Archive for the “Separation of church and state” Category

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

Lucifer, the fallen angel / By Gustave Doré (for Paradise Lost) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsDespite their religiosity — or perhaps, because of it! — American Christianists oppose religious freedom. Oh sure, they stomp around trumpeting how great religious freedom is, and even whine about how they don’t have any (although that’s a fucking lie). The truth is, they have all the religious freedom they want … and the religious freedom they most want, is the “freedom” to impose their religion on everyone and to harass those who insolently defy their dour metaphysics.

Toward that end, they’ve proclaimed limits on others’ religious freedoms. For instance, many Neocrusaders insist Muslims don’t have any religious freedom, on the grounds that Islam isn’t really a religion, it’s a political philosophy instead. That political philosophies, in addition to religions, are also protected by the First Amendment, is something they appear not to understand. They also say this as though their own religion isn’t, itself, political movement, even though it most certainly is.

No, the mantra they love to spew is that the US was founded by Christians, therefore, only Christians have “religious freedom” — even though, quite obviously, the First Amendment doesn’t say a word about Christianity or any other religion specifically.

The latest Christofascist to reel off this lie, as Right Wing Watch reports, is Rick Wiles (Archive.Is cached article):

End Times radio host Rick Wiles appeared on a program hosted by Greg Hunter of USAWatchdog.com over the weekend, where Wiles declared that people have no right to worship Satan in America and warned that doing so will bring destruction on this nation.

Wiles said that our society “has been sterilized of God” and “Satan is now coming in to fill the vacuum” and is outraged by reports [cached] that city officials in Boca Raton, Florida, are allowing a satanic display to be erected in a city park during the holiday season.…

“What is happening to this country?” Wiles asked. “We’ve lost our mind. And the city council and the mayor say, ‘Well, these satanists have their rights too.’ No, they don’t. They don’t have any rights. You don’t have the right to worship Lucifer. I’m sorry, but this country was founded by Christians, you don’t have the right to worship Lucifer in this country. You’re going to bring damnation and judgment on the nation.”

Note, Wiles’s complaint is pretty much the same as had been hurled a couple years ago by a bunch of militant Christianists in Texas protesting a “Satanist church” there. What none of them understands are two things: First, Satanists have the same “religious freedom” rights as anyone else; and second, they don’t actually worship Satan … they’re just protesting militant Christofascism with an ironic counter-argument of their own. In other words, these Christofascists just aren’t getting the message. It went right over their sniveling, infantile heads.

Wikimedia Commons.

I’ll end this post with a little dig at all the Christofascists out there: Hail Satan!

Hat tip: Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

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Vintage RCA International 7 Transistor Radio, Model AH-271-S, Holiday Series Radio, 2 Bands, Made In Japan / Joe Haput, via FlickrFormer judge Roy Moore, perhaps the best-known Christofascist in Alabama, is an agnostic blogger’s dream. The man literally cannot stop shooting his mouth off like the militant Christianist he is, and he repeatedly demonstrates everything that’s wrong with religionism — and by extension, religion. He’s running for US Senate, and in a primary runoff for the GOP nomination, which gives him every incentive to spew the most ridiculous Christofascist tripe imaginable. As the Friendly Atheist explains, during last night’s debate, he didn’t disappoint (Archive.Is cached article):

As a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and a Vietnam veteran, I want to work our military strong again. I want it freed from political correctness and social experimentation, like transistor troops in our bathrooms and inclusiveness.

Now, if anyone can explain to me what a “transistor troop” is, I’d love to know … because I haven’t the first fucking clue what that is. Best I can figure is, it’s a vaguely-sinister-sounding expression that Moore conjured up. As the Friendly Atheist put it, he tossed that in along with a reference to bathrooms (which the Religious Right has pitched fits over for more than a year) to create a little R.R. “word salad” that will appeal to Alabama’s Christianists (and there are many).

What makes Moore such a marvelous example of what’s wrong with religion, is that he upends the common trope of militant Christianists like him being merely “the lunatic fringe” and not representative of the wider Christian population. He’s a Decalogue champion who was removed from office as Chief Justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court back in 2003 after defying a federal court’s order to remove a Ten Commandments monument (cached). Despite the shame of that, however, the good Christianist folk of Alabama re-elected him to that office in 2012 (cached). That he won a statewide race for an office he’d been thrown out of over his dour Christofascism nearly a decade earlier, tells me he absolutely is not just a “fringe” crank, and that his Christianism definitely is representative of — and approved by — the majority of Alabamans. It’s undeniable!

Of course, Moore proved too extreme a Christianist to stay in his new office (a second time) for long, and was suspended for yet more Jesus-inspired judicial misconduct, then formally resigned in order to run for Senate (cached). If the people of Alabama elect him to the US Senate — which appears very possible — they’ll have proven themselves dour Christofascists twice over. Which will mean it’ll be even harder for them to disown him than it already is.

Photo credit: Joe Haupt, via Flickr.

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'One Nation, Under God: Remember, if you don't believe in God, you're not a REAL American. Keep prayer and God in school, where they belong!' / Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: University of GeorgiaIn case you haven’t heard, militant Christianism is alive and well in the US of A. Yes, even in the 21st century, a strangely medieval form of Christofascism is doing just fine, thank you — even though its sanctimoniously-enraged adherents insist, repeatedly (despite the facts), that Christianity is being wiped out and all Christians in the US are in dire peril of being slaughtered at any moment.

Or something like that. I think. Yeah, I know it sounds extreme, but they certainly believe all that. And they believe it fervently … so how could it possibly not be true?

Naturally, these folk focus on the future. Yes, they focus on the future they sincerely — but delusionally — fear (and lie about), the one in which Christianity no longer exists, because of vicious, evil “secular progressives” in concert with their (supposed) friends the radical Islamists; and they focus on the future they earnestly desire, one in which Christianity is alive and well, and their form of it is worshipped uniformly by everyone in the world (after first being made into the national religion of the US).

In order to bring about the latter future, the one they would love to bring about, they work hard at getting their Christianism into schools, assuring (they think) that the next generation will worship their Jesus the way they demand he be worshipped by everyone. It’s a game they’ve played for decades, and have persisted with, in spite of setbacks like Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Abington S.D. v. Schempp (1963). Little things like the rule of law don’t matter to American Christianists; they work for Jesus, you see, so they need not worry about such petty concerns.

This explains why the good Christianist folk of the good Christianist state of Arkansas passed a good Christianist law ensuring the good Christianist public-school students all see a good Christianist slogan* constantly. KARK-TV in Little Rock explains their good Christianist impulse (Archive.Is cached article):

The official motto of the U.S. written across our money and monuments could soon appear on the walls of Arkansas public schools.

A new law [cached] states elementary and secondary schools shall display a framed picture or poster of “In God We Trust” above an American flag in their libraries and classrooms.

The article includes a quote by a good Arkansas Christianist affirming the good Christianists’ desperate need for this law:

“It should be there,” said Sharon Sumpter from Mulberry. “We need to turn more back to our religion, our roots and why our country was founded.”

“If you take ‘In God We Trust’ out, I mean that’s basically telling them God’s dead, you know?,” said Doug Wilburn from North Little Rock.

This insane piece of drivel practically screams “illogic.” To be clear, Ms Sumpter: No, not seeing “In God We Trust” constantly does not — in fact — tell us that your God is dead. It just fucking doesn’t — and that you think it does, constitutes proof of your religionistic derangement.

The article goes on to explain the mechanism by which the good Christianists who wrote and passed this good Christianist law hope to make it legal:

Taxpayers won’t be fronting the bill for the new displays.

Act 911 states they either have to be donated from a private organization or purchased with funds made available through voluntary contributions to the local school boards or the Building Authority Division of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

Oh, and it’s not only schools that must display “In God We Trust” all over the place:

The law also requires the motto to appear in any public building that’s maintained or operated by state funds.

Whew! That was close! I was afraid, for a moment there, that only public-school kids in the good Christianist state of Arkansas would constantly be confronted by that good Christianist slogan*; I can be comforted knowing that any good Christianist in Arkansas who spends time in any state-funded building will be comforted by the constant sight of a good Christianist slogan*.

I sure am glad I don’t live in Arkansas. But if I did, it wouldn’t matter. I do not trust in the Christianists’ God — or any other, for that matter — nor will I ever do so, no matter how many times I’m told I must. I just won’t. And there’s absolutely nothing that American Christianists can do about it.

Nor can they change the fact that there are non-Christianists in the world … yes, even in their own precious and holy “Christian nation.” Waaah wah waah, little babies. Waah wah!

* I say “In God We Trust” is a “Christianist” slogan, because — well! — that’s exactly what it is! It was first put on US coins during the Civil War due to a religious impulse. It was later added to paper currency as the Cold War heated up, at the instigation of the Knights of Columbus.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Austin Cline/About.Com, aka ThoughtCo; Original: University of Georgia.

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'One Nation, Under God: Remember, if you don't believe in God, you're not a REAL American. Keep prayer and God in school, where they belong!' / Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: University of GeorgiaI’ve blogged a few times about Bible classes in public schools. The nation’s Christianists have long agitated against the Supreme Court’s 1963 decision in Abington School Dist. v. Schempp, which forbid the reading of Bible passages or reciting the Lord’s Prayer in public schools. Even decades later, militant Christianists throughout the country are still fighting back against that decision. They’ve consistently whined that Abington ripped the Bible out of public schools — which isn’t true — and have repeatedly pushed to get more Bible classes in more public schools throughout the country.

The reality is that lots of school systems have “Bible-as-secular-literature” courses. But many of them still run afoul of Abington. An example is the Mercer county, WV school system, which has a Bible course running through many grades, beginning in elementary school. The Freedom from Religion Foundation filed suit to end Mercer county’s Bible classes this past January (WebCite cached article). The FFRF’s complaint shows how the program’s lessons are more like Sunday-school religious lessons than “Bible-as-secular-literature.” After some wringing of hands over the last few months, as the Bluefield (WV) Daily Telegraph reports, Mercer county schools have decided to suspend the program for a year while they review its content (cached):

Mercer County’s Bible in the Schools program is being suspended for next year, providing time for a review of the optional class for elementary and middle school students.

Members of the board of education approved the suspension last night at their regular meeting.

“Since the Bible class is an elective, I would like to include community members and religious leaders along with our teachers in this process,” said Dr. Deborah Akers, superintendent of schools. “In order to conduct a thorough review, we need to allow at least a year to complete the task. Therefore, I am recommending that we suspend the elementary Bible classes until this review is completed.”

The way the schools got around the law on this is, as I see it, moderately clever. Their “Bible in the Public Schools” program is administered by the school system, but funded by private donations, with those funds paying the program’s teachers. They also say it’s an “elective,” but virtually every student takes it, which is undeniable evidence that it’s not actually an “elective” at all.

The Bluefield Daily Telegraph ran a second story to reassure readers this wasn’t necessarily the end of the program (cached). Rather pathetically, it lamented “the loss of jobs” due to the year suspension:

Although Mercer County schools administers the program, Pelts’ group raises money to pay the seven teachers, who will now be out of their jobs at least for next year.

“Right now, the loss of jobs for our teachers is heartbreaking,” said Pelts. “Our primary and immediate emphasis is to honor and show appreciation to our Bible teachers.”

The group raises almost $500,000 a year to pay for the program.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a staggering sum of money for a private fund to raise, just to pay for Bible classes in one Appalachian county. As of 2015, Mercer county’s population is a mere 60,000 or so. I can’t imagine those residents can consistently raise half a million dollars a year, just among themselves. It doesn’t seem plausible. Outside groups must be paying for this program.

If I may crib from my earlier remarks on this topic: As someone who’s studied the Bible, both as sacred and secular literature, I don’t dispute that “Bible-as-literature” classes add value to public schools. There’s no doubt whatever about that! Biblical allusions are common in other literature and art, and some of the Old Testament books serve as tremendous examples of etiology. Kids can certainly use this as a foundation for understanding other works.

The problem I have with public-school Bible classes is, I don’t trust the people — generally, devout Christians — who create curricula for, and teach, them. Many are motivated by a desire to proselytize. Even if they set out with the intention of keeping these classes completely secular, will they be able to resist the temptation to turn them into religious instruction? The ardency with which some of them have pressed to get such classes into public schools makes me question how truly committed they are to a secular approach to the Bible. I particularly find it suspicious that half a million dollars is spent annually, in little Mercer county, WV on this effort. That kind of money makes the whole thing appear very suspicious.

Photo credit: Austin Cline, Licensed to About.Com; Original Poster: University of Georgia.

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US flag with cross instead of starsBrace yourselves for even more religious politicking in the US. While campaigning for president, the Groper-in-Chief had said he would “destroy the Johnson amendment” (WebCite cached article). That’s the regulation which bars non-profit entities — of which churches and religious organizations are one type — from engaging in partisan politics.

The sniveling crybabies who comprise the Religious Right have agitated against this rule for decades. That it exists hasn’t prevented them from constructing a very powerful, religiously-propelled political engine … but that hasn’t stopped them from bellyaching about it. What’s more, it hasn’t stopped some of them from endorsing candidates without being punished by the IRS (which generally is afraid of enforcing it).

The New York Times reports that tomorrow, the National Day of Prayer, the Apricot Wonder will start making good on that promise (cached):

President Trump plans to mark the National Day of Prayer on Thursday by issuing an executive order that makes it easier for churches and other religious groups to actively participate in politics without risking their tax-exempt status, several administration officials said.

Taking action as he hosts conservative religious leaders Thursday morning, Mr. Trump’s executive order would attempt to overcome a provision in the federal tax code that prohibits religious organizations like churches from directly opposing or supporting political candidates.

The move is likely to be hailed by some faith leaders, who have long complained that the law stifles their freedom of expression. But the order is expected to fall short of a more sweeping effort to protect religious liberties that has been pushed by conservative religious leaders since Mr. Trump’s election.

Churches and other religious groups have whined for years that the Johnson amendment somehow “violates” their rights and gets in the way of their “free speech.” This, however, is completely untrue. It’s a lie straight out of the pit of Hell. All a church has to do, if it wants to endorse candidates and campaign for them, is to forfeit its tax exemption. Once it’s done that, it can politick to its heart’s content! There’s nothing — other than greed — preventing them from doing so.

The United States of Jesus is on its way, folks. You read it here first!

Photo credit: CJF20, via Flickr.

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Unsplash, via PixabayThe Commonwealth of Kentucky has an awful lot of problems … or so I thought. I mean, last I knew, it’s home to some of the most impoverished counties in the entire US (WebCite cached article). It’s taken decades for Kentucky to devolve into its current dismal status. Yes, it’s been hurt by the loss of coal production, but no, this wasn’t caused by the coal-hating Barack HUSSEIN Obama; coal jobs have diminished steadily since the 1980s, under presidents of both parties.

But it seems the Bluegrass State has solved all of its problems, including the deep poverty of its eastern reaches, because Frankfort has moved on to dealing with problems it doesn’t have: Namely, not enough Bible-thumping. As the Christian Post reports, Kentucky’s governor bravely signed a bill that establishes a foundation for Bible classes in the commonwealth’s public schools (cached):

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin recently signed a bill into law that authorizes public school boards to allow schools to offer elective Bible literacy courses and provides state guidance to help establish such classes, local news outlets have reported [cached].

According to the Ohio County Monitor, Bevin, a Republican, has signed House Bill 128 into law, which provides guidance to schools as they begin offering students the ability to sign up to take Bible courses.

The bill, which was introduced by Rep. DJ Johnson, passed overwhelmingly in the state’s senate 34 to 4 late last month.

The CP article includes obligatory references to the historic nature of the Bible and how important it is to civilization and yada yada yada. It even included this claim:

“Additionally, studies show that students that have a higher level of Bible literacy also tend to have higher GPAs,” [Republican representative DJ] Johnson continued.

No citations to these “studies” are provided, and I’m willing to bet either that no such thing exists, or they were commissioned by religious groups, in which case their results are suspect at best.

The article also points out the classes designed as a result of this law are to be “electives” only. The problem is that large swaths of Kentucky are packed with militant Christianists, so in many schools these “elective” classes won’t really be “electives”; nearly all kids will take them as a matter of course, and the few who dare not do so will be harassed and bullied. Yes, it will happen, no matter how vehemently the people promoting these classes insist they won’t permit it.

As someone who’s studied the Bible both from a religious and secular perspective, I don’t deny that secular Bible-literacy courses can have value for kids. The problem is, will the folks who teach these classes be willing to limit themselves to a secular approach? Will they have the restraint not to use them as an opportunity to proselytize? I’m not sure all of them will be able to resist the temptation to do so.

Really, what’s going on here is a kind of Bible-worship, or treating the Bible as though it were an idol. The people behind this law think that exposing kids to it will magically make them Christianists just like themselves. They really need to stick crowbars into the Bibles they long ago slammed shut, though, and actually read them for once … because it contains admonitions against idolatry and other forms of magical thinking.

At any rate, allow me to congratulate the Commonwealth on its achievement. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with Kentucky any more, and all that’s left is the passage of laws to promote Bible-reading. Well done, Kentuckyites! You must be so proud!

Photo credit: Unsplash, via Pixabay.

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PsiCop animated modification of original photo of Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold, via WBTV / Original URL: http://www.wbtv.com/story/22057943/ten-commandments-on-display-at-sheriffs-office-causing-controversyThere are a lot of Christians who think the Ten Commandments are the pinnacle of human morality. They view them not only as the rules everyone should live by, but they think of them as having a kind of magical power to make everyone better and more moral. Or something. I guess. That’s why many of them want to post the Ten Commandments everywhere. Supposedly, being constantly confronted by the Decalogue will turn every American in to an upstanding, law-abiding citizen.

Only, all too often, it turns out this isn’t actually the case. As the Daily News Journal of Murfreesboro, TN reports, one particular Decalogue champion turns out to have been anything but law-abiding (WebCite cached article):

Former Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold pleaded guilty Wednesday to three of 14 counts stemming from a two-year criminal investigation into illegally profiting from inmates through a company selling electronic cigarettes.

Arnold pleaded guilty to wire fraud, honest services fraud and extortion. Each count carries up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, supervised release of not more than three years and a $52,500 restitution payment from electronic cigarettes revenues from the JailCigs business to the county.

Now, the DNJ article doesn’t mention it, but as the Friendly Atheist points out, former Sheriff Arnold just happens to have been a major proponent of spreading the gospel of the Ten Commandments, just a few years ago (cached). At that time, he’d openly defied an earlier court order, on the pretense that he is required to do so because “In God we trust” is printed on our currency, and because “[the Ten Commandments] were the founding principles of this country.” Or something. I guess.

As I always do in cases like this, I like to point out that, for Christians, putting up Decalogue monuments (or plaques, or signs, or whatever) is incredibly problematic. First, it’s an expression of public piety, which Jesus explicitly forbid his followers ever to engage in. Second, one of the Ten Commandments is, itself, a prohibition against idolatry; depending on one’s sect, it’s either part of the First Commandment, or it’s the Second. But, given that Christians are generally unwilling to follow the words of their own scripture, I guess it’s just too hard for them to stop posting the Ten Commandments all over the place. The poor little things, they just can’t help themselves … right?

I expect Arnold and his supporters will, no doubt, consider his corruption — which he admitted in court — a kind of insignificant aberration. After all, I’m sure they’d tell me, “he’s not perfect, just forgiven.” So hey, it doesn’t really matter if he fails to live up to the faith he supposedly follows. Right? Once he’s out of jail, Arnold might even go on the Christian lecture circuit, propounding his past “sin” of corruption to his co-religionists and touting his “fallen” status as a kind of perverse credential of piety. Such is how Christianity works … as freakish as it seems.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: PsiCop animated modification of original, via WBTV.

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