Archive for the “Separation of church and state” Category

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

Bible / Ian Britton, via FreeFoto (ref no. 05-02-11)In a move that’s sure to warm the cockles of the Religious Right within the Commonwealth, WITF in Harrisburg reports that Pennsylvania’s House unamimously voted to declare 2012 “the Year of the Bible” (WebCite cached article):

With a unanimous vote last week, House members declared 2012 the “Year of the Bible.”

The resolution recognizes the book that has shaped the Commonwealth and the “national need to study and apply the teachings of the holy scriptures.”

The article gratuitously adds a little of the “Christian martyr complex”:

Sponsoring Republican Rep. Rick Saccone of Allegheny County said he’s been getting a bit of critical feedback on the measure.

Oh, the poor thing! How utterly horrible to be criticized for this! Why, it’s intolerable!

Ironically, while he’s defending the importance of the Commonwealth “recognizing” the Bible’s importance, Saccone dismisses his own measure as meaningless:

Saccone said it’s like many other largely symbolic pieces of legislation recognizing Girl Scout Week, honoring Jewish chaplains, or paying tribute to military veterans.

Believe me, the Religious Right will not view this declaration as “merely symbolic.” They will, instead, fallaciously use it as “evidence” of their “Christian nation” scenario … insisting that the entire country must revere the Bible exactly as they do, and must, by extension, be Christian just like them. Sorry to break it to them, but this is not a “Christian nation,” and little maneuvers like this one can never make it so.

As for the “national need to study and apply the teachings of the holy scriptures,” I question this in the strongest terms. The Bible contains a lot of “teachings” which no moral or ethical person should ever even contemplate doing, much less “apply” in their lives. Among them are the following:

  • All flesh that moved on the earth perished, birds and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth, and all mankind; of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, died. Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark. (Gen 7:21-23)
  • Now it came about at midnight that the LORD struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of cattle. (Ex 12:29)
  • He who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. (Ex 21:17)
  • We utterly destroyed them, as we did to Sihon king of Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women and children of every city. (Dt 3:6)
  • Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (Dt 19:21)
  • If there is a girl who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them to death; the girl, because she did not cry out in the city, and the man, because he has violated his neighbor’s wife. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you. (Dt 22:23-24)
  • They utterly destroyed everything in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword. (Jo 6:21)
  • Thus says the LORD of hosts, “I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” (1 Sm 15:2-3)
  • How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock. (Ps 137:9)
  • And this is how I saw in the vision the horses and those who sat on them: the riders had breastplates the color of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone; and the heads of the horses are like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brimstone. A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths. (Rev 9:17-18)
  • And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. (Rev 20:9)

The above is but a minuscule sampling of the horrific teachings contained within the Bible; there are many more I could have picked from.

It’s true the Bible contains some good teachings, such as what one finds in the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain, which includes sayings such as “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God,” “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God,” and “whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” But really, how many Bible-venerating Christians obey those particular teachings? None that I know of.

As it turns out, all the signatories to this declaration may well have expressly violated one of the Bible’s teachings:

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)

I can’t think of any more noticeable and public a way of expressing one’s Christian faith than by voting for this measure; hence, I can’t see how this couldn’t possibly be disobeying Jesus himself!

Photo credit: Ian Britton, via FreeFoto.

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StateCapitolIndianaI guess I can add Indiana to the list of states that are falling under the sway of Christofascism. The AP reports via the Ball State Daily News that Indiana’s senate is set to take up a bill permitting Creationism to be taught in that state’s public schools (WebCite cached article):

Indiana’s public schools would be allowed to teach creationism in science classes under a bill endorsed Wednesday by a state Senate committee.

The Senate Education Committee voted 8-2 in favor of the bill despite experts and some senators saying teaching creationism likely would be ruled unconstitutional if challenged in court.

Committee Chairman Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, said he sponsored the bill because he believes creationism should be taught among the theories on the development of life and that the proposal wouldn’t force any changes in schools teaching evolution.

Sen. Kruse claims there is more than one “theory on the development of life.” What he does not understand — or perhaps he does, and is simply lying — is that science has only one such theory: Evolution. All of the other “theories” that have been posited, including Creationism, are not scientific and thus do not belong in a science classroom. Kruse is appealing to the “teach the controversy” notion, which is invalid, because in science, there is no controversy about evolution; no more of a “controversy” about it, than there is about whether the sky is blue, water is wet, or 2+2=4. To claim there is one, and then use that supposed “controversy” as an excuse to present non-scientific alternatives, is disingenuous. Really, evolution is both a theory and a fact, and it is currently the only scientific explanation for the development of life. Militant Christians like the senator may not like that, but it’s true, and no amount of stamping their feet, thumping Bibles, or screeching and wailing about the evils of “Darwinism” (whatever that is) can ever change it.

That the bill is written so it “permits” school districts to “opt in” to teaching Creationism, is already being used an evasion of responsibility by its supporters:

“This is a local option and the local school board decides,” Kruse said.

There, you see? Kruse is not, himself, explicitly “making” anyone teach Creationism. If it’s taught anywhere, it will solely be on the heads of local school boards … he’s staying out of it. I’m sure he sees this as politically convenient, but this is a transparant dodge; there will no doubt be plenty of school boards in a red state like Indiana where the local communities are Christianist enough that they’ll apply pressure to teach evolution. And Kruse is counting on that, I’m sure.

What these Christofascists don’t care about that Creationism has already been forbidden to be taught in public schools by the U.S. Supreme Court, for example in Epperson v. Arkansas (1968), among other cases. It’s possible they’re hoping to revisit one or more of these decisions and have the current religionist-majority Supreme Court overturn them, but my guess is that’s not going to happen — even if they think it will. (This is another example of the Christianists’ delusional reasoning.)

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

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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One Nation, Under God: America is a Christian Nation, You Aren't a Real American if you Don't Believe in God / Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: University of Georgia ( love to look for easy targets to indoctrinate and/or convert. One group of people they’ve traditionally gone after, is your basic captive audience: School children. Toward that end, a bipartisan cadre of religionist lawmakers in Florida have cooked up yet another bill that — if it became law — would put prayer into public schools in Florida, and end up forcing public school kids to pray, whether or not they or their parents wish it. The Miami Herald reports on this militant Christianist effort (WebCite cached article):

A bill that would allow voluntary, student-led prayer in secondary schools sailed through the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday – but not before meeting resistance from Anti-Defamation League officials, who called the bill “unnecessary, divisive and unconstitutional.”

Said sponsor Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando: “All I’m trying to do is allow those School Boards and those students who want to partake in this type of activity [the opportunity] to do that.”

Siplin and the bill’s other sponsors have fallen for the myth that it’s currently impossible for anyone to pray in public schools. At the moment, anyone — students, faculty, employees, visitors, etc. — in any public school in the country can, in fact, pray any time s/he wants to. It is not illegal to do so, and there’s no need for any law to be passed to enable it. I expect a lot of praying goes on in schools all over the country … especially around exam time.

What’s not permitted is when school staff lead students in prayer. This was established by the US Supreme Court in a number of decisions, most especially Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Abington School Dist. v. Schempp (1963), among others. This means that FL Senate Bill 98 and House Bill 317 would be unconstitutional, even if they were to become law. The Herald even points this out by citing a related precedent:

Passing the legislation may not be that easy. In 2009, a federal court struck down school prayer in Santa Rosa County in northwest Florida.

The law seems to have been written with a wink and a nod in the direction of trying to skirt Constitutional limitations:

Student volunteers would have to lead the prayers or benedictions, and school personnel would not be permitted to partake.

This is transparent, however; if the principal were to stick a child in front of an assembly or a microphone, s/he would effectively be directing the prayer. Using the child as an agent would, moreover, be cowardly in the extreme.

Also, the maneuver of merely “enabling” school boards to lead students in prayer, rather than directing them to do so, is likewise transparent. If you think for a moment that a lot of Florida’s schools won’t leap at the chance to ram religion down the throats of kids, you’re sorely mistaken; I already blogged about the godly folk in Cross City FL who’ve stated they were willing to defy court orders to remove a Decalogue idol from their courthouse steps.

The article ended with this precious little tidbit:

“God bless y’all,” [Siplin] told senators after the vote. “I’m praying for you.”

I hope Siplin realizes that, in saying this, he violated Jesus’ explicit and unmistakable command never to engage in public piety (see Matthew 6:1-6 among other gospel passages). These militant Christianists really need to stop disobeying their own Jesus.

But of course, we all know damned well they won’t!

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Austin Cline/About Atheism.

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Screen shot of Zach the Dog (@Zachthedogg) tweet: 'Fuck Jessica alquist I'll drop anchor on her face'I’ve been known to refer to Christianity facetiously as “the Religion of Love,” because while its adherents claim to be loving, peaceful and gentle, when push comes to shove — and especially where they think their God is concerned — they’re anything but loving, peaceful or gentle. Offended Christians easily forget the “love” the founder of their religion taught them and rationalize hatred, intolerance, and even violence in his name.

The latest example of this all-too-common phenomenon comes in the wake of a court decision ordering the removal of a giant prayer banner in a public high school in Rhode Island (WebCite cached article). You see, in the wake of that decision, quite a number of supposedly-loving Christians have unleashed a great deal of fury at the atheist student who brought the case, Jessica Ahlquist. A pair of bloggers has cataloged a number of Facebook and Twitter comments made by Christians, and they are … well, I’ll let you decide (cached):

It is apparent that Christians only believe in tolerance so long as their religion is allowed to violate the constitution.

Well, I’ve grown tired of just being tolerated and I will not be tolerating the stomach-churning hatred that’s continuously espoused by those doing the “tolerating.”

These are those comments… some of them anyway.. I hope you’re reading them on an empty stomach.

A small sample of the abundant Christian “love” being showered down on Ms Ahlquist appears below. Read these, and be impressed with all of that “love.”Screen shot of Ryan A Simoneau ™ (@Ry_Simoneau) tweet: 'I want to punch the girl in the face that made west take down the school prayer #Honestly'Screen shot of Cracked Lens (@zombiecamera) tweet: '@jessicaahlquist your home address got posted online i can't wait to hear about you getting curb stomped you fucking worthless cunt'Screen shot of Alexandra Vachon (@Alexandra_x7) tweet: '@G_Cimarelli if I wasn't 18 and wouldn't go to jail i'd beat the shit out her idk how she got away with not getting beat up yetSurely this is precisely the behavior Jesus had in mind, when he said all of the following:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. (Mt 5:38-40)

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Mt 5:43-45)

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” (Mt 26:52)

Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. (Lk 6:29)

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. (Lk 6:35)

I suggest all these enraged Christians pick up their damn Bibles and read them. For the first time in their lives, if needed. Sheesh.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit (for all images in this post): JesusFetusFajitaFishsticks.

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Help! Help! I'm being repressed! (Dennis the constitutional peasant, Monty Python & the Holy Grail)Militant Christianist, Texas governor and GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry has released a commercial for his failing campaign. In an effort to get the media talking about him again after he flamed out in recent debates, he’s decided to wade into Christian-persecution territory, and as CNN reports, is making the bullshit claim that current President Barack Obama is at war with religion (WebCite cached article):

Rick Perry says that if he’s elected president, he’ll end what he calls President Barack Obama’s “war on religion.”

Perry makes the comments in a new TV commercial that’s sure to create controversy. …

In an interview Wednesday with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Perry said he stood by the ad.

“The administration is clearly sending messages to people of faith, and organizations of faith, that we’re not going to support you with federal dollars,” Perry said. “I’m very comfortable with that ad, for one thing. My faith is a part of me, and the values I learned in my Christian upbringing will affect my governing.”

You see, Christofascists like Perry have a strange definition of “persecution.” The president failing to obey the strictures of their metaphysics — you see — is an “attack” on them, and a “war” on their religion. To fail to obey them, is the virtual equivalent of a physical attack on their persons, and is also equivalent to an effort to abolish their faith.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth … but in his raging paranoia, Rickie-boy doesn’t understand that.

Here, Rickie. Let me help you out. A true “war on religion” would include any of the following:

  • Churches being shuttered
  • Bibles removed from homes
  • Religious art being confiscated
  • Clergy being jailed
  • Crucifixes and crosses being seized
  • Arresting people for praying
  • And so on; you get the idea.

President Obama is doing none of these things — not one of them! — and will never do so. For you to talk as though he is, Rickie-boy, is the worst sort of lie. It’s flatly untrue and it’s ridiculous for you to say it.

Neverthless, I expect the Rickster will get a lot of traction out of this. The Religious Right in the US more or less believes exactly as he does … i.e. that refusing to obey their beliefs is the same as trying to utterly destroy them. Rickie-boy’s lies about Obama place him force me to list Perry as a member of my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

Photo credit: Based on Monty Python & the Holy Grail.

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White House Christmas Tree in the Blue  Room.Cue the sanctimonious rage, the accusations that Christmas is being outlawed in in one US state, the wild-eyed delusional claims of Christian persecution. And what, you may ask, sparked the furor that has lit up Fox News and Religious Right pundits around the country?

Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee has named his statehouse’s decorated tree a “holiday tree,” and not a “Christmas tree.”

Fortunately, as the Boston Herald reports, Chafee has no intention of caving in to the Religious Right caterwauling and wailing over his choice of labels (WebCite cached article):

A beaming Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee calmly weathered a cross-country Christmas controversy yesterday, standing by his PC pronouncement that the 17-foot spruce in the State House rotunda is a “holiday tree” as outraged residents cried foul.

Taking the Christmas out of the tree is in the Rhode Island spirit, Chafee said, invoking the 1663 Colonial charter and the legacy of state father Roger Williams.

“I’m just continuing what other governors have done,” Chafee told the Herald after dedicating a separate tree to soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I just want to make sure I’m doing everything possible in this building to honor Roger Williams.”

For any of my readers who don’t understand the importance of Rhode Island’s history and how it specifically relates to the idea of separating church and state, R.I.’s founder, Roger Williams, was a Baptist minister who’d endured Puritan persecution in the Massachusetts colony, found refuge among the Narragansett to the south, and established his own colony on the premise of religious liberty. He penned The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution, a treatise promoting religious tolerance and freedom of conscience, including Christian-scriptural support. Rhode Island, perhaps more than any other state, has a heritage of religious tolerance. So Chafee is not overstating his reasons for insisting on “holiday tree” instead of “Christmas tree.”

Besides, since Christmas is a “holiday,” it is never semantically wrong to call a “Christmas tree” a “holiday tree.” If it weren’t for the modern Christian custom of putting up Christmas trees, there would be no “holiday tree” in the Rhode Island statehouse, so it hardly matters what the governor calls it; as New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick would say, “It is what it is.” The militant Christianist outrage over this is just ridiculous. People really need to fucking grow up.

P.S. Having mentioned Roger Williams, I’d like to add something important. Thomas Jefferson is frequently named as the man who coined the phrase “separation of church and state” (in his famous 1802 letter to the Danbury CT Baptists). But in fact, he didn’t. Roger Williams did. In Bloudy Tenent, he wrote:

When they [the Church] have opened a gap in the hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world, God hath ever broke down the wall itself, removed the Candlestick, etc., and made His Garden a wilderness as it is this day.

Given how well-read Jefferson was, it’s not safe to assume he couldn’t have been inspired by Williams.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: alvesfamily.

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Get Out of Jail FreeDeep in the heart of the Bobble Bay-elt (also known as “the Bible Belt”), in the town of Bay Minette, Alabama, the local sheriff has come up with a clever way to increase church attendance and incentivize crime by churchgoers. The Mobile Press-Register reports that people convicted of non-violent crimes can go to church instead of to jail (WebCite cached article):

A new alternative sentencing program offering first-time, nonviolent offenders a choice of a year of church attendance or jail time and fines is drawing fire from the American Civil Liberties Union as well as national attention, officials said Friday. …

But the local police chief who is heading up the program starting Tuesday called “Restore Our Community” says no one is being forced to participate.

Forced? No. But what it means is that any regular churchgoers effectively won’t be punished at all. It’s also inherently selective, since those who don’t belong to a church cannot choose to participate in this program. This policy’s proponent explains his motivation:

“Operation ROC resulted from meetings with church leaders,” Bay Minette Police Chief Mike Rowland said.

Of course the local preachermen like this idea, it will get more people through their doors and more collections in their plates! They stand to profit from this. The religiofascist continues idiotically:

“It was agreed by all the pastors that at the core of the crime problem was the erosion of family values and morals. We have children raising children and parents not instilling values in young people.”

Ah. I see. So there was no crime, way back when everyone was a devout, dutiful, church-going Christian. Is that it? Christians don’t commit crimes. Is that it?

Do you truly expect that we’re stupid enough to believe this, Chief Rowland? Especially since it’s demonstrably untrue that being Christian means one never commits crimes? Lots of Christians — including some who are famous because they’re Christian — are indeed criminals. I need only mention names such as Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and Ted Haggard … just to name a few … in order to show this is the case.

Religiofascists like Chief Rowland love to assert that churchgoing Christians don’t commit crimes, but they absolutely do. Crimes like embezzlement, fraud, buying the services of prostitutes, taking illegal drugs, and much more. The truth is that America’s prisons contain many, many Christians. It’s absurd and laughable that anyone could say otherwise … yet Chief Rowland does. And he means it.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: swanksalot.

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