Posts Tagged “americans united”

Despite it being based on fraudulent claims, this year’s edition of the fake “war on Christmas” continues apace. There is no controversy, except in the delusional minds of the Religious Right. Yet they keep on lying about it, and those lies are evident even now in this story from CNN:

Who’s winning the war on Christmas?

Republican Rep. Henry Brown of South Carolina introduced a resolution this month asking that the House express support for the use of Christmas symbols and traditions and frown on any attempt to ban references to the holiday.

“Each year, I could see a diminishing value of the spiritual part of Christmas,” Brown said. “It would seem like another group would go from the Christmas spirit to the holiday spirit.”

“What I’m afraid of — if we don’t bring some kind of closure to this continuous change, then in 20 years it will almost be completely different from what we see today … and so we would lose the whole emphasis of what the very early beginnings of Christmas was all about.”

Rep. Brown is lying here. There had been no reduction in the observance of Christmas, anywhere in the country. That this is essentially a fraudulent claim, has been noted:

Barry Lynn, an ordained minister and executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, isn’t keen on the prospect of congressional action.

“Resolutions like this come up because there is this bizarre view by some members of Congress that there is a war on Christmas and that they have to be the generals in some responding army,” he said.

“My advice to the lawmakers would be promote any religion you have through your private acts, and don’t try to ‘help’ the baby Jesus by passing a resolution on his behalf. It is arrogant and ridiculous at the same time,” Lynn said.

Another lie the R.R. likes to tell about Christmas, can be seen later in the article:

Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow for policy studies with the Family Research Council, which promotes Christian values, said the “pro-Christmas side” has made progress in recent years.

In some circles, he said, “Political correctness is preventing people from even sayings [sic] ‘Merry Christmas.’ “

The problem is, there is no concerted effort being made anywhere in the US to prevent anyone from saying “Merry Christmas.” It is not happening. I dare Mr Sprigg — or anyone else — to document any such campaign has occurred over, say, the last 5 years.

Fact is, he cannot do it … because it didn’t happen, and is not happening now.

Elsewhere, people who adhere to the “war on Christmas” trope are even trotting out the canard that other people not saying “Merry Christmas” to them frequently enough, somehow ruins the holiday for them (as seen, for example, in this story in the Kane Cty (IL) Chronicle):

At this time of year, pastor Brice Quinn does not want to be wished “Happy Holidays.” …

Not acknowledging the specific holiday takes away from its significance, he said.

Well, boo-fucking-hoo. Does Mr Quinn truly believe himself to possess the power to force everyone else he meets to say the words “Merry Christmas” to him, because for them not to do so, ruins his holiday? How insane is this kind of thinking?

Enough already with the steady stream of lies, and the presumption that many Christians like Mr Quinn have, that they possess the authority to force others to say certain things to them … or else!

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My home state of Connecticut is one of the most secular and progressive in the country, sometimes running far ahead of the rest of the US, as for example when — just this October — it became only the second state to legalize gay marriage. But Connecticut began as a primarily-Puritan colony (actually as three, one based in Hartford and the other two being New Haven and Saybrook). As such Connecticut has a history of religious prudery like none other, and a tendency remains here to revere religion in spite of all else. There are a lot of Catholics here, for example; the archdiocese of Hartford and dioceses of Bridgeport and Norwich have become militant, activist, and more parochial over the last few years, a trend of questionable legality I blogged about earlier.

The Hartford Courant reports, today, on one religious effort which has Hartford’s government sanction, and is an overtly proselytizing operation:

The men who live at Taste-N-See Outreach Ministry in Bridgeport have been praising God in song and scripture for a good hour when Pastor James Jennings urges them to their feet shortly after 7:30 a.m. …

Taste-N-See, which is named from Psalms 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good, Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him” — is one of about 20 faith-based agencies receiving federal funds through the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Connecticut has embraced faith-based services, one of the initiatives to come out of the Bush administration after it created the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in 2001. Eleven federal agencies took up the charge, making federal money and support more accessible to faith-based and community organizations.

Way to go Connecticut, throw money at churches and allow them to use people in prison — whose options are limited and to whom access is restricted by necessity — to indulge their missionary impulses. Of course, it’s not as though no one knows this is wrong:

“A lot of these programs contain a significant amount of evangelizing or proselytizing, and from our position that type of outreach should never be funded with taxpayer dollars,” says Rob Boston, senior policy analyst for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

“There should be no taxpayer-funded evangelizing, period.&dquo;

But Jennings, a former drug addict himself who found healing in his faith, sees a distinction between using taxpayer money to evangelize and using it to show people, through mercy and kindness, a better path.

While I am sure that a lot of addicts like the program, and one could claim it works so let’s keep doing it even if it’s unconstitutional, as I said the fact remains that the options of prisoners are limited at any given moment and programs like this may be the only reasonable choices available to them. Hence, they end up being forced into religion, when they should not be. Oh, but not to worry — Connecticut officials are equipped with a rationale for why this is acceptable:

Thomas Kirk, commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, says he understands why people get skittish about this, but insists there is a fundamental misunderstanding among the public about what faith-based programs do.

“We don’t pay for prayer,” Kirk says flatly.

That means that while Taste-N-See Outreach Ministry might offer prayer as part of its program — and an unabashedly Christian perspective as well — the state isn’t paying for that particular element of the program.

Instead, the government funds the housing and case management services offered by the program.

Sorry to break it to Commissioner Kirk, but giving money to a religious operation that proselytizes, does in fact — and in all cases — fund the proselytizing as much as it does anything else. Merely giving an overtly-religious program exclusive access to prisoners, which other programs do not get, is wrong. Prisoners in the program who are trying to prove themselves, are going to go along with all of that program — including prayers — because not doing so will reflect badly on themselves … not to mention it might earn the derision of their praying peers (and as one might imagine, prisoners have ways of coercing each other into doing things they might not otherwise do). The idea that participants in Taste-N-See are truly “free” to opt out of praying, is simply not true.

The Courant story goes on to mention that the efficacy of these programs is not known with certainty (even if the faith-based providers themselves claim they are). Kirk and other officials behind this admit the statistics aren’t in yet … but they quite frankly don’t care. They’re going with them anyway.

The religiosity of these programs aside, I wonder how smart it is for officials to be spending public money on programs they don’t know will work! Seriously … why throw money at unproven things? Everyone in Connecticut, religious or not, should be concerned about this cavalier and casual attitude toward public expenditures by Commissioner Kirk and our other elected and appointed officials.

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