How the Statue of Liberty became the Whore of Babylon

by Robert Hieronimus, Ph.D. and Laura E. Cortner
Co-authors of The Secret Life of Lady Liberty: Goddess in the New World

Now there’s a headline you won’t see in most history books about the Statue of Liberty! Yet, surprisingly, a growing number of people are buying into this wild conspiracy theory that Lady Liberty is demonic because she is a goddess, and should be torn down. Most of our academic friends pooh-pooh these theories, dismissing them with the wave of a hand as irrelevant, based on the lack of any historical evidence behind them. We take these theories quite seriously, however, and have spent years tracking this attempt to recast the Statue of Liberty as the Whore of Babylon. Here’s why: These beliefs represent the fringes of a much larger attack on religious freedom in the United States – and because when you look behind the claim that all goddesses are Satan-in-disguise you find a not-so-veiled attack on women’s rights.

7.4 WebsitesAnti-SoL_she was designed to deceiveFINAL copyIf you’ve heard of this conspiracy theory at all, it was when former Texas Governor Rick Perry was running for President, and Right Wing Watch revealed that he was being advised by preachers from the New Apostolic Reformation. Their sermons were recycling threadbare conspiracy chestnuts about the Illuminati and the Freemasons, and challenging their followers to tear down “that demonic idol right there in New York harbor.” They call our Lady Liberty “a statue of a false goddess,” and “the beast mother of all harlots… Ishtar, Lucifer.” All you have to do is google the word “secret” along with “Statue of Liberty,” and prepare to be shocked at the hatred spewing forth in hundreds of thousands of hits.

It may be a fringe group of zealots proclaiming the Statue of Liberty is demonic, but their political reach is very, very real. Their burning hatred of “the other” and their patriarchal, misogynist worldview are being manipulated by a politically savvy group of right-wing ideologues whose agenda includes the dismantling of all the women’s rights legislation achieved in the past few decades. Oprah Winfrey and Hillary Clinton join the Statue of Liberty as others frequently labeled as the Whore of Babylon, because fear of the goddess translates into fear of real women who are comfortable in their own power. From Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union, Khomeini’s Iran, the Taliban of Afghanistan, the Theocratic Rightists’ position across the globe is that women are dangerous to men sexually, and need to be controlled. Legislators who say we can’t trust women to make her own decisions about when and how many children to bring into this world are operating under the misinterpreted mythology that no women can be trusted because of the fall of Eve.

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The United Nations’ Millenium Development Goals underscore the importance of women’s health and empowerment in the health of every country, including the United States. Image: Rahulkepapa / CC BY-SA 3.0

And yet, ironically, the fear that extremist theocrats have for an empowered woman is actually counterproductive to their own health. Giving a woman control over her reproductive cycle is key to pulling her family, and by extension, her country, out of poverty. The statistical inversion between the proclaimed values of conservative voters and the actual health of the constituencies where they live is on display again with the recent headlines that the state of Texas today has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world. This skyrocketing rate of women dying from complications related to being pregnant is a direct result of the closure of dozens of Planned Parenthood clinics across the state where most poor women had previously turned for quality medical care for everything below their belly button.

Misinterpreting scripture in order to conclude that all goddesses are one big whore-monster is part of an anti-female agenda that yearns for some idyllic version of 1950s America, where masculine white men were decidedly in control, and women stayed home. In a nation that was founded to protect religious freedom and freedom of speech, anyone should be allowed to say that the goddess, or the Statue of Liberty for that matter, is the Whore of Babylon if they choose. However, when those same people turn around and say that religious freedom in this nation does not apply to anyone other than members of their particular brand of evangelical Christianity, then that’s a problem. When they say that women’s health and opinions must be controlled by men who fear their life-giving power, then that’s a problem.

The Statue of Liberty reminds us that we all have the freedom to ask questions. Who you are and why you are here should not be just a matter of blind belief. You can and should discuss the ideas you have accepted since you were a child. You can and should challenge your assumptions, and that includes the folklore of your religion—especially if it does not allow room for powerful women or for the goddess.


About the Authors

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Authors Robert Hieronimus, Ph.D., and Laura E. Cortner inside the head
of the Statue of Liberty after the long climb to the top.

Robert Hieronimus, Ph.D. is an internationally known historian, visual artist, and radio host and has appeared on History, Discovery, BBC, and National Geographic. The host of 21st Century Radio®, he lives in Maryland. Laura E. Cortner has co-authored previous titles with Robert Hieronimus including Founding Fathers, Secret Societies and United Symbolism of America. Her work appears regularly in periodicals like UFO Magazine, FATE Magazine, and several Beatles publications. She is the director of the Ruscombe Mansion Community Health Center and lives in Maryland.