Archive for the “Separation of church and state” Category

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

“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 6:6 (NASB) / PsiCop original graphicLast year, the US Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of the Town of Greece v. Galloway. Today they released their ruling, and given that it’s a majority-conservative (and, maybe more importantly, majority-Religious-Right) court, they ruled in favor of government agencies leading people in sectarian prayers. CNN reports on the case and the Court’s decision (WebCite cached article):

The Supreme Court gave limited approval on Monday to public prayers at a New York town’s board meetings, citing the country’s history of religious acknowledgment in the legislature.

The 5-4 ruling [cached] came in yet another contentious case over the intersection of faith and the civic arena. It was confined to the specific circumstances and offered few bright-line rules on how other communities should offer civic prayers without violating the Constitution.…

The conservative majority offered varying interpretations of when such “ceremonial” prayers would be permissible. Kennedy, along with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, focused on the specifics of the Greece case and did not offer a broad expansion of legislative prayer.

This mention that the ruling is specific only to Greece, NY is belied by the fact that it is very typical of towns around the country that also open town-council sessions with prayers. I don’t see any way this ruling won’t be expanded to just about every locality and every government agency in the country. At least, I’m not stupid enough to think the nation’s Christofascists aren’t going to use this as a wedge to get prayers into just about every public venue possible, and that they won’t succeed at it.

The really bizarre part of this case is that Christians are explicitly forbidden — by Jesus, the founder of their religion — to pray in public in the first place! The gospels report that he said:

“(But) take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.… When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” (Matthew 6:1,5-6)

I’ve blogged before about Christians’ tendency to disobey Jesus and happily engage in the practice of pubic piety, and even created a static page on the subject, which may be useful if you need more details. In any event, the result is that a lot of Christians went to court to establish a right to government prayers, and the Catholics on the Supreme Court granted them that right … all in very clear violation of what their own Jesus taught! They also love to litigate over Decalogue monuments, which is likewise exceedingly un-Christian. In fact, as I explain at length, there are a lot of Jesus’ instructions that Christians historically have refused to follow.

I note that Justice Kennedy relies upon an appeal to tradition in order to support what the town of Greece was doing. The US was historically Christian, he’s saying, therefore it’s fine to ram Christianity down all Americans’ throats. The problem with this is that appeals to tradition are fallacious. Just because something was done in the past, doesn’t make it a great idea forevermore. For instance, humanity had a long history of slavery, which was even legal for the first decades of this country; that long tradition, however, doesn’t mean we should reinstitute slavery. I’m not sure Justice Kennedy realizes he’s following this line of reasoning, but in fact, he is.

The bottom line here, is that America’s Christianists have finally won the right to force everyone … Christian and non-Christian alike … to pray to their own deity. I wish them the best of luck forcing me to pray with them. I invite them to track me down and give it their best shot! It won’t work, but they’re certainly welcome to try. Obviously they feel it’s important that every American pray to their Jesus; thus they have no rational reason not to do their utmost to make this American do so. So have at it, Christianists! Do your worst! What are you waiting for?

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on Mt 6:6, NASB.

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Ten Commandments, BaldockThe Religious Right has long waged a fierce, active campaign to get Ten Commandments idols in or around courthouses, public schools, town halls, public parks, etc. They’re obsessed with it, for some reason, viewing Decalogue monuments has having some kind of magical power to make their communities better places. About the only power they have is to provide emotional reassurance in the face of the personal insecurity inherent in clinging to a package of metaphysical beliefs that have no demonstrable basis. Beyond that, Decalogue idols accomplish nothing whatsoever … aside maybe from making it clear to any and all non-Abrahamic believers that they’re neither wanted nor welcome.

The latest battle in militant Christianists’ ongoing war to get Decalogue monuments put up everywhere comes from the home state of Judge Roy “Ten Commandments” Moore, as reported by the Montgomery Advertiser (WebCite cached article):

The House Judiciary Committee passed a constitutional amendment without discussion or debate that would allow the Ten Commandments to be posted in public buildings and schools.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Duwayne Bridges, R-Valley, stipulates that the commandments could be displayed unabridged or unrestrained on public property as long as it’s in compliance with constitutional requirements.

Text of HB 45 can be obtained here (cached).

The ACLU doesn’t understand the need for this law, but that doesn’t faze R.R. activists, who insist it’s necessary as a proactive measure against imagined persecutory “judicial activism”:

Joe Godfrey, executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program, said the reason for the bill is that courts, over and over again, are ruling that you can’t display the Ten Commandments. He said they’re the foundation to the laws of our nation and society and should be allowed to be on display.

There are lots of problems with this Christofascist movement to put up as many Decalogue monuments in as many government facilities as possible. Because this is ongoing Religious Right campaign, I created a static page on this blog that describes the many different problems with it. In brief, it’s unconstitutional; all such displays are by nature sectarian; they’re clear violations of the Abrahamic religions’ injunctions against idolatry (included within the Ten Commandments themselves); they’re also forms of public piety which Jesus clearly forbid to all his followers; and because Christians building them violates the very religion they claim to believe in, doing so is a kind of hypocrisy, which Jesus also explicitly forbid them ever to engage in. As such, this is actually an un-Christian effort.

Note, too, that Christians demanding that Decalogue idols be put up all over the place, is itself a kind of activism, whereas they intend this law to block judicial activism they disapprove of. In other words, they’re happy to engage in their own form of activism but condemn all other forms of activism. Hypocrisy, thy name is “Christianist”!

Photo credit: TheRevSteve, via Flickr.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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Jesus playing football, via The Biblical WorldNote: This post has been updated to mention comments made by UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma.

My alma mater‘s train-wreck of a football team just got its second total shake-up in 3 years, when Bob Diaco was hired as the new head coach (WebCite cached article), and the rest of the coaching staff was replaced. Among Diaco’s new staff is running backs coach Ernest Jones, who in a Hartford Courant profile on Sunday, explained that he’ll make Jesus the team’s focus (cached):

Many of the players on the team have a spiritual base.

“Just because you come to the University of Connecticut doesn’t mean you won’t have the opportunity to pursue your faith,” Jones said. “No, you’re going to be able to come here and love the God that you love. So we provide opportunities for them to grow spiritually in our community. So I’ll get out and meet some people in the community so when this young man, for example, says, ‘I’m a Seventh Day Adventist or I’m a Catholic or I’m a Baptist or I’m a Jehovah’s Witness,’ well, OK, here you go. And we’re going to do things in our building, fellowship, non-denominational type things, players, coaches. We’re going to make sure they understand that Jesus Christ should be in the center of our huddle, that that’s something that is important. If you want to be successful and you want to win, get championships then you better understand that this didn’t happen because of you. This happened because of our Lord and Savior. That’s going to be something said by Bob Diaco. That’s something that’s going to be said by Ernest Jones. That’s who we are.”

I really love how this guy concedes that members of his team can be Catholic, Baptist, or Jehovah’s Witnesses … any kind of Christian who acknowledges Jesus as “our Lord and Savior.” This pretty much leaves out Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. and non-believers too. Those guys, I guess, can’t sign up for UConn football — not with Jones on the coaching staff, anyway.

This caused a little bit of an uproar, I guess, because today, the Courant published a blog post “clarifying” what Jones said (locally-cached article):

In the end Jones just wants the players on the team to have a good sense of morals in addition to being solid football players.

We need to be clear on this though and here’s a clarification, what Jones meant: if a player has a need to be in touch spiritually, whichever direction that is, the player will be able to reach out to Jones and he will be able to point him — or them — in the right direction; that you don’t have to disconnect from your faith — if you’re faith-based — because you’re away from home.

That sounds all well and good, I suppose … except for three tiny little problems: First, this “clarification” doesn’t mesh with Jones’s original words. As reported, he specifically and explicitly mentioned that Jesus Christ, not some other deity, was required to “be in the center of [UConn's] huddle.” He didn’t say “Jesus Christ, or whoever or whatever the players worship, should be in the center of our huddle.” Second, Jones’s statement wasn’t predicated on whether or not a player has a wish for spirituality; he clearly said that the entire team had to focus on Jesus. That obviously means every player, not just those who are Christian, or even just those with a spiritual inclination. Third, this clarification didn’t come from Jones himself; beat writer Desmond Conner wrote it for him. The clarification is Conner’s, not Jones’s, so we have no idea whether or not Jones actually thought better of what he’d said during the interview, or for that matter whether or not Jones is even aware of the controversy he kicked up. It’s possible Jones has taken the cowardly route, hiding behind Conner, unwilling to go on the record as admitting he said anything inappropriate, and hoping a reporter can make this go away for him.

I note that the Courant also released UConn president Susan Herbst’s comments — this time, quoting her directly rather than writing for her (locally-cached):

But it should go without saying that our employees cannot appear to endorse or advocate for a particular religion or spiritual philosophy as part of their work at the university, or in their interactions with our students. This applies to work-related activity anywhere on or off campus, including on the football field. Our Athletic Director and Coach Diaco agree wholeheartedly with me, and have made this clear to their staff.

What a mess. It’s been made even more of a mess than it needed to be, by virtue of the total silence of Jones himself. Where has the Christianist weasel been, the last couple days? No one, aside maybe from Desmond Conner, knows.

Photo credit: The Biblical World.

P.S. The typos in some of the Courant articles linked above, such as an extraneous semicolon in one headline, are as published. Editing is given short shrift at the nation’s oldest continuously-published newspaper.

Update: The incredibly successful — not to mention sometimes-brutally-frank — Geno Auriemma, UConn’s women’s basketball coach, had a little to say about this controversy (cached):

“I don’t give a [expletive] about religion when it comes to sports,” Auriemma said. “In fact, I think it’s stupid [to involve it]. I get a kick out of those who go on national television and thank God [for giving them the strength to perform]. Like God gives a [expletive] that you made 18 jumpers. I have always had a problem with that [thinking]. I don’t think people should show their religious belief in public. I have a real problem with it. And I don’t care what religion it is.

The Courant provides video of his comments, which for some reason I can’t embed here (even though the site offers embed code … WTF?).

Auriemma makes an excellent point about whether God cares if “you made 18 jumpers.” Think about this for a moment: Why would the Almighty give a shit about a basketball game, or football game … or any other kind of athletic contest? Why would s/he/it care if a player scored 8 points, or 10, or 12? What could that possibly mean to an omnipotent, omniscient, eternal and infinite being? Wouldn’t s/he/it have better things with which to concern him/her/itself?

If you ask me, if Geno Auriemma — who’s arguably the most successful coach currently working in American college sports — doesn’t think religion should be linked to athletics and doesn’t care about his players’ religion(s), that ought to be tell you something. It might not prove anything all by itself, but it is a meaningful perspective by someone who truly knows the issue.

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PsiCop graphic / “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men  to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward  with your Father who is in heaven.” ~Mt 6:1, NASBThe mayor of the Dallas-Ft Worth suburb of Flower Mound, TX has declared 2014 to be “the Year of the Bible.” As KXAS-TV in Ft Worth reports, this is problematic (WebCite cached article):

The mayor of Flower Mound is receiving a lot of attention after declaring 2014 the “Year of the Bible.”

Flower Mound Mayor Tom Hayden made the proclamation during a regularly scheduled city council meeting in the Dallas-area suburb last month.

“I ask that you join with me, Tom Hayden, Mayor of the Town of Flower Mound, Texas, in Proclaiming 2014 to be the ‘Year of the Bible’ in Flower Mound, Texas, and encourage all residents in their own way to examine the principles and teachings found in the Bible,” Hayden said during the Dec. 16 meeting.

Here’s the station’s video report:

It appears Flower Mound isn’t exactly some backwater town in the wilds of Texas where everyone is a card-carrying, Bible-thumping member of some Protestant evangelical church. As the story explains, it’s much more cosmopolitan (in terms of religion) than that:

There are dozens of churches in Flower Mound, which has a population of more than 66,000 people. The majority of the churches are Christian-based, but at least five of the organized religions with places of worship in Flower Mound are not. There is an Islamic mosque, a Hindu temple, a Baha’i temple, a Zoroastrian church and a Jewish synagogue.

Well done, Yeronner, you’ve successfully alienated a bunch of your constitutents. Well done! You must be so proud!

Like any shifty Christofascist who’s been caught saying or doing something for Jesus that he shouldn’t have done, Hayden is veering all over the place trying to avoid responsibility for what he did and downplaying its SOCAS implications:

Hayden added that he is disappointed that the focus for some concerning the “Year of the Bible” proclamation has been on him and not, as he intended, on the teachings in the Bible.…

Hayden reiterated to NBC 5 Monday this proclamation was not an order on behalf of the municipal government, but was instead an action taken specifically and solely by him.

That last part is a lie, of course. I will repeat what he said when he made his proclamation (emphasis added):

“I ask that you join with me, Tom Hayden, Mayor of the Town of Flower Mound, Texas, in Proclaiming 2014 to be the ‘Year of the Bible’ in Flower Mound, Texas, and encourage all residents in their own way to examine the principles and teachings found in the Bible,” Hayden said during the Dec. 16 meeting.

That’s right: He explicitly and overtly made this proclamation as Mayor of his town! Also — if you look at the video above, you’ll see Hayden made his proclamation with the Flower Mount, TX emblem as a backdrop. So when he told the reporter he did this as a private citizen and not as Mayor, he was lying. This little bit of disingenuity places Mayor Hayden squarely in my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

Of course, Hizzonner also is disobeying his own Jesus. You see, merely by standing up and trumpeting his own reverence for the Bible, he’s engaging in the practice of “public piety,” which the founder of his own religion clearly and unambiguously forbid him ever to do:

“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. (Mt 6:1-6)

It’s quite obvious to me that a lot of Christians like Hizzonner have a great deal of trouble with this particular passage. They ignore it because, let’s face it, what good is it to be an upright, dutiful Christian, if one doesn’t go around impressing others with how uprightly and dutifully Christian one is? So what if Jesus forbid that?

Photo credit: PsiCop graphic, based on Mt 6:1, NASB.

Hat tip: Hypervocal.

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White House press secretary Dana PerinoFor a very long time, the Religious Right has contended (incorrectly, of course) that there’s no such thing as “separation of church and state” in the U.S. While they are correct when they say that phrase is not found in the Constitution or any of its amendments, they’re wrong when they claim it’s not even implied. No less an authority on the matter than the author of the First Amendment, James Madison, himself once explained this in writing:

Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion & Govt in the Constitution of the United States the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.

So this contention is factually incorrect.

Put more bluntly, they are lying about the Constitution.

Even so, despite being as obviously wrong as they are, they aren’t holding back. In fact, they’re going even a bit further. Texas governor Rick Perry, for example, recently stated openly that there is no such thing as “freedom from religion.” In other words, it is perfectly legal, as far as he’s concerned, for government to force a non-believer to adopt a religion.

In that same vein, a Rightist pundit — who’d been G.W. Bush’s last press secretary — used her virtual podium on Fox News to declare that atheists ought to leave the country, as the Raw Story reports, and her colleague Bob Beckel agreed (WebCite cached article):

Fox News host Dana Perino this week suggested that atheists should leave the country instead of trying to maintain the separation of church and state.

In a case before the Massachusetts Supreme Court, atheist lawyer David Niose argued that the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance violates the Equal Rights Amendment of the state’s constitution.

“I’m tired of them,” Perino complained on Wedneday [sic].…

“If these people really don’t like it, they don’t have to live here,” she added.

“Yeah, that’s a good point,” co-host Bob Beckel agreed.

Here’s video of this pleasant little exchange, courtesy of the Raw Story:

I’m old enough to recall all the “love it or leave it” talk that was common back in the 1970s. It was hurled most often at Vietnam war protesters. The implication is that Americans are required either to support whatever the US does — whether right or wrong — or shut up and leave the country. It’s been 40 years or so since then, and I’d thought people had gotten over that sort of thinking. I guess they haven’t?

The bottom line is, we have two Rightist pundits averring that non-believers should be forced either to swear the Pledge of Allegiance, including the “under God” phrase, or else be thrown out of the country. I can’t think of many better examples of religiofascism than this. Can you?

Hat tip: mepper, via Reddit.

Photo credit: fredthompson, via Flickr.

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'How are you not do as I say!' (I Can Haz Cheezburger Builder)The Religious Right in the US sincerely believes Christianity is “under attack.” There’s a war against their religion, they claim. Now, most of us know there’s no such thing going on. Churches aren’t being shuttered or bulldozed; Bibles and crucifixes aren’t being confiscated or destroyed; devout Christians aren’t being put on trial for believing in Jesus. Put as simply as possible: There’s no persecution of Christianity going on in this country. It’s. Just. Not. Fucking. Happening.

You may have heard that the great Biblical state of Kentucky passed a law protecting Christians’ freedom of religion (even though, with First Amendment protections already in place, no such law is needed — in Kentucky or in any other state). One of its proponents is outraged that there’s been criticism of this law, and penned a letter to the editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader to explain why it was needed (WebCite cached article):

Could it be a war on Christianity? Now I know your response will be that there is no attack on religious freedoms. Indeed, you will deny the very existence of such a war. Yet, tell that to the owners of Hands On Originals or Chik-fil-A, who were vehemently attacked by government officials and agencies for expressing their personal religious beliefs. Tell that to the high school coach who gets sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for offering a prayer of protection before a ballgame. Tell that to the teacher who gets sued for saying, “Happy Thanksgiving,” “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Easter.” Tell that to the valedictorian who gets enjoined from mentioning God in her graduation speech. Tell that to the county judge-executive who gets sued for posting the Ten Commandments. Tell that to the student who tries to pray or read her Bible during school. Tell that to the citizens whose governor decided the State Capitol needed a “holiday tree” as opposed to a Christmas Tree.

Rep. Stan Lee’s complaint is basically a “dump” of childish whines. There’s no cohesion to it, and Lee generously salts his bellyaching with mythology, marginal claims, and outright lies.

First of all, no business owner has been “attacked” by any officials. An “attack” is a punch in the face or being held up at gunpoint; criticism is not, and never will be, an “attack.” Second, no American — not even the owners of Chick-fil-A or Hands On Originals — is ever entitled never to be criticized. Third, using their position as bosses to coerce their employees to live their private, non-workplace lives according to the fierce, rigid strictures of their own dour metaphysics, is not merely “expressing their personal religious beliefs.” It’s quite something else.

Lee doesn’t provide any evidence of these teachers he says have been “sued for saying, ‘Happy Thanksgiving,’ ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Easter.’” It sounds like urban legend to me. There’s nothing specific, just wild claims without a stitch of support.

Valedictorians in public schools being told not to talk up God is part of an effort to keep church and state separate. Let’s face it, lots of public schools use children as proxies to force religion into them, and that’s forbidden.

Oh, and public-school students most certainly can both pray and read Bibles in school. It happens all the time. To say it can’t, is a flat-out lie, and Lee knows it.

Public-school coaches leading students in prayer, and judges putting up immense Decalogue idols in courts, are both examples of Christians using the power of government to promote their religion. And it’s illegal.

And calling a Christmas tree a “holiday tree,” harms no one! Since Christmas is a holiday, semantically speaking, this means all Christmas trees truly are “holiday trees.” To say otherwise is also a lie.

Like the rest of the Religious Right, Rep. Lee is confused. He thinks Christians being criticized for wanting to control everyone’s lives, is an “attack” on his religion. He thinks separation of church and state abridges Christians’ freedom of religion. He thinks Christians are entitled to get their way, all the time, every time, and when they don’t, it’s unacceptable.

As I’ve blogged many times already, I understand where Christians are coming from. A desire to be persecuted for Jesus is part and parcel of their religion, and it has been almost since its inception. This persecutorial delusion is embedded deep in the psychopathology of Christianity. Rep. Lee and the rest of the Religious Right really, truly want to think they’re being attacked for their beliefs. In many ways, they literally can’t help themselves.

But that’s really no excuse for remaining attached to this paranoid delusion. It’s one thing to fantasize about being a martyr, because one’s religion is founded on a martyr. It’s quite another to invent persecution that’s not even happening, and accuse others of doing things they haven’t done. The delusions don’t serve any good purpose, and really need to fucking stop already.

I have to add Rep. Lee to my “lying liars for Jesus” club. Not that he’s alone there. Lying for Jesus is a common pastime among Christians. That’s because … to paraphrase Isaac Asimov … lying is the last refuge of the insecure.

Photo credit: I Can Haz Cheezburger Builder.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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North Carolina State Capitol, RaleighChristofascists are a really angry bunch. They’re downright incensed that things like the First Amendment have gotten in the way of them forcing their dour religionism on the American people.

I’ve been saying for years now that … if they had their way … they’d make everyone worship as they do. Well, it turns out some Republican Christofascist legislators in the great Bible Belt (aka Bobble Bay-elt) state of North Carolina, have declared their religionistic militancy openly. As NBC News reports, they’ve proposed legislation that would establish a North Carolinian state religion (WebCite cached article):

Republican lawmakers in North Carolina have introduced a bill declaring that the state has the power to establish an official religion — a direct challenge to the First Amendment.…

The bill [cached] says that federal courts do not have the power to decide what is constitutional, and says the state does not recognize federal court rulings that prohibit North Carolina and its schools from favoring a religion.

The bill was introduced Monday by two Republican representatives from Rowan County, north of Charlotte, and sponsored by seven other Republicans. The party controls both chambers of the North Carolina Legislature.

The two lawmakers who filed the bill, state Reps. Harry Warren and Carl Ford, did not immediately return calls Wednesday from NBC News.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued last month to stop the Rowan County Commission from opening meetings with Christian prayers. One of those prayers declared that “there is only one way to salvation, and that is Jesus Christ,” the ACLU said.

This proposed law is quite obviously unconstitutional. The law itself explicitly dismisses the incorporation doctrine, even though it’s been upheld through many court decisions and isn’t going anywhere.

Assuming these fierce Christofascists are able to pass this bill, get it signed, and have it become the law of the land in North Carolina, it’s nevertheless fraught with peril, even for the most devout Christians there. That’s because of the sectarian conflict which would have to follow. Would the North Carolina state religion be a Protestant sect? If so, Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians would be disenfranchised. If Catholicism is made the state religion, then Protestants and the Orthodox would be disenfranchised. That’s not even considering that non-Christians and non-believers would be disenfranchised, no matter which Christian sect is made the state’s religion.

The bottom line is that Harry Warren and Carl Ford are childishly furious that the First Amendment has gotten in the way of them imposing their religiosity on everyone. But I’m less worried about them, than I am about the (large) number of North Carolinian Religious Rightists who will, no doubt, immediately and happily flock to their cause and support this bill, in spite of the fact that it’s unconstitutional. Neither Warren nor Ford will suffer any serious consequences from having raised this bill; if anything, they’re assured of long careers in North Carolinian politics.

Be afraid, folks. Be very, very afraid. These people are serious, and they aren’t taking any more shit from anyone.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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