Church-State Separation

Dirk Diggler's picture

Your Obligation is to Vote

Most of the time I have nothing but nice things to say about Ellen Johnson. She's an intelligent, brave, proud spokesperson for atheists. I probably agree with her 98% of the time. But, I don't know what the hell she is thinking in this instance.

I couldn't disagree more. Not voting is the best way to make politicians continue to ignore us. I am frustrated by the same things Ellen is. However, it makes no sense at all to forfeit my vote, as a protest. That's the worst idea I've heard in a while. Write in Richard Dawkins' name or something, but don't sit home.

Jim Downey's picture

Um, there's more than one part to the First Amendment.

DENVER - Carrying a family Bible, a state representative-elect (Douglas Bruce) kicked a photographer who took a picture of him during a statehouse prayer — then was sworn into office.


When Rocky Mountain News photographer Javier Manzano took his photo during the traditional morning prayer, Bruce, who was standing, brought the sole of his shoe down hard on the photographer's bent knee.

Don't do that again," Bruce told him.

Later, Bruce refused to apologize.

"I think that's the most offensive thing I've seen a photographer do in 21 years," he said. "If people are going to cause a disruption during a public prayer, they should be called for it. He owes an apology to the House and the public."

Oy. Hey, Representative Bruce, you know that there is more than one part to the US Constitution's First Amendment, right? Just in case you've happened to forget, here's the full text:

Amendment I

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Dawn Sherman Is Fighting For Your Civil Rights

Dawn Sherman, the 14 year old student in Buffalo Grove High School in Illinois who is fighting a mandatory moment of silence law, is getting hammered by the incredibly intolerant, misinformed, "persecuted" Christians who are willing to throw away their civil rights because they happen to be in the majority at this moment.

Stop by the comment area over there and show Dawn some support.

Dirk Diggler's picture

Ron Paul picks up highly sought after Vox Day endorsement

Yes it's true. Is anyone really that surprised? Why is it that the most famous people to endorse Ron Paul are Vox Day (of WorldNutDaily) and Tucker Carlson? Oh, I almost forgot about the John Birch Society.

In his latest rant Vox claims that PZ Myers "doesn't even try to make sense" (about Paul):

PZ needs to travel more. Living as he does in rural Minnesota, he has absolutely no idea how migration - not immigration - is completely destroying civilized cultures everywhere from Scandinavia to San Antonio.

Let me be clear. I don't think our current border control policies amount to anything more than lip service, but Vox is suffering from a severe bout of xenophobia. Completely destroying civilized cultures? Yes, illegal immigration should be an issue to be concerned about but let's try to keep the hysteria under control. More ranting about PZ:

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Huck Aide Calls Romney Aide An Atheist

Romney's exclusion of secular and atheist Americans from his rose-colored vision of a happily religious "Stepford wives" America was despicable, to say the least. Now the Huckabee camp in the person of Huckabee aide Ed Rollins gets in on a little atheist-bashing action by using the term as an epithet against Romney aide Ron Kaufman on the Chris Matthews show Hardball. And they all have a laugh at how ridiculous it was to call Kaufman an atheist.

Hah hah hah! Chuckle chuckle, elbow in the ribs. Isn't it so silly to say that a top aide to one of the Presidential campaign's front-runner candidates is a dirty, stinking, filthy godless atheist? Why, what could be more far-fetched? Everyone knows that atheists can't be in powerful political positions!

Silly Ed Rollins - what a merry jokester you are!

Oh wait - I mean bigoted asshole. Yeah, that's what I meant.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Mitt Romney Clarifies His Views on Religion And Government

Mitt Romney appeared on Meet The Press with Tim Russert, and immediately Russert hammered him with the atheist/atheism question. Romney stumbled a bit, but managed not to wedge his foot too firmly in his mouth, I thought.

But what in the heck is this "common bond of humanity" he says that he shares with atheists? Is the Mittster a Humanist now? He's trying too hard. He seems to be trying to be all things to all people, and that's just a recipe for disaster.

Transcript below the fold...

Jim Downey's picture

Commonwealth of God or an Empire of Liberty?

A quick note: there's an interesting discussion with Rev. Forrest Church, author of So Help Me God: The Founding Fathers and the First Great Battle over Church and State over at dKos, and there will also be a radio interview with him at 10:00 EST tonight, streamed at News/Talk 710-KIRO.

Jim Downey

Brent Rasmussen's picture

The First Amendment For Dummies

Raymond Grezel, pastor of the Rockville Church of the Nazarene near Vernon, Connecticut, the town where the Connecticut Valley Atheists erected their "Imagine No Religion" display, is a little confused about what the First Amendment is. According to him, it was apparently written specifically to protect the wilting-flower Christians in his church from being offended by all those nasty, unpopular opinions that they don't like.

[link] ...he didn't have a problem with the all-inclusive policy allowing the sign, but had hoped it would have been more appropriate.

"If you're going to allow everyone to have free speech or a display, then they should have to show a compelling reason ... without allowing inflammatory comments that ultimately harm others," Grezel said.

Hmnn. Interesting. He says, "If you're going to allow..." as if freedom of speech and expression is something that is voted on by the town council or something. As if it was not a right - the first and foremost right - already guaranteed to every American citizen by the First Amendment to the Constitution. So, Pastor Grezel thinks that us dirty atheists should have to show "a compelling reason" to exercise our civil right of freedom of expression as enumerated in the First Amendment, that our speech should be "appropriate", not "inflammatory", or "harm others".

Well, golly gee, Pastor. I had no idea that the First Amendment had all those very specific requirements that you just pulled out of your ass.

U. S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan seems to disagree with the good Pastor:

If there is a bedrock principle of the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable. - Texas vs. Johnson, 1989

In regards to Pastor Ray's delicate sensibilities and indignant squealing about the massive injustice of a group of atheists having the unmitigated gall to demand that they be afforded actual civil rights like the freedom of expression and speech, just like us regular decent people, I have to agree with General Colin Powell:

Free speech is intended to protect the controversial and even outrageous word; and not just comforting platitudes too mundane to need protection.

In other words, get used to it. It's called being an American. You still want to be one of those, don't you?

Brent Rasmussen's picture

The God Of The School Board

Florida State Board Of Education member Donna Callaway gets it so wrong that it's painful to read.

[link] Donna Callaway, a former middle school principal from Tallahassee, told the Florida Baptist Witness that evolution "should not be taught to the exclusion of other theories of origins of life."

She also said she hoped Christians would pray over the issue. "As a SBOE member, I want those prayers," Callaway said. "I want God to be part of this."

Evolution is not a "theory of origins of life", number one, and number two, the Christian God cannot, by law, "be a part of" the Florida State Board Of Education - unless you rescind the United States Constitution, or secede from the union.

But you've all heard this before, time and time again. It's been said, over and over, a thousand times or more. The facts are always the same; ignorant Christian creationist who does not understand what evolution is, or what science is gets elected to the school board. Then they convince other ignorant Christian creationists on the school board to "teach the (nonexistent) controversy" by reading the religious tracts put out by the Discovery Institute, WoTM, or Dr. Dino. Overworked civil-rights defenders like the ACLU and FFRF take the school board to court and win. Many indignant news stories and op-ed columns are written about the evil atheist plot to persecute innocent Christians by teaching science instead of Christian mythology in - ahem - science classes. Overwrought email chain letters get forwarded to everyone and their grandmother shouting about the nasty atheists and their evil plan to barbecue all the Christian children in the public school system for the crime of being Christian.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Things like this make me tired. It feels like we're bailing out a leaky boat with plastic beer cups. I mean, were doing something, going through the motions, making a lot of noise and fuss, but the reality of the situation is that the boat is filling up too fast. I fear that we are sinking, and that there is not a lot we can do to prevent it.

Still, we'll keep on bailing because what else can we do?

Jim Downey's picture

"I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute"

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute--where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote--where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference--and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

Do you recognize the quote? Is it from some crazy militant atheist, some ACLU lawyer who hates this country's "Christian heritage"? Here's a bit more:

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish--where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source--where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials--and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

* * *

Jim Downey's picture

That's rich.

Man, you can't make this shit up:

I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that "jihadism" is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, "…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration."

Romney, whose Mormon faith has become the subject of heated debate in Republican caucuses, wants America to be blind to his religious beliefs and judge him on merit instead. Yet he seems to accept excluding Muslims because of their religion, claiming they're too much of a minority for a post in high-level policymaking.

Dirk Diggler's picture

Where's the beef?

Here's a 9 minute trailer from the movie Expelled due for release in February 2008. Oh boy, I can hardly wait. Pay attention and you will notice part of this trailer was filmed at the Voter Issues Conference sponsored by the Family Research Council. If the FRC's involvement hasn't sufficiently raised the alarm, how about two of their more infamous spokesman, James Dobson and Tony Perkins?

The FRC is a Christian political organization that promotes values such as anti-homosexual rights, prayer in schools, abstinence only education, teaching creationism in science class instead of or along side evolution, ending women's reproductive rights, anti-birth control and even stopping stem cell research that could better the lives of millions of Americans. Hmmm. I wonder why the FRC is so interested in the movie Expelled and Intelligent Design?

MandyU's picture

No, not Chuck Norris!!!

This might be old news to some of you, but I had no idea this was how Chuck Norris felt about bringing religion into the classroom. I'm mildly devastated. My brother conquered his fear of the ocean when he was younger by pretending he was Chuck Norris kicking the ocean's ass. That memory feels dirty now.

I guess I should be all that surprised when There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of animals Chuck Norris allows to live.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

"It's nice to win one, for a change"

Congrats, Dawn and Rob! Every win helps!

[link] U.S. District Court Judge Robert Gettleman blocked a northwest suburban school district from following the mandate, and he could extend the ban to schools statewide today. In his preliminary ruling, Gettleman found that the law was vague and questioned how teachers and school officials were supposed to follow it and how it was to be enforced.

The ruling is a victory for atheist Rob Sherman, who brought the lawsuit against Township High School District 214, where Sherman's daughter, Dawn, is a freshman at Buffalo Grove High School.

"It's state sponsorship of prayer," Sherman said.

"It's nice to win one, for a change," joked the activist, who is often in court battling for atheist causes.

Dirk Diggler's picture

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Crazy

*The Good*

TooManyTribbles put together an AWESOME video collage of her favorite atheist/free thinking websites. And yes, UTI is in there at about the 2 minute 10 second mark. I had no idea there were so many of us.

*The Bad*

I implore everyone to read John Scalzi's hilarious report on his trip to the Creation Museum. It will make you laugh, cry and shake your head. He also includes a 101 picture photo tour so none of us will ever have to go. It started as a small joke this summer and only got better. Scalzi promised to go the museum if he could raise $250 for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He wound up raising over $5000.

*The Ugly*

Dirk Diggler's picture

Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial

Some of you may already be licking your chops in anticipation of tomorrow's (Tuesday 11/13 8pm EST) PBS special called Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on Trial.

Others may be upset and ready to complain of bias.

I expect the program to be enlightening, educational and entertaining. As you can see from the second trailer posted, not everyone is happy about this event. The Discovery Institute is doing it's best to predispose creationist proponents towards their usual anti-science mindset.

Jim Downey's picture

Calling to the Sky Daddy: "We need rain!"


I'd hoped we were beyond this: government-sponsored mass incantations to appease the weather gods.

Via the Bad Astronomer, word that Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia will hold a prayer service next Tuesday at the State Capitol. From the news article:

Heather Teilhet, his spokeswoman, said the governor began talking about wanting to host a service to pray for rain on his way back from Washington D.C. last week.

* * *

"Georgia needs rain. The issue at the heart of our drought problems is a lack of rain," Teilhet said. "And there is nothing the government can do to make that happen."

You're right, Heather. There is nothing the government can do to make that happen. And indulging your superstitions won't make one whit of difference.

Jim Downey

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Moment Of (*wink wink, nod nod, say no more*) Silence

If you glanced at this image of sixth-graders at Hinkley-Big Rock Middle School in suburban Chicago, would you immediately conclude that they are observing a government-mandated "moment of silence"?

Or, would you assume that they were bowing their heads in prayer?

Either way, it is a disturbing trend in our public schools. And don't let anyone feed the cock-and-bull about "silent reflection", blah, blah, blah. This is government approved and required prayer time. The supporters and legislators of laws and regulations like this are playing transparent, silly semantic games in order to avoid the law as set down in our Constitution. They are hurting our kids, and they are hurting America by weakening the separation of church and state.

Prayer in school is one thing when students pray on their own. I actually encourage that kind of prayer. I encourage my kids to take responsibility for their own philosophies. If they feel the need for 10-seconds-worth of quiet reflection, then I am sure that they can find ten seconds in their school day to do so. Same with prayer. If a kid wants to pray, they can pray. Find a quiet spot, bow your head, and pray. Simple.

Why do Christians want the government to mandate this quiet time at our public schools if not to bring their religion in?

And what exactly will happen to the first kid who starts making all sorts of crazy noises during the moment of silence, then claims that it is part of his religion to pray noisy prayers? Who is to say that a prayer must be silent? Why do only the silent-prayers get to pray during prayer time in school? Discrimination!

It's a silly thing to legislate on all levels. It is a pathetically transparent effort to return to the good-old theocratic days of mandatory bible readings and field trips to the Olde-Time Christian Tent Revival.

What do you all think?

Jim Downey's picture

Demography on our side?

Yes, says Sara Robinson over at Orcinus, citing a new study from the Barna Group of generational attitudes about Christianity in this country. From her excellent post:

I don't know how long they thought they were going to go on that way, all self-righteous and judgmental, blaming homosexuals and feminists for everything from 9/11 to the price of gas, ignoring the interests of the poor in favor of those of big business, and dismissing any kind of environmental stewardship as nothing more than a way to waste time until the Rapture comes. Clearly, the didn't see anything at all wrong with elevating the most spiteful and amoral among them as their national spokespeople, and rewarding them in direct proportion to the heat of their rhetoric. No, these folks were on fire (we're still not sure if it was Jesus or heartburn), and they weren't afraid to let their bilious light shine on the TV, in the streets, all the way to the White House. They did their best to set it high above the rest of the culture, where none of the rest of us could miss it if we wanted to.

Dirk Diggler's picture

Alabama gets the shaft!

Last week, the Supreme Court decided not to hear a case about the State of Alabama banning the sale of sex toys. The owner of two adult stores in the state had asked the Supreme Court to throw out law originally passed back in 1998. The owner argues that the state's anti-obscenity law is unconstitutional, saying it was an intrusion to bedroom privacy. The law bans the sale of sex toys, but not the possession.

A divided three-judge panel of the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. It said in a ruling last July that siding with the sex toy merchants could open the door to the legalization of undesirable sexual behavior such as prostitution. "If the people of Alabama in time decide that prohibition on sex toys is misguided, or ineffective, or just plain silly, they can repeal the law and be finished with the matter," the court said.

"On the other hand, if we today craft a new fundamental right by which to invalidate the law, we would be bound to give that right full force and effect in all future cases including, for example, those involving adult incest, prostitution, obscenity, and the like."

This is the perfect metaphor for how stupid and backwards the Christian Right has become.

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