Archive for the “Separation of church and state” Category

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

In this file photo taken on Dec. 17, 2011, pedestrians walk past a Christmas display in Santa Monica, California. Frederic J. Brown / AFP - Getty Images file.We have yet another entry in the annual Christian whining session that is the putative “war on Christmas.” This one is taking place in Santa Monica, CA, and involves a court case being brought by churches there to get their sacred nativity onto city property. The AP via NBC News reports on their effort to use the courts to commandeer public property so they can proselytize (WebCite cached article):

Damon Vix didn’t have to go to court to push Christmas out of the city of Santa Monica. He just joined the festivities.

The atheist’s anti-God message alongside a life-sized nativity display in a park overlooking the beach ignited a debate that burned brighter than any Christmas candle.

Santa Monica officials snuffed the city’s holiday tradition this year rather than referee the religious rumble, prompting churches that have set up a 14-scene Christian diorama for decades to sue over freedom of speech violations. Their attorney will ask a federal judge Monday to resurrect the depiction of Jesus’ birth, while the city aims to eject the case.

The article relates the backstory here over Vix’s sign and the reason the city decided not to allow any holiday messages on city property. The churches claim their freedom of speech and worship has been wiped out in Santa Monica:

The Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee argues in its lawsuit that atheists have the right to protest, but that freedom doesn’t trump the Christians’ right to free speech.

But there’s no reason they need public land for this:

The city doesn’t prohibit churches from caroling in the park, handing out literature or even staging a play about the birth of Jesus and churches can always set up a nativity on private land, Deputy City Attorney Jeanette Schachtner said in an email.

The churches’ problem, of course, is that they truly are free to put up all the nativities they want … on private land. In all the caterwauling over city-hall nativities that takes place every year around the country, not one Christian has ever been able to identify the exact reason why nativities must be on government land and cannot be on private land. The best they can say is something along the lines of, “We’ve always done it, so we should always be able to do it forevermore.” That, however, is fallacious reasoning; specifically it’s an appeal to tradition. That something has always been done — or that it has always been believed — cannot and will never make it right or grant it veracity. Just a few centuries ago, for example, slavery was a “tradition” that most societies permitted; but obviously we no longer think that way. Likewise, it was once thought that the sun revolved around the earth, and not the other way around. That they were “traditional” did not make slavery right, nor did it mean the geocentric model of the solar system was correct.

Fortunately the judge who heard the churches’ case was not taken in by their claims. She ruled that Santa Monica is within its rights not to allow seasonal displays on city property (cached). The churches will, no doubt, appeal this decision. But they will still be wrong when they claim that their religion requires nativities to be on only on city property and that their faith prohibits them anywhere else. All the sanctimonious whining, crying and bellyaching in the world can’t change that.

As I usually do in cases like this, I’m also going to point out that making a public spectacle of their desire to celebrate Christmas, is an unabashed — and unmistakable — violation of Jesus’ own injunction against any and all forms of public piety. I suggest they stick a crowbar into their precious Bibles, crack them open a bit, and read their own Jesus’ words on the subject:

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

There, Christians … you’ve read it, now grow the hell up and just fucking do it already. OK?

Photo credit: Frederic J. Brown / AFP – Getty Images, via NBC News.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments Comments Off on War On Christmas 2012, Part 2

KLTV-TV / Freedom From Religious Foundation banner, in Henderson county TexasIt looks like the annual “war on Christmas” is starting up. That’s the periodic bout of sanctimonious Christofascist weeping and wailing about a supposed effort underway to abolish the celebration of Christmas in the US. Their problem is, no such effort exists. No one in the country is seriously trying to prevent Christians from celebrating Christmas, or any other holiday. What has been happening — and what Christianists object to — is an effort to prevent them from using government to promote Christmas as though it’s a requirement that everyone, Christian or not, celebrate it along with them.

The good Christian folk of the good Christian county of Henderson in the good Christian state of Texas have decided to take a stand in this annual (non-existent) “war on Christmas.” KLTV-TV reports they’ve decided not to allow an atheist banner on the county courthouse lawn (locally-cached article):

An East Texas county is denying an atheist organization’s request to display an anti-religious banner on the courthouse lawn this Christmas.

There’s a backstory here, which is as follows:

In fall 2011, the Henderson County Courthouse Nativity scene gained national attention when the Freedom From Religion Foundation demanded the county take the display down or let them put their own display up.

Last December, a banner paid for by the Freedom From Religion Foundation was placed on the courthouse lawn. It read “there are no Gods” and that “religion is but myth.”

Just minutes later, Henderson County deputies took the banner down. Soon after, the Freedom From Religion Foundation started fighting to put it back up. A formal request to display the banner was submitted to the county earlier this year. This week, that request was officially denied.

“We did not feel that the banner was consistent with the theme of Christmas and our decorations that we have enjoyed for many years,” says Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders.

What the good Christian folk of the good Christian county of the good Christian state of Texas have decided to place on their courthouse lawn, this year, is the very same good Christian nativity scene from last year:

In a matter of weeks, the Nativity scene display will sit on the courthouse lawn where pumpkins and hay bales are now. The other three corners of the courthouse lawn will adorn secular decor, but the Freedom From Religion Foundation says Henderson County is still violating the constitution.

They justify it with the following laughable idiocy:

The county remains firm that their variety of decorations keep them in compliance with federal law.

“Overall it is a secular display. We have everything from lights to Christmas wreaths to garland… a Santa house to Santa Clause, deer, elves and gnomes,” says [Henderson County Attorney Clint] Davis.

A display that contains a nativity scene — including the baby Jesus, the supposed founder of the Christian religion — cannot and will never be “overall secular.” No fucking way! To make such a claim is ridiculous on its face. Whoever says such a thing can’t fail to be aware that s/he is lying. This places attorney Davis, and the other good Christian folk of the good Christian county of Henderson in the good Christian state of Texas, squarely in my lying liars for Jesus club.

That an attorney would lie about this display, in order to rationalize breaking the law of the land, is unacceptable under any circumstance. That a judge would orchestrate the breaking of the law of the land, is even worse. Will these Christofascists stop at nothing in order to push their dour, fierce religionism on everyone else?

I close with a reminder to all the good Christians out there who love to make a big fucking deal of how they celebrate Christmas, that your own Jesus himself clearly and specifically ordered you never to engage in public displays of piety like this. It’s unbiblical of you to do it (see Mt 6:1-6 among other passages inside your own Bible). So just fucking cut the shit already, OK?

Photo credit: KLTV-TV.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments Comments Off on War On Christmas 2012, Part 1

Foursquare / St Raphael Catholic Church, El Paso, TXIRS regulations are clear that all non-profit entities — of any and every possible sort — are not allowed to engage in politicking. This includes campaigning on behalf of a candidate, endorsing them, telling members whom to vote for, and so on. Among the types of non-profit entities that fall under this injunction, are religious groups — ranging from large denominational organizations, to multi-church councils, to religious universities and schools, to religious orders, to congregations, and even down to single-pastor ministries. These rules are simple and clear; there are no exceptions; there isn’t a lot of mystery about them; and anyone who applies for tax-exempt status damned well knows them.

Despite this, from time to time, some religionist with a bee in his/her political bonnet will decide to break this rule and tell his/her followers whom to vote for. The El Paso Times reports on a Catholic parish that appears to have done just that (WebCite cached article):

A local Catholic church appears to have violated IRS rules — and Catholic doctrine — by endorsing a presidential candidate in a church bulletin.

St. Raphael Catholic Church on the city’s East Side might have violated an Internal Revenue Service rule that prohibits tax-exempt churches from taking sides when it comes to candidates seeking political office in its Aug. 5 bulletin.

“I am asking all of you to go to the polls and be united in replacing our present president with a president that will respect the Catholic Church in this country,” the end of the entry in the bulletin says. “Please pass this on to all of your Catholic friends.”

The parish’s pastor has evaded questions, but his diocese has not, and agreed this is problematic, not only because it’s against IRS rules, it also Catholic doctrine itself:

But the Catholic Diocese of El Paso, which oversees St. Raphael, acknowledged in an email that the entry in the bulletin was inappropriate.

“Churches and other nonprofits are strictly prohibited from engaging in political campaigning/endorsement of a particular candidate,” said Deacon Carlos Rubio, vice chancellor of the diocese. “The Diocese of El Paso is aware of this requirement from the IRS and mindful that it does not violate such norms.” …

The primary U.S. church document on the Catholic Church’s role in politics is called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It says the role of bishops, priests and deacons is to teach fundamental moral principals that provide the framework for decisions such as how to vote.

“In fulfilling these responsibilities, the Church’s leaders are to avoid endorsing or opposing candidates or telling people how to vote,” the document says.

The article goes on to show the bulletin’s language is linked with the U.S. Catholic bishops’ struggle with the Obama administration:

The passage in the bulletin lists the number of employees of Catholic schools and hospitals in the United States, and it appears to be in response to Obama’s mandate that health plans offered by those employers cover birth-control medication for women who want it. Catholic doctrine opposes artificial means of birth control.

So while the diocese may have conceded that St Raphael in El Paso did something it shouldn’t have, I don’t see how it can possibly have been surprised by such a thing. The Christofascist bishops have gone to war with President Obama and are very clearly opposed to him. They’ve used various means — including lawsuits — to express their fury over his refusal to let them run the country and control people’s lives. Somehow, they think this deprives them of their religious liberty. (Yes, they really, actually do think that everyone — Catholic or not — is required to defer to them. Always, everywhere, and without question. They cannot and will never permit anyone to disobey them … and they’re happy to pitch fits then they think someone is doing so.)

Even though this bulletin clearly violated IRS rules, I don’t expect that agency to do anything about it. Generally they’re lax about policing that particular rule, and rarely come down on religious groups that violate it. Revoking a religious group’s non-profit status is a once-in-a-decade event for them. Yes, the IRS will “investigate” — whatever that might entail — but eventually the agency will decide nothing really happened, and that they won’t take any action.

Photo credit: Foursquare.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments Comments Off on El Paso Church Campaigns Against Obama, Breaks IRS Rules

Godless Atheists Menace Western, Christian Civilization: Godless Atheists & Godless Sodomites Imperil Everyone | Image © Austin Cline; Original Poster: National Archives | via About.Com) It was only a matter of time before some enraged religiofascist windbag blamed the Supreme Court decision upholding the healthcare reform law on those wicked, insolent atheists. This one comes to us courtesy of William J. Murray, the son of famed atheist Madelyn Murray O’Hair, who as an adult converted to fundamentalist Christianity. Since then he’s waged his own personal war against the vile forces of atheism. The religiofascist outlet World Net Daily reports on his stretch of reasoning (WebCite cached article):

In an interview with WND, Murray spoke of the Engel v. Vitale case as one of the key Supreme Court decisions that inevitably led to the federal government getting involved in health care. …

“Though it wasn’t as far-reaching and it didn’t affect the lives of everyday Americans as much as this case did today, the case (Engel v. Vitale) was a precursor to the case that removed Bible verses and prayer from school,” said Murray, whose book, “My Life Without God,” documents what his young life was like growing up with a committed communist like O’Hair as his mother.

“The 1963 case was one of the troika of cases that worked to destroy the basic family unit,” Murray explained. “One of the striking things about Obamacare is that it was pushed and promoted out of its necessity because of the breakup of the family. There is no one to take care of the family, because of this.

Did you catch that? Because prayer was taken out of public schools in the 1960s, this somehow prevents families from taking care of themselves. Yes, that’s what Murray thinks: Not only that families no longer take care of themselves, but that the government actively prevents them from doing so.

I must have missed it, because I have yet to see the jackbooted thugs of the federal government barging into people’s homes and pointing their guns at heads of families who manage their own affairs. Have you? Murray must have, because he seems fairly sure it’s happened in every single household in the country. Apparently.

As with most World Nut Daily articles, this one contains links to Murray’s putative “tell-all” memoir of how horrible it was for him to have endured growing up in one of those wicked atheist homes. The article serves as little more than a sales-pitch for the book to all those religiofascists who read it and are hooked by Murray’s irrational and fact-deprived message.

For the record, there is nothing inherently wrong with atheism or any other form of non-belief. In a (supposedly) free country such as this one, we’re free to be non-religious if we wish to be. Religiofascists like Murray are likewise free not to like the fact that non-believers exist … but too bad for them, that’s as far as it can go. For them to lie about non-belief — and to actively campaign to use government to coerce non-believers into believing (cached) — are both wrong, and must not be tolerated.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Austin Cline (Original Poster: National Archives), via About.Com.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments 1 Comment »

Cathedral of St. Mary Peoria IllinoisAmerica’s Roman Catholic bishops are furious at president Barack Obama, because his administration has exhibited what they view as impermissible insolence, and dares to prevent them from forcing the entire population — Catholic or not — from having to live according to their own religious doctrines. Their war against Obama has been going on for several weeks, without letup. Their latest tantrum, as reported by MSNBC, came in the form of Peoria bishop Daniel Jenky hurling a reductio ad Hitlerum at the president (WebCite cached article):

“Remember that in past history other governments have tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches like the first disciples locked up in the Upper Room,” Jenky said. …

“Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services and health care.”

“In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama, with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path,” he said.

I’ve blogged numerous times about the tendency of American pundits and officials to throw around the reductio ad Hitlerum fallacy. It goes without saying that it’s old, it’s juvenile, and it fucking needs to stop, fercryinoutloud. Can’t we just give the Nazi comparisons a rest, already?

Jenky and the rest of the bishops appear to predicate their reasoning on something like the following syllogism:

  1. I have religious freedom, and can believe whatever I wish to believe.
  2. One of my beliefs is that everyone is required to live according to my beliefs
  3. Anyone who gets in the way of me imposing my beliefs on others, therefore …
  4. … is thwarting my freedom of religion, which is impermissible.

I’ll open up my longstanding dare — which, to date, no one has shown the courage to accept — to America’s bishops. If you want to exert your “religious freedom” and force me to live according to Catholic doctrine … well, by all means, go right ahead. Give it your best shot, guys! Track me down, and then do whatever you feel you need to do, and make me live however you demand I live.

I don’t see why you wouldn’t do it, since you believe yourself entitled to, and have said as much. Why wouldn’t you put your words into action and coerce me to act like a devout Catholic, if you think it’s necessary?

Let’s face it, folks, the country’s R.C. bishops are a bunch of whining crybabies. Boo fucking hoo. The bishops should fucking grow up and act like the elderly adults they are.

P.S. In past blog posts, I’ve directly addressed — and refuted — the claim that Obama, his administration, the Democrats, or the American Left are Nazis. They are not. The Nazis said and did a lot of things that none of those guys have even imagined doing, much less attempted.

P.P.S. Contrary to what Jenky says, Stalin and Hitler were far from identical in their treatment of religion. The Soviets generally suppressed religion, it’s true, but the Third Reich’s policies were more subtle and manipulative; they commandeered the Reichskirche, or unified Protestant churches of Germany, and subverted it to serve them. They also disarmed the Catholic Church within Germany by signing the Reichskonkordat with the Vatican. Thus, Jenky lied when he said Stalin and Hitler treated religion the same. They absolutely did not, and this places Jenky in my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments 3 Comments »

10 Commandments House near Supreme CourtIt looks as though the people of the Bible-thumping state of Alabama are poised to return to office someone who’d been run out, when he chose to defy a federal court order. CNN’s Belief Blog reports that Roy Moore won the GOP primary for Chief Justice in that state (WebCite cached article):

Roy Moore, the former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice made famous by a Ten Commandments monument, is one step closer to getting his old job back. Moore won 50.14% of the vote on Tuesday in the Republican primary for the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. …

Moore held the job of Chief Justice from 2001 to 2003 but was forced out when he defied a federal order to remove a 2.6 ton stone monument of the Ten Commandments he had placed at the courthouse.

As one would expect of a ferocious Christofascist, Moore hasn’t changed his mind about what he did:

Today, Moore maintains the monument’s placement was constitutionally appropriate. “There’s nothing in the first amendment that prohibits the display of religious objects,” he said.

Even so, Moore doesn’t plan to return his Decalogue idol to Alabama’s Supreme Court:

“I don’t have any intention of bringing the monument because that will confuse the issue,” he said. At issue for him is the acknowledgement of God and he added, “I will continue to acknowledge the sovereignty of God.”

If Moore does get back into office, expect more Decalogue idolatry to crop up around the country, as fervent evangelical Christians everywhere will feel empowered to defy the Constitution and federal law on the matter.

Photo credit: dcdailyphotos, via Flickr.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments 2 Comments »

Conservative Christian Schools: Training Christian Students to Take Dominion Over America. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National Archives

Conservative Christian Schools: Training Christian Students to Take Dominion Over America. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National Archives

Like a number of GOP candidates before him that I’ve blogged about, Rick Santorum, current darling of the Religious Right and a contender for the Republican nomination for president, has come out against the principle of separation of church and state. He made these comments on ABC This Week to George Stephanopoulos, who reports on the interview (WebCite cached article):

GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum said today that watching John F. Kennedy’s speech to the Baptist ministers in Houston in 1960 made him want to “throw up.”

“To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up. What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case?” Santorum said.

Actually, Rickie, we don’t live in a country like that! Like most Religious Rightists, he interprets “freedom of religion” to mean “freedom for religious people to use government as a weapon, to force everyone else to live according to their beliefs.” To the R.R., any effort by anyone to prevent them from pounding their religiosity into other people, is an impermissible impediment to their own religious freedom. He — and they — are also arguing a straw man. No one, to my knowledge, has ever said a religious person cannot run for or hold a political office because s/he is religious. Separation of church and state does not require that at all. There has never been any effort to remove religious people from office or prevent them from running.

It did not happen. It isn’t happening now. And it will never happen. Period. All the whining and bellyaching and railing about it, can never make it happen. To argue against it is foolish, since it’s non-existent. One may as well argue against pixies and unicorns too.

Santorum’s lie places him squarely in my “lying liars for Jesus” club. I’m sure the former Senator will find himself in good company there.

It’s particularly troubling to see Santorum colorfully disparaging a speech that, arguably, opened the door for him — as the Catholic he is — to run for president. But his ignorance of history and his purposeful misstatement of what “separation of church and state” and “religious freedom” mean are not surprising.

I can’t think of any clearer indication than this, that Santorum is a dominionist, out to refashion the country into a Christocracy. What’s even scarier than a dominionist running for president, is that this particular dominionist is damned close to becoming the Republican nominee; only Mitt Romney stands in his way and the two of them are no longer very far apart.

Photo credit: Austin Cline / About.Com; original: National Archives.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments 1 Comment »