Posted by: cjobrien | 24 March 2008

American Theocracy – #1

 Just as I post about my commitment to highlight the small steps of theocracy across this nation over the coming year, Ed Brayton posts on the first candidate:

For those who aren’t familiar with him, let me introduce you to Ashley McKathan, circuit judge of Covington County, Alabama. The man makes Roy Moore look sane by comparison. This is a guy who is absolutely obsessed with using his position of authority to push his religion on others.

Judge McKathan insisted plaintiffs and defendants hold hands and pray over resolution of the court case. That the two parties were members of religious organizations is beside the point. The judge was using his official capacity to overtly force religion upon the participants and anyone in the room who was merely a spectator. The post suggests that the judge may have assumed all within the room consented, but the issue is not whether the individuals consented to prayer, but whether it is appropriate for a government official to intertwine theology with government operations. This is theocratic on several counts:

  • 1. The good judge’s religious convictions have nothing to do with rendering an appropriate verdict in the court case, only his knowledge of the facts of the case in the context of the legal system should be the deciding factor;
  • 2. Appealing to theology raises all kinds of questions about the integrity of the judge’s ultimate decision; would it be based on law, or would he weigh his decision on agreements or disagreements with the parties’ particular theological positions in relation to his own;
  • 3. Clearly, anyone who fails to share the judge’s particular convictions could not reasonably expect a fair hearing on any subject – by emphasizing his religion, the judge has demonstrated that his theology outweighs any constitutional rights of the defendants.

This is not an expectation of constitutional and legal neutrality; it is a case of a judge putting his religion before impartiality and therefore is theocratic in its origin, if not its intent.



  1. If you are short on material for this theme, you could try Nancy Pelosi meeting up with the Dalai Lama to promote a Buddhist theocracy in Tibet. Or was that a semi-autonomous Buddhist zone in an atheist country?

  2. No, the fundamentalist Christian community provides more than enough opportunities to demonstrate a creeping theocracy in this country. The Chinese can deal with Tibet for the time being – we have enough of a theocracy problem here.

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