Archive for the “Separation of church and state” Category

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

A Youtube video shows a mass baptism at Villa Rica High School from August 17th. (Photo: YouTube, via WXIA-TV)America’s Christianists have a lot of trouble with separation of church and state. To be blunt, they don’t fucking want it. They despise court decisions like Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Abington S.D. v. Schempp (1963) which took religious instruction out of public schools … because, quite obviously, kids can’t get that kind of instruction at home, in church, or in Sunday school.

Oh wait, they can. Woops. I forgot. Christianists need to make sure their religion saturates everyone’s daily existence, because without it … well, I guess everything goes “poof.” Or something.

Anyway … Christianists aren’t about to let little things like the Supreme Court get in the way of doing their deity’s bidding. They consistently and repeatedly violate the law and act as though there’s nothing wrong with it. Because Jesus.

An egregious example of this, as WXIA-TV in Atlanta reports, happened a couple weeks ago in western Georgia (WebCite cached article):

A Georgia school district is investigating after video of a mass baptism was posted on YouTube.

The video, posted by First Baptist Villa Rica, was shot on school grounds just before football practice. “We had the privilege of baptizing a bunch of football players and a coach on the field of Villa Rica High School! We did this right before practice! Take a look and see how God is STILL in our schools!” the caption with the video reads.

By Tuesday evening, the video had been removed from YouTube.

Someone, apparently, thought better of having stuck evidence of this SOCAS violation on the Internet … but it wasn’t enough. The cat’s out of the bag.

Note the church’s language (i.e. “God is STILL in our schools!”). Thus, this baptism was an act of Christianist defiance. The church may have deleted it from Youtube, but others associated with Villa Rica High School football haven’t shied from their fierce public-school religionism; this post from the Villa Rica Touchdown Club’s Facebook page makes that evident (locally-cached version).

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has asked the school district to investigate and remedy the situation. It’s possible the school district will do the right thing, firing any staff who may have arranged this baptism, and prevent them from happening again. But then, this is the Bible Belt Bobble Bay-elt, and for all we know, the school district doesn’t see anything wrong with it. Who knows?

Photo credit: YouTube, via WXIA-TV.

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Crying baby / a4gpa, via FlickrI blogged about Kim Davis, county clerk for Rowan county KY, who’s launched a legal war over gay marriage. In order to avoid granting licenses to gay couples she has refused to issue any marriage licenses at all, since the Obergefell v. Hodges decision came down from the Supreme Court.

Things ratcheted up when the Supreme Court refused to grant Ms Davis any relief from lower court orders yesterday, and couples showed up this morning to get licenses. As the Washington Post reports, like a little child, she still refuses to do her job and obey court rulings that directed her to grant licenses (WebCite cached article):

Kim Davis, the county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite a Supreme Court ruling against her request to be excused from doing so, said at the Rowan County Courthouse on Tuesday that she was acting “under God’s authority.”

WaPo relays a defiant rant she issued via her collaborators at Liberty Counsel/a> run by Christofascist Mat Staver, who’s acting as her attorney — but who, in all likelihood, is calling the shots for her. (To be clear, Staver and his militant outfit do not want “liberty” for anyone but themselves. What they want is to force each and every American to have to live according to the strictures of their own dour metaphysics, whether they wish to or not.)

This rant — which I won’t dignify here by quoting it or linking to it — claims Ms Davis has authority from God to defy even the US Supreme Court; implies she will go to Hell if she obeys court orders; and asserts she’s doing what she did because she loves Jesus (who, she says, died for her), and that in turn happened because she went to church to please her then-dying mother-in-law. Yes, it’s a pathetic, sappy, sentimental, self-pitying diatribe which his sure to tug at the heartstrings of her fellow Christianists but really says nothing of importance.

One of the claims in her piteous whine is the assertion that gay marriage violates Jesus’ teachings as recorded in scripture. That is absofuckinglutely untrue. The Bible does not report that Jesus ever said a single fucking word about gay marriage. Those words are not there. At all. I defy anyone to cite chapter and verse from the gospels that says otherwise. For her to say so is a lie. This places the sanctimonious Ms Davis in my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

The AP reports via Yahoo News that Ms Davis and her staff have been summoned to federal court on Thursday (cached). A contempt citation is certain. I doubt that will change this Christofascist woman’s mind. I suspect she’ll continue this legal war until she’s somehow driven out of her job … but how long that might take, I have no idea. It’ll depend on the amount of patience the federal courts have.

Photo credit: a4gpa, via Flickr.

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Rainbow flag breezeThe Religious Right is still pitching fits all over the place over the fact that gay marriage is now legal throughout the US. It’s natural that they’d go apeshit over Obergefell v. Hodges, because it forces them to treat gays as equals rather than as second-class citizens. And they can’t stand that.

But it seems Rowan county, Kentucky has become a nexus of contention over the matter. County Clerk Kim Davis has decided that, due to her Christianity, no gays in her county should be able to marry. Her Christianity, you see, prevents her from letting it happen. WKYT-TV in Lexington reports on how legal warfare is beginning to pile up over her childishness (WebCite cached article):

A flurry of activity happened Friday afternoon in the case of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, including an apparent effort to have her charged with official misconduct.

Friday afternoon, Davis, who refuses to issue marriage licenses despite a court order, said in court documents that she filed an emergency petition with the Supreme Court to have a justice review her appeal. A spokeswoman with the Supreme Court told WKYT they had not received the petition as of Friday afternoon.

Davis apparently submitted that filing to the Supreme Court and then asked U.S. District Judge David Bunning to extend his stay– which is scheduled to expire Aug. 31 — on his marriage license order while she appeals to the Supreme Court. Bunning responded hours later, denying that request.

Meanwhile, the Rowan County Attorney’s Office said on Friday that it has referred to the Attorney General’s Office a charge of official misconduct against Davis.

If Ms Davis doesn’t want to do her job according to the law and issue licenses for gay marriages, there’s a simple and easy solution that doesn’t require her to violate her religion, and that is for her to just fucking resign and let someone else take over the job who’s willing to do it.

See how easy that was? What need is there to resort to the Supreme Court … again? Especially when she’s likely to lose?

Oh wait, I can answer that: It’s because she wants to feel persecuted for Jesus because that desire is part and parcel of the psychopathology of her religion. Going to court and losing is, in a perverse way, exactly what she wants!

Update: Yesterday the Supreme Court turned aside her request (cached). She’s going to have to decide whether or not to fulfill her duties as a county clerk.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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The mayor argues that this Nativity scene celebrates the town's origins. / KOAT-TVAccording to Fox News, it’s on, folks! That’s right, Christianists’ annual paranoid whining about an imagined effort to abolish the celebration of Christmas in the US has resumed early — in August! (Even so, that’s not as early as back in 2013.) This story involves the town of Belen, NM which has a nativity in a city park year-round (“Belen” is the Spanish equivalent of “Bethelehem,” so Christians there appear to believe this is somehow necessary). KOAT-TV in Albuquerque reports on this particular little controversy (WebCite cached article):

It’s an iconic symbol for Christians everywhere — the birth of Jesus Christ, known as the Nativity scene — and it’s on display in a Belen city park. But now a Wisconsin advocacy group is warning the city to take it down.

“My first reaction was seething anger,” Belen Mayor Jerah Cordova said.

It’s an iconic symbol for Christians everywhere — the birth of Jesus Christ, known as the Nativity scene — and it’s on display in a Belen city park. But now a Wisconsin advocacy group is warning the city to take it down.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation says it was contacted by a concerned local resident and, after reviewing the situation, it agrees: the Nativity scene on government property is unconstitutional because it’s not a separation of church and state.

But Cordova doesn’t see it like that. He says the scene is more historic than religious, as “Belen” is Spanish for Bethlehem.

“Our town was named Belen for a reason, because our founders wanted it to be named after Bethlehem and of course, what happened in Bethlehem was the birth of Christ, which is something we’ve expressed since our founding,” he said.

I love the editorial reference to the FFRF as “a Wisconsin advocacy group.” As though they’re a bunch of meddling outsiders trying to tell these fine upstanding locals what to do, and who have no place in New Mexico. It turns out this is a common refrain, particularly regarding the FFRF, when they intervene anywhere in the South. “How dare these ‘outsiders’ come down here and order us around?” is a frequent complaint by Christianists offended by being confronted with the law. As noted in the story, though, the FFRF had been notified of this by locals who’d requested their assistance. Besides, the FFRF’s status as “outsiders” to Belen is irrelevant. If they’re breaking the law, then they’re breaking the law, and being told so by out-of-staters cannot and will never change that fact.

As KOAT-TV relates, mayor Cordova used an appeal to the slippery slope in order to justify keeping the nativity on city property:

“Where does it stop?” Cordova asked. “If we don’t stand up for the Nativity scene in the heart of Belen, next will they be asking us to change our name?”

For the record, I know of no effort anywhere in the country to force any municipality to change its name. It has never happened. To assume it will happen merely because one imagines it might happen, is irrational and illogical. At any rate, fuelled by his sanctimonious rage and standing on a foundation of fallacy and paranoia, Cordova promised his city will defy the FFRF and take the case to court. The odds are very good that they’ll lose. What’s more, a court battle is likely to cost them a good deal of money, even if some Christofascist legal outfit promises to represent them pro bono, because after the court case is over and they’ve lost, Belen will end up having to pay the plaintiffs’ legal costs. And that won’t be cheap.

I can’t help but wonder why any of this is even necessary. First, why must this nativity — reflecting Belen’s heritage as a New World “Bethlehem” — be placed only on municipal property? Is there any reason it can’t be moved to private property? Will it somehow lose all its magical power unless it’s in a city park? Is there any reason it can’t be moved to some church’s front lawn or something?

Second, why are Christians even erecting idols to their deity — which is essentially what a nativity is — in the first place? As I point out in my page on Decalogue monuments, idolatry is forbidden to Christians, as recorded in both the Old and New Testaments:

You shall not make for yourselves idols, nor shall you set up for yourselves an image or a sacred pillar, nor shall you place a figured stone in your land to bow down to it; for I am the Lord your God. (Lv 26:1)

Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness (Jon 2:8)

Let all those be ashamed who serve graven images, who boast themselves of idols; worship Him, all you gods. (Ps 97:7)

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Cor 10:14)

Little children, guard yourselves from idols. (1 Jn 5:21)

On top of this, though, a nativity put up prominently on public property is most certainly a form of public piety, which also was explicitly forbidden by none other than Jesus himself:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-6)

How, exactly, is a public nativity scene even an appropriate way to worship a deity who not only prohibited the construction of idols, but also public piety of any kind or at any time? Maybe it’s because I’m a cold-hearted, cynical, godless agnostic heathen and haven’t been granted the special sacred insight required to explain the illogic inherent in all of this, but I really and truly don’t get it.

Photo credit: KOAT-TV.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

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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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