Archive for the “Separation of church and state” Category

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

White House press secretary Dana PerinoFor a very long time, the Religious Right has contended (incorrectly, of course) that there’s no such thing as “separation of church and state” in the U.S. While they are correct when they say that phrase is not found in the Constitution or any of its amendments, they’re wrong when they claim it’s not even implied. No less an authority on the matter than the author of the First Amendment, James Madison, himself once explained this in writing:

Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion & Govt in the Constitution of the United States the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.

So this contention is factually incorrect.

Put more bluntly, they are lying about the Constitution.

Even so, despite being as obviously wrong as they are, they aren’t holding back. In fact, they’re going even a bit further. Texas governor Rick Perry, for example, recently stated openly that there is no such thing as “freedom from religion.” In other words, it is perfectly legal, as far as he’s concerned, for government to force a non-believer to adopt a religion.

In that same vein, a Rightist pundit — who’d been G.W. Bush’s last press secretary — used her virtual podium on Fox News to declare that atheists ought to leave the country, as the Raw Story reports, and her colleague Bob Beckel agreed (WebCite cached article):

Fox News host Dana Perino this week suggested that atheists should leave the country instead of trying to maintain the separation of church and state.

In a case before the Massachusetts Supreme Court, atheist lawyer David Niose argued that the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance violates the Equal Rights Amendment of the state’s constitution.

“I’m tired of them,” Perino complained on Wedneday [sic].…

“If these people really don’t like it, they don’t have to live here,” she added.

“Yeah, that’s a good point,” co-host Bob Beckel agreed.

Here’s video of this pleasant little exchange, courtesy of the Raw Story:

I’m old enough to recall all the “love it or leave it” talk that was common back in the 1970s. It was hurled most often at Vietnam war protesters. The implication is that Americans are required either to support whatever the US does — whether right or wrong — or shut up and leave the country. It’s been 40 years or so since then, and I’d thought people had gotten over that sort of thinking. I guess they haven’t?

The bottom line is, we have two Rightist pundits averring that non-believers should be forced either to swear the Pledge of Allegiance, including the “under God” phrase, or else be thrown out of the country. I can’t think of many better examples of religiofascism than this. Can you?

Hat tip: mepper, via Reddit.

Photo credit: fredthompson, via Flickr.

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'How are you not do as I say!' (I Can Haz Cheezburger Builder)The Religious Right in the US sincerely believes Christianity is “under attack.” There’s a war against their religion, they claim. Now, most of us know there’s no such thing going on. Churches aren’t being shuttered or bulldozed; Bibles and crucifixes aren’t being confiscated or destroyed; devout Christians aren’t being put on trial for believing in Jesus. Put as simply as possible: There’s no persecution of Christianity going on in this country. It’s. Just. Not. Fucking. Happening.

You may have heard that the great Biblical state of Kentucky passed a law protecting Christians’ freedom of religion (even though, with First Amendment protections already in place, no such law is needed — in Kentucky or in any other state). One of its proponents is outraged that there’s been criticism of this law, and penned a letter to the editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader to explain why it was needed (WebCite cached article):

Could it be a war on Christianity? Now I know your response will be that there is no attack on religious freedoms. Indeed, you will deny the very existence of such a war. Yet, tell that to the owners of Hands On Originals or Chik-fil-A, who were vehemently attacked by government officials and agencies for expressing their personal religious beliefs. Tell that to the high school coach who gets sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for offering a prayer of protection before a ballgame. Tell that to the teacher who gets sued for saying, “Happy Thanksgiving,” “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Easter.” Tell that to the valedictorian who gets enjoined from mentioning God in her graduation speech. Tell that to the county judge-executive who gets sued for posting the Ten Commandments. Tell that to the student who tries to pray or read her Bible during school. Tell that to the citizens whose governor decided the State Capitol needed a “holiday tree” as opposed to a Christmas Tree.

Rep. Stan Lee’s complaint is basically a “dump” of childish whines. There’s no cohesion to it, and Lee generously salts his bellyaching with mythology, marginal claims, and outright lies.

First of all, no business owner has been “attacked” by any officials. An “attack” is a punch in the face or being held up at gunpoint; criticism is not, and never will be, an “attack.” Second, no American — not even the owners of Chick-fil-A or Hands On Originals — is ever entitled never to be criticized. Third, using their position as bosses to coerce their employees to live their private, non-workplace lives according to the fierce, rigid strictures of their own dour metaphysics, is not merely “expressing their personal religious beliefs.” It’s quite something else.

Lee doesn’t provide any evidence of these teachers he says have been “sued for saying, ‘Happy Thanksgiving,’ ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Easter.'” It sounds like urban legend to me. There’s nothing specific, just wild claims without a stitch of support.

Valedictorians in public schools being told not to talk up God is part of an effort to keep church and state separate. Let’s face it, lots of public schools use children as proxies to force religion into them, and that’s forbidden.

Oh, and public-school students most certainly can both pray and read Bibles in school. It happens all the time. To say it can’t, is a flat-out lie, and Lee knows it.

Public-school coaches leading students in prayer, and judges putting up immense Decalogue idols in courts, are both examples of Christians using the power of government to promote their religion. And it’s illegal.

And calling a Christmas tree a “holiday tree,” harms no one! Since Christmas is a holiday, semantically speaking, this means all Christmas trees truly are “holiday trees.” To say otherwise is also a lie.

Like the rest of the Religious Right, Rep. Lee is confused. He thinks Christians being criticized for wanting to control everyone’s lives, is an “attack” on his religion. He thinks separation of church and state abridges Christians’ freedom of religion. He thinks Christians are entitled to get their way, all the time, every time, and when they don’t, it’s unacceptable.

As I’ve blogged many times already, I understand where Christians are coming from. A desire to be persecuted for Jesus is part and parcel of their religion, and it has been almost since its inception. This persecutorial delusion is embedded deep in the psychopathology of Christianity. Rep. Lee and the rest of the Religious Right really, truly want to think they’re being attacked for their beliefs. In many ways, they literally can’t help themselves.

But that’s really no excuse for remaining attached to this paranoid delusion. It’s one thing to fantasize about being a martyr, because one’s religion is founded on a martyr. It’s quite another to invent persecution that’s not even happening, and accuse others of doing things they haven’t done. The delusions don’t serve any good purpose, and really need to fucking stop already.

I have to add Rep. Lee to my “lying liars for Jesus” club. Not that he’s alone there. Lying for Jesus is a common pastime among Christians. That’s because … to paraphrase Isaac Asimov … lying is the last refuge of the insecure.

Photo credit: I Can Haz Cheezburger Builder.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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North Carolina State Capitol, RaleighChristofascists are a really angry bunch. They’re downright incensed that things like the First Amendment have gotten in the way of them forcing their dour religionism on the American people.

I’ve been saying for years now that … if they had their way … they’d make everyone worship as they do. Well, it turns out some Republican Christofascist legislators in the great Bible Belt (aka Bobble Bay-elt) state of North Carolina, have declared their religionistic militancy openly. As NBC News reports, they’ve proposed legislation that would establish a North Carolinian state religion (WebCite cached article):

Republican lawmakers in North Carolina have introduced a bill declaring that the state has the power to establish an official religion — a direct challenge to the First Amendment.…

The bill [cached] says that federal courts do not have the power to decide what is constitutional, and says the state does not recognize federal court rulings that prohibit North Carolina and its schools from favoring a religion.

The bill was introduced Monday by two Republican representatives from Rowan County, north of Charlotte, and sponsored by seven other Republicans. The party controls both chambers of the North Carolina Legislature.

The two lawmakers who filed the bill, state Reps. Harry Warren and Carl Ford, did not immediately return calls Wednesday from NBC News.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued last month to stop the Rowan County Commission from opening meetings with Christian prayers. One of those prayers declared that “there is only one way to salvation, and that is Jesus Christ,” the ACLU said.

This proposed law is quite obviously unconstitutional. The law itself explicitly dismisses the incorporation doctrine, even though it’s been upheld through many court decisions and isn’t going anywhere.

Assuming these fierce Christofascists are able to pass this bill, get it signed, and have it become the law of the land in North Carolina, it’s nevertheless fraught with peril, even for the most devout Christians there. That’s because of the sectarian conflict which would have to follow. Would the North Carolina state religion be a Protestant sect? If so, Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians would be disenfranchised. If Catholicism is made the state religion, then Protestants and the Orthodox would be disenfranchised. That’s not even considering that non-Christians and non-believers would be disenfranchised, no matter which Christian sect is made the state’s religion.

The bottom line is that Harry Warren and Carl Ford are childishly furious that the First Amendment has gotten in the way of them imposing their religiosity on everyone. But I’m less worried about them, than I am about the (large) number of North Carolinian Religious Rightists who will, no doubt, immediately and happily flock to their cause and support this bill, in spite of the fact that it’s unconstitutional. Neither Warren nor Ford will suffer any serious consequences from having raised this bill; if anything, they’re assured of long careers in North Carolinian politics.

Be afraid, folks. Be very, very afraid. These people are serious, and they aren’t taking any more shit from anyone.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Mississippi State Capitol buildingThe nation’s Christianists continue to confuse “religious liberty” with “the power to force everyone to believe what they believe.” The Mississippi legislature is no exception. As the AP reports via NECN, both houses of that august, religionistic body have passed measures to promote school prayer under the aegis of “religious liberty” (WebCite cached article):

Supporters say bills to guarantee religious freedom in Mississippi public schools are meant to ensure students can talk about spiritual beliefs and aren’t deprived of their rights.

But some supporters also say the measures would legalize prayer before school audiences, and that makes people who advocate for separation of church and state uneasy.

Both the state House and the state Senate have passed versions of the Schoolchildren’s Religious Liberties Act. The chambers must agree on a single bill before anything would go to Republican Gov. Phil Bryant. The Senate version represents the first time the chamber has passed such a bill, improving chances that it will become law.

The bill is ostensibly predicated on the Religious Right’s decades-long whining and bellyaching that school kids aren’t allowed to pray or talk about religion or express their beliefs. Those things are not true. In fact, a lot of praying goes on in schools all around the country, every single minute of every school day. It comes, for example, in quickly muttered prayers such as, “Please God, let me pass this algebra exam!”

Look, I get that the Christian Nationers are none too happy about Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Abington School District v. Schempp (1963), along with various other decisions that ended prayer in public schools. And I also get that they’re Christians, and therefore can’t help but view themselves as being oppressed for Jesus. But facts are facts, and they’re not allowed to make shit up just ’cause it makes them feel better to do so. Formby is very clearly a lying liar for Jesus.

Even so, at least some of the bills’ supporters are not lying about their motives, and admit they’re not about “liberty” at all:

But it’s clear that advocates for the measure, especially those outside the Legislature, believe it would clear the way for student-led prayer before groups.

“People ask me if this is a step toward getting prayer back in schools. I think this is THE step to get prayer back in schools,” said Paul Ott, who hosts religion-flavored radio and television programs about hunting, fishing and the outdoors.

Because, you know, nothing says “religious liberty” quite like forcing a school full of kids pray when you order them to. Right?

Photo credit: Allstarecho, via Wikimedia Commons.

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MeditatingDespite the fact that it’s relatively common … and mostly done in a completely non-religious way in the occidental world … there are Christians out there who can’t get over yoga. They don’t understand that, while it did originate within Hindu religious tradition, yoga can be — and almost always is — non-religious. They object to it anyway, just because they think they can.

A couple years ago I blogged about evangelical theologian R. Albert Mohler going on a tear against it, but he’s hardly alone. As the (UK) Telegraph reports, some Christians in California are suing their local school district because it plans to have yoga as part of the phys-ed curriculum (WebCite cached article):

The Encinitas Union School District plans to offer yoga instruction at all of its nine schools from January, despite a protest by parents who say they believe it will indoctrinate their children in Eastern religion.

The growing popularity of yoga is forcing US public schools to address the question of whether it is a religious practice or simply exercise.

The parents have their reasons … which are incomprehensible:

Mary Eady, a parent who has pulled her child out of yoga classes, said the pupils were learning to worship the sun and it was “inappropriate in our public schools.”

I’m not sure how or why Ms Eady thinks yoga is “sun worship.” She might be referring — perhaps — to something like Surya Namaskara, which might be called a yoga practice … however, it is, at best, a subset of yoga, and is certainly not the entirety of yoga.

It’s actually not uncommon for fundamentalist Christians to dismiss or condemn things they dislike as “sun worship.” They similarly dismiss Islam as “moon worship.” I’m not sure why, but they do.

In any event, as I blogged previously, these Christians forget that a lot of the meditative practices which are part of yoga, also happen to be traditional within Christianity … particularly in the monastic and mendicant movements. In other words, they’re condemning something that can also be found within their own religion. The meditative practices of Christian monks, friars, nuns, etc. may not be something these fundamentalist Christians are personally familiar with, but they’re no less “Christian” than any of their own rites or practices. That they’re ignorant of their own religion’s traditions, is the real problem here.

Photo credit: RelaxingMusic, via Flickr.

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Charlie Brown Christmas Tree ShoppingIt’s not even Thanksgiving yet, and already this is my third post in this year’s edition of the annual delusional “war on Christmas.” A school in Arkansas planned a field trip to see a live performance of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The problem is, it was going to be in a church. KARK-TV in Little Rock reports on this attempt to trot public-school kids into a church so they can be proselytized (WebCite cached article):

A longtime holiday show, beloved by children, inadvertently sparked a controversy in Little Rock over the separation of church and state.

It happened when some teachers at Terry Elementary school sent letters home offering to shuttle first and second graders to see a stage version of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at Agape, a local church.

“We’re not saying anything bad about Charlie Brown,” said Anne Orsi, a Little Rock Attorney and Vice President of the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers.

“The problem is that it’s got religious content and it’s being performed in a religious venue and that doesn’t just blur the line between church and state, it over steps it entirely.”

As is typical of such cases, the church used the old “We’ve always done it, so we should always be able to do it, forevermore!” defense:

Some of Agape staffers did say they have held holiday productions for students in the past and no one raised concerns about those shows.

Sorry but no. As I blogged previously — and repeatedly — that Christianists have been getting away with this kind of crap, doesn’t actually make it acceptable. It just means they managed to get away with it. Note that, usually, this kind of defense doesn’t work in other venues. For instance, someone caught for speeding can’t respond with, “But officer, I’ve always driven that fast down this road! I’ve been doing it for years! You can’t give me a ticket, now! You must let me continue speeding!” It just doesn’t work … and the Christianists who use these appeals to tradition damned well know it.

The article contains the station’s video report, that I can’t embed here, but it mentions an important aspect of cases like this: The fact that kids and parents who object to this sort of thing often go along with it anyway, out of fear their kids will be harassed if they choose not to. That’s how Christianists have been getting away with it for as long as they have; they use bullying tactics against anyone who dares not knuckle under to their religiosity. That’s not to their credit, and I’m fairly sure their own Jesus wouldn’t approve of it. Yet they do it nevertheless.

Christians, just fucking grow the hell up and stop using Christmas to ram your Jesus down everybody’s throats … OK? Is that too much to ask of you?

Full disclosure: I’m of the generation that grew up watching A Charlie Brown Christmas annually. I still find it amusing, its religious content notwithstanding. Nevertheless, it’s unacceptable to present to kids in public school, and taking them to a church to see it just makes the situation all the worse.

Photo credit: From A Charlie Brown Christmas / KIT, via Flickr.

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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.

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