Archive for the “Separation of church and state” Category

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

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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The Ten Commandments / Picture taken of a display of the Ten Commandments outside of the Clarke County Baptist Association office building in Quitman, Mississippi. Taken in Spring 2008.The good Christofascist people of Cross City, Florida are … <ahem> … a bit “cross” over a judge’s order telling them to take down a Ten Commandments monument in front of the Dixie County courthouse. The AP reports via USA Today on these Christofascists’ fit over being told to remove it (WebCite cached article):

The folks who live in this sparsely populated rural region along Florida’s upper west coast don’t like outsiders butting in, especially when it comes to their religious beliefs.

They’re miffed, to put it politely, and appealing a federal judge’s order to remove a five-foot high granite monument that prominently displays the Ten Commandments in front of the Dixie County courthouse by Sunday. …

Dixie County officials and residents say support for their monument is unanimous and they accuse outsiders of trampling on their way of life.

This little pissing contest has been going on for some time, and it seems to be predicated on the locals’ notion that courts who dare tell them to stop using government facilities to order others to worship their religion, are “outsiders” who, therefore, are not allowed to tell them what to do.

Sorry to tell the childish militant Christianists, but the courts are more than entitled to tell you what to do. Don’t like it? Tough. I suppose you could try to secede from the country, but that’s been tried once already and it didn’t exactly work out too well for the secessionists. So I don’t think it’d be a good idea now.

The militants trot out the usual whines and bellyaches:

“We have not had one negative comment from the community,” said county manager Mike Cassidy, a 48-year-old, fourth-generation Floridian who grew up in Cross City. “No one in this county has come forward and said, ‘this should be removed.’ It has been totally unanimous.”

Unfortunately, Mr Cassidy, the fact that everyone in your locality has knuckled under to your militant Christofascism, doesn’t make it Constitutional, and it doesn’t make it right.

As one expects of micro-minded immature little pipsqueaks, locals have even taken to leveling threats:

There will be people standing around it to protect it when they come to remove it,” said Donald Eady, a 38-year-old mobile mechanic who lives in neighboring Old Town, a short jaunt south down four-lane U.S. Highway 19.

Yeah, that’s the way, people. Show how much more moral and upright you are, than the rest of the “heathens,” by threatening people who dare to remove your Decalogue idol. What a classy move. I’m sure your Jesus would approve. After all, when he was alive and teaching, he set up Decalogue monuments and ordered his followers to make obeisance to them.

Oh wait. He didn’t!

What a bunch of juvenile little morons live in Cross City, Florida!

Photo credit: DrGBB / Flickr.

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Pietas; Note the cross used to denote 'Piety'Texas governor Rick Perry would like to succeed his predecessor, George W. Bush, as the country’s next evangelical-in-chief. He’s a bit more of a Christofascist than Bush was (but not by much), having done things such as to order all of the people of his state — religious or not — to pray for rain. He’s also done some other extreme, but not quite so religious, things as to threaten the secession of Texas if his personally-desired policies were not enacted in Washington (WebCite cached article).

The hyperreligious Perry has decided to give his own “Response” to the country’s ongoing recession and the breakdown of national politics. The Washington Post reports this day-long religious revival is every bit as grandiose and sanctimonious as one expects from a guy like him (cached):

The GOP 2012 presidential nomination contest so far has centered almost exclusively on economic issues: the major candidates blasting President Obama for increasing the federal budget deficit and criticizing one another’s records on health care and job creation.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who is expected to announce his presidential candidacy in the next few weeks, will start to change that on Saturday, by hosting a day of prayer and fasting in Houston dubbed “The Response.”

Attendees from Texas and across the country will gather at a pro football stadium to ask for “God’s forgiveness, his wisdom and his provision for our state and nation,” according to Perry’s video invitation. …

Perry says the day is inspired by the words of the Old Testament book of Joel, in which the prophet calls on the Hebrew people to pray, fast and ask for God’s forgiveness. The Texas governor argues that America similarly needs to ask for God’s help today because it is a “nation in crisis.”

“We have been besieged by financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters,” Perry writes on the event’s Web site. “As a nation, we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and thank Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy.”

Perry can’t help but do this, you see, because in his eyes, America isn’t godly enough. About the only thing he hasn’t done is to declare explicitly that the recession and political breakdown is a punishment imposed on the country by a God who’s enraged that the people aren’t praying hard enough and aren’t sufficiently evangelical Protestant for his taste. But not to worry … by the end of this hours-long event, Perry may well have veered close to saying something like that.

I note that this huge event is precisely the sort of “public piety” that — as I’ve blogged previously — the founder of Perry’s own religion, Jesus Christ himself, explicitly and clearly ordered his followers never, ever to engage in. In case Gov. Perry or any other militant Christians out there aren’t clear on this, I will repeat here Jesus’ own words as reported in the gospel according to Matthew (emphasis mine):

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)

So you see, by establishing this event and acting as its emcee, the righteous Perry is actually disobeying the bedrock principles of his own claimed religion! I must congratulate the Governor for providing this sterling example of the intellectual, moral and spiritual bankruptcy of his own religion as it’s widely practiced in the US. Great job, sir. Just wonderful. I can’t possibly have asked for better!

The separation of church and state issues implied by Perry’s “Response” haven’t gone unnoticed, and have been widely mentioned, for example in this CNN Political Ticker article that suggests the poor response to the “Response” may be explained by SOCAS considerations (cached). Another facet of Ricky-boy’s “Response” which hasn’t gone unreported is that its sponsor is the American Family Association, about whose absurd and extreme pronouncements I’ve blogged a number of times, and who’ve been labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. My bet is that the Rickster doesn’t really care what sorts of hatemongers and freakish lunatics he’s hanging around with … as long as they help him get people before his pulpit and are willing to beat the drum of his kind of Christofascism, they’re probably just fine by him.

Not that he or anyone else cares, but my own Agnostic response to Perry’s “Response” is: If you, Gov. Perry, or your Jesus, or anyone else for that matter, demands that I — as an American — must pray with you, then you’re just going to have to make me do so. If it’s as imperative a thing as you claim it is, Governor, then you have absolutely no reason not to do your utmost to wring compliance out of me (even if I’m not a resident of Texas, because as you’ve designed it, this is a national event).

Go ahead, Governor. I dare you; you have no reason — based on your own beliefs — not to. Come on, make me pray with you.

Photo credit: scazon.

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