GOP lawmakers cited Noah's Ark to justify harming refugees with circular saw blades
Never trust lawyers who write, "If one takes the Book of Genesis literally..."
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For the second time in a week, a Biblical myth has made its way into a courtroom. This time, Noah’s Ark was cited in a brief meant to justify Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest attempt to kill off refugees.
You may have seen in the news that circular saw blades were inserted between buoys in the Rio Grande. Besides the senseless cruelty of it all, the Rio Grande is under federal control, not state control, so now there’s a legal battle over whether Texas officials have any right to place the buoys and death blades in the river.
The Justice Department recently sued the state, arguing that no “structure” or “obstruction” can be built in a “navigable river” owned by the government without their explicit permission. The buoys and blades, they say, violate the law and need to be removed.
The Republicans who are defending Abbott have argued that this part of the Rio Grande is not navigable, therefore the law doesn’t apply… even though there’s plenty of evidence to contradict that claim. (More importantly, that still wouldn’t give Texas the right to stick obstacles in the federal river.)
So how does the Bible enter the picture?
In an amicus brief filed on behalf of several Republican lawmakers by the Texas Public Policy Foundation on Wednesday, attorneys attempted to counter the government’s claim that the river is navigable (even if some parts currently aren’t) by claiming the Book of Genesis says the entire world was once covered with water. By that logic, the Republicans argued, the government could claim jurisdiction over everything. That would be silly! So take that, Dems!
Second, the government’s theory that navigability is established if navigation was ever possible at any time in history, would lead to absurd (and likely unconstitutional) results. The geologic record shows that most of Texas was once covered by seas… Indeed, if one takes the Book of Genesis literally, then the entire world was once navigable by boats large enough to carry significant amounts of livestock. Genesis 7:17-20 (ESV). Under the federal government’s theory, these anecdotes would render any structure built anywhere in Texas an obstruction to navigation subject to federal regulation.
(The reference to Genesis is the Noah’s Ark part that says “The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water.”)
As Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern points out, “This resort to young-earth creationism should tip off the reader that Texas has no plausible legal argument in this case.”
What’s even more troubling is that the Christian lawmakers are doing all this to justify harming people risking their lives to cross the border in an effort to find safety. The GOP doesn’t give a damn what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, but they will break out their bibles in an instant if it means hurting brown people.
That phrase “if one takes the Book of Genesis literally” is really a dead giveaway that someone’s about to say something insane because Genesis contains all kinds of absurdities. What’s next? Justifying incest? Rape? Genocide? You’re not supposed to take it literally.
Of all the ways to describe that book, “scientific” shouldn’t appear anywhere on the list.
This comes just days after a Trump-appointed federal judge, Brantley Starr, cited what he claimed was a “historical” example of God speaking to Adam in the Garden of Eden as a way to explain why lawyers for Southwest Airlines had to undergo religious liberty training from a Christian hate group.
The Bible isn’t a legal textbook—thank goodness for that—and it’s appalling that right-wing lawyers and judges are using it to defend their indefensible ideas. (It’s hardly a new phenomenon.) It’s even more disturbing that they’re citing the Old Testament. It would be one thing if they referenced the Bible the same way someone might mention a cultural reference to make a broader point, but that’s not what’s happening in these situations. They’re treating the Bible as fact and expecting others to take it seriously.
We knew Christian Nationalism threatened our country, but I didn’t realize this was how it would come into play.
At least in the Texas case, there’s good reason to think the judge in that case will side with the government no matter what the GOP attorneys say.
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