Archive for the “Separation of church and state” Category

Specifically concerning separation of church and state in the U.S.

CorpusChristiExt2It’s no secret that the Fox News network is a leading bastion of Religious Right ideology. Pretty much every big name on the network is a committed Christianist to one degree or another. Oddly enough, in spite of the fact that the Religious Right movement for which this channel works is a product of Protestant evangelical Christianity, many of the channel’s biggest names — e.g. Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity — are Roman Catholic. Of course, the rivalry between these wings of Christianity hasn’t gotten in the way of these folk marching in lock-step with their Protestant brethren and sistren. It’s surprising how few differences there are among them, even if historically Catholics and Protestants had been known to go to war with each other.

At any rate, one of Fox’s more overtly religious mouthpieces for Christofascism is Fr Jonathan Morris, a Catholic priest who — like his fellow Catholics on Fox — has made common cause with Protestants. As Raw Story explains, he recently appeared on the channel to declare that atheists are unfit to serve as president (WebCite cached article):

Catholic priest and Fox News contributor Father Jonathan Morris argued over the weekend that atheists were not suitable candidates for president because it was “hard to trust” someone who did not believe that God would punish them.…

According to Morris, anything that did not “inform” a public official’s life was not faith “because faith is a set of beliefs.”

“It’s a belief in God, it’s a belief that there are eternal consequences for your actions,” he explained. “And I think that a leader that doesn’t have that — a set of core beliefs that help him to make justice an important part of his life and his decisions because he knows that there are eternal consequences, well, it’s somebody that it’s hard to trust.”

This might seem a reasonable conclusion to Christofascists like Morris and the rest of the insane crew he works with at Fox. But if one thinks about it, it doesn’t really work. I’d much rather have as president someone who can figure out right and wrong on his/her own, and who has both the ability and willingness to do the right thing of his/her own accord, without having to be frightened into it by threat of punishment imposed by some wild-eyed cosmic sky-tyrant. An upstanding, effective leader should not need metaphysical beliefs to drill morals and ethics into him/her.

But then, I’m just a cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen, so what the hell could I possibly know about such important things?

One thing I’d like to point out about Fr Jonathan, however, is that he’s part of the Legion of Christ, a clerical order that’s been mired in scandal for a number of years. I’ve blogged about this order and its attendant scandal several times. A Vatican investigation — which, typically, took far longer than it needed to have — ended up substantiating accusations against the order’s founder, Fr Marcial Maciel (cached). The order remains under Vatican oversight, and a number of Maciel’s underlings and other officials of the order are being investigated.

Now, my mention of Morris’s order’s sordid past might seem inappropriate … as though I’m smearing him for the misdeeds of others. Perhaps I am. To be clear, I’m not saying Morris must have been involved in any shenanigans. But I’d like to point out that, for several years, he was on the staff of the order’s seminary in Rome. He very likely had direct access to the order’s leadership, some of whom the Vatican has investigated. What does that mean for Fr Jonathan? I have no idea … but that’s the problem. The Legion of Christ remains under a cloud of suspicion — a cloud that the R.C. Church itself created, on its own.

Oh, and I’m not even going to go into the part of the US Constitution which says there can never be any religious test for any official in the country, including the presidency. (That part, by the way, is Article VI paragraph 3. Just in case you wondered. Not that religiofascists give a shit that it’s there.)

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Grundy Cty High School / WCRB-TVThe problem of Christofascists imposing their religion on public school kids is an old one. It continues, especially in the South, in spite of court decisions like Engel v Vitale (1962) and Abington SD v Schempp (1963).

Let’s face it, people who are fanatic enough tend not to fucking care whether their desire to impress their religious beliefs on other people is legal or not. All they’re aware of is their rabid impulse to spread the gospel — which, they fantasize, no on else on earth could ever possibly have heard before. And when these fanatics are thwarted, they don’t take it well. The latest example of this, as WCRB-TV in Chattanooga TN reports, illuminates this tendency quite clearly:

“Bible Man” is known as a staple in Grundy County Schools. His name is Horace Turner, and he’s been visiting there for decades. But now his visits are raising legal red flags.

National groups warn that his message is unconstitutional. Many local supporters are fighting to keep his mission alive. But not everyone is comfortable with “Bible Man” in the classroom.

“We don’t want people to be mad, we just want people to make sure there’s an alternative something for the kids to do,” said one Grundy County mom. She didn’t want to be identified for fear of community backlash for her non-Christian views.

She said Bible Man’s religious convocations at her son’s school were uncomfortable. They included religious teachings like songs and Baby Jesus displays. Their family is Atheist.

“At first he did not know that he didn’t have to go,” she said. “As he got older, it bothered him that he had to sit through this because it’s not his religion.”

The good folk at WCRB helpfully tried to make it seem as though this unconstitutional practice was just fine:

Bible Man has been visiting Grundy County Schools for nearly 40 years without any problems, until recently.

The problem with that defense, of course, is that just because something has been done — even for a very long time — cannot and will never automatically make it right or legal. To think so is to fall for an appeal to tradition, and it’s fallacious. This ought to be glaringly obvious: For instance, for thousands of years, humanity thought the earth was at the center of a universe only a few thousand miles in diameter. We now know this not to be the case. Are we to dispense with modern astronomical science, because it conflicts with thousands of years of tradition? Of course not!

But really, all of this is an old story. As I said, Christianists hammering their Jesus into public schools is old news in many parts of the country. That it was happening in Grundy county, TN is unsurprising at best. The real point of this story, though, is this:

While the concerned mom says she’s glad it’s being addressed, she still worries about the lack of acceptance for those who don’t support Bible Man.

She points to threats made on Facebook against her child that include pictures of a burning house.

“We just can’t get over how much hate there is in their loving, Christian hearts,” she said.

Ah yes. There we have it. “Christian love” at its finest: Threatening people. Indeed, this is the “religion of love” doing what it does best — demanding deference, if not abject surrender, from everyone and everything else, and launching into full-bore sanctimonious rage when it doesn’t get it.

I can’t think of a finer example of the utter failure of Christianity to live up to its own professed ideals. Can it really be the divine religion its followers say it is? I can’t see how. It just doesn’t work.

All I can say to you Christianists is: By all means, please keep up your whining, bellyaching, sniveling and threatening! I can’t think of any better way for you keep showing — for the entire world to see — what’s really wrong with your fierce, dour religionism.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

Photo credit: WCRB-TV.

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Lake of Fire by BenRR / via DeviantArtHere’s something that’s not surprising, way down south in the Bible Belt Bobble Bayelt state of Mississippi. As the Biloxi Sun Herald explains, a judge there assigns Bible essays to youthful offenders (WebCite cached article):

Judge Albert Fountain offers youths found with alcohol an offer most don’t refuse.

In part, they must write him a 1,000-word essay in order to to keep the conviction off their records and avoid hefty costs.

They can write the entire essay about the effects of alcohol, but Fountain recommends they give him 500 words each on that and on the Book of Revelation, one of the most feared books in the Bible.

This is such an obvious violation of separation of church and state, that I can’t see why a sitting judge could even be allowed to get away with it. Then again, this is Christocratic Mississippi … where little things like the First Amendment just aren’t all that important.

The good judge claims there’s no force involved:

“I don’t force them to do it. It’s their choice.”

However, as explained in the article, there actually is force involved:

Those who accept the plea offer must hand over their driver’s license for 10 days and maintain good behavior, and are placed on 90 days of non-reporting probation. The case is then non-adjudicated and it stays off their record.

Those who don’t accept the offer are fined $500, ordered to pay a state assessment of $155.75 and lose their license for 90 days. And the conviction stands as a misdemeanor record.

So these kids have a choice: Write the essay, and skate on the charges; or not write the essay, and be punished (in not just one, but three different ways). To say there’s no coercion here is a clear lie on the judge’s part. That places him in my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

Why Revelation, one might ask? Because, as the judge himself admits, it’s the most terrifying book of the Bible:

“When they read Revelation, they can’t help but think about what we’re heading for in the future if we don’t do the right thing,” Fountain said.

“I’ve had them come back with tears in their eyes,” he said.

“They tell me it’s a scary book to read. I can’t force them to do it, but all I can do is plant a seed.”

Yep, that’s good old-fashioned Christian psychological terror: “Say, do, and believe what we order you to … or you’ll BURN IN HELL FOR ALL ETERNITY!!! Mwa ha ha ha ha ha!” Of course, neither Judge Fountain, nor the rest of his fellow Christofascists, see this as a problem. They’re willing to say and do anything in order to make “believers” out of others. They truly think the end justifies the means. As long as they’re saving souls for their precious Jesus, nothing else is important … even brazenly violating the Constitution, then lying about it, are acceptable for this sort of militant Christianist.

Photo credit: BenRR, via DeviantArt.

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Open BibleGiven what happened in Paris over the past week, it was inevitable, I suppose, that a bunch of angry Christofascists would respond with what amounts to an outcry of “More Jesus! More Bible! More Christianity!” Down in Mississippi, deep in the heart of the Bible Belt Bobble Bay-elt, the AP reports via ABC News, plans are afoot to make the Bible the “state book” (WebCite cached article):

Mississippi is the birthplace of William Faulkner, Richard Wright and recent U.S. poet laureate Natasha Trethewey. However, some lawmakers say they want to look beyond the secular literary world and designate the Bible as the state book.

At least two bills are being filed during this state election year to make the holy book a state symbol.

One is from Republican Rep. Tracy Arnold of Booneville, who is the pastor of a nondenominational Christian church. The other is from Democratic Reps. Tom Miles of Forest and Michael Evans of Preston, who say they have promises of bipartisan support from more than 20 colleagues.

Their intentions, of course, are perfectly noble, and not an effort to proselytize; we know this because … well … they pinky-swear:

Miles told The Associated Press on Monday he’s not trying to force religion — or even reading — on anyone.

“The Bible provides a good role model on how to treat people,” Miles said. “They could read in there about love and compassion.”

Enough already. I have to call bullshit on this. Not that there’s no love or compassion in the Bible … there is, some anyway. A little. Here and there. The problem with the Bible is that it has a far larger amount of cruelty, hatred, and violence. Horrific, cosmic-scale, raging cataclysm-type shit. Let’s have a look at just a small sampling of it, shall we?

  • YHWH drowns every living thing on the planet (Gen 6-7), sparing only 2 of each animal and 8 human beings. All because of “the wickedness of man” (Gen 6:5) … which the reader is led to believe must have been pretty horrific, but since the nature of that “wickedness” is never mentioned, we have no way actually to know what it was. Such is YHWH’s “love,” I guess.
  • YHWH later magically slew Er the son of Judah for (again!) unstated “evil”, then magically slew his brother Onan because “he wasted his seed on the ground” (Gen 38:7-10). Yeah, that’s “compassion” all right. Oh yeah.
  • YHWH also staged one of the worst atrocities since the Great Flood when he afflicted Egypt with a series of devastating plagues, slaughtered all the first-born in the land, and then wiped out one of the largest armies in the ancient world (Gen 3-14). Yup, that’s “love.” No doubt.
  • YHWH then tells the Hebrews to conquer Canaan — as an expression of his love for the Canaanites, I suppose. In the process he orders not just one (Ex 17:8-18:16) but two (1 Sam 15:1-9) genocides of the Amalekites. Definite “compassion” there, no?

OK, enough of this. I can’t take it any more. This is as far as I could get in relating stories of Biblical “love” and “compassion” without vomiting. Note, I left out of the above list the manner in which Sodom and Gomorrah were “loved” (Gen 19:1-29), not to mention Lot’s wife. Someone will, I’m sure, inform me that I left out “context;” for instance, Sodom & Gomorrah deserved to be wiped off the face of the earth and reduced to an ashen ruin because its citizens were “inhospitable,” and that the Amalekites were slaughtered to the last infant because they’d insolently fended off the Hebrew migration into their land. Sorry, but those defenses just don’t stack up to the sheer amount of violence perpetrated; if “inhospitability” were enough to raze cities in fiery holocausts, there would be none left anywhere, and a nation defending its territory is generally not considered a crime worthy of a genocide. And don’t even get me started on why Lot’s wife needed to be changed into a pillar of salt — because that whole thing is just ridiculous bullshit, period. So pardon me if I don’t buy the whole “context” protest. I’m nowhere near stupid enough to fall for any of that.

The only reason representatives Arnold, Miles, and Evans could plausibly say the Bible teaches only “love” and “compassion” is if they never actually read the thing. Which, of course, is probably the case, since as I explained long ago, nearly all Christians have never actually read it and haven’t a fucking clue what it truly says.

Needless to say, getting up in front of a legislature … and a state … to pronounce the Bible the “state book” could be construed as public piety, which is something Jesus clearly, specifically, and unambiguously forbid his followers ever to do. Not that these people are aware of that — even if that injunction is contained within the pages of the very Bible they want their state to venerate (Mt 6:1-6, 16-18)!

Photo credit: Ryk Neethling, via Flickr.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

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The cross that for decades was lit for Christmas at Happy Acres Farm has been moved to private property down the road at Judd's Construction. Sherman officials said it was inappropriate to send a religious message with the cross now that the town owns Happy Acres. Monday, Dec. 22, 2014. Photo: Carol Kaliff, via the Connecticut PostChristmas is only a few days away, and as usual, militant Christianists around the country are furiously trying to get Christmas displays onto government property — and where they’re thwarted, they’re angry about it. An example of this is in the western part of my home state of Connecticut, as the Connecticut Post reports, in the little town of Sherman (WebCite cached article):

The Christmas cross that shone for decades atop the main silo at Happy Acres Farm has gone dark this year.

Tony Hapanowich, who owned the farm until his death in 2013, erected and lighted the cross every year during the Christmas season. But after the town’s acquisition of the property earlier this year, town attorney Jeff Sienkiewicz advised the Board of Selectmen that religious symbols like the cross should not be displayed on municipal property.…

Selectwoman Andrea O’Connor said that from a legal point of view, the display raised issues of separation of church and state.

“We felt, given the advice of our town attorney, that we couldn’t put the cross up,” O’Connor said.

For many, that’s just not acceptable:

Resident Gary Albert wondered why it’s acceptable for the town to put up a Christmas tree and other decorations at Mallory Town Hall, and to put candles in the windows at Happy Acres farmhouse, but not acceptable to display the cross.

“People all over town have started putting up their own crosses,” Albert said. “I’ll bet at this time there must be upwards of 25 to 30, including one at my house.”

I applaud Christianists in Sherman, CT who got off their asses and put their own lighted crosses on their own roofs. That’s exactly how this is all supposed to work! If you’re Christian and want to display your Christianity at Christmastime for all to see — despite the injunction against public piety left behind by the founder of your religion — then go right ahead and do it, on your own fucking property. There’s no reason it must be on government property … unless there’s some provision to this effect in scripture that I’m not aware of. I invite anyone out there so inclined, to provide such a citation, if it exists. I would really love to hear what it could be. Honestly.

As for why decorated trees and lighted candles are acceptable in government buildings, but lighted crosses aren’t allowed atop them, I suppose the reasoning is that those things aren’t overtly religious enough to be problematic. Crosses, however, being associated solely with one particular religion — i.e. Christianity — are a different matter. If it were up to me, all of it would have been yanked … but what the hell could this cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen possibly know about such things?

P.S. Note, had the town of Sherman gone around to all those lighted-cross-building homeowners and ripped them all down, that might have constituted a “war on Christmas,” and it’s something I’d oppose. But that hasn’t happened here, nor is anything like it happening anywhere else in the country. Hence, no “war on Christmas.”

Photo credit: Carol Kaliff / Connecticut Post.

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'This is America ... founded by White Christians seeking religious liberty. ... Where people know their place. This is YOUR America! Keep it White and Christian!' / Christian Right Propaganda Posters: America as a Christian Nation, America as a White Nation / Photo Credit: Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National ArchivesOne thing you learn about the Religious Right is that they’re consistent … stubbornly, ferociously, and even foolishly so. They remain locked in on ideas, no matter how absurd or idiotic they are, even long after they’ve been debunked or shown to be stupid or wrong. Former US Senator and GOP presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, is no exception to this rule. Nearly three years after he railed against separation of church and state, he’s still blustering and fuming moronically against it. As Right Wing Watch explains, he told a Religious Right conference that SOCAS is un-American, and even communist in nature (locally-cached article):

In a conference call with members of right-wing pastor E.W. Jackson’s STAND America that was posted online today, former senator Rick Santorum disputed the existence of the separation of church and state in the U.S. Constitution, dismissing it as a Communist idea that has no place in America.

A listener on the call told Santorum that “a number of the things that the far left, a.k.a. the Democrat [sic] Party, and the president is pushing for and accomplishing actually accomplishes a number of the tenets of ‘The Communist Manifesto,’ including the amnesty, the elevation of pornography, homosexuality, gay marriage, voter fraud, open borders, mass self-importation of illegal immigrants and things of that nature.” The likely presidential candidate replied that “the words ‘separation of church and state’ is not in the U.S. Constitution, but it was in the constitution of the former Soviet Union. That’s where it very, very comfortably sat, not in ours.”

Rick’s Christofascist whine that “the words ‘separation of church and state’ [are] not in the U.S. Constitution” is a very old one, and while it’s literally true — a search of the Constitution and its amendments will in fact never turn up that phrase — it’s not true there’s no Constitutional basis for separation of church and state. The Constitution certainly does support it … e.g. Article VI paragraph 3, and the First Amendment. Moreover, the man who wrote the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment and its establishment clausesaid so, very clearly.

Rickie punctuated his comments later by bitching and whining about Barack Obama and race, mentioning that the president “cavorted with Al Sharpton.” I have no idea what that has to do with anything, but Rickie thought it was relevant. To something. Somehow. I guess. To be clear, I’m no fan of Sharpton myself; he’s a huckster, no doubt. But he is influential, without regard to whether or not he has any right to be, and he’s someone who needs to be dealt with, like it or not. So the president met with him — big fucking deal! The president meets with a lot of people. It doesn’t mean he does their bidding, nor does it mean he “cavorts” with them.

Now, one might ask why Rickie would insist that the U.S. doesn’t have separation of church and state, even after having been pounded for saying so years ago and having been revealed thereby as a moronic, childish buffoon? The answer lies in the psychopathological compulsion the Religious Right has toward “consistency.” The R.R. doesn’t take kindly to any kind of change in expression. They condemn it as “flip-flopping” and frequently turn on people who do it. It’s possible his chance to become the GOP presidential nominee in 2016 could be torpedoed instantly, should he ever say anything that contradicts his now-at-least-3-year-old stance against separation of church and state. So he’s forced to double down on it, rather than admit he was wrong.

P.S. I note the caller whose question triggered Santorum’s stupidity, is even more of an idiot than Rickie is. The Communist Manifesto, however, says nothing about “amnesty,” homosexuality, gay marriage, voter fraud, or any of the other childish hang-ups cited. Like most people who reference that particular book in a negative way, the caller obviously has never actually read it.

Photo credit: Austin Cline, About.Com; Original Poster: National Archives.

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Baby yellingIt’s still August, but the annual “war on Christmas” trope has seen its first salvo. Actor, director and militant Christofascist Kirk Cameron announced the limited release of his latest movie, Saving Christmas. His fellow Christofascist Glenn Beck’s house organ, the Blaze, advertises for tells the story of his crusade to defend his holy day from total eradication by those vile secularist types (WebCite cached article):

Actor Kirk Cameron is taking political correctness to task this fall with a new movie that aims to deflate arguments regularly made against Christmas, while simultaneously pushing back against atheist activists’ annual attacks on the holiday.

In “Saving Christmas,” Cameron plans to tackle some of the most controversial and disputed issues surrounding the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birthday — claims that he says have had a profound impact on the way believers and nonbelievers alike view the Christian celebration.

Still acting the part of the boy he once played on a sitcom, his motvation is a juvenile effort to get a dig in at the atheists he despises:

And while he has no idea exactly how atheists will respond to the feature film, which is slated to open November 14 in theaters across America, he predicts they likely won’t be too elated with its storyline.

“I assume they’re going to get frustrated to see some of their best arguments deflated by this movie, because we take on some of the most commonly parroted myths about the origins of Christmas,” Cameron exclusively told TheBlaze Tuesday.

Some of those “commonly parroted myths,” the Blaze and Cameron tell us, are:

Cameron said some of the claims that will be addressed in the film include: the notion that Christmas is really a church co-opting of winter solstice celebrations, that Jesus was not born on December 25, that Christmas trees are pagan and that consumerism is overshadowing the true reason for the season.

A few years ago I addressed a lot of Christians’ beliefs about Christmas, and the effort to outlaw it that their paranoid minds have have deluded them into thinking exists, in a static page on this blog. So I sympathize with Cameron’s fact-checking effort. I also agree that the jury is out as to whether setting Christmas on December 25 was part of a conscious, methodical effort to stamp out other pagan celebrations around the same time. I rather think they did it for the same reason there had been so many celebrations at that point in the calendar, before then — simply because it was a convenient time to have a holiday. The culture they lived in had already adapted to having a holiday around that time, so it just made sense to peg their own to that spot on the calendar. I also do not view Christmas trees as a clearly “pagan” practice that Christians saw pagans doing and then decided to take it up for themselves. Christmas trees didn’t come into vogue until the Reformation, and by that time Europe had been Christianized — with no pagans left lurking around — for centuries.

That said, I’d love to hear Kirkie’s evidence that Jesus was born on December 25; a lot of Christians acknowledge it was extremely unlikely he was born on that day, and suppose, instead, that he’d been born sometime in the spring. There’s nothing in scripture or in any other 1st-century Christian document that suggests he was born on or around December 25. So Cameron must have latched onto some astounding discovery, if he can demonstrate December 25 definitely was Jesus’ birthday.

As for “consumerism is overshadowing the true reason for the season,” if that’s happening, it’s something Christians have largely done themselves, and it must be very old. For instance, the reason Thanksgiving in the U.S. has its current date is because retailers lobbied for a longer Christmas shopping season. It would make no sense for them to have done so — and to have been reliant on Christmas shoppers — if consumerism hadn’t already been rooted in Christmas by the 1930s, which predates “political correctness” by decades.

At any rate, another Blaze quote confirms Cameron’s paranoia:

Cameron continued, “It’s obvious that there is a deliberate attempt to snuff out the holy root that has produced all this wonderful Christmas-time fruit. I think it’s about time someone spoke out and made a movie about this.”

None of this is “obvious” at all! For the record, Kirkie, I know of no “atheist” who wants to deprive you of “the holy root” of your precious holiday. Nor could they do so, even if they wished to — which they don’t. I know of no “atheist” who’s offended if you celebrate Christmas yourself. Again, they could hardly stop you from doing so! I know of no “atheist” who cares whether you approve of Christmas commercialism. What concerns many of them is when Christians like yourselves use government authority to promote Christmas and intimate that all Americans are required to celebrate it — whether they wish to or not. What concerns me, particularly (and I’m no atheist), are all the outright lies you and your fellow Christians tell in the name of pushing Christmas, just so you can feel all nice and persecuted for your Jesus (because the psychopathology of your religion tricks you into doing so.) Just stop already with the delusions and lies. Go celebrate Christmas in your homes and churches. Enjoy it! But … leave the rest of us out of it, fercryinoutloud. Is that such a difficult thing to do?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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