Archive for the “Separation of church and state” Category

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

Evolution & Darwinism in Schools: Teaching Evolution & Darwinism Encourages Immoral, Bestial Behavior (Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: Library of Congress)The drums of the vast armies of Christofascism in the US are beating incessantly, and their forces are on the march. In skirmish after skirmish, they’re gaining victories around the country. The latest of these came in the Tennessee legislature, whose House approved a law that would teach religion in that state’s science classes. CBS News reports on this religionist debacle (WebCite cached article):

Tennessee’s Republican-dominated House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a bill that would protect teachers who want to challenge the theory of human evolution.

Thursday’s 70-28 passage of HB 368 [cached] was hailed by sponsor Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, who said the proposal was designed to promote “critical thinking” in science classes.

It will be a cold day in hell before any Religious Rightist like Dunn ever truly gives a flying fuck about “critical thinking.” His promotion of this bill shows he has no comprehension of what “critical thinking” is.

The truth of the matter is this: TN HB 368 is NOT — and never was — about “critical thinking” at all. Religiofascists don’t like or want “critical thinking.” They demand, instead, “rigid dogmatic thinking,” and unwavering thralldom to their unbending, irrational metaphysics.

Rep. Dunn’s claim to be concerned about “critical thinking” is a lie, and that places him in my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

For anyone who’s not yet clear on this, “intelligent design” and its various relatives are all just variations on Creationism. It was none other than an evangelical Christian federal appellate judge — appointed by George W. Bush himself — who declared “intelligent design” a sham, a transparent cover for Creationism, in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (2005). Prior to that, the US Supreme Court had ruled that Creationism was effectively a religion and is therefore forbidden in public schools, in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987), and subsequently that evolution by contrast is not a religion, in Peloza v. Capistrano School District (1994).

It’s time for America’s religionists to grow up and get over the fact that science is not theirs to control. Evolution is science, at the moment, so that’s what should be taught in science classes. Period. End of discussion.

One final note for any other religiofascists out there who think they can force their religion on public school kids in the name of promoting “critical thinking”: To paraphrase V.P. candidate Lloyd Bentsen’s famous quip, I know Critical Thinking; Critical Thinking is a friend of mine. You don’t know what Critical Thinking is.

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

Photo credit: Austin Cline / About.Com.

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God Bless America: Ja!The march of the Christofascists continues apace. They’re steadily working to force their religion on the country, because after all, they’ve defined this as a “Christian nation,” and non-Christians aren’t allowed here. The latest example of militant Christianism is Virginia Congressman J. Randy Forbes, who wants “In God We Trust” slapped on every public edifice in the country. The Virginian-Pilot reports on his effort to use the government to proselytize (WebCite cached article):

U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes’ bill to reaffirm “In God We Trust” as the national motto and encourage its display in all public schools was approved by a House committee Thursday after a sharp partisan debate. …

Forbes said the legislation is needed to combat a concerted effort by some to drive all references to God out of public institutions.

“There has been a chilling effect where schoolchildren, school districts, where individuals in federal buildings didn’t know if they could post ‘In God We Trust’ on their walls,” Forbes said.

Congressman, you lie when you say people are being prevented from posting “In God We Trust” on their walls. They are most certainly able to do so … on the walls of their homes and their churches. They can do so to their hearts’ content; no one can possibly stop them, and in fact, no one is even dreaming of stopping them.

The fact is that religion is not being outlawed in the US; it will not be outlawed in the US; and there is no effort underway to outlaw it in the US. It doesn’t exist, even though Forbes says it does. Thus, I’m adding the Congressman to my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

I’m aware that Forbes and every other Christofascist demands that every American trust in their god. It’s very important to them … because communal reinforcement is the only way they can feel secure about their irrational and baseless beliefs. Well, Congressman Forbes, if you want me to trust in your god, you’re just going to have to make me trust him. Come on. I dare you! Make me trust your deity. You have nothing to lose by trying, so why wouldn’t you?

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

Photo credit: About.Com / Austin Cline (based on Nazi propaganda).

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Conservative Christian Schools: Training Christian Students to Take Dominion Over AmericaIf a Florida state senator gets his way, the religious notion known as Creationism (and as “intelligent design”) may be forced into public-school science classrooms in that state. The Tampa Tribune reports on this transparent attempt at yet another end-run around federal court decisions forbidding this practice (WebCite cached article):

As lawmakers wrestle with financial and policy challenges that could affect the quality of education in the state, one influential legislator is also hoping to change the way evolution is taught in Florida public schools. …

Stephen Wise, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has resurrected legislation he authored in 2009 that calls for a “thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution.” Wise’s bill failed to pass in 2009. …

Wise, R-Jacksonville, thinks his evolution bill may have a better chance this year because there are more conservatives in the Legislature and because he chairs a substantive committee.

“Why would you not teach both theories at the same time?” Wise said, referring to evolution and what he called “nonevolution.”

I assume Wise (whose name is most certainly not an aptonym!) is using the label “nonevolution” in order to get around the aforementioned court prohibitions on both “Creationism” and “intelligent design.” His bill is otherwise the same as countless other Discovery Institute-inspired bills that have been tossed around in legislatures around the country for the last 15 years or so.

The idea is to use public-school science classrooms in order to proselytize to children. Really, it’s just more of the same old Christofascism we’ve all come to expect from Republicans. Not a single one of them has had an original thought in over 10 years, and it doesn’t look as though any of them are going to have any, for a long time yet to come. Just a steady stream of mindless militant Christianism.

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

Photo credit: About.Com / Austin Cline & National Archives.

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Crusades - The Crusaders Massacre the Inhabitants of CaesareaThe Great Neocrusade proceeds relentlessly across the United States. Sanctimonious Religious Rightists are proposing laws in several states which outlaw what they call “shari’a law.” As one would expect, these bills are invariably based on erroneous assumptions about Islam and the nature of shari’a law, and based upon a prevailing fear that shari’a law is being imposed on the country by force.

First we have Tennessee state senators Bill Ketron and Judd Matheny, who want to abolish shari’a law there, as reported in the Washington Post On Faith blog (WebCite cached article):

Tennessee State Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and state Rep. Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma) introduced a bill last week outlawing the practice of Sharia, a complex set of religious laws that guide behavior for Muslims.

The bill, embedded below, attempts to define Sharia law and to make following it a felony punishable by 15 years in jail.

The bill in question is SB1028, available here. Of note is that Murfreesboro is where some raging Neocrusaders set fire to a mosque under construction back in October. Ketron and Matheny’s problem is that they misdefine shari’a; they further claim that Islam itself is a combined legal-military-political ideology, and imply that it’s not a religion. This mirrors what TN lieutenant governor Ron Ramsey said last summer, that Islam is a political-legal system, not a religion, and therefore not entitled to First Amendment protection. Ketron and Matheny also don’t bother to explain where, in the US, any government at any level has ever been able to force anyone to knuckle under to shari’a — even though his bill is predicated on the idea that it’s happening.

Next, we have Arizona — which appears to have become the epicenter of militant Rightism in the US — where a proposed bill (HB 2582) would outlaw all forms of religious law, including shari’a (cached):

“Religious sectarian law” means any statute, tenet or body of law evolving within and binding a specific religious sect or tribe. Religious sectarian law includes sharia law, canon law, halacha and karma but does not include any law of the united states or the individual states based on Anglo?American legal tradition and principles on which the united states was founded.

The authors of this bill have essentially gone berserk on the entire notion of “religious law,” and don’t understand what they’re talking about. First, “religious law” systems like Halakha (within Judaism) and canon law (within several Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholic, Anglican and the several Orthodox churches) are — at least partly — the manner in which those religions conduct their own internal affairs, serving as a kind of administrative code. To abolish them completely would obviously run afoul of their religious freedoms. Second, karma is not a system of administration, but rather, a metaphysical principle within Hinduism and other Dharmic religions. It can’t be used in court, as far as I can see, despite the fact that it’s often referred to as a “law.” It’s no more a code of administration or justice than the so-called “Law” of Attraction.

Let me be clear: I do not favor the imposition of shari’a on anyone in the US. It’s a dangerous, metaphysically-charged, often-barbaric code which should be phased out worldwide — the sooner, the better. And I’m not in favor of the Roman Catholic Church holding its own canon law above the secular laws of the lands in which the Church operates; where criminal law and canon law collide, criminal law should prevail. However, passing laws to abolish shari’a law, or any other religious law-code, within the US is irrational, asinine, and childish. There is no way that any religious law-code can ever be imposed on Americans, due to the First Amendment, among other Constitutional protections. Bills such as these accomplish nothing useful, except to demonstrate the immaturity and ignorance of those who draft, sponsor, and support them. And the idea that karma is even a law-code that could ever be used in any kind of court to issue rulings … well, let’s just say this so obviously laughable that the authors and sponsors of AZ HB 2582 should hang their heads in shame. They’ve just shown themselves to be idiotic dolts who thoroughly deserve every bit of derision that’s going to be heaped on them over their ignorant bill.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum, and Unreasonable Faith.

Photo credit: Michael Heilemann.

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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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