Jun 29, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Boebert's call to collapse separation of church and state spurs alarm

Photo of Lauren Boebert carrying a folder as she walks
Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert. Photo: Kevin Dietsch via Getty Images

Political experts expressed concern Tuesday about misinformation spread by "extremist politicians" after Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) said she's "tired" of the long-standing separation between church and state in the United States.

Driving the news: The controversial far-right lawmaker, who won her primary election Tuesday night, said at a religious service Sunday that "the church is supposed to direct the government. The government is not supposed to direct the church."

  • "I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk that’s not in the Constitution," she added, claiming it was not how the founding fathers intended it.
  • "It was in a stinking letter, and it means nothing like what they say it does."

Between the lines: The letter was an apparent reference to Thomas Jefferson's 1802 missive to the Danbury Baptist Association, in which the author of the Declaration of Independence wrote that the First Amendment builds "a wall of separation between Church and State."

  • Boebert's comments do not appear to apply to religions other than Christianity.

Reality check: The Constitution's First Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

What they're saying: Boebert's claims are "false, misleading and dangerous," Gwen Calais-Haase, a political scientist at Harvard, told the Washington Post.

  • She added she is "extremely worried about the environment of misinformation that extremist politicians take advantage of for their own gains."
  • Annie Laurie Gaylor, a founding member of the nonprofit Freedom From Religion Foundation, said in an interview with the Denver Post that Boebert's comments paint the picture of a theocracy.
  • "It’s not liberty when you start forcing your dogma on everybody else," she said.
  • "Boebert did not come to this on her own," tweeted journalist Sarah Posner, who has written two books about the American Christian right. "She’s the product of a multi-decade campaign to elect Christian nationalists to public office and this is a central tenet of their ideology."
  • Ben Stout, a spokesperson for Boebert, told Axios she is not advocating for a theocracy and that she simply believes the government should be guided by basic Christian principles.

Worth noting: The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 Monday that a Washington state public high school football coach had a right to pray on the field with students, which has triggered a flurry of backlash from the left and celebration on the right.

  • Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent that the court "continues to dismantle the wall of separation between church and state that the Framers fought to build."

Background: Boebert has been described as a white Christian nationalist.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to include details of Boebert's primary win.

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