Archive for the “Separation of church and state” Category

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

Bible lecternIn a move sure to make dominionists around the country happy, Kentucky’s Senate just approved a bill which would permit Bible classes in the commonwealth’s public schools. WLKY-TV in Louisville reports on this development (WebCite cached article):

Bible classes could be taught in Kentucky public schools under a bill that’s made it halfway through the legislature.

State Senator Joe Bowen wants Kentucky public school students to have an opportunity to take classes about the bible.

“No doubt about it, the most important book ever written and obviously, it’s had so much influence on our society and all of western civilization,” Bowen said.

The bill in question is SB56; its supporters insist this is not an effort to proselytize to school kids; it’s supposed to be strictly academic-literary:

“What this bill provides for is a social studies course. It’s education, it’s not indoctrination,” Bowen said.

Riiiiiight. As though that’s how it will be. I’m sure some of these “Bible-as-literature” teachers will keep it strictly literary … but not all will. Devout Christians never let the rules get in the way of foisting their beliefs on others … not even the principle of separation of church and state.

Also, even though this “Bible-as-literature” course is only an elective, there’s no doubt that children will be pressured by their communities to take it, at least in areas that are intensively evangelical Christian (and that description applies to a great deal of Kentucky).

SB56 still has to get through the Kentucky House, though, and it’s not likely this will happen. So the Christofascists may well be kept at bay for another year, anyway.

We hope.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: FreeFoto.

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The peasants are - well, you know! (via TV Tropes)Christofascists in Giles county, Virginia have decided that they need not obey the Constitution, and are putting up copies of the Ten Commandments in its public schools. A mob of them showed up at a school board meeting and forced them to reverse a superintendent’s earlier decision not to do so. The Roanoke (VA) Times reports about this “peasants with pitchforks” moment (WebCite cached article):

The Ten Commandments will hang in public schools, the Giles County School Board unanimously decided Thursday afternoon despite the school district attorney’s recommendation and precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court. …

More than 200 county residents packed the school board meeting room and adjacent hallway Thursday afternoon, and a half-dozen parents and pastors told the board to honor God and continue to teach children that the United States is “one nation, under God” with the commandments.

“You have a moral obligation to what is right,” Elwood Lambert of Narrows said to the board. “Do not let our future children be deprived of this right — a God-given right.”

This meeting was turned into a tent-revival-style event:

The crowd clapped and cheered, and many answered “Amen.”

This Christofascist went on to make a ridiculous accusation:

[Giles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Eric] Gentry told the school board to fight “hate groups,” such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which often takes on First Amendment legal battles, and keep the posters in schools.

This is because not wanting Christians to force their religion on everyone, particularly school children, is an expression of deep, abiding “hatred” of Christians. Why, it’s only one step short of going out and killing them!

Yes, people really do think that way. It’s childish, of course, but that doesn’t stop them from keeping this sanctimonious belief.

Ironically, a whole raft of Christian outfits were recently labeled as “hate groups” … and more objectively so.

For calling the ACLU and similar organizations “hate groups,” I’m putting Gentry in my “lying liars for Jesus” club. Way to go, dude!

If anyone thought that militant Christianism is on the wane in the US … well … here’s your evidence to the contrary.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist blog.

Photo credit: TV Tropes.

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Luca della Robbia, Nativity with Gloria in Excelsis, c.1470Here’s an example of one of the standard responses, when officials are caught using public property to proselyize. WLWT-TV in Cincinnati reports on yet another nativity controversy in Brookville, IN (WebCite cached article):

Residents of Brookville rallied at the Franklin County Courthouse on Saturday to save a nativity scene that has come under fire. …

[The Freedom From Religion Foundation] said that the display violates the First Amendment and said it had received a complaint about it.

The group said that displaying the Nativity alone would indicate that the local government was endorsing one religion above others.

Of course, there was no need to “rally” to “save” the nativity, since the FFRF had not actually ordered that it be removed entirely. Rather, they explained how it might be retained, but legally:

The [FFRF] letter indicated that if the reindeer already on the courthouse grounds were not separated from the display as they are now, or there were other seasonal decorations, such as a Santa Claus, the display would be more secular and would likely comply with legal precedent.

The standard response I mentioned, which was repeated in this story, is:

Brookville Town Council President Michael Biltz said the display, owned by the city, has been at the courthouse for at least 50 years without complaint.

There you have it. The old “we’ve been doing it that way for years, why should we change now?” retort. This is an appeal to tradition, and as such is both childish and fallacious. That something has been done one way, for decades, centuries or millennia even, does not mean it cannot or should not be changed. For example, in the occidental world, we used to use horses and oxen for transportation; should we have refused to use automobiles and trucks to replace them? At one time, too, people used to think the earth was at the center of the universe, with the sun and all else revolving around it; should Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler all have refused to contribute to a heliocentric model, because the geocentric one was traditional and had always “worked” before?

The cold fact is that “tradition” does not equate with veracity, and it doesn’t make anything “right.” That no one had complained in 50 years about the Franklin County courthouse’s nativity scene, does not mean it’s legal to have been there in that form, all those years. All it means is that Franklin County managed to get away with something that it shouldn’t have — because of the voluntary complicity of local Christians.

Photo credit: *clairity*.

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Laura's Sculpy NativityHaving a menorah, but no nativity, on city property in Boca Raton, Florida? That’s absolutely intolerable, according to the militant religionists at the Catholic League. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports on their childish caterwauling (WebCite cached article):

The New York-based Catholic League is accusing Boca Raton of discrimination for buying menorahs with taxpayer dollars and displaying them in public buildings without displaying Christian nativity scenes alongside them.

Contrary to what the Catholic League claims, though, Christians are not being forbidden to decorate for Christmas:

In an e-mailed statement, Boca Raton Assistant City Manager Michael Woika responded, “The City of Boca Raton celebrates the holiday season by having displays in the lobbies of public buildings in a manner consistent with Supreme Court and other judicial rulings. These displays are City-owned decorations and are comprised of a Christmas tree, a menorah, and a “Seasons Greetings” sign, and may include garlands, winter decorations (such as snowflakes and snowmen), and/or lights.”

The irony of the Catholic League’s bellyaching is revealed in this quotation:

“What we have now is Jews get preferential treatment and Christians are told, ‘No, you have to be satisfied with your Christmas tree’,” [League President Bill] Donahue [sic] said.

Well, boo fucking hoo, Bill. Jews are getting “preferential” treatment, you say? Gee, I can recall a time when your own Church was vehemently anti-Jewish, Bill. Time was, under Catholic rule, Christians got decidedly “preferential” treatment over Jews. Remember the expulsion of Jews from Catholic Spain, Bill? Remember the Inquisitions? Sure, that was a long time ago, but in more recent times, Catholics in Nazi-occupied Poland openly aided their mortal enemies in the Third Reich in that regime’s diabolical effort to exterminate as many Jews as possible.

Seems to me that — perhaps — a little comeuppance is in order here, Bill. Besides, Bill, no Catholics are being prevented from worshipping their God as they wish, in their homes and churches under this policy. Besides, I dare you, Bill, to produce any sort of scriptural or conciliar order requiring that they worship only nativities placed on municipal properties in their locales.

I’m serious. Where, exactly, can I find documented the Christian doctrine that nativities are required, only on government property? When are Christofascists going to produce this document?

Oh, and it’s ironic that Donohue is claiming that Christmas trees aren’t religious enough for Boca Raton to permit to be set up, when their religiofascist colleagues at the AFA had just gotten through weeping and wailing that it’s the natural-born right of every Christian to see a Christmas tree in the lobby of every bank in the country? What part of “This is absolutely fucking ridiculous!” do these people not understand?

Isn’t it time for militant Christians to grow up, fercryinoutloud, and quit beefing over the fact that they no longer run civilization and can no longer openly and freely put the screws to everyone else in the universe?

Photo credit: ricklibrarian.

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Noah's Ark finds dry landIn a time when the Religious Right is screaming to high heaven over government spending of any sort, there’s one project not one of them is speaking up about. A Noah’s Ark theme park is going to be built in Kentucky, with the assistance of commonwealth tax abatements. The New York Times reports on the Kentucky government’s latest proselytization effort (WebCite cached article):

Facing a rising tide of joblessness, the governor of Kentucky has found one solution: build an ark.

The state has promised generous tax incentives to a group of entrepreneurs who plan to construct a full-size replica of Noah’s ark, load it with animals and actors, and make it the centerpiece of a Bible-based tourist attraction called Ark Encounter.

The project’s main proponent doesn’t give a shit about the “separation of church and state” issues inherent in this, even though they’re obvious to everyone else:

Since Gov. Steven L. Beshear announced the plan on Wednesday, some constitutional experts have raised alarms over whether government backing for an enterprise that promotes religion violates the First Amendment’s requirement of separation of church and state. But Mr. Beshear, a Democrat, said the arrangement posed no constitutional problem, and brushed off questions about his stand on creationism.

“The people of Kentucky didn’t elect me governor to debate religion,” he said at a news conference. “They elected me governor to create jobs.”

Actually, Governor, they didn’t elect you governor in order to create jobs at any cost. They elected you to perform the job of governor, and that job requires you to live within the boundaries of the Constitution.

You remember the Constitution, don’t you? You Rightists are always yammering and howling about it. Well — try obeying it for once. OK?

Beshear’s lie that this is not an example of Kentucky promoting religion, places him in my “lying liars for Jesus” club. Congratulations on finding yourself in such glorious, pious company, Governor!

(Yes, I’m aware Beshear is a Democrat, and he might once have been liberal to some degree, but he typically does things according to the Religious Right’s whims, so as far as I’m concerned, he’s a definite Rightist.)

The group behind this project, by the way, is Answers in Genesis. They’re the people who previously brought you the laughable Creation Museum, and who also have claimed that non-believing teens are all murderous sociopaths, eager for a chance to grab some firearms and blow away everyone else. Yeah, they’re a wonderful bunch, too.

Photo credit: JonnyBaird.

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Ten CommandmentsBy now I must sound like a broken record, reporting on the myriad ways that Texas Christians are trying to ram their fierce religiosity down the throats of that state’s school children. It’s an old story that I’ve blogged about many many times already; I can only assume I will have to keep blogging about it for the next several years at least.

The latest example of this phenomenon comes in the form of a law being proposed by a Texas legislator, which — he no doubt hopes — will get the Ten Commandments into public schools around the state, as reported by the Fort Worth Star Telegram (WebCite cached article):

State Rep. Dan Flynn hopes to ensure that any Texas teacher who wants to can display the Ten Commandments in a classroom.

Flynn, R-Van, in East Texas, recently filed a bill that says school board trustees may not stop copies of the commandments from being posted in “prominent” locations in classrooms.

Calling it a “patriotic exercise,” Flynn said the bill is geared to teach youths about history and principles.

Flynn blathers on idiotically in support of his proposal:

“This is necessary to protect teachers who have the desire to establish that the country’s historical background is based on Judeo-Christian traditions,” he said. …

“For too long, we’ve forsaken what our Judeo-Christian heritage has been. Our rights do come from God, not from government.”

Flynn’s bullshit about the US being “founded on Christianity” — or a euphemism such as “Judeo-Christian traditions” — is, of course, a lie. The US was not “founded on Christianity.” It was established as a secular state, from the very beginning. Its body of laws is not based on the Ten Commandments, it’s based on English common law, which in turn was based on the customs of the pre-Christian Germanic peoples. The Decalogue, in any event, is not a collection of civil laws, but rather, is a ritual purity code.

Flynn is just another Christian theocrat trying to turn his religion into the law of the land and force it on everyone, merely because he believes himself entitled to force it on everyone. All I can say to him is what I say to every other theocrat: You want me to believe what you believe, and live as you want me to live … then you’re just going to have to make me. Go ahead. I dare you to give it your best shot. Come on. Lock and load. What are you waiting for?

Like little children, Flynn and the other the religiofascists in Texas just keep throwing tantrums repeatedly until they’ve worn down the opposition. They scream and cry and wail and weep and screech and moan and kvetch and rail and holler and stamp and fume and yell, over and over again … and when they’ve finished, they just start up all over again. Well, I don’t plan to cave into their Christofascism … and neither should you. This is a free country — it should stay free, and for everyone, not just militant Christianists.

Hat tip: Mark at the Skeptics & Heretics Forum at Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: No Matter Project.

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Ken Buck, courtesy of Ken Buck for Senate Web site (www.buckforcolorado.com)It turns out that more than one GOP Senate candidate opposes separation of church and state and believes it to be unconstitutional — even though a long sequence of Supreme Court decisions has decided that it is. The latest Christofascist to make this declaration is Ken Buck, who’s running for US Senate from Colorado, as the Washington Post reports (WebCite cached article):

Colorado Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck has questioned the separation of government and religion, drawing criticism from Democrats who last week chided another tea party candidate for the same view.

Buck’s opponents have been circulating a clip of him from a 2009 GOP forum in which he won applause from a conservative crowd at Colorado Christian University when he said the Constitution doesn’t require church and state to be separate.

“I disagree strongly with the concept of separation of church and state. It was not written into the Constitution,” Buck said on the video. “While we have a Constitution that is very strong in the sense that we are not gonna have a religion that’s sanctioned by the government, it doesn’t mean that we need to have a separation between government and religion.”

As with Christine O’Donnell, who spewed similar views during a debate, Buck’s campaign is defending his words:

Buck hasn’t said anything public recently about the issue. His spokesman, Owen Loftus, said Wednesday that Buck’s belief stands.

OK, so now we know Ken Buck is a Christofascist, if not a dominionist or Christian reconstructionist.

All I can say to Mr Buck is this: Hey Ken, if you want this American to become a Christian, you’re just going to have to make me one. Go ahead. Do your worst. I dare you to give it your best shot. I’m ready for whatever you decide to do in order to force me to become the Christian you think I must be.

In case anyone is not clear on the matter, as I explained previously, separation of church and state IS most certainly Constitutional … not merely because the Supreme Court has decided it is, but because that’s what the writer of the First Amendment, James Madison, himself said it meant!

Photo Credit: Buck for Colorado Web site.

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