok in America and has shaped a vision for the future of this country in combating the religious right with his plans for the Secular Decade Plan.
Faircloth confesses to having a particular fascination for speeches – particularly those of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King – and his time as a lawyer no doubt helped him hone his concise and pragmatic manner of delivery that is on display in this book. The writing is crisp and to the point.
However, I found this conciseness to actually a bit of a detriment, as he hit upon certain abuses from the inequity in laws to favor religious services, or to flat out deny minority groups an equal standing in society, that I would have liked him to explore more deeply. I realize, though, that such topics might warrant entire tomes of their own, but the brevity of this work sometimes makes it feel more like a primer to garner interest in the benefits of secularism, rather than an in-depth exploration of why, exactly, secularism is a necessity in modern America. And while I have little doubt about the veracity of Faircloth’s assertions given my own research into similar topics and accounts that I’ve read elsewhere, I really wish he would have been more liberal in citing his sources in order to help readers do their own bit of fact-checking and to be able to pursue topics in greater detail than what’s given here.
That said, the stories and information as presented certainly pack a wallop, while also driving home the author’s central premise with far too many disheartening facts. When it comes to going for the guts, Faircloth knows when to launch into an emotionally engaging, and aggressive, attack on the brutal injustices of the fundamentalists, particularly in areas in which religious doctrines and organizations use and abuse children.
I would challenge any reader to not sneer in disgust at the level of abuses Faircloth details in describing how unlicensed religious child-care centers are able to flaunt and totally disregard basic health and safety laws that have would have shut it down had the care center been a secular institution, and which, in multiple instances, have led to the death of multiple children at worst, and allowing infants to sit in dirty diapers or wander a deserted playground alone and naked, all the while receiving federal taxpayer funds. And try to keep the bile down as he lists the many ways that so-called “faith healing” harms, at best, or kills, at worst, children saddled with such ignorant parents who would rather have their child die than let them be treated with modern medicine. And, of course, there is also the physical and sexual abuse carried out by predatory clergy and the fervent faithful.
The read is far from a list of far-right religiously motivated atrocities, though, and Faircloth presents a very grounded and even-handed treatment of why fairness and equality is not only needed, but something that we, as Americans, must demand. It’s a heartening plea that he rounds out with a sense of optimism as he charts a ten-year-long course for secularists to regain ground lost to fundamentalism. By using emotional stories rather than sheer statistics, grassroots organizing, and applying his Ten Point Vision of a Secular America, along with increased advocacy against the injustices perpetuated in unequal measures of law by religious favoritism, he aims to inspire a broader base of voices that can not only help reclaim America, but build a better American based on the values of its Founders. This is a read I’d easily recommend, especially before voting!