Posts Tagged “religious freedom”

SiegeOfAcre1291Earlier this month I blogged about some Fox News hosts who said that non-believers should leave the U.S. if they prefer not to be forced to say “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. One of them was Bob Beckel, who — as Politico reports — has since advocated that the religious freedoms of Muslims in this country be taken away (WebCite cached article):

Fox News co-host Bob Beckel went off on American Muslims on Monday, demanding that no more mosques be built until moderate Muslims “denounce” the recent mall attack in Kenya.

Islam is “not the religion of peace,” Beckel, the show’s relatively progressive co-host said. “They are the religion of Islamic [fundamentalism].”

“I will repeat what I said before: No Muslim students coming here with visas. No more mosques being built here until you stand up and denounce what’s happened in the name of your prophet,” Beckel continued.

Politico offers video of Beckel’s spew:

As I see it there are a couple of problems with Beckel’s position: First, and most importantly, it’s unconstitutional. Muslims have freedom of worship in this country, guaranteed by the First Amendment. Unless an individual Muslim, or group of them, is breaking the law, there are no grounds for preventing them from building any mosques. None. I’m sure Beckel would agree with a lot of Neocrusaders who think there is no freeedom of religion for Muslims, because (they argue) Islam is not a “religion” per se, but a “political philosophy” which (they further argue) can be banned. (Not that this distinction even matters very much, either: Political parties and organizations of all sorts are allowed to exist, and they have rights, too.)

Second, Beckel thinks “denunciations” by American Muslims will somehow do something about al-Shabab and other Islamofascist terror groups. I’m not convinced that mere words even matter much. What does matter, is action. Ultimately, it is up to Muslims to police their own religion and stamp out extremism within it. And mouthing denunciations isn’t going to do that. Even so, I’m not sure precisely what actions American Muslims can take to rein in al-Shabab. They’re half a world away and difficult to contact — it’s true they use Twitter (cached), but they keep changing their handle, so using it to reach them won’t work. Traveling there to confront them personally is difficult at best, and dangerously foolish at worst. What American Muslims can do, is to stop joining al-Shabab (cached), and not give them any money … but it goes without saying that the vast majority of American Muslims already are not doing either of those things.

So Beckel’s demand is not only unconstitutional, it’s useless. I’ll have to add him to the ranks of the unthinking, fierce Neocrusaders who actually believe that one form of irrational religionism (i.e. theirs) is superior to another (i.e. Muslims’). I’m not convinced this is the case. Rather, they’re two sides of the same coin … and therefore have no right to hurl stones (whether real or rhetorical) at each other.

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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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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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St Marys Cathedral Calgary-DayI’ve blogged numerous times about the Catholic Church’s hypocrisy and disingenuousness. For instance, it has condemned civil authorities that dare investigate child abuse at the hands of its clergy yet it simultaneously embraces those same authorities when it has been victimized. Another example is the Church’s open celebration of Galileo Galilei and his scientific achievements, in spite of the fact that the Church did everything in its power to destroy him because of those same achievements.

One would think examples of this phenomenon are so common that additional ones would no longer be necessary, but one would be wrong. With the R.C. Church’s huge pushback campaign now well underway, and with the bishops becoming increasingly vocal and intransigent, we can no longer afford merely to take for granted that the Church and its hierarchs are dissembling liars. Every example of their disingenuousness and hypocrisy must be exposed so that no one is fooled by their pious facade.

Exactly one such example is exemplified in Canada. On its Web site, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops hosts this manifesto on what they call “religious freedom,” in PDF format (WebCite cached version). In point 6 (page 4), it says:

We are never to impose our religious beliefs on others, but always to respect individuals and cultures, honouring the sanctuary of conscience. …

It is a violation of freedom of conscience for anyone to attempt to impose his or her own understanding of the truth on others. The right to profess the truth must always be upheld, but never in a way which involves contempt for those who think differently.

Now, this sure sounds all nice and reasonable and tolerant and accomodating. One would think the Canadian bishops want to hold hands in a ring around the planet and sing “Kum Ba Ya” together. But in practice, this is most assuredly not how the Canadian bishops have behaved! Quite the contrary. Back in 2005 when gay marriage became permitted in the Great White North, Bishop Frederick Henry of Calgary penned a pastoral letter condemning gay marriage (cached); included in it was a call to outlaw homosexuality, adultery, and pornography as well:

Since homosexuality, adultery, prostitution and pornography undermine the foundations of the family, the basis of society, then the State must use its coercive power to proscribe or curtail them in the interests of the common good.

Maybe it’s just me, but this reads like the bishop’s attempt to “impose” his views and beliefs on others, and it certainly displays more than a little “contempt” for those he dislikes.

Way to go, Canadian bishops! What a marvelous way to live up to your own stated ideals. Maybe you should crack your Bibles open and read what Jesus himself reportedly said about people who engaged in hypocrisy of this sort. I’m not sure he’d be as impressed with you as you might want to think.

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Cry babyIn a move that ought to surprise no one with half a brain, America’s Catholic bishops have decided to ramp up their sanctimonious fury, and are taking the Obama administration to court because it dared to thwart their desire to control the lives of others. The New York Times reports on their continued expression of Christofascist outrage (WebCite cached article):

In an effort to show a unified front in their campaign against the birth control mandate, 43 Roman Catholic dioceses, schools, social service agencies and other institutions filed lawsuits in 12 federal courts on Monday, challenging the Obama administration’s rule that their employees receive coverage for contraception in their health insurance policies.

The bishops’ hissy fit was orchestrated by the usual suspects, including New York’s Cardinal Dolan:

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, whose archdiocese in New York is among the plaintiffs, said in a statement: “We have tried negotiations with the administration and legislation with the Congress — and we’ll keep at it — but there’s still no fix. Time is running out and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now.”

The problem is, the Cardinal is lying! Neither he nor any of the rest of the bishops are truly “negotiating” anything with anyone. In order to “negotiate,” one must first be willing to “compromise.” However, at no time have the bishops ever expressed even the slightest desire to “compromise” with anyone. Quite the opposite … they’ve gone on the record as stating they absolutely will not compromise on matters such as this. In their minds, anyone who’s insolent enough to stand in the way of them controlling others and imposing their doctrines on them (whether or not they’re actually Catholic) is an effort to deny them “religious freedom.” As I’ve blogged before, their reasoning is as follows:

  1. We Catholic bishops have religious freedom, and are entitled to hold any beliefs we want
  2. One of our beliefs is that everyone — Catholic or not — is required to live according to Catholic doctrines
  3. Anyone who gets in the way of our forcing everyone to obey Catholic doctrine, therefore …
  4. … is robbing us of our “religious freedom,” which is impermissible.

The bishops object to having to pay for contraception as part of their employees’ health insurance, however, the cold fact is that, at some point, everyone has to pay for something s/he objects to … for whatever reason. For example, I object to having had my tax money used to bail out AIG and many banks a few years ago (cached).* Why should the bishops’ objection to contraception spending be more important than my objection to government bailouts … merely because their objection is religious, while mine is purely fiscal?

Sorry, but there’s no rational way this can be said to be about money. It’s about something else; it’s the Catholic Church’s pushback campaign in the wake of the “priestly pedophilia” scandal, and is an effort to scare up political power and regain the societal influence it once had. The bishops are hoping American courts — capped by the US Supreme Court, which currently has a theocrat-sympathetic majority — will hand them the power they want.

* For the record, I accept that, in a representative republic such as the U.S., the government will sometimes spend money in a way I personally object to. I can live with the bailouts, even if I don’t like them and don’t agree they were wise. Why can’t the bishops say the same about contraception? (Answer: Because they’re too fucking childish to do so!)

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Cathedral of St. Mary Peoria IllinoisAmerica’s Roman Catholic bishops are furious at president Barack Obama, because his administration has exhibited what they view as impermissible insolence, and dares to prevent them from forcing the entire population — Catholic or not — from having to live according to their own religious doctrines. Their war against Obama has been going on for several weeks, without letup. Their latest tantrum, as reported by MSNBC, came in the form of Peoria bishop Daniel Jenky hurling a reductio ad Hitlerum at the president (WebCite cached article):

“Remember that in past history other governments have tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches like the first disciples locked up in the Upper Room,” Jenky said. …

“Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services and health care.”

“In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama, with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path,” he said.

I’ve blogged numerous times about the tendency of American pundits and officials to throw around the reductio ad Hitlerum fallacy. It goes without saying that it’s old, it’s juvenile, and it fucking needs to stop, fercryinoutloud. Can’t we just give the Nazi comparisons a rest, already?

Jenky and the rest of the bishops appear to predicate their reasoning on something like the following syllogism:

  1. I have religious freedom, and can believe whatever I wish to believe.
  2. One of my beliefs is that everyone is required to live according to my beliefs
  3. Anyone who gets in the way of me imposing my beliefs on others, therefore …
  4. … is thwarting my freedom of religion, which is impermissible.

I’ll open up my longstanding dare — which, to date, no one has shown the courage to accept — to America’s bishops. If you want to exert your “religious freedom” and force me to live according to Catholic doctrine … well, by all means, go right ahead. Give it your best shot, guys! Track me down, and then do whatever you feel you need to do, and make me live however you demand I live.

I don’t see why you wouldn’t do it, since you believe yourself entitled to, and have said as much. Why wouldn’t you put your words into action and coerce me to act like a devout Catholic, if you think it’s necessary?

Let’s face it, folks, the country’s R.C. bishops are a bunch of whining crybabies. Boo fucking hoo. The bishops should fucking grow up and act like the elderly adults they are.

P.S. In past blog posts, I’ve directly addressed — and refuted — the claim that Obama, his administration, the Democrats, or the American Left are Nazis. They are not. The Nazis said and did a lot of things that none of those guys have even imagined doing, much less attempted.

P.P.S. Contrary to what Jenky says, Stalin and Hitler were far from identical in their treatment of religion. The Soviets generally suppressed religion, it’s true, but the Third Reich’s policies were more subtle and manipulative; they commandeered the Reichskirche, or unified Protestant churches of Germany, and subverted it to serve them. They also disarmed the Catholic Church within Germany by signing the Reichskonkordat with the Vatican. Thus, Jenky lied when he said Stalin and Hitler treated religion the same. They absolutely did not, and this places Jenky in my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

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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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