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Dominionism is a term used to describe various sets of theological/political ideologies held among a subset of persons identified with the Christian Right in the United States of America. One can be a religious conservative, with aspects of social conservatism and traditional conservatism, but as long as accepts that it operates within a pluralistic society amd lobbies for legislation and judicial action as guided by their beliefs, understanding that these are their positions, are not considered dominionists.

Religious conservatives can believe that the United States was founded by Christians, although this is not universally accepted among historians, and less so that it was founded for Christians, without being dominionists. Dominionism only begins when a citizen wants to change laws, or the system of government, to follow specifically Christian ideas. The term would not apply to someone wanting to apply a different set of religious laws, such as Sharia.

Dominionist ideas vary as to the scope of the Christianity they consider valid. Most "hard" conservative are fundamentalist Protestants, often Baptists or Pentecostals. Some work with Catholics, while others reject them. Most will not accept Mormons.

Major religious framework

Again remembering they operate within a framework of American exceptionalism, their key Biblical support tends to be Genesis 1:26, which, in the King James Version, reads

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

See also: Christian Zionism

While it is not strictly in the United States, affecting U.S. policy towards the State of Israel specifically and the Middle East generally are theologies including dispensationalism and dispensational premillennism. a theological approach that claims that "God relates to human beings via different covenants ("dispensations"). Dispensationalism is a set of beliefs that God has specific events in mind as a means of working with man. [1] Among these is that Jews must return to Israel before the Messiah will come; the formation of the State of Israel was a key step in achieving this goal.

In dispensational millennialism, according Stephen Sizer, there is an assumption "that the boundaries of the land promised to Abraham and his descendants will be literally instituted; and that Jesus Christ will return to a literal and theocratic Jewish kingdom centered on Jerusalem."[2]

Political subsystems

While there are a variety of schools of thought, each maintains that it is a duty of Christians to obtain influence or control government and initiate change in keeping with what are held as Biblical principles and laws. Individual dominionists and dominionist groups vary, but some broad classes have emerged.

  • Christian Nationalism or "soft dominionist" believe in American exceptionalism, which is not always religious, and hold that the exceptional nature of the United States is purely as a result of a certain Biblical view. They regard liberalism, humanism, feminism, and homosexuality are undermining the society. They also lobby, but are convinced their position is the only correct one. They try to block appointments of judges and other officials who do not agree with their "litmus test" positions. Still, they recognize the need to gain consent of the governed.
  • Christian Theocracy or "hard dominionists" believe that authority must be held only by Christians, usually Christian men. They reject non-Abrahamic religions, non-Christian Abrahamic religions such as Judaism and Islam, and often other Christian denominations as having any right to govern. Some further identify:
    • Christian Reconstructionism, a theonomic movement that seeks to replace the secular governance model of the U.S. Constitution, creating a political and judicial system based on Old Testament Law, or Mosaic Law.

Soft dominionists are most common. Concerned Women for America, for example, has a mission to "bring Biblical values into all aspects of American life". Hard dominionism can blur into goals of overthrowing the government rather than taking control through the electoral process.

Justification in political theory

At various times, dispensationalists cite support in U.S. political documents such as the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence, as well as, at a slight remove, the writings of the Founding Fathers. They also may cite certain court decisions, and some political writings not from the U.S. but from the West generally may be invoken.

Core Constitutional arguments

Perhaps the heart of these arguments are interpretations of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That heart beats beginning with the italicized "Establishment Clause. Some interpret it as meaning a positive statement for religious practice in no way restricted by governmental authority. Others see it as guaranteeing a freedom from religion. Dominionists tend to see a meaning that the Constitution calls for no separation of church and state.

Declaration of Independence

Some dominionists argue that the Declaration of Independence is even more supportive of their position than is the Constitution. As a first observation, the Constitution does not contain the words "declaration of independence."

Second, the Declaration does contain phrases including "Laws of Nature", "Nature's God", "Men are created by their creator with certain inalienable rights", and a "firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence." Nowhere, however, does it have any references to Jesus Christ, the God of Christianity or the Bible.

Alan Dershowitz, a critic of what he calls the "hijacking of the Declaration" by Dominionists, cites 20th century Supreme Court justice Lewis Powell's comment "I would see no constitutional problem if school children were taught the nature of the Founding Fathers' religious belief and how these beliefs affected the attitudes of the times and the structure of our government.[3]

Dershowitz, however, argues that these phrases meant different things to their 18th century author they do in 21st century legal English. He continues to quote Dominionist David Burton[3] as saying "Many people erroneously consider the Constitution to be a higher form of government than the Declaration. However, under our form of government, the Constitution is not superior to the Declaration of Independence; a vilolation of the Declaration is just as serious as a breach of the Constitution (emphasis in origina). [t]he Constitution cannot be properly interpreted or applied apart from the natural law principles presented in the Declaration. The two documents must be used together to understand either one individually. Dershowitz, however, says "this view of the legal status of the Declaration has never been accepted by the courts, but it is accepted as gospel by many on the American Right.[4]

Historical variation

Pat Robertson has said, "Are we a Christian nation now? It's doubtful. But did we start out as one? Without question." [5] Further, he responded, on a call-in radio show, to the question " Why [do] evangelical Christians tell non-Christians that Jesus (God) is the only way to Heaven? Those who are Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic, etc. already know and have a relationship with God. Why is this? It seems disrespectful.

Robertson replied that it is not all disrespectful because all other religions really just worship “demonic powers.”:

No. They don’t have a relationship. There is the god of the Bible, who is Jehovah. When you see L-O-R-D in caps, that is the name. It’s not Allah, it’s not Brahma, it’s not Shiva, it’s not Vishnu, it’s not Buddha. It is Jehovah God. They don’t have a relationship with him. He is the God of all Gods. These others are mostly demonic powers. Sure they’re demons. There are many demons in the world. [6]

Political activity

In the 2006 United States congressional election, Katherine Harris, in the Florida Baptist State Convention journal, God did not intend for the United States to be a "nation of secular laws" and that a failure to elect Christians to political office will allow lawmaking bodies to "legislate sin." Criticism was not limited to Democrats; Ruby Brooks, local Tampa Bay Republican activist, found her comments "...offensive to me as a Christian and a's the height of hubris...We hurt our cause with that more than we help it. Jillian Hasner, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said: "I don't think it's representative of the Republican Party at all. Our party is much bigger and better than Katherine Harris is trying to make it." [7]

Roy Moore, chief judge of the Alabama (U.S. state) Supreme Court, was removed from office for refusing a Federal judge's order to remove large displays of the Ten Commandments from his courtroom and the courthouse.[8] He has formed the Foundation for Moral Law to argue the legality of such actions. His website "Q&A section" gives the justification that

Q4: Why is it important to post the Ten Commandments?

A: The Ten Commandments are the succinct summary of God’s law given to humanity for righteous living. They represent God’s law, which is higher than any man-made law. Without a recognition of higher law there are no limits on man’s behavior.[9]

Of course, his statement could be true only in the context that the Abrahamic God is assumed the only deity.

6. What is an example of the Foundation’s approach to constitutional law? In the Ten Commandments cases that were recently decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, other religious liberties organizations defended the display of the Ten Commandments by arguing that they are an important historic artifact, not a religious document. In order to make the Ten Commandments acceptable under Supreme Court precedent, these organizations diminished the religious importance of the Decalogue and denied that they are an acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty over the affairs of men.

A: The Foundation, on the other hand, argued in briefs filed in McCreary County,Kemticku v. American Civil Liberties Union of Ky.[10] and Van Orden v. Perry[11]

that these Ten Commandments displays were constitutional under the historic meaning of the First Amendment to acknowledge God’s superintending providence over this nation. Simply put, just because the Ten Commandments are religious does not mean that they are an “establishment of religion,” which is what the First Amendment prohibits. The Founders never intended to ban religious things from public view and we should not have to diminish God’s word by relegating it to mere history in order to show it in public.

The Court did not uphold the Foundation position.


  1. Dispensationalism,
  2. Steven Sizer (2005), Christian Zionism: Road-Map to Armageddon?, InterVarsity Press, ISBN 0830853685
  3. 3.0 3.1 David Barton, The Myth of the Separation: What is the Correct Relationship between Church and State? A Revealing Look at what the Founders and Early Courts Really Said, p. 218, quoted by Dershowitz, p. 1
  4. Alan Dershowitz (2007), Blasphemy: How the Religious Right is Hijcking our Declaration of Independence, Wiley, ISBN 9780470084557, p. 2
  5. BrainyQuotes
  6. Robertson Says All Other Religions Worship “Demonic Powers”, Right Wing Watch, People for the American Way, 16 February 2006
  7. Jim Stratton (26 August 2006), "Harris' comments draw fierce reaction: Political and religious officials criticize the candidate's comments on electing Christians", Orlando Sentinel
  8. "Ten Commandments judge removed from office", CNN, 14 November 2003
  9. Frequently Asked Questions, Foundation for Moral Law
  10. McCREARY COUNTY, KENTUCKY, et al. v. AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF KENTUCKY et al.,  545 U.S. William Rehnquist (Supreme Court of the United States June 27, 2005), 677
  11. VAN ORDEN v. PERRY, in his official capacity as GOVERNOR OF TEXAS and CHAIRMAN, STATE PRESERVATION BOARD, et al.,  545 U.S. David Souter , 844