Archive for the “Separation of church and state” Category

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

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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Laura's Sculpy NativityHaving a menorah, but no nativity, on city property in Boca Raton, Florida? That’s absolutely intolerable, according to the militant religionists at the Catholic League. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports on their childish caterwauling (WebCite cached article):

The New York-based Catholic League is accusing Boca Raton of discrimination for buying menorahs with taxpayer dollars and displaying them in public buildings without displaying Christian nativity scenes alongside them.

Contrary to what the Catholic League claims, though, Christians are not being forbidden to decorate for Christmas:

In an e-mailed statement, Boca Raton Assistant City Manager Michael Woika responded, “The City of Boca Raton celebrates the holiday season by having displays in the lobbies of public buildings in a manner consistent with Supreme Court and other judicial rulings. These displays are City-owned decorations and are comprised of a Christmas tree, a menorah, and a “Seasons Greetings” sign, and may include garlands, winter decorations (such as snowflakes and snowmen), and/or lights.”

The irony of the Catholic League’s bellyaching is revealed in this quotation:

“What we have now is Jews get preferential treatment and Christians are told, ‘No, you have to be satisfied with your Christmas tree’,” [League President Bill] Donahue [sic] said.

Well, boo fucking hoo, Bill. Jews are getting “preferential” treatment, you say? Gee, I can recall a time when your own Church was vehemently anti-Jewish, Bill. Time was, under Catholic rule, Christians got decidedly “preferential” treatment over Jews. Remember the expulsion of Jews from Catholic Spain, Bill? Remember the Inquisitions? Sure, that was a long time ago, but in more recent times, Catholics in Nazi-occupied Poland openly aided their mortal enemies in the Third Reich in that regime’s diabolical effort to exterminate as many Jews as possible.

Seems to me that — perhaps — a little comeuppance is in order here, Bill. Besides, Bill, no Catholics are being prevented from worshipping their God as they wish, in their homes and churches under this policy. Besides, I dare you, Bill, to produce any sort of scriptural or conciliar order requiring that they worship only nativities placed on municipal properties in their locales.

I’m serious. Where, exactly, can I find documented the Christian doctrine that nativities are required, only on government property? When are Christofascists going to produce this document?

Oh, and it’s ironic that Donohue is claiming that Christmas trees aren’t religious enough for Boca Raton to permit to be set up, when their religiofascist colleagues at the AFA had just gotten through weeping and wailing that it’s the natural-born right of every Christian to see a Christmas tree in the lobby of every bank in the country? What part of “This is absolutely fucking ridiculous!” do these people not understand?

Isn’t it time for militant Christians to grow up, fercryinoutloud, and quit beefing over the fact that they no longer run civilization and can no longer openly and freely put the screws to everyone else in the universe?

Photo credit: ricklibrarian.

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Noah's Ark finds dry landIn a time when the Religious Right is screaming to high heaven over government spending of any sort, there’s one project not one of them is speaking up about. A Noah’s Ark theme park is going to be built in Kentucky, with the assistance of commonwealth tax abatements. The New York Times reports on the Kentucky government’s latest proselytization effort (WebCite cached article):

Facing a rising tide of joblessness, the governor of Kentucky has found one solution: build an ark.

The state has promised generous tax incentives to a group of entrepreneurs who plan to construct a full-size replica of Noah’s ark, load it with animals and actors, and make it the centerpiece of a Bible-based tourist attraction called Ark Encounter.

The project’s main proponent doesn’t give a shit about the “separation of church and state” issues inherent in this, even though they’re obvious to everyone else:

Since Gov. Steven L. Beshear announced the plan on Wednesday, some constitutional experts have raised alarms over whether government backing for an enterprise that promotes religion violates the First Amendment’s requirement of separation of church and state. But Mr. Beshear, a Democrat, said the arrangement posed no constitutional problem, and brushed off questions about his stand on creationism.

“The people of Kentucky didn’t elect me governor to debate religion,” he said at a news conference. “They elected me governor to create jobs.”

Actually, Governor, they didn’t elect you governor in order to create jobs at any cost. They elected you to perform the job of governor, and that job requires you to live within the boundaries of the Constitution.

You remember the Constitution, don’t you? You Rightists are always yammering and howling about it. Well — try obeying it for once. OK?

Beshear’s lie that this is not an example of Kentucky promoting religion, places him in my “lying liars for Jesus” club. Congratulations on finding yourself in such glorious, pious company, Governor!

(Yes, I’m aware Beshear is a Democrat, and he might once have been liberal to some degree, but he typically does things according to the Religious Right’s whims, so as far as I’m concerned, he’s a definite Rightist.)

The group behind this project, by the way, is Answers in Genesis. They’re the people who previously brought you the laughable Creation Museum, and who also have claimed that non-believing teens are all murderous sociopaths, eager for a chance to grab some firearms and blow away everyone else. Yeah, they’re a wonderful bunch, too.

Photo credit: JonnyBaird.

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