Church-State Separation

Hank Fox's picture

Chuckles from Dover, Pennsylvania

The Wilkes-Barre, Penn., Times-Leader reports that the Dover school board has "decided not to guarantee contract renewals for two top administrators who helped implement an intelligent-design policy that a federal judge overturned last year."

"The Dover Area School Board voted Monday to open the jobs of Superintendent Richard Nilsen and Assistant Superintendent Michael Baksa to other applicants. Nilsen's contract expires June 30, 2007, and Baksa's contract expires July 1, 2007."

These are two guys who testified for the ID faction in 2005 in the course of a civil suit brought by parents who weren't happy with a distinctly anti-science policy established by the previous school board (who were themselves booted out in a Nov. 2005 election).

You'll probably remember that Dover was a huge catastrophe for the ID crowd, and a bracing tonic to people who actually care about the teaching of biology instead of creationist nonsense.

Dick and Mike can reapply for their jobs, but they'll face on even ground an open field of applicants. Nilsen said he had "no idea" why it was happening.

Justice is a bitch, sometimes, huh, guys? Good luck on those EDUCATION careers.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Dawkins Joins The Secular Coalition

Washington, DC – The Secular Coalition for America has announced today that it has added Richard Dawkins to its Advisory Board. The Secular Coalition for America is the first lobbying organization representing the interests of atheists, humanists, freethinkers, and other nontheists in our nation’s capitol.

Richard Dawkins is a well known commentator on science, religion, and politics. He taught zoology at the University of California at Berkeley and at Oxford University and now holds the Charles Simonyi Chair in the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford. Dr. Dawkins is an eminent ethologist, evolutionary theorist, and popular science writer. His bestselling books include The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker (for which he won the Royal Society of Literature Award and the Los Angeles Times Literary Prize), The Extended Phenotype, River Out of Eden, Climbing Mount Improbable, Unweaving the Rainbow, and A Devil’s Chaplain. His latest book, The God Delusion, will be released in October.

Lori Lipman Brown, the Director of the Secular Coalition for America, stated that,

“Richard Dawkins embodies our mission statement commitment in ‘promoting reason and science as the most reliable methods for understanding the universe and improving the human condition.’ His international perspective will assist the Secular Coalition for America in tackling the irrational barriers that inhibit the exploration of scientific arenas such as stem cell research. In June of last year, the House of Representatives passed HB 810, which would allow expanded stem cell research; however, the Senate has taken no action on this legislation. This legislative lethargy enforced by the Senate leadership is completely lacking in conscience or compassion. If allowed to proceed, stem cell research has the potential to find cures for a host of diseases and injuries including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, diabetes, and spinal cord injuries. The Secular Coalition for America again thanks Dr. Dawkins for joining its Advisory Board and looks forward to his insights on promoting rational public policies.”

For more information contact Lori Lipman Brown, Director, Secular Coalition for America at 202-299-1091 or

No More Mr. Nice Guy's picture

Dear Journalist...

Battle Cry is undoubtedly one of the scariest developments in the ongoing nightmare/train wreck of George Bush Junior's corporatist neonazicon theocracy. Read the Daily Kos article and click on the links, and you will be horrified. A Nuremberg rally whipping up hatred against non-fundamentalists, Navy SEALS firing automatic weapons as part of the act, Junior sending a letter of support - pardon my freedom but what the fuck is happening to this country???

Equally horrifying is the fact that the "liberal media" is studiously ignoring this very dangerous and disturbing movement - apart from the Philadelphia Daily News giving Ron Luce, the organizer, free publicity to write a dishonest and misleading article suckering impressionable teens into this carnival of hatred and blood lust!

Most sickening of all is that Luce's column was published as part of a regular series: "Each Saturday the Daily News offers men and women of faith the opportunity to share their words of life and comfort with our readers." Words of death and destruction is more like it.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Unsconstitutional And Wrong

Retired Navy officer Keith Taylor does not suffer fools gladly. His latest op-ed piece in the Voice Of San Deigo newspaper makes this abundantly clear with his support spelled out for San Diego's Judge Gordon Thompson and his decision to fine the city five thousand dollars per day unless the gigantic Christian cross at Mount Soledad is not removed from public land. He also throws his weight behind plantiff Phillip Paulson, and Paulson's lawyer, Jim McElroy.

[link] You will never hear a word as loaded with venom as "atheist" if you dare suggest that prayer, or symbols, don't work. Ask Phil Paulson or his lawyer, Jim McElroy. Just don't call them on their phones. They have been kept busy by people sending death threats.

And don't look for much help from the media. It is good business to report stories of miraculous sightings of the Virgin Mary, even in a sandwich, while ignoring the number of deaths that could be prevented by condoms.

All of that is tied up in the same belief that causes folks to become frantic over a symbol on a mountain. Being frantic without a scintilla of evidence is bad policy no matter how loud it's shouted.

When was the last time you read an article out of San Deigo that supports the judge's decision, and calls the city's shameful reaction what it really is - unconstitutional and wrong?

Mr. Taylor makes me proud to have served in the same Navy that he did. He is a member of the San Deigo Association For Rational Inquiry. Check out their website at

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Howard Dean Jumps The Shark

Et tu, Howard? Et tu?

[link] Dean said that "one of the misconceptions about the Democratic Party is that we're godless and that we don't have any values."

The Vermont liberal is trying to change that. Dean wants evangelicals and other conservative Christians to know that Democrats have something to offer them.

"The truth is, we have an enormous amount in common with the Christian community, and particularly with the evangelical Christian community,” Dean said. “And one of the biggest things that Democrats worry about is the materialism of our country, what's on television that our kids are seeing, and the lack of spirituality. And that's something we have in common."

Democrats sit around worrying about materialism and the lack of spirituality? That's the "biggest thing"? Huh?

It's sad to see someone fold up their ideals for short-term political gain. I guess the Democrats could give a shit less about the godless too. That's just great.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Long Overdue

In 1991, a judge issued an injunction to the city of San Deigo, California that forbid the use of city land for the cross in a hilltop park in La Jolla.

The cross was not removed, and the city spent the next 17 years and millions of dollars in taxpayer money in an attempt to subvert the law and make a mockery out of the Constitution.

That all came to a crashing end yesterday when a U.S. District judge ordered the city to comply with the 1991 injunction and removed the cross.

More below the flip...

Brent Rasmussen's picture

National Day Of Reason

Fight the irrational. Endorse the National Day Of Reason.

[link] Why a "National Day of Reason?"

Many who value the separation of religion and government have sought an appropriate response to the federally-supported National Day of Prayer, an annual abuse of the constitution. Nontheistic Americans (including freethinkers, humanists, atheists, agnostics, and deists), along with many traditionally religious allies, view such government-sanctioned sectarianism as unduly exclusionary.

A consortium of leaders from within the community of reason endorsed the idea of a National Day of Reason. This observance is held in parallel with the National Day of Prayer, on the first Thursday in May (4 May 2006). The goal of this effort is to celebrate reason - a concept all Americans can support - and to raise public awareness about the persistent threat to religious liberty posed by government intrusion into the private sphere of worship.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Atheist Whackjobs Of The World Unite!

Well, good-golly-gee! I'm sure glad we have Melinda Barton around to remind us what a bunch of powerless, evil, wanna-be dictatorial extremists us atheists are! I mean, the fact that we don't believe in any gods is pretty extreme. Terrorism, really. Our non-belief in her god makes us dangerous. Just listen to her. She'll tell you.

[link] Why face off with the atheist whackjobs? Because extremism is extremism is extremism. No rational movement dedicated to intellectual courage and honesty should maintain a relationship with those for whom intellectual laziness, dishonesty, and cowardice are a way of life. Doing what must be done to insure the integrity of the left will require identifying our extremists, countering their mythologies, and acknowledging the dangers they pose to a truly liberal society.Why face off with the atheist whackjobs? Because extremism is extremism is extremism. No rational movement dedicated to intellectual courage and honesty should maintain a relationship with those for whom intellectual laziness, dishonesty, and cowardice are a way of life. Doing what must be done to insure the integrity of the left will require identifying our extremists, countering their mythologies, and acknowledging the dangers they pose to a truly liberal society.

The fact that the "atheist whackjobs" she describes in her articles, as well as the "outrageous claims" list she writes about, then clumsily knocks down, don't actually exist anywhere in the real world doesn't seem to faze her or her editors at The Raw Story.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Atheists are the last minority in the country where it is acceptable - even encouraged - to denigrate, attack, oppress, and make shit up about them.

We are the new boogey-men, just like "communists" and "jews" have been the boogey-men in the past.

I just hope that it doesn't end in some sort of McCarthy-esque round-up and detention.

The Neural Gourmet, Austin Cline, and PZ all have great comments about this.

You can comment directly on Barton's original post on her blog here.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Tom Delay Is Insane, Part Deux

There is a definite and unmistakable move towards Dominionism in our country. It is fueled by the insane belief in a "War on Christians". Christianity's encouragement of a martyr complex in it's adherents is becoming dangerous enough that I'm truly worried about it.

The Revealer's Elizabeth A. Castelli, an associate professor of religious studies at Barnard College, has written a must-read article for anyone concerned about the direction the theocrats are heading. She has heavily researched and documented the role that martyrdom has played in shaping and establishing the Christian culture and mindset. She recently attended the "The War on Christians and the Values Voter in 2006" conference sponsored by Vision America, who bill themselves as " organization committed to the project of 'restoring the original American vision.'"


[link] When the powerful claim to be powerless and use this claim and a purportedly divine mandate to authorize a no-holds-barred attack on political institutions, we are on dangerous ground, indeed.

You need to read this article.

(Tip of the ballcap to PZ.)

Brent Rasmussen's picture

A Shocking Breach In The Wall

Just shocking, I tell you.

Brunswick County School Board votes yes on Satanic Bibles in school
March 23, 2006, 02:31 PM

BRUNSWICK COUNTY -- The same group that puts Satanic Bibles in hotel rooms across America now wants to give Satanic Bibles to kids in Brunswick County public schools.

In a split decision, the Brunswick County School Board recently voted to allow it.

The LaVeyans are the Satanic group that wants to give away the Satanic Bibles. And the religious literature could be in the public schools as early as this spring.

No More Mr. Nice Guy's picture

The Gospel according to Scooter

TUCSON, Ariz, 4/7/2110 (EAP): An early Christian manuscript has been carbon-dated by scientists at the University of Arizona Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory. The controversial document is likely to causes upheaval in the accepted story of the Son of Bush.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Tom Delay Is Insane

I think he was probably always off his nut, but at least he was quietly off his nut. Now he's got this whole dang martyr complex thing going on.

[link] "Sides are being chosen, and the future of man hangs in the balance! The enemies of virtue may be on the march, but they have not won, and if we put our trust in Christ they never will. ... It is for us then to do as our heroes have always done and put our faith in the perfect redeeming love of Jesus Christ."

Wow, I mean, just, wow. The "future of man"? "Enemies of virtue on the march"? C'mon, Tom. Quit scaring the kiddies with all your spittle-flinging crazy-talk.

The real scary part is the lowing herds of bovine conservative Christians who are just eating this excrement up and demanding more. It seems like they have some sort of need for a way to feel special, persecuted, and heroic -- all without doing anything more than sitting on the couch listening to insane demigogues like Delay.

They're like drama addicts. Must feel superior. Must have an enemy defined for them to hate. (Atheists and Muslims fit the bill quite well nowadays - in the past it was the Jews.) Must gasp, look to the sky, and shake head sadly at the terrible moral decay in our country whenever anyone on TV looks somber and mentions the "War On Christmas" or "The War On Christians".

I blame daytime talk shows. It's obviously their fault for making all those Christian couch potatoes crave vicarious, staged excitement.

Damn you Jerry Springer!

Alon Levy's picture


Excuse the unbloglike citing of a 5-year-old article, but I think nobody should forget that the Salvation Army worked in tandem with the Bush administration to discriminate against gays. It appears that to Salvation Army, just like to many other religious charities, it's not first of all about helping the poor, but about turning society into a theocratic one in which the poor have no options but religious charity.

The Salvation Army, a Christian social services organization with an extensive network of facilities to feed, clothe and shelter the poor, would not be affected much in the short term by the president's proposal on faith-based services. It already receives nearly $300 million a year in government money. But the report indicates the administration is eager to use the Salvation Army's clout to pass the legislation, offering the charity something it wants in return.

The Salvation Army projects spending $88,000 to $110,000 a month in its endeavor to boost Bush's charitable choice effort. It has hired lobbying and strategy concerns to help.

Of course, despite spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbying, the Salvation Army kept its tax-exempt status. Liberal organizations need to keep their funds in two separate, nonfungible accounts - one for outreach and education purposes, and one for lobbying; religious ones that use charity as a hammer to hit gays with have no such restriction.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Damned Activist Judges

My worst nightmare made flesh. Rachel Bevilacqua lost custody of her son because she pokes fun at religions as a member of the Church Of The Sub-Genius satire performance group.

[link] Her ten-year-old son, Kohl lived with her and her husband in Georgia. Like she's done many times before, Bevilacqua put her son on a plane to New York to visit his father in Orleans County for Christmas. However, this time she didn't get him back.

"This is the longest we've ever been a part," she said.

Bevilacqua said her son's father filed for full custody during his visit and a judge granted it without contacting her. She flew to New York to fight the ruling, thinking it would be an easy fight since she's always had custody. However, Bevilacqua walked out of the Orleans County Court stripped of just about all of her parental rights. This after County Judge James Punch learned of her involvement in a satire performance group that pokes fun at religion, called the Church of the Sub-Genius. Court transcripts back up her claims.

"I've read through the transcripts a million times and he just said it's obvious that I shouldn't have my son. Obvious."

ACLU Director Barbara de Leeuw didn't want to comment on the specifics of the case, but she said there is not getting around the freedom of speech.

"It's a very challenging issue to think that somebody engaged in constitutionally protected activity that there are personal ramifications for it," she explained.

Bevilacqua believes Judge Punch used her to make a political statement.

"I'm a good mother and you can't play games with people's lives like this," she asserted."

Judge Punch refused our previous requests for comment on this case. And we learned he is currently out of town. Bevilacqua will be back in court next month, but in front of new judge. Judge Punch recused himself last week.

More here and here, here, and here.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

A Bargain Basement Kent Hovind

Tom Ritter is a high school chemistry teacher with a dilemma. How to reconcile his duties teaching public high-school students chemistry and physics when those fields depend so heavily on evolution?

Did I mention that Professor Tom is a creationist? And that he has issued a $1000.00 "challenge" to "evolutionists" to debate him in mid-May on the topic; "Is evolution the only rational explanation to explain life and the existence of modern organisms?"

Apparently, Tom Ritter is Lebanon Pennsylvania's rather shopworn version of Dr. Dino.

Ritter, a chemistry and physics teacher, is astonishingly ignorant when it comes to evolution.

[link] “Personally, I don’t have much interest in evolution, creation or ‘intelligent design,’” Ritter said. “I’m interested in science. I believe teaching evolution as fact perverts science. You could teach evolution as a theory, and I’d have no problem with that.

Evolution is both a fact and a collection of theories. The fact is that evolution occurs. No sane person would even think of denying this. The theories are attempts to best explain how evolution occurs. A science teacher who doesn't understand this should be fired. It's inexcusably ignorant - willfully ignorant.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Garbage In Garbage Out

In Utah, the state Attorney General's Office has requested that the judge dismiss a lawsuit filed against the state having to do with roadside crosses honoring Utah state troopers killed in the line of duty. In her comment on the story on the website, commenter Julie K. demonstrates the awesome power of Jesus, and the perfect love for all mankind that His followers demonstrate.

Except when they're those dirty atheists, of course.

[link] I am getting soooo sick of other people trying to tell me that I cannot worship a God. That I cannot have any religious simbols in public. What are they going to ask the courts for next, that they abolish the direction of East because some people face the East to pray to their God. Why dont you all buy yourselves an island & get the heck out of a country that was build on the principals of a God. When you all get to that island I will pray to my God to sink it.

"Hey Bob, you know this island we atheists bought?"


"Does the horizon seem a little closer today?"

*peers at the ocean* "Holy shit! God does exist! Swim for it!"

Alon Levy's picture

Dealing with Dominionism

Amy Sullivan wrote an article in the Washington Monthly about how Democrats should be religious in order to win over religious voters, because evidently they can work with many Evangelicals, who support such economically progressive causes as environmentalism, public health care, and higher spending on education. PZ Myers eviscerates her, commenting snarkily, "If the Democrats led the way in abandoning the principle of separation of church and state, if we institutionalized the teaching of Christianity in our public schools, and if we out-preached and out-prayed the Republicans and put up bigger crosses ad bigger flags in our front yards than they do, we'd win!"

Now, I think PZ's criticism is wrong: Sullivan seems to want the Democrats not to jettison secularists in favor of religious fundamentalism, but to build a coalition based on economic progressivism consisting of secularists as well as Evangelists. This is most similar to how Roosevelt managed to include both white Southerners and blacks in his New Deal coalition. That said, I think Sullivan's suggestion is not particularly good. The most important reason is that after they help Democrats get elected, these Evangelists will want their fair share of the pie; and if they got Bush, who they vote for almost automatically, to replace moderate Miers by extremist Alito, they'll get a Democratic President to grant many more concessions.

Sporkyy's picture

My Proposed Resolution

Whereas, our forefathers of this great nation of the United States were white and used the principles thought of by white people as the founding principles of our nation; and

Whereas, as citizens of this great nation, we the white majority also wish to exercise our constitutional right to acknowledge our race and give thanks for the many gifts our race has provided; and

Whereas, as elected officials we should protect the majority's right to express their racist beliefs while showing respect for those of other races; and

Whereas, we wish to continue the wisdom imparted in the Constitution of the United States of America by the founding fathers; and

Whereas, we as elected officials recognize that a Master Race exists above and beyond the institutions of mankind:

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the members of the House of Representatives of the Ninety-third General Assembly, Second Regular Session, the Senate concurring therein, that we stand with the majority of our white constituents and exercise the common sense that voluntary white pride in schools and racist displays on public property are not a coalition of race and state, but rather the justified recognition of the positive role that white people have played in this great nation of ours, the United States of America.

A Rational Being's picture

Alito Thank You note to Dobson

Alito? Newest member of the Supreme Court. Dobson? Head of "Focus on Family" and prime driver behind "Intelligent Design".

In case you had any doubts about who owns Alito, this note should clear that up. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State - Alito to Dobson letter

“This is just a short note to express my heartfelt thanks to you and the entire staff of Focus on the Family for your help and support during the past few challenging months. I would also greatly appreciate it if you would convey my appreciation to the good people from all parts of the country who wrote to tell me that they were praying for me and for my family during this period.”

Alito went on to write, “As long as I serve on the Supreme Court I will keep in mind the trust that has been placed in me” and expressed his desire for a personal meeting with Dobson.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Is it a Bird? A Plane?

[inline:01]Nope. It's SuperJebus!

Religious Education teachers in England are being encouraged to use the comic-book hero Superman as an analogy to explain Jesus to godless children.

Why am I not surprised? Jesus has always seemed like a comic book character to me.

[link] The former RE teacher, now head of post-graduate teacher training at Sheffield Hallam University in northern England, told the newspaper there were many parallels between the "Man of Steel" and Jesus:

  • Both were sent by their fathers to Earth and arrive in mysterious circumstances.
  • Both achieve prominent adulthoods after an obscure childhood.
  • Both help the human beings they are sent to live with.
  • Both are champions of truth and goodness over injustice and evil.

Cook argued that children only became interested in a subject once they were given an identifiable point of reference but with church attendance on the wane, it was increasingly difficult to explain the basic tenets of faith.

"Children aren't brought up to go to Sunday School any more and find it difficult to think about abstract concepts such as God and pre-destination and films give them an insight," she was quoted as saying.

Hehehe... This cracks me right up.

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