Archive for the “Separation of church and state” Category

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

Indiana State Police Car / Indiana State Police, via Indianapolis StarNote: There’s a little more to say about this story; see below.

As I’ve frequently discussed, the problem with religions is that there’s really nothing supporting anything they teach. Since they all move in the world of metaphysics, it’s generally impossible to confirm them. Believers in a religion, therefore, are usually left foundering in a sea of insecurity. They have few means to relieve this insecurity.

The most common such tactic is communal reinforcement; i.e. they all get together and collectively reassure each other that their religion is true. This might seem like a form of social circular reasoning, and a virtual open-door to delusion, and it is … but it’s a remarkably effective way of relieving the insecurity of adhering to a package of metaphysics.

Even so, it can only provide just so much reassurance. After all, if one looks around and sees the very same people (e.g. the members of one’s own church) all the time, the apparent confirmation they offer each other begins to seem hollow. It’s necessary to expand that pool of mutual-reassurers from time to time; and what’s more, the process of convincing someone to join a religion s/he hadn’t been part of, is another kind of confirmation that can be extremely compelling.

Hence, a lot of religions put a strong emphasis on proselytizing, and some of their followers can essentially become addicted to it. A great example of this is an Indiana state trooper, as WXIN-TV in Indianapolis reports, whose compulsion to proselytize during traffic stops has left him unemployed (WebCite cached article):

Indiana State Police terminated a trooper Thursday after a second complaint in 18 months that he was preaching to citizens after stopping them for traffic violations.

State police say this was in direct violation of an August 2014 counseling statement where Senior Trooper Brian L. Hamilton, 40, was told in writing, “During the course of his official duties, S/Trp. Hamilton will not question others regarding their religious beliefs nor provide religious pamphlets or similar advertisements.”

The most recent traffic stop happened in January of this year, but Hamilton was sued in September of 2014 in a similar case, which was settled.

That’s right, this is Hamilton’s second ride on this particular merry-go-round. He was already caught once doing something he shouldn’t, was documented as having been instructed not to do it again, but then proceeded to do it anyway.

As one would expect in cases like this, Hamilton is defiant and unrepentant:

FOX59 spoke with Hamilton over the phone after news broke of his termination.

“Oh well…I’m just following what the Lord told me to do and you can’t change what the Lord tells you to do. So if the Lord tells me to speak about Jesus Christ, I do. And that’s why they fired me so that’s where we’re at,” he said before disconnecting.

Yes, it’s true, he is doing what his deity instructed in what is known as “the Great Commission”:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

So that provides Hamilton a ready excuse for indulging his compulsion to reassure himself of the veracity of his unfounded religion. It also provides him what he will consider justification for him proselytizing during traffic stops — as a Christian, by this scripture, he’s been explicitly instructed to spread his religion. He and his lawyers will, I’m sure, sue the state of Indiana on the grounds that his “religious freedom” was infringed, and the Great Commission, I’m equally sure, will be their Exhibit 1 in that case.

The problems with what Hamilton did are myriad, though, and are quite obvious. Quite aside from simply offending people who don’t want to be pelted with his Christianity during a traffic stop, it places those he stops in untenable positions, and can create conflicts of interest. First, someone who has no intention of doing so may promise Hamilton that s/he will go to his church, just to get out of a ticket; but what happens a few weeks later when s/he hasn’t shown up? Hamilton has that driver’s information, and could track him/her down later. I dare not think how that might work out! Second, what happens if the driver responds some other way, such as saying s/he won’t go to his church (whether because s/he isn’t religious, or is already committed to some other faith)? That driver risks offending Hamilton so that, perhaps, he might treat him/her more harshly. Moreover, what would Hamilton have done if he’d stopped someone who attended his own church? Might he have let that driver go without taking any action?

Put simply, Hamilton’s proselytizing compromises his job and, in turn, how the Indiana State Police relate to the public. It’s just not something they can tolerate.

In addition to suing Indiana over his firing, I also predict Hamilton will also go on the Christian lecture circuit, whining to rapt church audiences how he was fired for Jesus and simply because he “offended” people. His Christianist audiences will, no doubt, sympathize, and wonder what the problem is; why shouldn’t drivers want to hear Jesus’ gospel during traffic stops? After all, Hamilton is just looking out for their mortal souls and providing them what they need. How dare he be fired for having “offended” people?

I won’t even address the (poor) ethics of proselytizing to a captive audience … which is what a driver whom Hamilton has stopped, is. Christianists generally dismiss this particular issue; they happily proselytize in all sorts of closed settings, such as in prisons, schools, etc. It never occurs to them that it’s an underhanded tactic.

These Christianists won’t understand — or worse, will simply refuse even to begin to comprehend — what I explained above, which is that “offending” stopped drivers is the least of the problems which result from what Hamilton did. All they care about is their precious Jesus and making sure everyone else worships him as they do. Because really, what this boils down to is, Christianists are both selfish (seeing things only in their own way and never through anyone else’s perspective) and infantile (always demanding they run things whereas no one else is permitted to have any say in anything, ever).

P.S. I love how proselytizers like Hamilton always assume people have never heard of their Jesus … as though someone could have lived in the US for at least 16 years (thus being eligible to drive) yet never have heard of him. No American of driving age can possibly fail to know about Jesus, period. So why do Hamilton and his ilk think they have? I’ve never understood this assumption.

Update: Former trooper Hamilton truly is the unrepentant militant Christianist I’d assumed he is, as this story by WRTV-TV in Indianapolis reveals (cached). He’s a “soldier for Jesus” who’s simply following the commands of his Almighty. The poor little thing just can’t help but shove his Jesus down the throats of drivers he stops. Also, as I’d assumed, he clearly has a cadre of supporters who are just as unrepentantly militant as he is. I expect an uproar over his firing.

Photo credit: Indiana State Police, via Indianapolis Star.

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Gutenberg Bible, Lenox Copy, New York Public Library, 2009. Pic 01Note: There’s been a little news about this; please see below.

The people of the great Bible Belt (or should I say, Bobble Bay-elt) state of Tennessee are at it again. Because their precious Christianity is under attack or something, they’ve decided they need to act to protect it. What Tennessee needs, they think, is more God. Toward that end, as NPR reports, the TN legislature has approved a law to make the Bible the state book (WebCite cached article):

In what is believed to be a first, the Bible could be adopted as a symbol of Tennessee, after the Legislature narrowly approved a bill designating “the Holy Bible as the official state book.” The measure now goes to Gov. Bill Haslam.

“Critics called the proposal both unconstitutional and sacrilegious,” Nashville Public Radio reports [cached]. “They also pointed out there are many versions of the Bible, none of which are specified in the resolution.”

The Senate version of the legislation, HB 0615 [cached], was sponsored by state Sen. Steve Southerland, R-Morristown, who noted the importance of the Bible in Tennessee’s history — both in its role as a historic record of important family milestones and as the heart of the state’s multimillion-dollar Bible-printing industry.

I’m not aware that the presence of well-known religious publishers in Tennessee required the state government to make the Bible the state book … but what the hell could this cynical, godless agnostic heathen possibly know about anything this important? Southerland dismisses the obvious state promotion of religion angle inherent in this story:

Responding to criticisms of the bill, Southerland said the Bible is not only about religion but also about ethics, economics and other matters. He drew part of that response, he said, from a study Bible.

“What we’re doing here is recognizing it for its historical and cultural contributions to the state of Tennessee,” Southerland said.

Lots of books have made “historical and cultural contributions to” Tennessee and other states. That doesn’t mean the state should actively promote any of them. If a book has made enough of a “historical and cultural contribution,” then no recognition should be required at all!

The law doesn’t state which Bible, exactly, is the state book. Theoretically this means it avoids sectarian conflicts (since Catholics, for example, might object if a Protestant Bible version were to have been named the state book). But it would still seem to exclude Jews, as well as anyone else who doesn’t revere the Christian Bible. So it does have a sectarian effect nonetheless.

Tennessee’s governor and attorney general have both expressed reservations about this law, so it’s not clear it will be signed or implemented. A similar effort died in Lousiana. But even if it dies, the TN legislature shouldn’t have wasted its time on this religiofascist lunacy.

Update: It turns out that passing this law was a waste of time. Governor Bill Haslam vetoed it (cached).

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Noah's Ark toys / ariesa66, via PixabayFor ages, Christianists committed to a literal reading of the Genesis creation legend have worked diligently to force others to believe in it the way they do. It’s never enough for them that they believe in it; they require everyone else’s agreement, too. Anything less is directly harmful to them … somehow. I have no idea how, but they’re convinced of it, and they act accordingly.

Toward that end they’ve been trying to ram their Creationism down school kids’ throats, for decades. That teaching religion in public school is unconstitutional hasn’t really been enough to stop them. Many Christianists go so far as to deny the unconstitutionality of it, even if they’d scream and holler like banshees if a public-school teacher taught — say — the Slavic creation myth rather than the Genesis Creation story. Even so, courts haven’t seen things this way, so Creationists have had to devise other tactics to get their religion into schools … such as by calling it “Creation Science” (which it’s not, because there’s no “science” in it), or “intelligent design,” which also doesn’t work.

Courts have generally seen through these charades, too. But that hasn’t stopped Christianists from keeping up the effort to force their beliefs on school children. Oh no. They just keep at it, relentlessly. As the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports, a Democratic state senator in Louisiana recently took up this cause (WebCite cached article):

State Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport, made the case for teaching creationism in schools Tuesday night (March 29).

“Scientific research and developments and advances in the last 100 years — particularly the last 15, 20, 10 years — have validated the biblical story of creation,” the freshman state senator said.

Milkovich, who is the vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said archeologists and scientists have verified the origin story of the Christian Bible. He said archeologists had found the remnants of Noah’s ark recently. A study of rocks had verified that the earth was created in a week, Milkovich said.

This is a bold-faced, brazen, out-&-out lie. Science has not, in fact, “validated the biblical story of creation.” Not at all, and not even in the slightest way. Noah’s Ark has not been found. The recent “discovery” Milkovich mentions is — as it turns out — a big fucking hoax promoted by a pro-Flood crank (cached). And that’s not the only Noah’s Ark discovery hoax that’s been perpetrated over the last few decades (cached).

Lies, lies, lies, lies, lies! All lies!

I have to add Milkovich to my “lying liars for Jesus” club. He’ll be in good company there, even if most of his fellow politicians in that assembly are Republicans rather than Democrats like himself.

I’m continually amazed at the shamelessness of militant Christianists like Milkovich. They lie, and lie some more, and lie even more, on and on and on, and they do so openly and with the approval of a large segment of the public. They literally cannot be shamed into stopping, because they have none. They’re doing “the Lord’s work,” you see, so that makes their lies OK. Or something. I guess. I mean, they must think their Jesus wants them to lie for him. No?

Photo credit: ariesa66, via Pixabay.

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Yoga woman / via PixabayFor the last few years there’s been a backlash among American Christians against the practice of yoga. Back in 2010, Al Mohler (of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) declared it un-Christian, citing its Hindu roots, and claiming that blanking one’s mind is something Christians can never do. (Yes. For some reason.) There have also been lawsuits over yoga in schools. Yoga’s origins as a Hindu philosophy are undisputed, but as its practiced in the US, it has very little to do with that religion.

Still, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, that hasn’t stopped some devout Christian parents in Georgia from objecting to it in one of their schools (WebCite cached article):

A group of parents at a Cobb County elementary are upset over the school’s use of yoga and other mindfulness practices for students because they believe it endorses a non-Christian belief system.

School leaders at Bullard Elementary held a meeting recently with parents to address the “many misconceptions” over the issue that “created a distraction in our school and community,” according to an email to parents from Bullard principal Patrice Moore.…

As a result, the school is making changes. When yoga moves are used in classrooms, students will not say the word “namaste” nor put their hands by their hearts, according to the email. The term and gesture are often used as a greeting derived from Hindu custom.

When coloring during classroom teaching breaks, students will not be allowed to color mandalas, spiritual symbols in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Granted, there’s a lot of BS out there about the word “namaste.” I’ve heard New Agers translate it as “the divine in me bows to the divine in you.” So yeah, for some folks, it has religious connotations. But with that said … all of that is excess baggage. “Namaste” comes down from Sanskrit, and is just a simple greeting, the equivalent of “hello” (its exact translation, if you must know, is “I bow to you”).

As the AJC article explains, yoga programs have popped up in schools around the country. I’m not sure how helpful it is, but unless there’s a lot more overt religiosity involved than what’s been described here, I just don’t see how it could be viewed as promoting Hinduism or undermining Christianity. It’s just a form of meditation.

Also, as the article mentions, one of the Christianist parents’ bogeymen here is their whine that — supposedly — Christian prayers aren’t allowed in public schools. They forget that prayers (from any religion) are definitely allowed … it’s just that school personnel can’t lead them. And they forget that yoga isn’t prayer (at least, not as it’s being done). Really, this is just another manifestation of their phony persecution complex.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

Photo credit: Pixabay.

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Santa Claus in a parade in Toronto 2007 dsc128This year’s edition of the annual phantasmal “war on Christmas” continues to be waged across the country. The latest battleground is in San Jose, CA. A mother’s complaint, the San Jose Mercury News reports, led to the cancellation of a kindergarten class field trip to see Santa … and other parents are furious (WebCite cached version):

A Santa storm is brewing in San Jose.

After a field trip to visit Santa Claus by kindergarten students at Sartorette Elementary School was canceled by administrators on the heels of a complaint by one Jewish mother, things are getting ugly down on Woodford Drive.

Angry parents plan to descend on the board meeting Thursday, threatening a student walkout Friday if the Cambrian School District’s board fails to reinstate the annual Santa trip. The woman who made the complaint, who identified herself only as Talia and declined to be interviewed Wednesday evening, stood by her claim that having kids write or visit Santa unfairly imposes one religion on all students. She fired off an angry letter Dec. 7 to fellow parents at the charter school, alleging she was “ambushed by a group of moms from Ms. Kay’s class” who she said yelled at her for “ruining Santa for the kids.”

As is very common in these cases, those who see nothing wrong with public-school kids being paraded annually up on Santa’s lap rely on appeals to tradition (e.g. “They’ve always done this at Sartorette!”) as well as appeals to the masses:

“It’s very upsetting that the district would act after taking one person’s opinion and not talking to the 500 other families at the school,” said Melanie Scott, mother of a first-grader who took the field trip last year.

Both of these lines of thinking are fallacious; just because something has always been done or always been thought, doesn’t make it acceptable or correct; and just because many people approve of something, likewise doesn’t make it proper.

I love how Christianists accuse the complaining mother of “ruining Santa for the kids.” That whine makes no sense. If parents want their kids to sit on Santa’s lap, there’s nothing preventing them from taking their kids to a mall or some other place and doing so! Neither this mother’s complaint, nor the field trip’s cancellation, changes that … at all. They’re as free to do so as they’ve ever been. How and why are they claiming otherwise?

The obvious question to be asked is, if these parents are so vehement about making sure their kids sit on Santa’s lap, why aren’t they willing to make that happen on their own time? Why do they require the school to get it done for them? Why divert kids’ learning time to something that could be done elsewhere? I just don’t get it. I can only assume it has something to do with a latent desire for communal reinforcement; that is, they’re not so much concerned with whether or not their own kid(s) get to sit on Santa’s lap this year, but rather, whether or not their kid(s)’ entire class must do so.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Rick Santorum lowering his head to pray at an Arizona Republican Party fundraiser in Phoenix, Arizona / Gage Skidmore, via FlickrAdd former Pennsylvania Senator — and current back-of-the-pack GOP presidential candidate — Rick Santorum to the list of militant Christianists who claim Islam isn’t really a religion and therefore isn’t protected by the Bill of Rights — which, ironically, was ratified 224 years ago this very day (WebCite cached article). Mediate reports on the Rickster’s idiotic Christofascist blather (cached):

Santorum even argued that Islamic principles are not entitled to complete religious protections due to the religion’s embrace of beliefs that are fundamentally incompatible with the Constitution.

“Islam is different. I mean that sincerely, Islam is not just a religion,” Santorum said. “It is a political governing structure. The fact of the matter is, Islam is a religion, but it is also Sharia law, a civil government, a form of government. So the idea that that is protected under the First Amendment is wrong.

Note Rickie’s yammering and whining about shari’a law. He presumes it’s part and parcel of Islam and that anyone who follows that religion is obliged to follow shari’a law as well. He forgets two important things: First, there is no single entity known as shari’a law … different sects and cultures view it differently; and not all Muslims, even devout ones, want to live by any form of shari’a law at all (many came to places like the US and Europe specifically in order to get away from it).

Like many Christofascists Rickie-boy employs his own subjective definition of “Islam” in order to argue that Islam is something other than a religion and therefore isn’t entitled to the religious freedom provisions of US law. It’s a ridiculous premise, of course, but these folk are so sanctimoniously outraged that Islam exists — and that there are actually Muslims still living in the world! — that they just can’t control themselves long enough to understand how fucking childish they are. They view Islam as Christianity’s main rival, on a global scale, and simply can’t get over that some people prefer it to their faith.

About the only thing I agree with the Rickster about is that, as far as I know, barring Muslims from entering the country isn’t specifically unconstitutional. Yes, it would be stupid. It would paint people with far too broad a brush. It would be difficult to enforce; visa applications, as far I’m aware, have no line item for “religion,” but even if they did, people could certainly lie. It would wall off the US from the entire Muslim world, which is enormous. It would, quite simply, be a petulant and childish overreaction to Islamist terror … which could be better handled in other ways. But even with all that said, people who aren’t American citizens and who are trying to enter the country, don’t — as far as I know — have any Constitutional right of entry. (I invite any Constitutional scholars who read this, and think otherwise, to instruct me further on the matter.)

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.

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Help! Help! I'm being repressed! (Dennis the constitutional peasant, Monty Python & the Holy Grail)Leave it to Texas Senator, GOP presidential candidate, and avowed Christofascist Ted Cruz to take advantage of Friday’s Islamist terror attacks in Paris as a foundation for his own attack on separation of church and state here in the US. He compared those attacks, as CNN reports, with American Christians having to deal with people whom they disapprove of:

Ted Cruz used the backdrop of the terror attacks in Paris as the latest evidence that Christians are under siege, making a pitch on Saturday to evangelicals here that tied together his take-no-prisoners foreign policy with his faith-driven domestic agenda.…

But Friday’s attacks in France recalibrated Cruz’s message and its overall tone: He began the event with a lengthy moment of silence, and Cruz spent nearly as much time discussing the perils of “radical Islamic terrorism” as he did government persecution of Christian merchants and educators.

“Right now as we speak, it is persecuting Christians. It is persecuting Jews. It’s even persecuting fellow Muslims,” Cruz said of Islamic extremists, as part of a prayer at Bob Jones University, a prominent Christian school. “We ask for unity for the people of America, and we ask finally, that you bless this gathering in celebration of the liberty to worship you with all of our hearts, minds and souls.”

This is just the latest example of a longstanding trend of Religious Rightists and preachers using terrible events — natural disasters, massacres, etc. — to promote their unrelenting and dour metaphysics. Usually their appeal is based on the presumption that their God allowed the disaster to happen because he’s angry about something. Other times — such as this one — the appeal is based on the idea that something happened because profane agents in “the World” are out to get all the “True Believers” and destroy them because of their holiness. Or something.

The comparison in this case is not apt, no matter how fervently Teddie or his sheep believe otherwise. Islamist terror has nothing at all to do with wedding-chapel owners who break the law by discriminating against gays, nor has it anything to do with public-school coaches who insist on leading public prayers even though it’s illegal and they’ve been ordered not to. Christianists like Teddie and his ilk love to bellyache and whine that they’re being “persecuted,” but in fact, they’re not. Actually, Christians are in the majority in the US and are not going anywhere. All that’s happened to Christianists is that they’ve lost their once-expansive privilege of controlling others’ lives, imposing their beliefs on everyone, and relegating people they hate to second-class status. That’s just not “persecution,” and Teddie or anyone else endlessly intoning that it is, cannot and will never magically make it so.

The reason these people think this way is because they’re delusionally paranoid, due to their religion’s own inherent psychopathology. They’re just not capable of comprehending that not being in control of everything and everyone — and being unable to harass and oppress people they dislike — isn’t “persecution.” Quite the opposite, it’s “freedom,” the very “freedom” they claim to want to promote. In truth, what they’re after is freedom only for themselves; they expect everyone else to knuckle under and just obey their every whim.

Photo credit: PsiCop graphic, based on Monty Python & the Holy Grail.

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