If Bush were on a "Mission from God", does it matter?

This isn’t really news, as Abbas had claimed quite some time ago that Bush expressed a religious conviction in securing Middle East peace, in the context of support for a Palestinian State.

Now that a BBC documentary is coming out, with Nabil Shaath claiming Bush expressed a belief that God more-or-less commanded him to enact some of his geopolitical policies, the White House is, of course, denying Bush said any such thing.

Who knows. I’ve really no good reason to trust the word of either party, and so have no oppinion on the veracity of the claim.

What I wonder about is: Say it could be proven that Bush really said this to foreign dignitaries. Does it matter in any actionable way? The Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment says nothing about what ought to motivate the President in his executive duties. Indeed, it might empower the Executive to conflate foreign policy and “free exercise” of his religious convictions.

I guess my question can be summed up thusly: Does the President have the right to, say, invade another country, if he feels God is telling him to do so? Of course, the President, for all practical purposes, would have to have other reasons (ostensibly, at least), but can some belief in a divine command to act legitimately be part of the decision-making process? If the president admitted as much, would he be in legal violation of anything?

This is pretty much in line with a discussion we’re having in another thread about ideological motivations for criminal behavior from governers. For me, it doesn’t matter whether his epiphany was from God or Karl Marx — if he robs us of our liberties and invades foreign nations who did us no harm (under the guise of spreading freedom, of all things), then his governance is illegitimate. The Founders made clear that government is legitimized by the consent of those it governs, and not by the voice of God.

No. It doesn’t make any difference legally.

Forget my usual “The first amendment doesn’t mean what you think it does” crap.

Instead, enjoy this cartoon!

If George Bush publically admitted Karl Marx was commanding him to invade Afghanistan, he would be likely be put in the care of psychiatric specialists.

As God is probably the only unseen Person able to command human beings to act without their sanity being generally called into question, I think it’s fair to say we can separate out human sources of motivation from divine ones. And as Congress is forbidden from enacting laws that effectively empower a religious doctrine (at least over any other), I think there is some cause to wonder about the legality of acting on Divine Command.

Wow, this thread is incredibly stupid.

However, I think that most people don’t understand that Bush’s true motivation is to destroy America to make way for the New World Order.


I dunno does Bush have the right to follow the dictates of the supreme authority of the universe?

Well, that seems to be the case, just looking at a plain read of the Constitution. I guess I just find it hard to imagine a President could say “Jesus/Allah/Ahura Mazda/Jehova 1/Whomever” is telling me we should invade Afghanistan, so invade we will" and this be perfectly legal.

Of course, my sensibilities don’t count for squat in terms of the law, so maybe I’m incredulous without any good reason.

If a Congressman or -men seek to pass a law to impose a particlar moral standard because they claim he/they are being commanded to do so by Jesus, he/they may be acting in a manner forbidden by the US Constitution.

You do not find it interesting or disturbing that a President could mobilize troops based on his expressed spiritual convictions and there may be no legal ramifications? This really isn’t a specifically anti-Bush rant. I’m using Bush’s potential example to explore the issue, and to highlight the potential.

Legally, it makes no difference whatsoever. If that is his motivation, he had a moral obligation to have revealed that to the voters prior to election, so that they may judge whether they wish to have a President so motivated.


It severely undermines his personal credibility but he had very little of that to begin with. I agree that there is nothing technically illegal about it but it does confirm that he sees himself as being on a religious mission which is chilling, if nothing else.

Let’s not bring Cecil into this.

No, that Congressman/woman wouldn’t be acting in a manner forbidden by the Constitution. They’d only be violating the Constitution if the law established a religion, favored a religion over another, or favored religion over non-religion (the Lemon and Agostini tests apply).

But if I was a congressman, and said, for example, that I’m proposing or voting for a welfare bill because Jesus said we should take care of the poor, there’s nothing illegal about that.

Well, it shows a blatant ignorance that all morals are derived from some sort of religious background whether or not the person involved claims to believe in God or not. If someone believes in God, and takes motivation from their faith, that would make them incapable of holding office by the logic that you have stated. So in essence, you are disqualifying everyone in the world who believes in God from holding office. I’d say it extends to atheists as well because their morality, whether they believe it or not is based upon ancient historical precedents derived from religion. Our modern morality is largely based upon the ten commandments like it or not. If you think it’s not ok to walk around naked, odds are your opinion was informed by “Thou shalt not covet they neighbor’s wife”. If you think murder is wrong, well that one should be obvious. If you think that stealing is wrong, again, obvious.

So basically, to someone like Bush who believes in God, any moral imperative would be a commandment by God.

I’m perfectly happy to argue for individual self-rule for every single person alive, but most people here would probably think I’m a nutcase for doing so. Until then, there is always going to be some imperative that is derived from a sense of a higher authority, whatever that may be.


Couldn’t imposing a moral standard in explicit accordance with the wishes of Jesus be favoring one religion over another?

No one with a religious motivation should be allowed to influence public policy. What if someone voted in favor of racial equality because Jesus told him that all men are brothers? Boy, that’d be seriously fucked up.

“Should be” is irrelevant here. We’re discussing the law, not “shoulds”.

Only if the law fails Lemon or Agostini. If I vote for a law saying that everyone who makes X per month gets food stamps, and the reason I do is because Jesus wants me to feed the poor, the fact that that’s my motivation doesn’t make the law unconstitutional. The law has a secular purpose, doesn’t restrict the food stamps to a specific religion, etc.

If, on the other hand, we pass a law mandating prayer in public schools because we think Jesus wants people to pray, that law would be unconstitional. But that law would be equally unconstitutional if we passed it because we thought listening to kids pray sounded pretty.

If somebody said, “God told me to kill that guy”, we’d lock him up.

But if someone says, “God told me to invade a country and order our soldiers to kill THOSE soldiers”, he gets elected.

And that sounds right to you? Is it the sheer scale of the insanity that makes it sane?

Only if he tried to impose it on American citizens through direct legislation. When it comes to military actions, the President has certain discretions which are granted to him by the voters (or in the case of wars, by Congress). There is nothing in the Constitution which says he can’t exercise his discretion for religious reasons. In theory, he was elected precisely to use his own judgements. He may have an ethical obligation to disclose his true motivations during the elction process but he has no legal obligation to do so. The remedy for a situation where a Prez begins to go off the rails on military religious mission rests with Congress to control the purse strings and check his ability to initiate new conflicts and with the electorate to hold him and his party responsible.