Archive for October 2005

Religious Right Lie: "All who oppose us are atheists"

October 25, 2005

I have posted below a thoughtful little essay from one of my favorite blogs, Red State Rabble (I have added it to my links section). RSR points out the trend for the Christian Right to brand anyone who opposes them as an atheist. I find this trend disturbing in many ways. While it is an outgrowth of the lie that evolution is just an atheist apologetic, it is a logical conclusion from the premise that one’s own religion is the only religion in the world and all others are mere cults (inclunding the Catholic Church!).

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Collateral Damage

In the battle over teaching creationism and intelligent design in public schools, the collateral damage to civility and social cohesion may prove more destructive in the long run than any injury to public education or the practice of science.

This has been reflected in a number of ways, perhaps most recently in this statement by Kansas State Board of Education member Carol Rupe, a good church-going Episcopalian, who opposes introducing intelligent design into the curriculum:
“There has been the implication that those of us who want the true science standards taught must be atheists, because otherwise we wouldn’t want that,” she said. “But the whole idea that you can’t be a person of faith and want good science is just ridiculous.”

It is the conscious strategy of John Calvert, of the Intelligent Design Network, and the fellows of the Discovery Institute, in Seattle, to portray everyone who opposes their absurd project to replace science with Christian fundamentalism as atheists.

Now Red State Rabble doesn’t find the atheist label to be quite the epithet that others might. We wear our skeptic’s badge proudly. However, when fundamentalists begin to call anyone who worships in a different church an atheist, it reflects a troubling breakdown of religious tolerance.

When these same fundamentalists begin to write their beliefs into public policy and the law — and that is exactly what they are doing when they demand their religious beliefs be taught as science in public schools — they are setting the stage for a very dangerous social confrontation.

Most Americans are relieved, we believe, that our country hasn’t experienced the sort of religious strife that countries like Northern Ireland, Lebanon, and Iraq have suffered with in recent years. The push by Christian fundamentalists to establish their beliefs as a state religion, however, may come to mean that the horrible destruction we witnessed in those devastated countries is less a painful memory of others woes than a dreadful portent of things to come.

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Religious Right Lie: "The ACLU is antiChristian"

October 23, 2005

Here’s a just a small sample of cases which the ACLU has handled on behalf of Christians of many stripes (but mostly evangelical Christians) — and these examples below are from just within the past few years:

December 22, 2004: ACLU of New Jersey successfully defends right of religious expression by jurors.

November 20, 2004: ACLU of Nevada supports free speech rights of evangelists to preach on the sidewalks of the strip in Las Vegas.

August 11, 2004: ACLU of Nebraska defends church facing eviction by the city of Lincoln.

July 10, 2004: Indiana Civil Liberties Union defends the rights of a Baptist minister to preach his message on public streets.

June 3, 2004: Under pressure from the ACLU of Virginia, officials agree not to prohibit baptisms on public property in Falmouth Waterside Park in Stafford County.

May 11, 2004: After ACLU of Michigan intervened on behalf of a Christian Valedictorian, a public high school agrees to stop censoring religious yearbook entries.

March 25, 2004: ACLU of Washington defends an evangelical minister’s right to preach on public sidewalks.

February 21, 2003: ACLU of Massachusetts defends evangelical Christian students punished for distributing candy canes with religious messages.

October 28, 2002: ACLU of Pennsylvania files discrimination lawsuit over denial of zoning permit for African-American Baptist church.

July 11, 2002: ACLU supports right of Iowa students to distribute evangelical Christian literature at school.

April 17, 2002: In a victory for the Rev. Jerry Falwell and the ACLU of Virginia, a federal judge strikes down a provision of the Virginia Constitution that bans religious organizations from incorporating.

January 18, 2002: ACLU defends evangelical Christian church’s right to run “anti-Santa” ads in Boston subways.

Our Godless Constitution

October 14, 2005

In the “I wish I had written this” category, I recommend this recent piece in The Nation online. Here is a tidbit:

It is hard to believe that George Bush has ever read the works of George Orwell, but he seems, somehow, to have grasped a few Orwellian precepts. The lesson the President has learned best–and certainly the one that has been the most useful to him–is the axiom that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. One of his Administration’s current favorites is the whopper about America having been founded on Christian principles. Our nation was founded not on Christian principles but on Enlightenment ones. God only entered the picture as a very minor player, and Jesus Christ was conspicuously absent.

Our Constitution makes no mention whatever of God. The omission was too obvious to have been anything but deliberate, in spite of Alexander Hamilton’s flippant responses when asked about it: According to one account, he said that the new nation was not in need of “foreign aid”; according to another, he simply said “we forgot.” But as Hamilton’s biographer Ron Chernow points out, Hamilton never forgot anything important.

Acknowledging Bigotry, er, God.

October 13, 2005

[This is from the ACLU Web site.]

Wiccan’s Right to Pray. Simpson v. Chesterfield County (U.S. District Court, Richmond) Counsel: Victor M. Glasberg, cooperating attorney, Ayesha Kahn, Americans United For Separation of Church and State, Rebecca K. Glenberg for the affiliate. Filed December 6, 2002.

The Board of Supervisors of Chesterfield County has a prayer at each of its meetings. The prayer is delivered by a local clergy person drawn from a list maintained by the County.

Cyndi Simpson, a Wiccan, asked to be included on the list. She received a letter from the Chesterfield County Attorney, which stated “ Chesterfield’s non-sectarian invocations are traditionally made to a divinity that is consistent with the Judeo-Christian tradition. Based upon our review of Wicca, it is neo-pagan and invokes polytheistic, pre-Christian deities. Accordingly, we cannot honor your request to be included on the list of religious leaders that are invited to provide invocations at the meetings of the Board of Supervisors.”

The Board has refused even to sit down and talk to Cyndi about the issue. We have filed a suit in federal court in Richmond, claiming that the Board’s position violates Cyndi’s religious and free speech rights under the First Amendment, and her right to equal protection of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment. We have asked the court to require the board to allow Cyndi to pray, or, even better, to stop having the prayers altogether.

Both parties filed motions for summary judgment, and oral arguments were heard on July 22, 2003. On November 14, 2003 the judge ruled in our favor, holding that Cyndi’s exclusion violated the Establishment Clause.

The county appealed. Oral arguments were heard on February 3, 2005. On April 7, 2005, the Fourth Circuit reversed the District Court, holding that Chesterfield’s policy is constitutional. We subsequently filed a petition for rehearing en banc, which was denied. 

On August 9, 2005, the ACLU filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. The U.S. Supreme Court denied the ACLU’s petition for certiorari on Ocobter 11, 2005.

I believe the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case was based on two things: 1. The Board of Supervisors changed the rules so that all prayers had to be Jesus-free and 2. This 1983 Marsh v. Chambers:

In light of the unambiguous and unbroken history of more than 200 years, there can be no doubt that the practice of opening legislative sessions with prayer has become part of the fabric of our society. To invoke Divine guidance on a public body entrusted with making the laws is not, in these circumstances, an “establishment” of religion or a step toward establishment; it is simply a tolerable acknowledgment of beliefs widely held among the people of this country. As Justice Douglas observed, “[w]e are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.”

This ruling is utterly blasphemous to the 1st and 14th Amendments and Artical VI. Our institutions must be secular in order to maintain our equality as citizens of the United States of America. This ruling and the Supreme Court’s refusal to over turn it makes it very clear that ala Orwell’s 1984 some of the animals are more equal than others.

When Slaves Get Power

October 13, 2005

My apologies for being silent so long. I am offering this tidbit I discovered today.

“Whenever a man believes that he has the exact truth from God, there is in that man no spirit of compromise. He has not the modesty born of the imperfections of human nature; he has the arrogance of theological certainty and the tyranny born of ignorant assurance. Believing himself to be the slave of God, he imitates his master, and of all tyrants, the worst is a slave in power.”
Robert Ingersoll, “Some Reasons Why”