Posts Tagged “freedom of religion”

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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'It's Not Really Fascism When Christians Do It': Christian Fascism in America: If Fascism Comes to America, It Will Come Wrapped in the Flag & Carrying the Cross / Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National ArchivesThe militant Christianist governor of Texas, Rick Perry, isn’t waiting for summer to be over, before firing the first salvo in this year’s edition of the annual “War on Christmas.” Hell, summer hasn’t even begun yet, and Rickie is trying to ram Christmas down the throats of public schoolchildren in his state. The Houston Chronicle reports on a bill he signed which is predicated on lies (WebCite cached article):

It was the Governor’s Public Reception Room, for a ceremony in which Gov. Rick Perry signed a bill into law that he said would allow people of all faiths can exchange holiday greetings and display religious scenes and symbols “even on school property.”…

House Bill 308 by Bohac and Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville — dubbed the “Merry Christmas bill” by some backers — specifies that a school district may allow students and staff to offer “traditional greetings” associated with winter celebrations, specifying they include “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah” and “happy holidays.”

Among the lies upon which this law is predicated, is that it was somehow made illegal for anyone to say “Merry Christmas” in a public school. That’s just not true. What can’t be done in a public school is for the school to force Christmas — a holiday which only has meaning for one religion, Christianity, and excludes those who belong to any other, or to no religion — on kids. Those kids certainly can wish each other “Merry Christmas,” if they want.

What’s worse than the lies implicit in this law, however, is that Perry makes his religiofascism explicit and unmistakable:

“It’s a shame that a bill like this one I’m signing today is even required, but I’m proud that we’re standing up for religious freedom in this state,” Perry said. “Religious freedom does not mean freedom from religion.”

Did you catch that? Rickie-boy states very clearly that, in his view, there is no such thing as “freedom from religion.” That means non-belief, in his view, can be made illegal. Since there’s no such thing as “freedom from religion,” it’s possible for government to prevent me from being the godless agnostic heathen that I am!

All right, Rickie-boy. Here’s my open invitation to you: You just track me down and impose your religion on me, because, as you claim, I have no “freedom from religion.” I don’t live in Texas, Governor, but even so, I dare you to put your words into action. Go ahead. You have no reason not to, since you’ve already stated that there is no “freedom from religion” in this country. What’s stopping you, governor? Just come here and make me adopt your religion!

Photo credit: Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National Archives

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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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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.

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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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TN Lt Gov. Ron RamseyThe lieutenant governor of Tennessee, Ron Ramsey, is trailing in his primary bid for the Republican nomination for governor of his state. So what did he do to get some electoral support in the primary? He appealed to the Tea Partiers and the Religious Right by throwing Muslims under the bus. I found about this this story from the New York Times Lede blog, based on a story originally reported by other outlets (WebCite cached article):

Mr. Ramsey, who hopes to win the Republican nomination for governor in a primary next month with support from Tea Party activists, was asked by a constituent this month to explain his position on the “threat that’s invading our country from the Muslims.” As Jeff Woods of The Nashville Scene reported [cached], a tape of the exchange posted online shows the lieutenant governor responding, “I’m all about freedom of religion,” before casting doubt on Islam’s credentials as a religion by saying:

You could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion or is it a nationality, way of life or cult, whatever you want to call it.

Mr Ramsey tried to “clarify” his remarks, but only succeeded in making a merely-stupid comment into an outright-hypocritical one:

On Monday, Mr. Ramsey responded [cached] to a request for comment from Evan McMorris-Santoro of Talking Points Memo by writing in an e-mail message, “My concern is that far too much of Islam has come to resemble a violent political philosophy more than peace-loving religion.”

The hypocrisy, of course, is that Christianity in the United States is every bit as “political” as any other politically-oriented religion anywhere in the world … and some of those politically-motivated Christians are quite violent about it. Mr Ramsey just indicted himself and his own religion, in his attempt to justify taking away the religious freedom of the practitioners of another.

Photo credit: Ramsey for Governor Web site.

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The election of an atheist, a month ago, to a municipal office in Asheville, North Carolina, has caused a ruckus and may result in a lawsuit, if North Carolinian religionists have any say in the matter. The AP reports, via CBS News (WebCite cached version):

Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell believes in ending the death penalty, conserving water and reforming government — but he doesn’t believe in God. His political opponents say that’s a sin that makes him unworthy of serving in office, and they’ve got the North Carolina Constitution on their side.

Bothwell’s detractors are threatening to take the city to court for swearing him in, even though the state’s antiquated requirement that officeholders believe in God is unenforceable because it violates the U.S. Constitution.

North Carolina’s state constitution retains a provision preventing atheists from taking any office; Article VI section 8, begins:

The following persons shall be disqualified for office:
First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.

Unfortunately for the Carolinian legions of the Religious Right who are raising hell over this, that provision — while it’s still present in the state Constitution — is unenforcable, in light of U.S. Supreme Court precedents such as Torcaso v. Watkins (1961). No one can prevent Bothwell from taking office. But, armed with this obsolete state-constitutional provision, and a massive case of sanctimonious outrage, the religionists are nevertheless spoiling for a fight:

One foe, H.K. Edgerton, is threatening to file a lawsuit in state court against the city to challenge Bothwell’s appointment.

“My father was a Baptist minister. I’m a Christian man. I have problems with people who don’t believe in God,” said Edgerton, a former local NAACP president and founder of Southern Heritage 411, an organization that promotes the interests of black southerners.

Religionists elsewhere have managed to make the lives of atheist office-holders miserable … even in spite of Torcaso v. Watkins, as the AP went on to explain:

But the federal protections don’t necessarily spare atheist public officials from spending years defending themselves in court. Avowed atheist Herb Silverman won an eight-year court battle in 1997 when South Carolina’s highest court granted him the right to be appointed as a notary despite the state’s law.

I have no doubt that Edgerton and the rest of his Religious Right and Neoconfederate friends have deluded themselves into thinking they can get Torcaso overturned … but that appears unlikely, since it has repeatedly been upheld in the decades since. Unfortunately, delusional people driven by righteous furor are not known for their restraint. I wish Mr Bothwell luck as he faces years of legal challenges to his presence on the Asheville City Council.

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