The extremist Colorado Republican congresswoman Lauren Boebert won her primary on Tuesday night, shortly after attacking the separation of church and state under the US constitution.
“I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk,” she said.
A dedicated controversialist first elected in 2020, backed by Donald Trump and described by NBC News as a “Maga lightning rod”, Boebert convincingly beat Don Coram, a state senator, for the nomination to contest the midterm elections.
At one event recently Coram, 74, told voters: “My politics are very similar to my driving. To the grief of both my wife and my Republican colleagues, I tend to crowd the center line and sometimes I veer over a bit.”
In contrast, Boebert has heckled Joe Biden during the state of the union address; made racist attacks on Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota; vowed to carry a gun on to the House floor; and voted to object to results in swing states in the 2020 presidential election.
Boebert beat Coram by 31 points.
On Sunday, two days before the primary and in comments first reported by the Denver Post, Boebert told a religious service: “The church is supposed to direct the government. The government is not supposed to direct the church. That is not how our founding fathers intended it.”
The first amendment to the US constitution, from 1791, says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
This is widely held to mean church and state should be separate. Critics charge that the US supreme court is now among rightwing bodies which dispute that.
This month, the conservative-dominated court has ruled that Maine cannot exclude religious schools from a tuition program and ruled in favor of a public school football coach who lost his job for leading prayers on the field.
In the Maine case, the liberal justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote: “This court continues to dismantle the wall of separation between church and state that the framers fought to build.”
Boebert, however, said she was “tired of this separation of church and state junk that’s not in the constitution. It was in a stinking letter, and it means nothing like what they say it does”.
The “stinking letter” seemed to be one written by Thomas Jefferson to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, in 1802.
The third president referred to the constitution establishing “a wall of separation between church and state”. His words have been mentioned in supreme court rulings.
Gwen Calais-Haase, a Harvard political scientist, told the Washington Post Boebert’s claim was “false, misleading and dangerous”, and said she was “extremely worried about the environment of misinformation that extremist politicians take advantage of for their own gains”.
The supreme court has also recently ruled on abortion, overturning the long established right in a ruling last week.
At the service on Sunday, Boebert said, “Look at what happened this week. This is the fruit of your labor, of your votes and of your prayers – this is your harvest.”