These are trying times for rationalist rejecters of make-believe celestial tyrants and human-authored “magic” books.

A paunchy old man in a white frock and beanie (aka Pope Francis), who happens to preside over an obscenely wealthy institution (the Catholic Church) riddled with practicing child molesters, flies to the world’s first secular republic and receives not torrents of abuse and cries for impeachment, but a reception befitting a head of state (which he is, thanks only to the fascist government of Mussolini and the Lateran Treaty).

During his visit, said frocked and beanied pontiff utters soothing verbiage about tolerance and rights and the need to welcome refugees, yet the Vatican itself has taken in a total of one Syrian family (and a Christian one, of course). Aware of mounting criticism to his organization’s penchant for aiding, abetting and sheltering child molesters, he nevertheless lauds his bishops for their courage, “self-criticism” and “great sacrifice” in having to deal with their proliferating child abuse cases, thereby outraging their victims. (This, just after it emerged that Syracuse Bishop Robert Cunningham, in sworn testimony delivered in a federal court, has de facto blamed such victims for their own molestation.) Speaking before a joint session of Congress, the pontiff then proffers insipid banalities and gets standing ovations, and has the gall to preach about the welfare of children.

Otherwise, stolidly faith-deranged candidates continue to bark and babble in the crazy-house carnival of lurid grotesquerie that, as we know, is the campaign for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. They face no appreciable pushback from journalists, as though prattling on about religious faith – that is, the unethical tradition of believing propositions on the basis of no evidence – were behavior befitting aspirants to the highest office of our (again) secular republic.

The recent CNN Republican debate at the Reagan Library in California showcased this debased state of affairs, though it must be said that in comparison with the similar Fox News event of last month, this time the Lord inspired fewer outbursts of inanity and less noisome eructations of piety. Which came as a surprise, for the proceedings lasted more than three dismal hours. The problem is, though, that the inanities, being allowed to persist, and the piety, tolerated as a matter of course, are threatening the rule of law in our secular republic and destroying what little rational discourse on national affairs we have left.

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee reliably proffered the first sample of (potentially seditious) sanctimony. When asked to comment on his characterization of Rowan County (Kentucky) Clerk Kim Davis’ incarceration as illustrative of the purported ongoing “criminalization of Christianity,” he responded that the Supreme Court (in the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling legalizing same-sex marriage) had issued a “very, very divided decision decided out of thin air that they were just going to redefine marriage,” and without “a constitutional shred of capacity for them to do it,” since “the courts can’t implement a law.”

It follows from the aforementioned splattering of legalistic gibberish that we now, Huckabee said, live under “judicial tyranny,” and so unnecessarily. The magnanimous thing to do, he suggested, would be to “make accommodations” for people like Davis, since, he claimed, we have done so for Gitmo detainees and the Fort Hood shooter (who was initially allowed to grow a beard, in violation of army regulations). “You’re telling me that you cannot make an accommodation” for Davis? he asked. “What else is it other than the criminalization of her faith and the exaltation of the faith of everyone else who might be a Fort Hood shooter or a detainee at Gitmo?”

(The moderator, Jake Tapper, might have told Huckabee that the Army shaved off Major Nidal Hassan’s beard two years ago. He might have also asked him to provide evidence of Islam’s “exaltation” in the United States, as well as Christianity’s “criminalization.” Furthermore, and most important, he might have informed Huckabee that publicly denying the validity of a ruling of our supreme judicial body encourages disobedience of the law and reeks of sedition.

The key word in this discussion is “accommodation,” as Jeffrey Toobin pointed out in the New Yorker. Accommodation, used in this context, signifies permission to selectively violate the law in accordance with one’s religious convictions. Toobin concludes that “there is no logical stopping point for the accommodation principle,” which could be extended to all manner of laws, including those pertaining to driving, vaccinations, child labor and civil rights. Were such accommodations allowed, the result would be “cafeteria government.”

Tapper raised none of the above points, of course, but instead turned to Jeb Bush, noting, by way of preface, that Bush’s opinion on Davis differed (in being less faith-deranged) from Huckabee’s. This implicit accusation of rationalism straightaway prompted Bush to object that, “you’re not stating my views right.” In fact, Bush had earlier declared that Davis had “sworn to uphold the law” and that gay couples should indeed get their marriage licenses. But now he spoke of the need for “accommodating” (florists, bakers and so on), since “religious conscience” is “a first freedom. . . a powerful part of our – of our Bill of Rights.”

Tapper then turned to Gov. Chris Christie, who also (commendably) had said Davis had to uphold the law. But on stage, surrounded by faith-mongers, he hewed to the party line and delivered an accommodationist response.

Strangely, Tapper failed to address the Davis question to the evolution-naysayer Dr. Ben Carson. But off the podium, in an interview with Fox News, Dr. Carson told Megyn Kelly that, “jail [for Davis] seems a little extreme.” Demonstrating that he does not understand the Constitutional issues involved, he said Congress needs to “enact legislation that will protect the First Amendment rights of all Americans” – in other words, accommodate.

As for the Donald, he, also away from the podium, called Obergefell v. Hodges “the law of the land,” and evinced no appetite for arguing over the matter. Perhaps, as a result, evangelicals aren’t falling in line behind him. As I’ve written before, he just does not come off as faith-deranged, try as he might.

More from JEFFREY TAYLER/Salon

Posted by The NON-Conformist