Church & State: Recent News, Events, and Posts
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- Faith Based News (48)
- Ten Commandments News (72)
- Public Schools - News (131)
Chuck Colson: Church/State Separation Aids the Terrorists
Is it possible that the separation of church and state is being used to aid terrorists, America's enemies? That's the charge being made by Chuck Colson. In effect, he is arguing that because his InnerChange prison program is being denied funds to promote Christianity in prisons, radical Islam will grow unchecked and this will lead terrorist attacks from home-grown radicals.
Court Dismisses Religion Lawsuit Against Air Force
For a while now there has been a lawsuit against the Air Force because of religious pressure and evangelization going on in the Air Force Academy. The lawsuit alleges that this evangelization violated the separation of church and state, infringing on the religious liberties of cadets. Unfortunately, the lawsuit has been dismissed by a district court.
British Airways Employee Fired for Wearing Cross Necklace
Should religious believers be allowed to express their beliefs at will while on the job? Should they, for example, be able to wear symbols of their religion even when there are general prohibitions against jewelry? British Airways says "no" to this and fired a Christian woman who insisted on wearing a Christian cross. She claims discrimination, though.
Christopher Hitchens: We Should Abolish Military Chaplains
Are military chaplains a constitutional necessity or an unconstitutional mistake? The former can be supported by the fact that without them, it would be difficult or impossible for people in the military to follow their religion. The latter can be supported by the fact that it involves the government with supporting and promoting religion. Which argument is most persuasive?
Berkley, Michigan: Paying for and Maintaining Creche
Should secular, civil government be responsible for the financing and maintenance of a Christian creche during the Christmas holidays? Some Christians think so, but the arguments for this position are poor at best. After all, what business does the government have with singling out one religion for special favoritism, endorsement, or encouragement?
Pastor or Secular Counselor? Interesting Church/State Case
There's a very interesting church/state case before the Texas Supreme Court: a pastor who is also a licensed secular counselor is being sued by a woman who claims that he used information from their counseling sessions against her in the church. She says she met with him as a secular counselor, even though he was also her pastor, and that the sessions should have been confidential.
Church Sued for Wrongful Dismissal
Terry Hornbuckle was a pastor at Agape Christian Fellowship until he was convicted of sexual harassment. Lisa Fuller, a former church employee who worked as an executive assistant to Hornbuckle's wife, alleges that she was ordered to lie in court about what Hornbuckle did. When she refused, she claims that she was fired and now she has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit.
Quebec Tribunal: Official Prayers Violate Religious Freedom
In Quebec, a human rights tribunal has ruled that the city of Laval violated the freedom of religion of the city's residents by starting council meetings with Christian prayers. The city had been ordered to stop by a human rights commission back in 2004, but they refused to abide by the ruling and continued anyway.
Separation of Church and Military
Discussions about the separation of church and state often occur in the context of government institutions like schools, but there is another state institution which is coming under increasing fire: the military. More and more, Christian Nationalists are trying to "transform" the military from an instrument of national policy into an instrument of religious ideology and evangelization.
Nepal Now a Secular State, Not Hindu Kingdom
On May 18, 2006, the government of Nepal announced that it would henceforth consider itself a "secular state" rather than a Hindu kingdom. All citizens, regardless of religion, would have equal rights. The announcement followed a large number of pro-democracy demonstrations and was welcomed by members of non-Hindu religious minorities like Catholics.
Couple Claims Marijuana is Sacrament in their Religion
Danuel and Mary Quaintance were arrested for transporting 172 pounds of marijuana in their car. That's more than just a small amount for personal use, but according to them it's all for religious use. A judge is considering their argument and the possibility of dismissing the case on the basis of their right to freely exercise their religion.
Vashti McCollum Dies
Not many people know the name Vashti Cromwell McCollum, but her name became associated with one of the more important church/state separation cases in American history. In 1945 she challenged the practice at her son's school whereby students were allowed to take religious instruction during the school day. She won.
Ohio Prisons Cut Out Religious Programs
For some reason, Ohio's Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has been in the business of promoting religion to its employees - apparently by allowing prayers and proselytizing at prison events, sponsoring religious messages, and so forth. Norman Rose, deputy warden at Grafton Correctional Institution in northeast Ohio, is an atheist who finally had enough of all this and sued.
Death of Robert S. Alley
Robert S. Alley was for many years an important force for the separation of church and state. I attended one of his lectures a few years ago and had a chance to speak with him briefly. That, along with his books, revealed to me that he was one of the most informed and intelligent activists around. Unfortunately, Robert S. Alley died on August 14.
Katherine Harris: God, not People, Chooses the Rulers
Many Republicans don't appear to believe in the separation of church and state in any way, shape, or form. They don't just reject the idea that government shouldn't promote religion, they even reject the notion that government itself is independent of ecclesiastical authority. They deny that the people are sovereign and instead insist that both government and laws are based upon their god.
Church of Freethought Gets Tax Exemption in Texas
In May, the Church of Freethought located near Dallas, Texas, was granted a tax exemption like other churches and religious organizations. Texas has become notorious for resisting granting the same rights and privileges to nontheistic religious groups as traditionally theistic ones but the courts have consistently ruled against the state in such matters.
Baltimore Drops Plan to Fund Distribution of Bibles
In Baltimore, Mayor Martin O'Malley and the city council thought it would be a good idea to give USD $297,500 to the National Baptist Convention to distribute bags of food that contained Bibles. Americans United for the Separation of Church and State filed suit to stop the program and before things went very far Baltimore government officials dropped the plan.
Church of Body Modification Complains About Religious Discrimination
How narrowly can government or employers define 'religion' when it comes to protecting people from discrimination against what they say is religious behavior? That's a difficult question and the boundaries of the answer are being tested in Albany, New York, where Sarah Yule was fired from St. Mary's Hospital for refusing to remove her lip ring which she says she wears for religious reasons.
Bible Display Must Be Removed from Courthouse
For several years now there has been a legal battle in Texas over whether a Bible display at the Harris Count Courthouse is constitutional or not. The government lost in U.S. district court and appealed; now they have lost 2-1 before a panel of the 5th Circuit Court. Harris County plans to appeal and the Supreme Court's current make-up appears to be favorable.
Connecticut Town Denies Field Permits During Church Time
For a long time, blue laws in America ensured that the only thing happening on Sunday mornings, and perhaps all day Sunday, was church services. Stores were closed and most recreational activities were prohibited in one way or another. This has completely changed and today there are many alternatives to church services. Christian leaders are not very happy about this, it seems.
What Does the Red Cross Mean?
Some people seem to think that the red cross which is used as a symbol by the American Red Cross and International Red Cross is a Christian symbol - and therefore that these organizations are Christian in character. I don't know why, but these people don't seem to realize that cross are and have been used as symbols outside of Christianity.
Church, State, and Building Codes
A number of times I've used building codes as an example of completely neutral laws which churches and other religious institutions should be expected to follow rather than ignore. I'm sure people have found this example to be silly, because what church would want to claim that they didn't have to follow or pay attention to building codes? Well, one in Alabama did - and it fell down.
Bush Signs Bill, Feds Take Control of Soledad Cross
I've written many times about the efforts to get the city government of San Diego to follow the Constitution and take down the Christian cross from the war memorial on the hill above the city. They have continually lost court battles but convinced Congress to pass a law transferring ownership of the land to the federal government. President Bush signed the bill into law; what changes now, though?
Judge Denies Attempt to Block 'Day of Faith'
Today (Saturday, August 12, 2006) has been declared "A Day of Faith" in Jacksonville, Florida, and the city is hosting an event named "A Day of Faith: Arming Our Prayer Warriors." A judge has denied attempts to block this as a violation of the separation of church and state. The judge didn't say that the event is constitutional, but merely ruled that all parties weren't given adequate notice.
Texas Town Worries It Has Too Many Churches
Stafford, Texas, has 51 churches and other religious institutions in an area that measures just seven square miles. That's a lot of churches - too many, according to Stafford officials. It appears that even in Texas it's possible to have too much churches in a town, at least when those churches prevent the town from collecting enough taxes to pay for basic services.
Separation of Church and State in Africa: Not Possible?
Separating church and state - which means separating religious from political authority - is a critical foundation to the modern western state and society. It took a long time for this separation to be achieved and it wasn't easy, but it has been critical to the West's success. Now other regions are facing the prospecting of trying to do something similar and they are balking.
Where You Vote Matters: Polling Stations in Churches Influence Votes
Polling stations can be located in various places: fire halls, schools, and unfortunately churches. Does the placement of polling stations matter? In theory they shouldn't, even if people vote for irrational reasons, but the truth is apparently that they do matter. Making people vote in a school can influence votes in certain ways; making people vote in a church can influence them in other ways.
Ambassadors for Christian Dominion in Uniform
Efforts by some Christians to establish greater control over American society and government has been making great strides in the military - especially the Air Force. They have a group dedicated to the idea of transforming the military into an agency of "ambassadors for Christ" and empowered by the "Holy Spirit," not people dedicated to defending the nation.
Maryland Politicians Return Donations From Religious Groups
It should be accepted as a given that if churches get involved with politics, they will become as corrupted by politics as every other special interest group - which is not to say they aren't corrupted at all already, but it will get worse. Do church members really want their churches taking sides in political campaigns, sucking up to politicians, donating funds and demanding compensation later?
Kentucky Legislature Too Religious?
It looks like religion - Christianity, to be specific - and government are being blended together far too much in Kentucky. The governor recently signed into law a bill authorizing the state to post the Ten Commandments in public schools and other buildings. That's not the least of the problems, though.
Electioneering Ban Protects Church Integrity, Says IRS Chief
Many religious believers think that the legal prohibition on their aiding political campaigns is harmful to them and their causes, but that's wrong. The truth is exactly the opposite: keeping churches out of politics means that politicians can't misuse them for their own purposes, corrupting them in the process. The IRS recognizes this, but many religious leaders can't figure it out.
Wiccan Requests Holiday Off, Gets Fired Instead
Rebecca Sommers was an employee at the Schaumburg, Illinois, office of Crawford & Company Inc., a Georgia-based insurance adjusting firm. She claims that she was called a "devil worshipper" by another employee and then eventually fired after daring to ask for a Wiccan holiday off. She's now suing.
Pizza Pope Backs Off on Catholic Town Restrictions
News outlets were buzzing a few months ago when Domino's Pizza founder Thomas S. Monaghan announced that he was creating a "Catholic" town in Florida around the Ave Maria Catholic University he was also creating. This town was supposed to be run according to traditionalist Catholic doctrines and values, as interpreted by Monaghan. He was sharply criticized and now seems to be backing away.
Force-Feeding Bibles to American Servicemembers
Revival Fires International is a Christian ministry that has decided that every servicemember in every branch of America's armed forces should receive a new copy of the Bible. It doesn't seem to have occurred to them that perhaps they don't all want a Bible %u2014 instead of sending out something like a request card for them to fill out, it looks like this group is just going to send Bibles.
Missouri Judge Sentences Convicts To Transcendental Meditation
Since 1996, Judge David Mason of the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri has been including mandatory training in Transcendental Meditation for some of the people he sentences. Transcendental Meditation is, however, a religious belief system %u2014 and one which Mason himself is a devotee of. Thus he is abusing his power to indoctrinate people into his own cult.
Missouri: Creationist Allowed to Lecture at School Assembly
Public schools can't present creationism, even under the guise of Intelligent Design, in science classes. Would it be acceptable to present creationism in the context of a school assembly? Some people apparently think so %u2014 they are under the impression that so long as the Bible isn't mentioned, then the presentations won't "really" be religious.
Indiana: 4-H Clubs Banning Prayer
The Lake County Cooperative Extension Service in Indiana has made an interesting decision: no more official, formal prayers at any meetings. It's rare that organizations like this voluntarily drop religious rituals without threats of lawsuits and it's impressive that it has happened here. Maybe some groups are starting to understand how the religious nature of America is changing.
Christian Right Trying to Change the Rules Again
When their legal arguments fail in the courts, the Christian Right inevitably tries to change the rules in some fashion. This election year, the Christian Right is pushing a bill to prevent plaintiffs challenging government establishments of religion from collecting legal fees when successful. Plaintiffs challenging government infringements on free exercise of religion would be unaffected, though.
Senate Fails to Torch Constitution, Pander to Right-Wing Extremists
It was a close call, but fortunately the American Constitution will survive for another year. The Senate voted on a proposed amendment to the Constitution that would have given Congress the authority to criminalize "desecration" of the American flag and the measure fell short by just a single vote %u2014 the closest this has ever come. You can be sure that it will come up again.
Prison Chaplain Can't Discriminate Against Gay Inmates
In 2002, Chaplain William Akridge at the Ohio Madison Correctional Institution barred a prison inmate from playing music during worship services because that inmate was gay. The inmate filed a complaint and the chaplain was ordered by the prison to allow him to play and serve as a choir director; when he refused, he was fined. The chaplain sued and lost
College Students Oppose More Religion In Politics
A study done by Harvard University%u2019s Institute of Politics and released in April indicates that while college students regard religion as important in their personal lives, they don't want to see religion playing a bigger role in the nation's political life. It shouldn't be a surprise, though, that the results were divided along partisan lines.
Flag Amendment Needs Just One Vote in the Senate
A proposed amendment that would authorize the Congress to ban "desecration" of the American flag (but not ban desecration of the Confederate flag, something which several southern states do) is closer than ever to success. The Senate only needs one more vote for it pass and then it would go to the states - all of which have passed resolutions supporting the amendment.
House Votes against Religious Diversity, Liberty in Armed Services
As part of a new defense authorization bill approved by the House of Representatives, military chaplains will gain the authority to evangelize to others in the armed forces - even if they belong to other religions and/or don't have a choice but to sit there and take it. The military itself doesn't want this to happen, but it's being forced on them by the Christian Right.
No Right to Share Religion on the Job
In Tehama County, California, a social services department employee tried to argue that the government should accommodate his belief that his religion required him to share his faith his other employees and clients coming to him. The 9th Circuit Court disagreed, and quite rightly too, noting that the government can't be seen promoting religion in this manner.
Richard Garnett: Churches Should Endorse Politicians
The question of church involvement in political campaigns resurfaces on a regular basis. Right now, churches are bound by the same rules as all other non-profits: they can't use their tax-free money to engage in partisan political campaigning. Some people want to change this and give churches special privileges in the political arena.
Religious Bigotry in Public Life
Some secularists argue that religious beliefs shouldn't play any role in public policy decisions. Religious believers object to this, arguing that religious beliefs are fundamental to how a person views the world and so excluding those beliefs effectively excludes religious believers from public policy debates.
God's Senator: Sam Brownback Seeks Christian Fascism, Theocracy
Sam Brownback is a Republican Senator from Kansas who would probably like to be President. The far Christian Right also seems to want him to be the next president because he agrees with all their most extreme views. Sam Brownback wants to be elected president, but it really doesn't appear that he believes in democracy as much as he believes in a fascist Christian theocracy.
Supreme Court Won't Hear Case on Sculpture Critical of Catholicism
Back in 2003 Jerry Boyle created a sculpture which elicited howls of outrage when it was erected on the campus of Washburn University in Kansas. It's an unflattering bust of a bishop that was labeled anti-Catholic because the hat is subtly shaped like a penis and, therefore, caused the university to engage in hostility towards Catholics. Naturally someone sued - and naturally they lost.
Religion vs. Justice: Sex Offender Won't Wear Monitor
Scott Smith, a convicted sex offender in Iowa, should be required to wear an electronic monitor as part of a condition of not going to prison. He, however, argues that this would jeopardize his chances of being readmitted to a religious group which rejects all modern conveniences. Should he be exempt from the general requirement, or forced to follow the same rules as everyone else?
Virginia: Teacher Denied Right to Promote Religion in Classroom
Last year, I wrote about a Spanish teacher in York County, Virginia, whose religious posters were taken down by school officials because they effectively promoted religion. William Lee sued on the argument that his free speech rights were being infringed upon, but a judge saw through this nonsense and threw the case out.
Pastor Wants Council Prayers Limited to Jews, Christians
In Hartville, Ohio, some citizens and members of the village council want to start council meetings with prayers - not generic prayers, but explicitly Christian and Jewish prayers, thus excluding all other religions. Mayor Beverly Green has the sense to recognize how much trouble this will cause, but the others don't care and are fighting her to get their way.
Separating Church & State in Norway
Like most European countries, Norway has an established church - the Lutheran church, specifically. That's the way it's always been and it's a tradition most people are comfortable with, but there is a growing movement to separate church from state in that generally secular nation.
Blue Laws Burden Other Faiths
The existence of Blue Laws have been defended in America on a number of grounds. Some say that they are simply traditional - and anything that traditional must be constitutional as well. Others argue that they represent an aspect of America's Christian heritage and as such need to be preserved.
Free Exercise of Religion Requires Government Religious Discrimination
More and more we are seeing legal cases where Christians in government abuse their positions by promoting and endorsing their religious beliefs. They are defended by the claim that they are simply exercising their constitutional right to practice their religion, but this claim ignores the fact that they are acting as officers of the government, not as private citizens.
Christian Liberty Counsel Opposes Religious Equality in Florida
Mathew Staver's Liberty Counsel pretends to be concerned with religious freedom, as opposed to fund-raising and the creation of faux outrage over non-existent problems. Their true interest appears to be to establish legal and social privileges for Christians and this is demonstrated by their opposition to religious equality for Wiccans in Florida.
Politicians Using Religion to Divide
Could it be that politicians cynically use the mantle or religion in order to further their political agendas and to validate the separation of people along ethnic and religious lines? Well, yes, they do. Savvy con artists, whether political or religious, are able to get people to associate their religious faith with particular individuals...
Photographs in Public Cannot Be Restricted by Religion
With the furor over the publishing of cartoons deemed offensive by Muslims, some have wondered if we might enter an era when all the media are unofficially censored according to the dictates of religious belief. In the law, at least, the isn't happening: a Manhattan judge has ruled that a picture taken of an Orthodox Jew in public and sold as art is legally protected.
Replacing Secular Government With Bible-Government
The American government is secular, not Christian as so many on the Christian Right like to claim. That they recognize just how secular government in America is may be demonstrated by the continual efforts to replace secular government with biblically-based government that privileges Christians and Christianity.
Kinky Friedman vs. Church/State Separation
The Texas governor's race should prove to be interesting because Kinky Friedman, a popular singer, has decided to run as an independent. His campaign theme seems to be the idea that politics isn't that hard, so the people should trust an honest outsider like himself. Critical thinking and law, however, can be hard and it doesn't look like people should trust him with those things.
Christian Lawmakers Confusing Own Religion for Public Policy
All over the nation, a number of conservative Christian lawmakers share one fundamental principle in common: they all believe that their personal religious beliefs should be the standard for evaluating public laws and policies which have authority over all citizens. There is little to distinguish such Christians from theocrats.
Biblically Based Constitution?
Is the United States Constitution based upon the Bible and biblical principles? Some certainly think so. According to this view, because the Constitution is based upon the Bible, then any constitutional interpretation which contradicts something in the Bible must not be accurate...
Pennsylvania: Philadelphia Can't Seize Home to Give to Church
The Supreme Court recently upheld the power of local governments to seize homes and give the property to private businesses for development. This decision led some to speculate that churches, which don't pay local taxes, would become prime targets for 'eminent domain' seizures. They could also become prime beneficiaries, if some have their way.
Town Creates Zoning Rules Favoring Religious Groups
In Telluride, Colorado, the town council has given all houses of worship an exemption from zoning ordinances, allowing them to build steeples or towers taller than is allowed for any other buildings used for any other purposes. They think that this is legal because it doesn't privilege just one religion. Apparently, privileging all religions is perceived as constitutional.
Convenient Religious Exemptions from Drug Laws
American adherents of a Brazilian religious sect called O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal (UDV) want an exemption from anti-drug laws so that they can use a hallucinogenic tea in religious rituals. Should religious organizations like this be exempt from the laws which the rest of us have to follow?
Patriot Pastor Gets Holocaust Analogy Backwards
Rev. Russell Johnson led a group of 'Patriot Pastors' in Canton, Ohio, protesting things like the removal of the Ten Commandments from public places. He compared Christians standing by passively in the face of such events to Christians standing by passively while Jews were taken to concentration camps. Jewish leaders were outraged by the comparison, but Johnson got the analogy backwards.
Blogsnark: Misrepresenting the Difference Between Public & Private
One of the most common ways which opponents of church/state separation make their case is to engage in a fallacy of equivocation by using multiple definitions of 'public' and 'private.' In this manner, they can argue in favor of 'public' religion by using one sort of example while in reality meaning something entirely different.
Cardinal Calls for Scotland to be Re-Christianized
Cardinal Keith O'Brien in Scotland has provoked outrage and criticism by saying that Scotland needed to be 're-Christianized,' by which he apparently meant that social, cultural and political privileges should be restored to Christianity and Christians. Non-Christians would, of course, be 'tolerated' - but such tolerance doesn't mean fully equal citizenship, does it?
Misconduct With Navy Chaplains
Military chaplains exist in order to provide religious and spiritual comfort to members of the armed forces. Chaplains in the Navy, however, have often provided much more - including sexual assault. People defending the idea that the evangelical Christian chaplains in the employ of the state should be allowed to evangelize members of the military haven't bothered to address this issue.
Should the Government Help Rebuild Churches After Fire?
Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich has pledged USD $1 million to help rebuild the Pilgrim Baptist Church in Chicago, destroyed in a recent fire. Blagojevich insists that the money will only go to help rebuild the church's school and administrative offices, not the sanctuary, so there are no church/state problems - but is this really a credible argument?
Church, State, and Religion in Belgium
After reading Simon's letter clarifying background information on the Spanish bishops' protest of the government's proposal to end mandatory religious education, another reader decided to send in an explanation about the relationship between churches and government in Belgium.
Blogsnark: Is Atheism America's Established Religion?
There are a lot of Christians in America who are angry that their religion is no longer privileged by the state. In the place of privileges for Christianity, we have neutrality: no religion is preferred over any other. Christians can't mount serious arguments against this, so they make incoherent, contradictory arguments about atheism being the preferred religion.
Religious Discrimination Continues in the Military
Evangelical Christians complain that it's 'discrimination' if they can't abuse their positions of authority as military chaplains by promoting their religion and their beliefs. At the same time, though, they also abuse their positions of power and authority by denigrating non-Christians - especially atheists.
United by a Wall of Separation
Americans are divided by many things, including religion, but there is one point where they should be united: no one's religion should be favored or endorsed by the state. All should be equally private, equally a personal matter of their own concern rather than political matter in which the state plays a role.
Wales: Schools Failing to Promote Prayer
There's a scandal brewing around the schools in Wales: more than half actually fail to lead students in prayer every day! Horrors! Actually, such religious worship is required of the schools, so they are breaking the law by not doing this.
O'Reilly Misrepresents European Secularism
Most Americans are at least dimly aware that many European nations are highly secular and less religious than America. What they don't realize is that these same nations retain official state churches and deep church/state entanglements that would be illegal in America. Truly dim commentators and politicians ignore this and act like American secularism could lead to European socialism.
Corporate America and Theocracy
Truly revolutionary groups are almost always small. Although made up of highly committed people, they lack the numbers to make serious changes in society - so how do they succeed? Sometimes, by gaining the trust and cooperation of some of the most powerful members of society.
There is no 'Right to a Fair Trial' in the Constitution
To those who argue that the phrase 'separation of church and state' does not appear in the Constitution, it can be said that the phrase 'right to a fair trial' also does not appear there. Does this mean that we don't have such a right? Can the state subject us to an unfair trial so long as it is: speedy, public, with an impartial jury, with a defense counsel, with witnesses, etc.? Apparently.
John Gibson vs. Rob Boston: Unbalanced Fox & Christian Right
John Gibson has set himself up as a 'defender' of Christmas; his primary means of doing this seems to involve vicious attacks on everyone who doesn't agree with him. This lack of decency and character was on magnificent display recently when Rob Boston was a 'guest' on Gibson's Fox News program.
Christian Right's Assault on Secular Education
America's Christian Right decries the secularization of modern culture. The elimination of their religion as the central defining feature of life and the ability of people to go about their business without ever having to bother with religion is, for them, a terrible tragedy. They are determined to rectify things and this requires changing major social institutions, one by one. The Economist
Onward Christian Soldiers: Minority Faiths in the US Military
There has been a lot of news recently about the antics of conservative evangelical Christians in the military. They have been using America's military as if it were their personal platform for witnessing to others and complain loudly when non-Christians had the temerity to object and dissent. Most people don't realize just how bad it can be for minorities.
No Government Favoritism Towards Christianity = Intolerance
Should government officials, when conducting official government business, single out Christianity for favoritism and endorsement? Some people in Indiana think so. Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma claims that it is 'intolerant' for a federal judge to halt the Legislature from holding opening prayers that praise Jesus Christ.
State Should Endorse Monotheism
Advocates of the restoration of Christian privilege in America don't usually state that their goal is to have Christianity preferred above all other religions and beliefs. They know that such obvious discrimination won't be accepted by most people, so they mask their intentions with more general language like supporter general religious rights or... general monotheism. Sure, that's believable.
Why Religion and Politics Can't Mix
Religion almost necessarily makes absolute and uncompromising demands on a believer. Politics, on the other hand, requires that a person be willing to negotiate, compromise, and to give up on some of what they want in order for the process to work. This, in a nutshell, is why religion and politics cannot mix in a liberal democracy.
Can Churches Set Up Shop in Public Schools?
The principle of 'equal access' means that religious groups must have the same access to public building and public facilities as secular groups. If a school is open to other community groups, then it must be open to religious groups to use. This makes sense, generally speaking, but it's possible for religious groups to push it too far and for 'equality' of access to be undermined.
Secularist Atheists Force Freedom From Religion on Teen
Joseph Hanas of Michigan pled guilty to a marijuana charge and, rather than go to jail, he was sentenced to a rehabilitation program. Because the program refused to respect his religious liberty, he failed to complete it - and so the judge sentenced him to jail. Apparently, he should have subjected himself to religious manipulation to stay out of jail.
Wiccan Wins Right to Religious Books in Prison
Should Wiccans have the same rights and Christians, Jews, and Muslims to religious materials while in prison? Of course they should - the answer is obvious. At least, it's obvious to everyone but prison officials in New Jersey. They had to be taken to federal court until they realized that their position was absurd. No wonder agreed to settle before the case went to trial.
State Should Endorse Monotheism
Advocates of the restoration of Christian privilege in America don't usually state that their goal is to have Christianity preferred above all other religions and beliefs. They know that such obvious discrimination won't be accepted by most people, so they mask their intentions with more general language like supporter general religious rights or... general monotheism. Sure, that's believable.
Utah: Atheists Sue to Eliminate Memorial Crosses
All around Utah, the state has erected religious memories by the sides of roads in tribute to state police offices who have died in the line of duty. American Atheists has filed a legal challenge to these crosses, arguing that religious memorials on public property violate the separation of church and state.
Why Do Christians Think They Are Persecuted?
A common refrain heard from many conservative evangelical Christians is that Christianity is being persecuted in America. Somehow, despite all the political power and influence they have, they are still managing to be oppressed. How can they possibly think this?
Michigan: Battle Over Private Nativity Displays
Most debates about nativity displays are over those displayed on public, government property. In Novi, Michigan, however, there's a conflict over one on purely private property. A family has been told to remove their nativity display because it violates the neighborhood's rules.
Protecting Politicians' Prayers
A recent area of church/state separation debate is the traditional practice of politicians praying at official government events. Should, for example, mayors and city council members deliver sectarian, Christian prayers as they are about to engage in official business? Courts have been saying 'no,' so some politicians are trying to change the rules.
Religion at the Air Force Academy: A Cadet Responds
I've written numerous pieces about the problems with religion at the Air Force Academy. I, obviously, am not a cadet there and I don't work there - so I can only rely on second-hand information and what I read. Are the experiences of cadets as bad as some of the reports suggest?
Georgia: Bible Tax Exemption Challenged
Should Bibles benefit from a special tax exemption that is unavailable for any other book, including other religious scriptures? That's the case in Georgia and the ACLU is making a legal challenge. This should be a no-brainer: it's dubious to give a special tax exemption to religious books in general; a tax exemption for Bibles alone will never survive.
Virginia: Policy on Gideons, Bibles to be Reviewed
There was a time when it was common for the Gideons to enter public schools during school hours and distribute Bibles to students. This favoritism towards Christianity was blatantly unconstitutional and, over time, most schools have stopped the practice. It still seems to continue in some places in Virginia and they are finally going to reconsider it.
Thanksgiving and Massachusetts Blue Laws
I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving; a number of state officials in Massachusetts must have been bored because instead of spending time with family, they chose to go after stores which were open on Thanksgiving day. Yes, it's still illegal in Massachusetts to be open on Thanksgiving.
Arkansas: Dispute over Graduation's Altar Call
The proper role, if any, of religion in public school graduations has been a source of debate and lawsuits for many years now. At this point, it's relatively settled that religious services can't have any official role, but schools can't readily censor any and every religious utterance of students who are speaking. What about students who make an altar call during their speech?
Government Funding of Proselytizing in Wake of Hurricanes?
FEMA has indicated that the government will reimburse various religious organizations for their expenses in helping deal with the hurricanes that hit America's Gulf Coast region. It's true that many groups did good work, but some also used the time to proselytize. Will they be reimbursed by the state, too?
Survey: Americans Believe that Religion is Under Attack
Years of misinformation and misleading rhetoric from the Christian Right appears to be paying off. Significant majorities of people surveyed believe that religion is being attacked in America, that it doesn't have enough of a role in American society, and that the government should do more to support and endorse the religious beliefs of the majority over any religious beliefs of anyone else.
Foxman, ADL Urge Stronger Stand Against Christian Right
The Christian Right's agenda is often framed in general terms as beneficial to 'religion' without specifying Christianity. This is disingenuous because the ultimate beneficiary is supposed to be conservative Christianity and to the detriment of religious minorities - including Judaism. Some Jewish leaders are beginning to recognize this.
Tennessee Town Considers Closing Park on Sundays
Sunday is the traditional sabbath for most Christians and some (though a minority) continue to refuse to do anything recreational or professional on Sundays. Should the government support this position by making it more difficult for people to do things other than going to church on Sundays? Some think so.
Juries Can't Use Bibles in Death Penalty Deliberations
Earlier in 2005, a Colorado juror cited a passage from Leviticus when the jury was deliberating whether to sentence a man to death. They chose death and the decision was appealed on the grounds that religion shouldn't be used to reach such decisions. The Colorado Supreme Court agreed and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to reconsider the case.
Religious Freedom as a License to Proselytize
Congress is working on a law which is supposed to help protect religious liberty in the workplace, but as currently written it would seem to allow people to use religion as an excuse to infringe on the rights of others. The value of protecting religion does not outweigh the value of other rights - religion cannot take precedence over the public good.
Air Force Cadets Being Trained to Proselytize
As if the Air Force Academy didn't have enough trouble, a husband-and-wife team has been assigned by a missionary group to work full time to train students how to proselytize to fellow cadets. They are even being given a certain amount of official support.
Senate Approves Meaningless Prayer Amendment
An amendment to a huge defense spending bill would authorize activity at the Air Force Academy which newly revised religion guidelines already permit. So why was the amendment passed? So that conservative lawmakers can posture and preen before the voters, pretending to do something meaningful in the war against godless liberals.
North Carolina: In God We Trust Can Stay
The Davidson County government building in Lexington, North Carolina, has an inscription reading 'In God We Trust' which was challenged in the courts. Lower courts upheld the constitutionality of the inscription and the Supreme Court has declined to review the case, so those decisions stand.
Voters Reject Cross on City Logo
In Redlands, California, voters decided 60-40 not to restore a cross to the city logo. The ACLU had threatened to sue before the city council removed the logo and a few citizens sought to overturn this decision. Most voters, though, may have seen little sense in having their government supporting any one group's religion.
Is the ACLU an Anti-Christian Organization?
It is becoming common for religious conservatives to attack the ACLU as an anti-Christian organization. Because the ACLU fights government endorsement or promotion of Christian beliefs, this supposedly makes the organization anti-Christian. The fact that the ACLU fights government repression of private expression of Christian beliefs doesn't seem to matter.
Mistake to Let Non-Christians Participate in Politics?
Quite a few conservative Christians in America dislike the fact that the power, status, and privileges of Christianity are not what they once were. They believe that, as Christians, they should occupy a preeminent and privileged position in American society, which entails that non-Christians should only have a second-class status.
Alito: Government Should Support Religion More
Samuel Alito's perspective on the separation of church and state seems to fall squarely in the camp of religious conservatives: if the government doesn't do enough to actively support religion, then it is being hostile to religion. Neutrality thus becomes hostility... and George Orwell spins in his grave.
Jay Sekulow: America's Christian Right Lawyer
The most important legal figure in the Christian Right is probably Jay Sekulow, chief counsel fro the American Center for Law and Justice (a group created by Pat Robertson). A consummate lawyer and political pundit, he has been a leading voice in defense of Christian privilege, Christian exceptionalism, and Christian power in America... and it's making him rich.
Florida: No Veils on Drivers' Licenses
A state appeals court in Florida has rejected the request of a Muslim woman to be permitted to have her driver's license picture taken while she wears a veil. She argued that it was a matter of religious liberty, but the state insisted that law and safety took precedence - and the court agreed.
Texas: Church Houses Polling Station, Regulates Political Activity
Texas is about to vote on whether to ban gay marriage in the state constitution. Like other states, Texas allows churches to house polling stations - but at least one church has banned from its property advertisements against the ban while permitting similar signs in favor of the ban. This makes sense from a church's perspective, but is illegal for a polling station.
Should the Government Pay to Repair and Maintain Churches?
In California there are a large number of Catholic churches which some in the government would like to have repaired and maintained by the state. Why? Because the churches are old - they are Catholic missions built hundreds of years ago when California was first colonized. Is this, however, a good reason for the state to maintain a church?
Secularism in Australia
Many people around the world focus on the efforts of George W. Bush to increase the power of religious groups in society by undermining the separation of church and state. He is not the only world leader to be engaged in such efforts, though - John Howard of Australia has been doing something similar.
Employment Rights for Clergy in Great Britain?
The House of Lords will decide whether Helen Percy should be permitted to file a claim for sex discrimination against her former employer: the Church of Scotland. Various tribunals and courts have said that they don't have jurisdiction over church cases because clergy are employed by God, but that may change. Anglican ministers will receive such protections in 2008.
Catholic School Still Trying to Seize Bar for Football Field
Not long ago I wrote about how a New Jersey town is trying to use eminent domain to seize a bar and turn the property over to a Catholic school. They are arguing that it is a better 'public use' of the property if the school can expand its football field. Thus far, the bar's owner has been unsuccessful in his legal fight.
Secularism is the Product of Free Choice
One thing that has caused consternation among religious leaders in both America and Europe is how many people, even those who profess to be religious believers, simply ignore organized religion. On Sundays, or whatever their day of worship is supposed to be, they are engaged in any number of activities other than worship. Should they be compelled to stop?
R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find Out What it Means to Me
What does it mean to 'respect' someone's religion or religious beliefs? Many believers insist that their religion deserves to be respected, even by non-believers, but what exactly are they asking for? If they are simply asking to be let alone in their beliefs, that's not unreasonable. If they are asking for deference or even reverence, though, that's another matter entirely.
Proselytizing in Public Hospitals
Should religious employees of public institutions (like hospitals, schools, police departments, etc.) proselytize their faith to the citizens they are helping? If a person needs assistance from a hospital, should part of the price be listening to a sermon about someone else's faith? It looks like some Christians believe that this should be the case.
Muslims Pressure School to Eliminate Christmas Holidays?
In Florida, the Hillsborough County School Board received a request to include a Muslims holiday along with the Christian and Jewish holidays. Rather than treat Islam equally to other religions and make Eid Al-Fitr a holiday like Christmas, the school board decided to eliminate all religious holidays. Some critics are blaming the Muslims for this rather than the real cause: anti-Muslim bigotry.
Pandering to Religious Special Interests
"There is the much vexed question of giving birth control advice at Maternity Centres.... Nevertheless the Government opposes it on the ground that Roman Catholics object: that is to say, the Government is of opinion that it is right to withhold knowledge from the majority on the ground that a minority wishes not merely to remain ignorant itself but to inflict ignorance upon the majority."
Religious Tolerant vs. Secular Tolerant Communities
Disagreements about the separation of church and state can be found behind a lot of social, political, and religious debates in American society. Everyone has their own vision about the proper role that (their) religion should have in society generally and government in particular. Which vision is best?
South Carolina: Councilman's Prayer Violated Law
Far too few local government officials, especially in the South, care about following the law when their religion is at issue. They seem to believe that their religious beliefs give them a license to do whatever they want, and the fact that their religious beliefs are popular will mean that they won't be held accountable.
Hypocrisy and Religion with Judicial Nominees
During the debate over whether John Roberts should be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice, the Christian Right insisted that his religion shouldn't play any role. During the debate over Harriet Miers, though, the Bush administration has made her religion an important factor. Why are they so hypocritical?
South Carolina: Another Town Illegally Endorsing Prayer
The city council of Anderson, South Carolina, has decided to let members who say prayers do so in a manner that promotes their religion - specifically by endorsing belief in Jesus Christ. A federal court has already ruled that sectarian prayers aren't constitutional, but the Anderson City Council doesn't seem to care very much.
Government to Stop Funding Alaskan Christian College
The Alaska Christian College has received several hundred thousand dollars in grants from the federal government. This was challenged by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which argued that taxpayers were funding religious activities. College officials denied the charges, but a government investigation found them to be true and further grants have been suspended.
Judge Rules Against Selling Soledad Cross. Again.
As I wrote earlier, the legal fight over the Mt. Soledad Cross continues; as expected, defender of the cross lost once more in court. Judge Patricia Yim Cowett has informed the city again that maintaining the cross on public land is unconstitutional.
Utah: ACLU Loses Lawsuit Over Plaza
The Salt Lake City government sold a plaza to the Mormon Church, leading to a lawsuit the alleged the sale to be a sham, giving the church power to limit free speech in a place that should be open to the public...
Blogsnark: All Religions are Not Equal?
There are many Americans who believe that Christianity is not only a superior religion, but should be acknowledge as such by American culture and law. Not many are willing to come right out and say so, at least not explicitly, because they recognize that this would contradict America's commitments to equality and religious liberty. A few are honest, though.
Secularism and De-Christianization: Religion in America
America's Christian Right believes that the history of Christian hegemony in the United States has been morally, religiously, and politically appropriate. They thus see the waning of this hegemony as a moral, religious, and political evil - one which can only be corrected by the re-establishment of Christianity as the de facto basis of American culture.
Cronyism & Religion in Florida
In Florida, Governor Jeb Bush is encouraging schoolchildren to read C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, an extended allegory of Christianity. People are expected to ignore that the fact that one of the producers of the movie, Walden Media, is owned by Philip Anschutz, a major donor to Republican causes.
Wiccan Veterans Want Equality
Christian veterans can get a cross engraved on a free military headstone. Muslims have their own symbol, as do Mormons, Buddhists, Sufis, Jews, and Hindus. One group thus far left out is Wicca. Wiccan veterans can't get a Wiccan symbol engraved on their headstone despite long efforts to change the rules.
Scientology Involved with School Event, Surprising Administrators
School officials in Los Angeles, California, were surprised to find that a school event was being organized by an group with close ties to the Church of Scientology. Why? Well, the group didn't reveal their ties - officials only found out when the Church of Scientology promoted their involvement with it.
Legal Fight over Soledad Cross Continues
The Mt. Soledad Cross was supposed to be moved, but defenders have managed to keep their legal battle going. The city voted to transfer ownership of the cross to the federal government so that it could stay in place, but Judge Patricia Yim Cowett has barred this and she's not expected to change her mind.
Should Sunday be Sacred?
In Henderson, North Carolina, the city council made it official: Sunday is the Lord's Day and must be held sacred, even by people who don't agree with church traditions about Sunday. It might seem strange for elected officials to be taking a stand on such a thing, but apparently the city council was elected to be ministers as well.
Texas Pastor: America is Not a Christian Nation
Bishop T.D. Jakes is a very important African-American pastor who leads a massive non-denominational church in Dallas, Texas. His views on social morality are very close to that of President Bush and the Christian Right, but one thing he doesn't share is their preoccupation with the notion of America as a 'Christian Nation.'
John Roberts and Court Stripping
Currently growing in popularity is the idea of "court stripping," removing from federal courts the authority to hear cases on issues which the Christian Right doesn't think it can win on. Since they can't win on legal arguments or merits, they wish to prevent legal arguments from having to be offered at all, at least on the federal level.
New Jersey: Forcing a Bar to Sell to a Catholic School
Cheng "Terry" Tan owns the Golden Cicada, a Chinese restaurant and bar in Jersey City which a Catholic school wants in order to expand an athletic field. For some reason, the local government appears willing to use the power of eminent domain to close a local business and turn it over to a local church on the theory that a Catholic school is a better "public use" of the property.
Newt Gingrich: Constitution Doesn't Require Government to be Secular
America's Christian Right is fundamentally opposed to the idea of secularism - the idea of a government which is neutral in matters of religion. The only alternative to neutrality is partisanship, and a state which is partisan in matters of religion is to one extent or another theocratic rather than democratic.
Newt Gingrich: Constitution Doesn't Require Government to be Secular
America's Christian Right is fundamentally opposed to the idea of secularism - the idea of a government which is neutral in matters of religion. The only alternative to neutrality is partisanship, and a state which is partisan in matters of religion is to one extent or another theocratic rather than democratic.
Virginia Attorney General: No Separation of Church and State
School officials in Fairfax County, Virginia, decided that principals and other top officials shouldn't take part in private, religious baccalaureate services lest they give the impression of an official endorsement of those services. Teachers, however, could attend and participate if they wanted. This may have to change.
Is the Government Responsible for Church Ministry?
One curious aspect to the Christian Right's attacks on the separation of church and state is that they would assign authority, which means responsibility, for spreading religious messages to the government. Why should government bureaucrats have either authority or responsibility for this? Why not churches and church leaders?
Discrimination Against Christians in America
Many conservative Christians argue that they are being discriminated against and persecuted in America. Why? Basically, because they have lost their once-dominant position in American politics, culture, and law. They can't stand being treated like adherents of every other religion and this, in turn, amounts to persecution in their minds.
Theocrats for Christ
Some people object to using the word "theocrat" to describe members of the Christian Right and "theocracy" to describe the sort of society they seek. More and more of them, though, are becoming open and honest about the fact that this is exactly what they want: an America which is run according to their interpretation of what their god wants.
Myth of a Christian Nation
There are many Christians today who fervently insist that America is a Christian Nation and was founded as a Christian Nation. What, though, do they mean by this? Is there any sense in which they are correct? Perhaps - but definitely not in the sense which they appear to mean. Just the opposite appears to be the case, in fact.
Evangelicals Oppressed Because People Disagree With Them
A common refrain heard from the Christian Right these days is that Christians (which only means them, because liberals can't be 'real' Christians) are persecuted in America. These Christians possess a great deal of political power and influence, so how can they be 'persecuted'? For them, persecution means disagreeing with them.
France: Headscarf Ban Appears to be Working
France's decision to ban headscarves in public schools received a great deal of criticism, but after a year now the policy appears to be working. Muslim schoolgirls are not suffering from not wearing headscarves, but they are free from the pressure of extremists to wear them all the time.
Christian Nation and Presidential Elections
It's become common in America for religion to be used as a political football. Implicitly or explicitly, there are many who argue that a person should receive or be denied people's votes based upon the candidate's religious beliefs. There is actually a long tradition of this in America - but it's not one that anyone should want to be part of.
Religion Being Pushed Out of Public Life?
A popular argument among conservative Christians is that unless government officials are allowed to promote Christianity, then religion doesn't have a "real" place in public life. The widespread presence of prayer and religion outside the government doesn't seem to matter - for some reason, only government-sponsored religion matters to them.
German State Plans to Ban Hijab in School
The German state of North Rhine-Westphalia will apparently ban teachers from wearing hijab at school. According to officials, neither female nor male teachers are permitted to espouse religious beliefs, which wearing a hijab essentially does.
America Based on God's Laws, God's Rights
One of the fundamental dangers posted by the Christian Right in America is that they want to replace democracy with theocracy. Few advocate this openly, but it is the undeniable consequence of the much more common rhetoric about how America must be ruled by "God's Laws" and according to (their interpretation of) God's standards.
Washington: Church Can Sell Churches to Pay Debt
The Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington, tried to argue that all churches and local assets belonged to individual parishes, not the diocese, and therefore could not be counted as diocese assets for the purposes of bankruptcy, debts, and sexual abuse lawsuits. A federal bankruptcy judge has ruled against them, meaning that churches could be sold to pay off debts.
The Importance of the Bible for American History
Demographically speaking, America is a Christian nation because most people are Christians. Most Christians, though, don't do a very good job at raising their children to understand the Bible. Biblical literacy is woefully inadequate to the task of understanding art, literature, and even American history itself. Should public schools take over the job?
Religious Privilege in Modern Society
For a long time, religion has served as an important part of most cultures around the world. Religion has been a primary basis for art, music, and literature. Religion has been a primary source of morality and social stability. Religion has provided people with a means for understanding the world and their place in it. This is no longer the case, but should religion be treated as if it were?
Air Force Gets New Religion Guidelines
All of the problems at the Air Force Academy have given the military a black eye among those who care about religious liberty and the separation of church and state. Rather than accepting the nastiness of the Christian Right, Air Force leaders have adopted a new set of guidelines dealing with religion - but will it be enough?
Does John Roberts Oppose the Separation of Church & State?
As time goes on, more and more disturbing evidence about what John Roberts has done or written in the past comes to light. Alongside significant disrespect towards the rights of women and minorities, Roberts has also demonstrated a lack of respect for the separation of church and state.
Hawaii: Vanity Places Favor Christians Over Others?
The online vanity license plate application for Honolulu, Hawaii, expresses preference for "good" words like God and Heaven and discourages "bad" words like Pagan. If you use the wrong word, you are told that your choice is "offensive" and "will not be allowed." The city is being sued to have this changed.
Minnesota: Firing of Gay Teacher Upheld
Roger Franzen was campus pastor Lutheran High School of Greater Minneapolis, then later teacher and chairman of the theology department. In 1998 he came out to his family as gay (though he was married with children) and his brother informed the school, which fired him. He sued, but a state court ruled against him.
Wisconsin: Equal Rights for Atheists in Prison
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that inmates' religious liberties include allowing atheists to conduct study groups. So long as the atheists consider it a matter of religion and religious liberty, prison officials must respect their wishes as much as the wishes of Christians. The Christian Right is already spinning this and distorting it.
Pope Links Liberal Democracy with Fascism, Attacks Secularism
Pope Benedict XVI continues his assault on secularism and liberal democracy by connecting them with fascism. Benedict learned from his youth in Nazi Germany that the best defense against an authoritarian state is a church that teaches members to submit to an authoritarian institution. Right, that makes sense.
Tolerance, Intolerance, and Democratic Values
One of the problems facing liberal Western democracies is how to deal with radical Muslim extremists who benefit from the freedoms of the West but who don't believe in those freedoms and who want to tear them down. Just how far should a nation tolerate such extreme intolerance?
Charitable Choice, Public Funding & Discrimination
One of the goals of President Bush is to fund social programs run by religious organizations without forcing them to give up the ability to discriminate on the basis of religion. It is claimed that religious groups are themselves discriminated against when it comes to government aid, but that simply isn't true.
Government Supported Religion: Can It Be General?
There are many conservatives who object to strict separation between church and state, preferring instead that the government be allowed support "religion generally" and aid various religious bodies without discrimination. This position is mired in contradictions and errors, though.
Is Secularization Inimical to Religion?
Some people believe that religion cannot survive in a secular society. Apparently, the voluntary and personal commitment of individual members isn't sufficient; instead, religion needs the active defense and support of the state. Otherwise, people will find it too easy to drift away from religion.
Indiana: Wiccan Parents No Longer Gagged
Remember the Indiana judge who forbade a divorced couple from sharing their Wiccan beliefs with their biological son? Cale J. Bradford, chief judge of the Marion Superior Court in Indianapolis, didn't approve of Wicca - but the state appeals court has overruled him.
Generals for Jesus
After the recent problems at the Air Force Academy, you'd think that high-ranking military officers would have learned their lesson and would stop promoting their religion - but you'd be wrong. With some evangelical generals, it seems, they don't think that the rules apply to them.
Religion, Child Abuse, and Church/State Separation
Child abuse is an issue that is taken very seriously in America, but unfortunately there is one aspect to the problem which can be a significant blind spot: religion. There are people in America who believe that their religion requires them to treat their children in ways that most would consider unconscionable - and they often get away with it.
Seniors Coerced Into Bible Study Classes
Residents of a public housing complex for seniors in the Chicago area are complaining that they have been coerced into participating in religious exercises like prayer and Bible Study classes. Will this cause religious conservatives to reconsider the "faith-based" agenda of turning public services over to pervasively religious organizations?
America as a Christian Nation (Book Notes: American Jesus)
It's common to hear from the Christian Right that America is a "Christian Nation" and, as such, should be ruled according to Christian principles, by Christian politicians, and for the benefit of a Christian agenda - not to mention for the benefit of Christians themselves. Their arguments are quite mistaken.
Falwell: Vote Christian
Jerry Falwell has told supporters in a fund-raising letter that they should strive to "vote Christian" in the next elections. Apparently, Falwell believes that non-Christians are unfit for public office and, therefore, should not be voted for by good Christian citizens.
Government Declares Site Holy Ground?
I wrote earlier about how the Supreme Court's refusal to hear an appeal effectively allowed the National Park Service to favor Native American religious beliefs on public lands. This, along with the legal battles over the Kennewick Man, could mean that in an effort to protect Native American culture, the government is effectively establishing their religion.
Town Bills Church for Property Taxes
Churches are generally exempt from property taxes. Such exemptions are not constitutionally mandated, but communities find it easier to do things this way. What happens, though, when a church is scheduled for sale and no longer used for religious services? Shouldn't it become liable for property taxes now?
Secularism vs. Superstition (Book Notes: Humanism: An Introduction)
The widest cause of secularization may be the steady change of thinking so that there is the expectation that reason and a consideration of cause and effect will help with explanations. Supernatural power began to be removed from explanations of the process of life or society in the seventeenth century...
Piety and Morality in Politics (Book Notes: Doctors from Hell)
Outward manifestations of piety and righteousness do not protect the citizenry. Each belt buckle that German soldiers wore had embossed upon it Gott Mit Uns (God Is with Us). Over the door of the courthouse in the Palace of Justice complex in Nuremberg were engraved the Ten Commandments...
Church to Picket Own Camp (Infested with Witches)
The Presbytery of Yellowstone in Bozeman operates several camps in Montana which they rent out to various groups. One of the renters of the Westminster Spires Camp has turned out to be pagans, the Mountain Moon Circle, and these Christians aren't happy about it - but there's also nothing they can do about it.
ACLU Trying to Banish Bible in North Carolina Courts?
I wrote a few days ago about efforts to allow people to use scriptures other than the Bible when being sworn in to courts in North Carolina. I didn't expect the Christian Right to come up with a way to distort and twist the truth in this situation, but they did - and it's pretty blatant, too.
Politicians Walking with Jesus
For quite a while now, politicians have competed with each other not over their ability to understand the issues or the quality of their management skills, but over their claims to follow Jesus and be good Christians. This is inconsistent with the examples set down by America's political founders.
Government Promotion of Native American Religion
Scientists have finally been given the remains of the Kennewick Man, but the underlying debate isn't over. People still want Native American groups to get control of ancient remains on the theory that there is a cultural connection, even though that is scientifically untenable.
Secularism in Modern America
There was a time when secularism was generally accepted by Americans of most religious groups. This dominance of secularism was, however, powered largely by the influence of liberal, mainstream Protestant denominations. Now that those denominations are on the decline, though, so is secularism itself.
Utah: State Senator Opposes Church/State Separation
Parley Hellewell, a Republican state senator in Utah, is determined to undermine the separation of church and state where he lives. He wants to restore "what was done for the first 150 years," which appears to mean using the power of the state to favor and/or endorse Christianity.
American Attitudes on Religion & Government
Although Americans tend to be more religious than other nations in the industrialized West, there remains strong opposition to religious leaders trying to influence government. At the same time, though, this opposition is lower than in other Western nations.
What's Wrong With Government Endorsement of Religion?
Some Christians make fun of the idea of people being "offended" by the Ten Commandments and thus suing to have monuments removed from public grounds. These Christians fundamentally misunderstand (or just misrepresent) the real issues involved.
Senator Santorum: Ignorant of the Law
Rick Santorum, senator from Pennsylvania, holds some of the most heinous and absurd positions that I have ever seen in a politician. He's not the worst, but he's definitely on the short list of silly people who probably shouldn't be allowed out of the house unsupervised.
Biblical Patriarchs: Immoral, Godless Secularists
One might be forgiven for imagining that the biblical patriarchs were devout, godly men - but not according to the standards of the modern Christian Right in America. Because of the patriarchs' defense of polygamy, they must be classified as immoral, godless secularists.
Falwell Evades FEC Complaints
A complaint was made to the Federal Election Commission, charging that Jerry Falwell had violated the law when he endorsed President Bush's re-election. Falwell argued that he made the endorsement while in his role as owner of media outlets, not in his role as preacher, and therefore no laws were violated. The FEC bought it.
Bibles vs. Korans in North Carolina Courts
In North Carolina, Guilford County Superior Judge W. Douglas Albright is refusing to allow Muslims to "swear" to tell the truth by placing their hands on a copy of the Koran. State law states that people should use "holy scriptures" and Albright has decided that only the Bible qualifies.
Florida: Religious Theme Park Given Tax Exemption
The Holy Land Experience is a bible-based theme park in Florida that owed a huge tax bill to the local government, but they have successfully argued in court that they deserve a religious tax exemption. It appears that anything can get a religious tax exemption, no matter what kind of business they are really in.
Separating Church and State in Denmark
Church and state are not separate in Denmark, but that could change - there is a movement to separate them which has significant support in the government.
Church and State in the Philippines
There is no real separation of church and state in the Philippines and that's why the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines felt they had the authority to give President Arroyo a "reprieve" and not ask her to resign... yet.
Government Paying Chaplains to Evangelize?
There are official government chaplains throughout the military. Although paying chaplains may seem to be a violation of the separation of church and state, it's arguable that their presence is ultimately better than their absence. This depends, however, on their act on behalf of soldiers, not trying to convert them.
Kennewick Man: Free At Last
For years, the fate of the Kennewick Man has languished in the courts. The government wanted to turn the remains over to Native American groups despite the fact that such an action would have favored religious beliefs over science and reality. Now, finally, the courts have ruled in favor of scientists.
Hoasca & UDV: Hallucinogenic Tea as a Religious Sacrament
In Brazil, O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal (UDV) is a religious group which uses hoasca, a plant with hallucinogenic properties, as a sacramental tea. Use of this plant is exempted from Brazil's drug laws and followers of UDV want the same in America - but the government is fighting this right to the Supreme Court.
Christian Right Reactions to the Air Force Academy Scandal
Many people have reacted with shock over the revelations that non-Christian students have been treated so shabbily at the Air Force Academy. The Christian Right, predictably enough, has reacted with equal shock over the fact that people are upset.
Scalia's Scary America
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has declared that monotheists should be accorded a special status in American politics, laws, and culture. He can't defend a privileged status for Christians, but the thinks he can defend one for monotheists generally (Christians, Jews, and Muslims specifically). If widely accepted, it would have a terrible effect on America.
Bill O'Reilly: Neutrality on Religion is 'Fascism'?
What do you think about the idea that the government should be neutral on matters of religion, not preferring or endorsing any one religion over others? Many people think that's a good idea, but it appears that Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly considers it a form of fascism, at least when it occurs in the context of the government not promoting religious symbols on government property.
Southern Baptists Drop Support Of Church Electioneering Bill
For years, now, North Carolina Republican Walter Jones has been pushing a bill that would allow churches to endorse political candidates without losing their tax exempt status. This wouldn't extend to all non-profit charities, just churches. Now, though, key allies in the Southern Baptist Convention have dropped their support.
Paper on God gets Failing Grade
In California, a student at the Victor Valley Community College received an F on her paper because she talked about God. Is this an example of religious bigotry and discrimination, or an example of someone using the specter of discrimination in order to get special treatment?
Alabama: Wiccan Wins Prayer Case
The Supreme Court has refused to take up the appeal of Great Falls, North Carolina, the town trying to defend their practice of only allowing sectarian Christian prayers at their council meetings. This means that the 4th Circuit Court Decision in favor of Darla Wynne stands.
America: No Rule of Men
The American Constitution may start out with "We the People of the United States," but according to Christian Right leaders this shouldn't lead you to think that the American government should be ruled by people. On the contrary, America should be ruled by God.
Onward, Christian Leaders?
One of the problems which many Christians have with the Christian Right is idea that one must vote conservative in order to be a "true" Christian. Liberals attempt to counter this by arguing that they are "real" Christians as well, but in doing so they appear to concede far too much ground to the conservatives.
The Trouble with Private Reinterpretation
It's not uncommon for those defending overtly religious language in government contexts to say that all those who don't subscribe to the dominant religious beliefs can "reinterpret" the language to suit them. Thus, when they hear "God," they can "reinterpret" it to simply mean "Nature" or whatever. Is this a legitimate argument?
Officer Promoted Religion after Traffic Stop
In Greer, South Carolina, a druid couple stopped for a traffic violation also had to deal with the volunteer officer promoting his religion. I often use the example of an officer proselytizing during a traffic stop to show how and why public officials can't use their position to promote their religion - but I didn't think that someone would try!
Accommodating Religion at Work: How Far?
The Workplace Religious Freedom Act of 2005 would prohibit workplace "discrimination" the forbids wearing headgear (even if religious) or requires employees to work on Saturdays (even if it's a holy day). Does this broaden the idea of "discrimination" too far?
Air Force Chaplain Resigns
Capt. Melinda Morton, chaplain at the Air Force Academy who helped reveal the pervasive religious bias there and who was fired for her trouble, has decided to resign her commission. She recognized that revealing the truth would leave her military career in tatters - a shame, because she sounds like a better officer than all those who will be staying behind.
Minnesota School Program is Anti-American, Anti-Christian
Minnetonka High School in Minnesota has begun offering several classes through a new affiliation with the International Baccalaureate program. These classes, especially the history class, offer an international perspective on events and ideas. One feature of the classes is that they teach how a person's ideology can shape their perceptions and filter information. This has parents upset.
Texas: Park Named After Pope
In Harris County, Texas, a county park is being named after Pope John Paul II. There are no other parks in the county or region that are named after priests, popes, or other religious leaders. John Paul's Landing would be the first, but government leaders insist that the move is entirely appropriate.
Oregon: Exempting Churches from Land-Use Laws
Should churches be allowed to ignore the same land-use laws that all other property owners have to abide by? That's exactly what some churches want and, in Oregon, that's what some state politicians want to have happen. A bill passed the House exempting religious institutions from many zoning regulations.
Who Should Determine a Child's Religious Upbringing?
When an interfaith marriage breaks down, there can be more problems and conflicts than with the average divorce. One of those conflicts is how to raise any children - that's difficult enough with an interfaith marriage that stays together, but when the parents are no longer together who gets to make the decisions?
Is Secularism a Religion?
A common argument heard from the Christian Right is that secularism is "really" a religion. Never mind the fact that the definition of "secular" is "not spiritual" or "not relating to religion." That's what the word has always meant and, therefore, secularism by definition can't be a religion.
Justice Thomas Supports State Establishments of Religion
One of the little-noticed aspects of the Supreme Court's recent and unanimous ruling that upheld the RLUIPA is how the concurring opinion of Justice Clarence Thomas defended the idea of state-level theocracies.
What Are Our Obligations to Others' Superstitions?
There have been many complaints about the mishandling of the Koran by American soldiers when interrogating Muslims prisoners. Although deliberate defacement of the book shouldn't be tolerated, this does raise the question of how far the government should go in order to avoid offending religious sensibilities.
Air Force Academy Chief Admits Problems
The Christian Right has tried to portray the problems at the Air Force academy as a witch hunt against Christians. They have argued that complaints about Christians' persecution of Jews is really persecution of Christians. Now, the superintendent of the Air Force Academy has admitted that there are serious problems at the school. What will Christian Right leaders do?
David Limbaugh Whines About Christian Persecution
Conservative evangelical Christians in America suffer from a persecution complex - or perhaps everyone else suffers from these Christians' persecution complex. I say that others suffer because the Christians whine about being persecuted even as they demonize and vilify others. The former may make the latter easier - and mask it.
Americans Likely to Support Mixing Religion, Politics
It's not just that Americans are more likely than other Western nations to be personally religious; Americans are also more likely than citizens of other Western nations to want to mix their religion with politics. That's why politicians get so much milage out of rhetoric that brings religion into the political sphere.
America: Religious and Secular
There are a number of social issues which appear to pit religionists against secularists, and these debates are among the most rancorous in America. Why has this been the case? Why do Americans have so many religion-centered debates?
State vs. Church in Evangelicals' Minds
A common and curious aspect to many conservative evangelicals' complaints about the absence of their religion in the government is the way they focus on the state rather than on their own churches. Why do they invest the state with the responsibility to promote theism and religion?
Where Does Religion Belong in Sports?
Air Force football coach Fisher DeBerry hung a banner in the locker room that read, in part, "I am a Christian first and last" and "I am a member of Team Jesus Christ." He also told his players to "go to church." Was any of this appropriate?
Texas: Governor Signs Christian Right Bills at Church
Texas Governor Rick Perry has signed into law a measure that requires girls under 18 to get written permission from their parents before they can obtain an abortion. He also signed a proposition defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. All of this was done at a conservative Christian school, signaling that the laws are designed for the Christian Right.
Secular History of America
It's common to portray America as being historically Christian (specifically, evangelical Christian) and that only recently have those Christian roots been betrayed by the growth of secularism and humanism. It's arguable, however, that current secular trends are a return to America's roots and that the reactionary Christians are fighting a long-term, losing batting against it.
Problems At Air Force Academy Continue
I've written numerous times about the religious discrimination and proselytizing going on at the Air Force Academy. The issues have been in the national news many times as well. One would think that this would lead to more sensible behavior at the Academy, but apparently not.
Kentucky Judge Forces Choice: Jail or Church
Michael Caperton, a district judge in Kentucky, has been giving people appearing in his court a choice of going to church instead of jail. Telling people that they can get out of jail if they attend church services is blatantly unconstitutional, but that doesn't seem to have occurred to him.
North Carolina: 'In God We Trust' Challenge Continues
In Davidson County, North Carolina, a large display with the phrase "In God We Trust" was placed in front of the County Government Center. They were sued, but they have won at every court level and now the appeal is going to the Supreme Court.
Whitewash in Works at Air Force Academy
There has been extensive reporting on the religious bias and discrimination that occurred at the Air Force Academy. Despite an on-going investigation, the Air Force has announced that it wants to promote one of the top commanders who may be partially responsible for what went on.
Indiana: Judge Forbids Parents Teaching Son Wicca
Cale J. Bradford, chief judge of the Marion Superior Court in Indianapolis, has forbidden a divorced mother and father from exposing their son to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals" - which essentially means their Wiccan beliefs. Why? Apparently because the judge doesn't approve.
Separation of Church and State: Just a Slogan?
Archbishop William J. Levada of San Francisco has been made head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Inquisition. Benedict XVI himself held this office before becoming pope. Levada's views will, thus, become important for Catholics in the future.
California: Mayor Favors Christians Over Others
In Santa Clarita, California, Mayor Cameron Smyth is being criticized for using his title in his participation in an evangelical Christian event. The prayer breakfast promoted evangelical Christian beliefs over the beliefs of others, something which many consider an improper use of Smyth's office.
Separation is Satanism
Many people object to the separation of church and state because this prevents them from ensuring that civil law reflect God's law. Is a failure to enforce God's law really a plot by Satan?
Church vs. Neighborhood
A growing problem in America is the growth of large churches: you have to put them somewhere, usually in or close to residential neighborhoods. People who live in those neighborhoods don't usually like this and oppose the new churches, but religious leaders cry "discrimination" when zoning laws are used against mega-churches.
North Carolina: Political Pastor Resigns from Ungodly Church
Chan Chandler, the preacher who kicked Democrats out of his church, has himself now resigned. Some members of the East Waynesville Baptist Church continue to support him, though, and label the congregation "ungodly."
Irrational Thinking about Prayer
Well, another National Day of Prayer has passed and any number of people have weighed in about how there is something wrong with those who don't pray - and something very wrong with those who object to the politicization of prayer. Anything which reminds Christians that they aren't the only people in this nation has to be struck down quickly and firmly.
Idaho: Atheists Get Statehouse Steps
A couple of days ago, I wrote about how the Idaho state government tried to show favoritism towards Christians and against atheists. Now a judge has sided with the atheists, ruling that the state tried to act inappropriately. Atheists will have the Statehouse steps on the National Day of Prayer!
National Day of Prayer: Too Politicized? Too Evangelical?
Held the first Friday of May every year, the National Day of Prayer is a highly politicized event used by the Christian Right to promote their political agenda. Ecumenicism is only ever vaguely hinted at and never really meant seriously. For some reason, people are only now starting to see this.
Christian Student Group Has Bias Claims Rejected
One "growth" area in church/state separation lawsuits are claims by Christian student groups that they should be exempt from university non-discrimination policies. Other student groups must agree not to discriminate on the basis of race, gender, religion, or sexuality, but Christian groups want to be able to do this and still receive funding.
Alaska: Christian College Sued Over Funding
Earlier this year I wrote about how the Alaska Christian College was receiving more than USD $1 million despite the small size and religious orientation of the place. Now they are being sued by the Freedom From Religious Foundation.
Secularism as a Sin
Conservative Catholics are among the most vociferous opponents of modern secularism. This has always been the case and Catholic traditionalists have attacked the secular state for as long as it has existed, rejecting the idea that people should be governed according to their own decisions rather than the decisions of religious authorities.
Religion vs. Drug Laws
The Christian Right likes to portray itself as persecuted in America, but the Bush administration is trying to get the Supreme Court to rule against a minority religion's use of a hallucinogenic substance. I haven't heard any Christian Right leaders come out in defense of the group, so maybe they only believe in freedom for themselves?
Justice Janice Rogers Brown on 'Atheistic Humanism'
Janice Rogers Brown is a justice on the California Supreme Court and one of the 10 candidates to the federal judiciary which the Democrats have filibustered because of her extremism. Speaking at a Red Mass, she reinforced why she should be considered an extremist by launching into a tired against atheism and secular humanism.
Christian Dominionism in Mississippi
Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi has signed into law a measure that authorizes state officials to post the Ten Commandments, excerpts from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, and the phrase "In God We Trust" in any and all public buildings. Mississippi is, then, officially sanctioning Christianity as the state's official religion.
U.S. Founded on Christianity?
Many Christians believe that their religion was the basis for the founding of America and, therefore, that American government should promote their religion. Even if the premise were correct it wouldn't logically lead to their conclusion, but the premise itself is manifestly false. America's founders didn't want a sectarian, religious state.
More and more, it seems as though secularism in America is being hollowed out, becoming little more than a shell that people pay lip service to (at most) but no longer regard with any seriousness. Ironically, other nations can be more secular than America when it comes to things that really count.
Sick and Tired of Secularism
The Christian Right in America has been attacking secularism for some time now because a secular state stands in their way of imposing their religion on everyone. Similar attacks are occurring elsewhere, too. Religious extremists in other nations may be taking a cue from the Christian Right about undermining the structures that provide for religious liberty and democratic freedoms.
No Separation of God & State
Christian and Muslim extremists share a lot in common. Their religious systems may be quite different, but they share a desire to ensure that their religion dominates society. They have little time for the idea that their religion should be treated no better than any other religion in society.
Bias and Bigotry at Air Force Academy
I've written before about the extensive religious bias and discrimination that has been occurring at the Air Force Academy. Things haven't changed much, but more people have been taking notice.
Should Government Agencies Honor the Pope?
Many government agencies in America marked the death of Pope John Paul II by flying their flags at half-staff. A few didn't and this has attracted harsh criticism - none of the critics, however, are able to explain how or why it's appropriate for government agencies to honor the leader of a particular religion in this manner.
Argentina: Row Over Church & State
A serious conflict has developed in Argentina between religious and political leaders. Army bishop Antonio Baseotto has been stripped of his military salary and barred from entering military installations; the Vatican refuses to remove him from his post because his veiled threats against the health minister don't violate any church rules.
Blogsnark: Why is the U.S. a Christian Nation?
Many religious conservatives argue that America is a Christian Nation - but upon what do they base this claim? The only sensible argument would have to be that the nature of America as expressed in its fundamental laws or principles is inherently Christian. Can such an argument be made?
Ohio: God's License Plates
Soon the state of Ohio may start promoting theism because the state Senate has approved (unanimously) a measure to create special "One Nation Under God" specialty plates. The House still has to vote on it, but they are likely to approve and the governor is likely to sign it.
Court Permits Religious Bigotry in Board Prayers
I've written several times about Cynthia Simpson, the Wiccan priestess in Chesterfield County, Virginia, who was denied the opportunity to say an invocation prayer at Board of Supervisors meetings. Why? Because the prayers must be "made to a divinity that is consistent with the Judeo-Christian tradition." The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals says that's OK.
Ending the Filibuster: Democracy vs. Majority Rule
Some people in America are confused between democracy and majority rule - they think the two are the same, but they aren't. Those seeking to end the ability of the Senate to filibuster judicial nominees are helping to perpetuate this error because they argue that any party in the majority should have the right to do as it wishes, irrespective of what the minority party wants.
Official Police Bibles in Michigan?
Should a police force have their own "official" Bible, with the police seal and everything? That's what some in Michigan thought and so they had a special Bible printed, but once someone complained distribution was halted. The Bibles are still being stored in public facilities, though, and will be given to any who ask for one.
Blogsnark: Religious Freedom a Gift of the Majority? (updated)
Do Americans' religious liberties come from and depend upon the good will of the majority of Christians? Some Christians certainly think so. There is an implicit message behind such a statement: be happy with what you have; if you get too uppity, you might lose even that much and then where will you be? With no place to appeal to.
Oregon: Insults at Prayer Breakfast
Many places around America hold annual "prayer breakfasts" designed to bring politicians and other community leaders together to publicly affirm their religious beliefs and congratulate each other for how religious they are. Religious people tend not to see the problem in such self-serving displays of piety, but occasionally the hypocrisy sinks in.
Blogsnark: Myth of a Secular State
Should the American government be secular? Most would say so - after all, if it's not secular it must be religious and that's only possible by picking one religion to promote above all others. A government that isn't neutral among religions is theocratic in nature, but which religion should America be based upon?
New Mexico: Public Pays for Half Day Off to Honor Pope
Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico is giving all state workers a half day off, with pay, in remembrance of Pope John Paul II. He wouldn't have done this with any other foreign leader's death and he wouldn't have done it to honor the life of any other religious leader. So why does he think that singling out Catholicism for special treatment is appropriate?
Why Religion and Politics Don't Mix
Religious conservatives like to argue that we shouldn't be worried about mixing religion and politics (which, of course, always really means their religion and politics being mixed). The problem is, they are unable to articulate why such mixing is a good thing. They can't even fairly and accurately describe what the opposing arguments are.
Christians Question Freedom for Minority Faiths
The Supreme Court is hearing challenges to the constitutionality of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). Some on the Christian Right seem to welcome the challenges because the law gives status and accommodation to minority religious groups, not just to Christianity.
Public Financing of Catholic Schools?
It's getting more expensive to run Catholic schools. The nuns who used to work for nothing are getting too old to do everything and now the schools have to pay more bills for teachers. Enrollment is also down in many places. This, in turn, means charging more per student - so some are saying that the government should starting paying.
Mississippi: Sheriff Promotes Christianity At Easter
Sheriff Mike Byrd in Jackson County, Mississippi, has for the past five years erected three crosses on the courthouse lawn every Easter. Byrd is acting in his official capacity as an officer of the state and there is no question but that the crosses promote Christianity. Byrd and others, though, see nothing wrong with this.
Florida: Sheriff Considering Faith-Based Jail
In Sarasota County, Florida, Sheriff Bill Balkwill wants to turn a nearly empty jail annex into a "faith-based facility" that will promote religion. Will it promote religion generally? That's not possible - you can only promote specific religions. So, which religions will the jail promote and how will they make the choices of which to promote and which to ignore?
Should Churches Endorse Political Candidates?
For a long time, North Carolina Representative Walter Jones has been the primary force behind efforts to change the law to allow churches to become involved with partisan politics. Now he has a partner: Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. He, too, wants to turn churches, mosques, synagogues, and other houses of worship into political theaters.
Theocracy in Ohio?
A movement called "Ohio Restoration Project" is looking to replace the current lineup of Republican politicians in Ohio. Why? Because they aren't conservative enough and don't go far enough in defending principles of theocracy and authoritarianism.
New York: Worker Shunned Over Religion Given New Job
Earlier this year I reported on Patricia Freund, an employee of the New York State Liquor Authority who had all of her duties removed and was stuck in a back office with nothing to do. Why? Because she raised uncomfortable questions about policies regarding the governor's prayer breakfasts.
No Special Forces Jesus?
The U.S. Army awarded a contract to the International Bible Society to print special Bibles for the Special Forces. Steve Peacock filed a Freedom of Information Act request of find out what sorts of "enhancements" were planned. Rather than comply with the request, the Army cancelled the order.
California: Should Cross Go on Town Seal?
Redlands, California, is considering putting a Christian cross on the town seal. Supporters are arguing that this can be done with a completely secular purpose and no religious basis at all. Whom do they think they are fooling?
Avert Your Eyes from the Theocrats...
Some supporters of government-endorsed religious messages frame their position as if they were defending freedom of speech and argue that those who don't like such messages can just "avert their eyes." They don't understand either freedom of speech of freedom of religion.
Connecticut: Wiccan Priestess Fired - Too Many Holidays?
A Wiccan priestess in Derby, Connecticut, claims that she was fired because of the amount of time she wanted off for religious observances. She asked for religious holidays off, without pay, but says that her employers didn't approve.
'What Would Jesus Do' As a Political Platform
Many Christians ask (implicitly or explicitly) what Jesus would do as a guide to their own ethical and social conduct. When limited to their personal actions, they should certainly be free to do so - but should it also serve as a guide for political conduct, for laws, and for public policy?
Under God - An Ancient Relic of the Past
Are references to God simply ancient relics of the past, one-time religious incantations that have become little more than automatic formalities with no serious meaning? That's what many think - but ironically the ones claiming this are devout religious believers who are "defending" the use of references to "God" in official government acts.
Christians Worried About Non-Christian Prayers
When the Christian Right complains that more "religion" is needed in the public sphere and in government, they typically mean that more "Christianity" (as they define it) is needed. Laws and regulations, however, cannot be written to specifically privilege Christianity - they must treat all religions equally. This causes problems, however...
Chief Justice Antonin Scalia has gone repeatedly on record as saying that the government derives its authority from his god, not from the consent and participating of the people actually being governed. This opinion is not only historically incorrect, it's also quite dangerous.
Republicans Reject Biblical Principles
Do Christian Right politicians really believe their own religious rhetoric or do they simply use it to get what they want? A revealing case comes from Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa. A staunch member of the Christian Right, he overtly rejects the intrusion of Christian principles when it comes to his support of the new bankruptcy bill.
Antonin Scalia: Government Derives Authority From God
Should America be a theocracy? Some think so and openly advocate it. Others think so and make their case more subtly, promoting doctrines that encourage theocratic attitudes without openly admitting that they seek the elimination of basic democratic principles and liberties.
Maryland: Senate Considering New Prayer Rules
Last year, the Maryland Senate changed its prayer rules in order to prohibit sectarian prayers that invoke the name of any specific god or religious figure. Now Republicans want to change it back because they think it's a violation of personal free speech rights for the government to sponsor sectarian religious pronouncements.
Mt. Soledad Cross To Move
The cross on Mt. Soledad was first ruled unconstitutional back in 1991. Now, finally, the San Diego City Council has voted to comply with various court orders to move it. The most recent scheme to save it, which involved naming it a Veterans Memorial and donating it to the federal government, has been rejected.
NCR Favors Government Supported Christianity?
Groups that defend the separation of church and state have argued against government funds being used to repair and maintain historic missions in California that are active churches. Some think that this is a bad choice, arguing that because Americans have historically been Christian, the American government should financially support symbols of Christian history.
Prospect of State-Sanctified Churches
Many Christians argue that Ten Commandments monuments are appropriate for the state to erect and maintain. What would be the consequences for America if the courts were to accept the idea that local and state governments could pick out certain religions for endorsement and favoritism?
Christianity & Nazism
Many Christians are unaware of the degree to which Christianity was a willing partner of Hitler in Nazi Germany. There are many examples of German Christians who resisted Nazism, but there are many more examples of Christians who regarded their religion as fully compatible with Nazi politics.
Virginia: Tolerance Prayer Offends Lawmakers
Conservative legislators in Virginia who have no problem with politicizing religion when it favors their causes were put in an uncomfortable position because Rev. Debra Peevey of the Journey of the Heart Ministries in Reston delivered an invocation that included a message of tolerance towards gays. What's good for the goose...
Park Policy Favoring Indian Religion Stands
The Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of a decision that effectively allows the National Park Service to favor Native American religious beliefs on public lands. Now the government will be able to arrest people in public parks who do things that are regarded by some tribes as sacreligious.
Virginia Wants to Allow Sectarian Prayers
The Virginia General Assembly apparently thinks that they have the authority to overrule federal circuit courts. The courts have ruled that sectarian prayers at meetings of municipal bodies are unconstitutional but some in Virginia want to pass a law saying "Is not! Is not!"
Chicago: Churches as Historical Landmarks
Churches are often, though not always, exempt from laws that forbid major changes to historical "landmarks." Chicago is one place where they are exempt and mayor Daley wants to change that.
Greece: Scandals Increase Support of Church/State Separation
Greece has not traditionally enjoyed a separation of church and state, much to the woe of religious minorities there. A recent series of corruption scandals in the Greek Orthodox Church, however, has finally led an increasing number of Greeks to recognize how and why separating church and state may be a good idea after all.
Oregon: Museum May Show Goddess Statue After All
A town in Oregon is in an uproar because the museum wants to exhibit a statue of the goddess Hebe. A similar statue used to stand in public but was accidentally knocked down. Now, some Christians are objecting to the display because it's anti-Christian.
Secularism in Europe
Europe is far more secular than America. Not only are Europeans less likely to go to church or believe in God than Americans, they are far more likely to be dismissive of religion and oppose the use of religion in political debates. How will that impact the political relationship between America and Europe in the future?
A Religion or a Gang?
What's the difference between a religion and a gang? That's a question that the state of Iowa is trying to deal with and they want the courts to give them a free hand in their decision. They don't want to give "religious rights" to prison organizations they say are really gangs in disguise.
Arkansas: State House Votes Against Church/State Separation
Sometimes, when an especially egregious piece of legislation is passed, we might be able to say that the legislature has voted "against" liberty or the separation of church and state. Arkansas has provided us with a unique situation, however, because they have voted against the separation of church and state.
Government & Religion
I find it strange that so many people have trouble understanding that atheism and secularism aren't religions. These aren't difficult concepts to figure out, but so many people continue making the mistake.
Stealth Nominations to the Supreme Court
Approving judicial nominees, especially those to the Supreme Court, is a very political process. Some people seem to think that it shouldn't be and that the Senate should basically approve anyone not grossly incompetent, but there is no real warrant for such a position.
Virginia: Establishment Clause Doesn't Apply to States
The State of Virginia has written a brief to the Supreme Court on a case dealing with the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). According to Virginia, First Amendment protections of religious liberty don't entirely apply to state actions. Crazy? Sure - but there are many in the Christian Right who sincerely believe this.
North Carolina: Debate Over Legislative Chapel
The Legislative Building in North Carolina has a "General Assembly Chapel" that includes a large number of Christian symbols. The dominance of Christianity here, alongside the absence of any other religion, certainly suggests religious favoritism and some are complaining about it.
Virginia: Trashing Thomas Jefferson's Legacy
Virginia is considering a bill that would amend that state's Constitution and alter language on religious freedom that dates back to Thomas Jefferson. They claim that they want to ensure the right of students to pray in school, but since that right isn't in danger their agenda has to be very different.
Can Publicly-Funded Catholic Church Turn Away Non-Catholic Couples?
In California, people want to use federal funds to restore historic Catholic missions. They claim that this is warranted because of the missions' historic importance, despite the fact that they continue to be working churches. If they are government-funded churches, though, can they legally turn away non-Catholic couples who want to marry there?
American Legion Stands Up Against Atheists, Gays
The federal government is being prevented from sponsoring Boy Scout troops because the BSA discriminates against atheists and gays. The government isn't allowed to participate in such discrimination, but those who are bigoted against gays and atheists think that such discrimination is appropriate.
Virginia: Wiccan Takes Town to Court
In Chesterfield County, Virginia, Cynthia Simpson has taken the government to court because she has been excluded from the list of clergy that gives the opening prayer at the Board of Supervisor meetings. Her exclusion is due entirely to the fact that she is a Wiccan and, therefore, should be a clear case of religious discrimination.
South Carolina: Atheist's Invocation Denied
In Anderson, South Carolina, an atheist wants to counter the common Christian invocations given at council meetings with his own secular humanist invocation. The Christian invocations are given by council members who are denying Michael Deanhardt the opportunity to offer something different.
Christian Radio Station Plays at School Event
Should specifically religious entertainment be a part of official school events? That sounds like it would be difficult to defend, but it's just what happened at Aloma Elementary School in Florida. The school wanted to reward kids with a carnival for their efforts to raise funds for tsunami victims and invited a Christian radio station to participate.
Religious Freedom vs. Nondiscrimination
Many colleges in America are struggling with a difficult conundrum: should their non-discrimination policies apply to religious student groups? Most colleges require student groups to sign non-discrimination policies in order to get funding, but some religious groups want to discriminate on the basis of religion and sexual orientation. Should they be allowed to?
California: Cities Continue Illegal Prayers
City councils in California aren't supposed to open meetings with sectarian prayers, but many continue to do so despite court rulings. Apparently they don't much care about the law of the land and are much more interested in abusing their governmental power to endorse their personal religious beliefs.
Florida: 'In God We Trust' in Public Libraries
In Pasco County, Florida, Republicans are pushing to have banners saying "In God We Trust" put up in public libraries. I don't think that they imagine that this isn't an endorsement of belief in a particular god; on the contrary, I'm sure that that is precisely the point for them. Otherwise, they wouldn't bother.
Michigan: Wrestling Coach Ceases Prayers Before Matches
A wrestling coach at the Lincoln Consolidated Schools in Michigan was in the habit of praying with his team before every game. Although coaches are allowed to pray on their own and students can certainly pray on their own, teachers and coaches aren't allowed to lead students in prayer because that sends the message that the prayers are "official" and approved of by the school.
Public Schools Need More Religion
Do public schools need more religion? Some say that they do - but of course, there is no such thing as just general "religion." To put more religion in public schools, it's necessary to use some specific religion - a specific set of doctrines rather than any other set. If that's not an establishment of religion, what is?
'Separation' a Lie?
People opposed to the separation of church and state, like those who are opposed to evolution, can be counted upon to distort and misuse history in egregious ways. False quotes are used, historical events are recounted in misleading ways, and the general record of law and government are misused. If they had a good case to make, this wouldn't be necessary.
That Other Church: Secularism As Religion?
I've written a number of times about secularism, especially when people misunderstand the concept. There are a number of writers on the internet who don't seem to understand the concept, but ignorance is not limited to bloggers. Even writers of respected magazines have trouble.
Texas Seminaries Seeking Greater Freedom
In Texas, seminaries are ultimately controlled by the state government. They can't award degrees unless the state approves of their curriculum, professors, and even governing board. A case before the Texas Supreme Court is hoping to change that.
Church & State in Zimbabwe
In Zimbabwe, a parish priest has been suspended by the Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga. What was his crime? He dared to allow an opponent of President Robert Mugabe attend worship services at the church.
Texas: Houston Bible Display Removed
A Bible display at the Harris County Civil Courts Building in Houston had been allowed to remain while it was being challenged, but no more. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a request to let the display stand and it has been removed as per a district judge's order from summer 2004.
Should the Constitution Be Read Narrowly or Broadly?
One of the most common debates in constitutional law is over the method we should use in interpreting the Constitution. Should we read the text broadly and rely upon general principles? Should we read it narrowly and rely only on the words at hand? Should we read it very narrowly and rely only on how the authors applied the text?
Rehnquist Decries Threats to Judiciary
William Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, has delivered a year-end report on the federal courts that may not please many of his traditional conservative supporters. He has decried the attacks on "judicial activism," especially attacks that threaten to undermine the independence of the judiciary.
Alaska: Public Financing of Christian College
The Alaska Christian College is small, new, and the recipient of more than USD $1 million from Alaska's congressional delegation. Some people in Alaska are asking some hard questions about why their government is spending so much on a religious institution.
New York: State Employee Questions Prayer Breakfasts, Gets Shunned
Patricia Freund works for the New York State Liquor Authority... sort of. She used to be the personnel director and then later served as director of wholesale services. Now, though, she spends her days at the office reading books. Why? Because she dared to question public employees attending the governor's prayer breakfast.
Atheist Challenged Recycling Program
Why would an atheist challenge a recycling program? Perhaps because it served, even if inadvertently, to favor Christians. That's what happened in Chicago when the city offered "blue bags" for people who brought in Christmas trees for the wood chipper.
No Mandatory Minimums of Religion
Some religious conservatives complain when religious beliefs and history are not introduced in public schools. In some cases, the absence of any mention of religion may be unwise from a pedagogical perspective. What needs to be understood, however, is that it isn't necessarily unconstitutional. There are no constitutional minimums on how much religion is presented in schools.
Michigan to Fund Theological Studies
Michigan's governor has signed a bill that will provide state scholarships for theology students. People who become ministers or priests still won't get scholarships, but people studying theology as an academic discipline will. I have to ask: how will they ensure a separation between the two?
Blogsnark: Church vs. State, Religion vs. Atheism
I've noticed that many conservative evangelicals writing on the web have little understanding of basic concepts like church, state, religion, and atheism. They sometimes even have less understanding of basic logic or reasoning. Their "arguments" deserve to be exposed and dissected so that everyone can see just what's going on.
France: Church/State Separation Cuts Both Ways
France's decision to ban headscarves in schools doesn't just affect Muslims. The policy is worded broadly so as not to appear to single Muslims out for discrimination, which means that some traditional practices that benefited Christians and Christianity are also now prohibited. Christians aren't happy.
AmeriCorps Cannot Fund Catholic School Programs
The AmeriCorp program, funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service, has been ordered to stop funding programs that pay for volunteers in Catholic schools. Accoding to the judge, federal money can't be used to teach Catholic doctrine and values. What implications might this have for Bush's faith-based agenda?
Florida: Voters May End Church/State Separation
Many states have constitutional provisions separating church and state that are stricter and more explicit than what is in the U.S. Constitution. Florida is one of them and their constitution has consistently halted efforts to use publicly funded school vouchers to pay for religious education. Now the Christian Right wants to amend the constitution and change all this.
Religion in the Public Arena
One of the more dishonest tactics used by those who want the state to support their religion is to complain about how their beliefs are excluded from the "public arena." But what do they mean by "public" here? The word has multiple senses and this ambiguity is a useful tool for those who would mislead others.
Law & Economics
There is an established school of thought in the law today that treats the law as if it were a subset of economics. Legal decisions should be guided by cost/benefit analyses that are themselves derived from economists' studies of commerce and business. It can be argued, however, that little to none of this is appropriate.
Canada: Sailors Can Keep Hats On During Prayer
Until now, Canadian sailors all had to take off their hats during prayers, even if they didn't believe in or accept those prayers. The Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada has, however, set aside the conviction of a sailor who refused, deciding that forcing such behavior is inconsistent with the principles of religious liberty without being necessary for the military's mission.
What Makes America a 'Christian' Nation?
There are many who claim that America is a "Christian Nation," but what exactly makes America so "Christian"? Something about America's social policies? Something about America's international policies? In reality Christians in America have little sense of themselves, their traditions, or the religious heritage.
Secularization & American Religion
Religious conservatives often complain about the secularization of America. It is true that the government is secular, but that's the way it is supposed to be. The rest of society is not so secular, however, and evangelicals' complaints largely miss the mark.
Cal Thomas Promotes Biblical Education in Public Schools
It's common for members of the Christian Right to advocate bringing more of their religion into public schools - but they're usually not too blatant. Most often they talk about generic "religion" and "values" without specifying what they really mean (their religion, their doctrines, their interpretation of their Bible). Cal Thomas crossed that line recently.
Religion and Democracy
To what degree are religion and democracy compatible? Some argue that in order for a democratic state to function, religion should be kept separate from the government. Others argue that a secular state is wrong and that democracy requires religion in order to be sufficiently moral.
New Jersey: Christians Outraged that Muslims Used School
The federal government's "equal access" policy requires public schools that open their doors to any community group to also open their doors to religious groups. If a book club can meet in a school, so can a church. Conservative Christians complain when they think this policy isn't being followed - unless Muslims are being accommodated, that is.
Is the Constitution a Godless Document?
Strict separationists like the Freedom From Religion Foundation insist on pointing out that the Constitution is a "godless document" that only discusses religion in ways that are "exclusionary." This seems to upset people who don't accept the principle that church and state should be strictly separated.
Illinois: Mayor Drops Bible Week Declaration
For a decade, Wauconda Mayor James Eschenbauch has declared the last week in November as Bible Week - just as happens in more than 400 communities nationwide. This year Eschenbauch didn't and may be realizing that the government doesn't have the authority to single out one religious scripture above all others for privileged promotion or endorsement.
Extensive Christian Bias At Air Force Academy
I've already written about the religious harassment at the Air Force Academy and the Team Jesus banner that had to be taken down, but it seems as though the problems have been worse than previously reported. High-ranking officers were apparently involved and/or ignored complaints from cadets.
Arizona: Lawsuit Filed Over Faith-Based Mentoring
Should the federal government pay for a child-care program where mentors "share the good news of who Jesus is and how he can provide a future of hope for anyone"? That's just what is happening in Arizona. The Freedom From Religion Foundation is suing to halt it, but it's incredible that it would occur at all.
Secular Schools Indoctrinate Christian Kids?
Members of the Christian Right don't like secular public schools because... well, because they are secular and serve the public rather than religious and serve the interests of conservative evangelicals. Children are exposed to all sorts of ideas that aren't predicated upon a literalist interpretation of the Bible and that's simply unacceptable. By golly, it's indoctrination!
Faith & Democracy
In America here can be a great deal of conflict between secularism and religion - specifically, religious fundamentalism. To what extent are the absolute and uncompromising positions of traditional faith compatible with the deliberative process of secular democracy?
The Specialness of Judeo-Christian Principles
Quite often when people try to argue against the separation of church and state or in favor of imposing Christian ideas via the power of the government, they invoke "Judeo-Christian Principles." These are supposed to be fundamental principles upon which American law, morality, and civilization have been founded. But just what are they, anyway?
Atheist Supports Ratzinger's Crusade Against Secularism
Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican's "Iron Cardinal" in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formally known as the Inquisition), has launched a campaign against secularism in Europe. Apparently, institutions that don't adopt any particular religion are a threat to Catholicism.
Declaration of Independence Banned?
A frequent rhetorical trick of the Christian Right is to complain that if God is removed from public schools, then the Declaration of Independence will be next. Well, some are claiming that exactly this has occurred in the San Francisco Bay Area: Steven Williams is suing because he was censored for handing out the DoI. But is this true?
Scalia Rejects Government Neutrality Towards Religion
When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia appeared at an interfaith conference in New York, he made his views on religion and state abundantly clear: the American government should not be and has no obligation to be neutral with regards to religion. What this necessarily entails, then, is that the government can and should show favoritism and partisanship in religious matters.
Soledad Cross Named Veterans Memorial
A few days ago I wrote that the saga of the Mt. Soledad Cross might finally be over - but I spoke far too soon, it seems. Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon, and Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Escondido added a provision to a spending bill that declared the cross a "Veterans Memorial," and if this provision stays it won't be possible to move the cross.
Elkhart, Indiana: Governed By God?
I've written before about Elkhart, Indiana, a town that had a Ten Commandments monument ordered removed. Turns out that this town is a veritable hotbed of theocratic attitudes, at least among the elected representatives who seem to consider themselves elected pastors as well.
Complaints Continue About Target & the Salvation Army
I've written before about complaints that Target will be treating the Salvation Army just like any other charity. The fact that other charities have been banned from solicitation doesn't matter. The fact that the Salvation Army will be on equal footing with everyone else doesn't matter. All that matters, it seems, is that a favored group is losing a special privilege.
Team Jesus Banner Removed At Air Force Academy
A couple of days ago I wrote about the apparent problem of religious discrimination and bigotry at the Air Force Academy. As part of the effort to clean the place up, a Team Jesus banner has been removed from the football team's locker room. Yes, an explicitly Christian banner was hung there by the coach, apparently ignorant of the principles of religious tolerance.
Church, State, and Tax Exemptions
Churches aren't allowed to participate in partisan political campaigns if they are a tax-exempt charity. The same is true for all tax-exempt charities. Some religious people don't like this, apparently believing that donations for religious organization are appropriately used as if they were donations to a political party.
French Cardinal: Islam Must Adapt to Secularism
One of the conflict points between Islam and the West is the fact that government in the West tends to be largely secular while Islam doesn't entirely acknowledge the appropriateness of secular administration of civil affairs. Muslims would appreciate a more religious government but Westerners prefer their traditional secularism. What's to happen?
Congress Passes Bill To Repair Catholic Missions
Despite the fact that many are active churches and not simply museums, Congress has voted to spend taxpayer funds on restoring historic Catholic missions in California. This was expected for quite some time and President Bush will probably sign the measure, despite the implications of church/state separation.
Abstinence: Cool in God's Eyes?
The state government in Louisiana agreed not to use federal funds in order to promote religion while encouraging sexual abstinence. Unfortunately, it looks like they are violating that agreement. I can't say that I'm really surprised, to be quite honest.
ACLU In League With Satan, Must Be Destroyed
Shock and outrage have been growing since the Defense Department decided that it could no more endorse an organization that discriminates against atheists than it could discriminate against atheists itself. Thus it has ordered all military groups to sever ties with the Boy Scouts of America. This has really gotten people into a tizzy.
Department of Defense Ends Boy Scouts Sponsorships
Because the Boy Scouts were successful in defending their right to discriminate against gays and atheists, others have been successful in getting government organizations to cut their ties to the group. After all, their right to discriminate doesn't include a right to public support for discrimination. Now, the Defense Department is breaking away from them as well.
Two Nations Under God
Conservative evangelicals in America see themselves as the only true representatives of God and America as God's chosen vehicle for bringing Christianity and civilization to the world. As a consequence, they regard all others as obstructionists at best and possibly pawns (or minions) of Satan - even if they claim to be Christian. Thus, America is becoming more and more divided.
California Missions' Dark History
The Spanish missions in California are an important part of the state's history - important enough that many want the government to pay for restoring the missions, even if they continue to be used as active churches. At the same time, people aren't being completely honest about many of the awful things that religious leaders did to natives in those missions.
Pastors Pressure Representatives to Pass Unconstitutional Laws
Churches aren't allowed to endorse particular political candidates, but they can do things that make it difficult for a candidate to get elected. As a consequence, politicians can come under intense pressure to violate their consciences in favor of reactionary, even bigoted, religious stands that are endorsed by powerful preachers who are more political leaders than religious leaders.
Jewish Couple Seeks Scientology Tax Deduction
Scientologists fought for and won the right to get tax deductions for "spiritual counseling sessions" that the IRS had previously treated like a business exchange. Now an Orthodox Jewish couple is trying to get the same treatment for their children's religious schooling. I suspect that they have a good case.
Federal Medical Plan Based on Catholic Doctrine
Federal workers in Illinois will now be able to get a medical plan constructed around Catholic doctrine rather than medical needs. There's no word on when the government will start offering medical plans for Christian Scientists that only covers prayer and for Jehovah's Witnesses that doesn't cover any blood products, like transfusions.
California: Mt. Soledad Cross to Finally Move?
The Christian Cross up on top of the La Jolla mountain may finally be moving after a grueling 15-year legal battle. It currently stands on public ground and a ballot measure designed to authority keeping it has failed. Now there just isn't much for supporters of the cross to do besides accept the end.
People who favor America being more a secular society do so because of the great damage that religious passions can cause. Religious believers tend to regard religion as an (almost) unmitigated good, but the truth is that it creates a great deal of harm as well. Preventing that harm can be accomplished, in part, by restricting the ability of any one religion from amassing too much political power.
Iowa: Council Prayer Challenged
In Des Moines, Iowa, A Catholic priest led people at a City Council meeting in a recital of the Lord's Prayer and that is drawing criticism. The city attorney has concluded that it violated the separation of church and state.
Judicial Candidate: God Belongs in Government
Should the government promote particular religious beliefs and doctrines? Does the government even have the authority to do such things? Some people think so and, sadly enough, they have or want to have the power to make their visions a reality. Why is there so little respect for genuine liberty among many religious conservatives?
Courts Threaten Nation's Liberties?
A common complaint from the Christian Right is that American courts threaten American liberty. Why? Because those courts refuse to support government actions that favor conservative or fundamentalist Christianity. It's a pretty warped way of viewing the world.
European Constitution Ignores Papal, Catholic Whining
Pope John Paul II as well as many leading European Catholics have been pushing for the European Constitution to include some reference to Christianity. Secular Europeans, led by France, have opposed this and in the end secularism won out over religion: the signed Constitution doesn't mention Christianity at all.
Religion Impairs Public Debate
Many people object to what they perceive as attempts to exclude religion from debates over public issues. They may have a point, but there is a serious danger when religion enters such debates: religion doesn't typically allow for the same degree of compromise as other belief systems and this, in turn, can have a negative impact on public discourse and public policy.
No Middle Ground: Theocracy vs. Secularism
One of the more fundamental issues in American politics is the relationship between religious institutions and civil government. Many believe that the government should be secular, which is to say neutral and without authority in religious matters. Others argue that the government's job is to promote their religion. Can there be any compromise?
Religion Impairs Public Debate
Many people object to what they perceive as attempts to exclude religion from debates over public issues. They may have a point, but there is a serious danger when religion enters such debates: religion doesn't typically allow for the same degree of compromise as other belief systems and this, in turn, can have a negative impact on public discourse and public policy.
IRS: Churches Can't Pray for Bush Victory
Churches aren't allowed to campaign for, endorse, or oppose any specific candidates during an election. But can they pray for a candidate to be reelected? The IRS has decided that official church services designed for prayers for a candidate's reelection are too much like campaigning for that candidate and, hence, a violation of a church's tax-exempt status.
Danger of Invoking God to Defend Politics
Although politicians of all types do it, we are much more likely to see conservatives and religious conservatives use their religious doctrines to defend political policies that have little, if any, connections to religion in the first place. History should teach us that this is almost always a bad idea.
Republicans Using Church Records
Why exactly were Republicans trying to obtain various church directories? Now we have some idea: Kris Kobach, running for Congress in Kansas, has been calling Catholic homes and appealing for people's votes on the basis of his being a good Catholic who follows Catholic doctrine. That's an appropriate political message, right? Vote for me because of my religion!
Ken Starr Wants More Religion in Government
Ken Starr is best known for his role as the independent counsel who led the conservative crusade against Bill Clinton. Today he is trying to make a name for himself by advocating the integration of more religion into the American government. Of course, there is no such thing as generic "religion," so what do you suppose he really has in mind?
Colorado: Archdiocese's Tax-Exempt Status Challenged
A church's religious tax-exempt status depends upon not participating in any political campaigns to endorse or oppose particular candidates. Churches can speak out on issues, but not on candidates. Has the Colorado Catholic Archdiocese crossed this line? A liberal Catholic group thinks so and has complained to the IRS.
Halloween Cancelled Because of Wiccans?
As Wiccans grow in numbers and begin to assert their civil rights, the ability of government agencies to disparage them will necessarily decrease. This upsets some who think that disparaging a group should be OK because it's "traditional," but not every tradition is good or wholesome.
Ohio: Candidate Wants More Religion in Government
Ohio's Secretary of State, currently trying to become governor, has implied that non-Christians are second-class citizens. How? By insisting that America needs his god at its center and that his church shouldn't be separated from everyone's government.
GOP Activist Seeks Amendment to Flag Code
Currently the U.S. Flag Code requires that churches that fly the American flag must do so in a way that gives it "superior prominence," even over religious flags. Chuck Pardee, a Florida resident, wants to change that in order to expand churches' liberty to express themselves.
FFRF: Gaylor Steps Down
For almost thirty years Anne Nicol Gaylor has been at the helm of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. She is, after all, the one who founded it in 1976 and today it is one of the most prominent organizations in America that fights for the separation of church and state. She is, sadly, stepping down this year because of her health.
Any Ole God Will Do
Many Americans consider theism so important that they would prefer that one believe in some god, any god, rather than no gods at all. This is probably why atheists are regularly the least popular group of all society. Unfortunately, this attitude reveals a serious problem in their thinking.
Amendment Would Benefit Native American Creationists
Under the provisions of NAGPRA, skeletons found on federal land must be returned to any Native American tribe connected to it. As if this weren't bad enough, some lawmakers want to rewrite the law such that there would no longer be a need to demonstrate any connection with the skeleton. So long as it predates Columbus, it must be turned over to a tribe demanding it.
Zambia: Churches Oppose "Christian Nation" Provision in Constitution
In America, many Christian churches promote the idea that America is a "Christian Nation," thus also promoting the idea that non-Christians are second-class citizens. In Zambia, many Christian churches are adopting just the opposite position: they oppose defining Zambia as a "Christian Nation" in the Constitution out of concern for non-Christians.
Germany: Nuns to Lose the Habit
The German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg has a law barring female Muslim teachers in state schools from wearing headscarves. A court has ruled that this law cannot be limited to just Muslims - Catholic nuns teaching in state schools must also be barred from wearing their habits. What's good for the goose...
Scalia Encourages Orgies?
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recently gave a speech at Harvard where he (predictably) complained about "activist" judges. Not that he or anyone else can adequately define what that means, mind you, but it makes for an effective conservative boogeyman to whine about. More interesting was his comment about the importance of orgies.
No Separation of Church and State
It's amazing how poor the arguments used by critics of church/state separation tend to be. I mean, couldn't a few of them come up with at least one legally sound explanation for why the government should have the authority to endorse particular religious beliefs or doctrines?
Supreme Court Turns Down Catholic Charities' Appeal
A few days ago I wrote about how Catholic Charities in California were being forced to provide contraception coverage to employees because they didn't qualify as a "religious organization" under the law. Well, the Supreme Court has turned down their appeal - so the law stands.
Muslim Brotherhood in America
The Muslim Brotherhood, which operates in America as the Muslim American Society, has a plan and a vision: remake American society and turn it into an Islamic nation, ruled by Islamic law and led by Muslims. No, these aren't the extremists and terrorists - these are mainstream, if conservative, Muslims in America.
Debating Government Prayer
Darla Kaye Wynne's suit in South Carolina to end sectarian prayers before city council meetings is having repercussions: other communities are being forced to decide whether to continue with similar prayers or drop them in order to avoid possible lawsuits.
Church/State Wall Too High?
For many religious believers, the absence of religious doctrines in the nation's laws are treated almost as a personal affront. They can't seem to understand how a community can get along without their religious beliefs or how a government can function without religious backing. One such person seems to be Jean Elshtain, ethics professor at the University of Chicago.
North Carolina: Man Harasses Pagans
Darla Wynne, the Wiccan in North Carolina who has challenged the sectarian prayers said at city council meetings, continues to be harassed by her good Christian neighbors. One in particular, Richard Pope, has been obnoxious towards her as well as any other pagan who has the misfortune of encountering him.
America: Christian Nation or Not?
Just as interesting as someone trying to deny the existence of the "separation of church and state" is someone who both acknowledges it and praises it just before they turn around and reject it for some favored state action endorsing some favored religious belief or observance. Do they understand just how ridiculous they look?
Oregon: Churches Coercing Parishioners into Anti-Gay Votes?
In Oregon, ballot measure 36 would amend the state constitution to prohibit gay marriages and many churches are organizing to encouraging support for it. Some, though, have been accused to coercing parishioners into supporting it.
Why Churches Should Not Be Punished
When an official in some organization commits a crime while exercising official duties, it is possible to sue both the individual and organization for punitive damages. Is it, though, a violation of the separation of church and state for a church to have to pay punitive damages for crimes committed by priests or ministers?
The Christian Right has not tried to hide the fact that it wants to end the separation of church and state in America. They would replace this with what amounts to a theocratic order where their religious beliefs are not only privileged, but also promoted and endorsed by the government. Should Bush win reelection, the chances of their success increases.
Confusing Faith and Values
Religion is important in many people's lives, but it's unfortunate that they therefore want to make religion important in government as well. This is particularly true when it comes to theological conservatives and fundamentalists. It's as if they realize that without the government backing their theological agenda, they're on the losing side of the spectrum.
Nebraska: Threats Against Atheist to Continue, Judge Rules
The Nebraska ACLU recently found itself in a curious position of arguing that the press should be silenced. Why? They didn't want the name of a plaintiff published because he fears retaliation against his legal efforts to have a Ten Commandments monument removed.
Misrepresenting Religion, Church/State Separation
It's unusual to find a religious conservative or fundamentalist not misrepresent the separation of church and state these days. I'm not quite sure why this is so. Perhaps they realize that if they were honest and fair about it, they wouldn't be able to convince others that their desire to blend church and state is a good idea.
Roy Moore Keeps Pushing Theocratic Bill
Roy Moore can't get enough of the headlines: he's still pushing for Congress to adopt a law that would prevent federal courts from reviewing the constitutionality of laws that would make America into a theocracy.
Americans Don't Believe in Church/State Separation
Americans may believe in the importance of religious liberty, but for some reason they don't also believe in separating church from state. These views aren't compatible unless one thinks that a religious government would protect the rights of religious minorities.
God and Politics
More and more people are getting annoyed at how Republicans and conservative evangelicals keep using God as a campaign issue. Critics have this idea that God wouldn't belong to any particular political party and they are trying to get their message out.
Religious Judge has Molester's Sentence Overturned
You'd think it would be obvious that judges can't use religious reasons when sentencing someone or cite scripture in the sentencing process - but it's not obvious to everyone. District Judge George Thompson in Nebraska has done it twice and both times the sentences have been thrown out (but not the convictions).
Alabama Favors Establishing Christianity
If you're a non-Christian in Alabama and you're not always sure that you are entirely welcome there, you're probably not paranoid and there may be a good reason for that: people in Alabama clearly support the idea of the government endorsing Christianity but not other religions.
California: Los Angeles Seal Missing Cross
Officials have released a new logo for Los Angeles County - one that has removed religious references. Supporters of church/state separation are satisfied but others are gearing up for a fight to preserve the country's promotion of Christianity.
North Carolina: Qur'an Lawsuit Dismissed
A couple of years ago, some University of North Carolina students grew upset over the fact that the university expected them to learn something about Islam and filed suit to avoid having to read translations and analyses of a few suras of the Qur'an. Finally, the lawsuit has been dismissed.
France: Iraqi Kidnappings Backfire, Muslims Defend Headscarf Ban
French journalists were kidnapped in Iraq in order to pressure France into rescinding a law barring the Muslim girls from wearing headscarves to school. It has, however, had the opposite effect among French Muslims: they have begun rallying around the French government and the French law, defying the terrorists, extremists, and kidnappers.
Athletics & Religion in Georgia
In some places around the country it is difficult to disentangle religion from other activities - as a consequence, people who don't belong to the majority religion feel slighted. It's even worse when this is done in the context of a government service or field.
Georgia: UGA Coach Fired for Religious Discrimination
One of the problems with teachers and other school administrators bringing religion into school is that they have so much power and authority over students that their religious actions can be seriously misunderstood - or their authority can be abused. Strict regulations on what they can do are designed to prevent such problems from arising.
Religion as a Force for Good
Is religion more a force for good than for evil? Religious believers certainly tend to think so - the problem is that many of those who try to make a case for that position do such a lousy job that, in the end, you are likely to conclude just the opposite. You certainly can't conclude that religion is a force that encourages sound thinking.
Judges' Oath Unconstitutional?
The oath required of all federal judges and justices ends with "So help me God." That sounds like a religious test, doesn't it? If so, doesn't that make the oath unconstitutional?
UNC's Anti-Discrimination Policy Under Fire
Should religious groups always be treated exactly the same as secular groups? That seems to make sense because the alternative involves discrimination against religion - or does it? If a religious group discriminates, shouldn't that be treated like a secular group that discriminates?
California: Worker Sues Over Cubicle Censorship
There are many possible sources of conflict over religion in a workplace. Some might discriminate against religious minorities while others may use religion to harass coworkers. Where does one start and the other stop? Debates over "religious speech" in offices and cubicles are ripe for this sort of thing.
Bush's Religious References Not Harmless
President Bush consistently uses religion in his speeches and public policies. Many religious believers may see this as a good thing, but there are good reasons to be suspicious of any politician who employs religion in the service of temporal government actions.
Promoting Personal Religious Agendas
There are a lot of politicians who don't think that the separation of church and state should apply when it comes to their personal religious beliefs. They seem to think that the rules which apply to everyone else and to secular groups shouldn't matter when it comes to religious groups they agree with.
Houston: Judge Orders Bible Removed
I wrote earlier about a federal judge ruling that a Bible display had to be removed from the Houston court house. Now the judge has also denied a request that the Bible be left alone while the appeals process goes on.
Faith in Politics: Public Shifting
Religion is a common feature of politics in America, much more so than most other nations. Although Americans seem to want to understand a politician's position on faith and morals, they also seem to be tiring of the constant religious rhetoric - a very promising shift in attitudes.
Florida: City Rethinking Co-Sponsoring Church Events
Should cities work with churches to co-sponsor public events? Some thing so, seeing the ability to save money, but others are concerned because it isn't clear to the public who is really in charge. It blurs the line between government and church.
Keyes: Church/State Separation is Silly
Alan Keyes can always be counted on to say something dumb, especially when he's trying to emphasize just how different he is from everyone else. Recently he made a point of telling people that it's silly to separate church and state - I guess church control of the state is rational, right?
Christian Leaders Object to Bush Tactics
Secularists aren't the only ones distressed that President Bush would try to use churches to help him get re-elected. Religious leaders are themselves outraged, and they have every right to be. Even if there were no church/state issues involved, it just shows how cynical and manipulative the administration is when it comes to religious people.
Not Everyone's "Amen"? is the Same
One of the arguments sometimes made by those who insist on prayers at the start of state functions like city council meetings is that a little religion is good for everyone - and besides, doesn't everyone believe basically the same thing? This isn't even true if we just limit ourselves to Christians.
Virginia: Fredericksburg City Council Skips Sectarian Prayers
The city council in Fredericksburg, Virginia, has decided to skip the use of sectarian prayers when they open their meetings, despite threats by one member to continue praying in a manner that abused his position for the purpose of promoting his religious beliefs.
Rhode Island: ACLU Challenging Religious Holiday Displays
Every year there are new legal and political battles over the public display of religious holiday decorations. Some people want to use the government to promote their religious beliefs, some want to keep that from happening.
South Carolina: Prayer Foe's Parrot Beheaded
The other day I wrote about the abuse and harassment that Darla Wynne has had to endure because she challenged the city council's practice of opening its meeting with sectarian prayers. She won the court case, but the abuse continues.
South Carolina: Witch Harassed After Win
Last week a wrote about a witch in South Carolina who recently won a court case to stop her local city council from starting its meetings with specifically Christian prayers. More news coming out indicates that she was harassed a great deal.
Religion as Prerequisite for Good Citizenship
Despite the separation of church and state, religion frequently plays an important role in public politics. This is because politicians commonly reference religion to justify their policy decision or to attract voters - even if that means specifically excluding some of the electorate.
Politics vs. Science
The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) continues to cause problems because it continues to sacrifice scientific research in the name of religion and politics. It's especially annoying because the system ends up being abused terribly.
Church and State at the Olympics
The Greek Orthodox Church is as much a part of modern Greek identity as is the Greek language itself. The role of the church is, however, coming under increased scrutiny today because of the Olympics, an athletic festival which traces its roots to Greece's pre-Christian past.
California: Church Power in Yorba Linda
One of the ways in which politics can become corrupt is when specific organizations receive special favors from politicians seeking that group's support. This can happen with churches as well as secular groups, a reason why religious people should support the separation of church and state: it can help keep their churches out of political corruption.
South Carolina: Battle over Prayers
Council meetings in Great Falls, South Carolina, can only open in prayer if Jesus is not invoked. That's what a federal judge ruled in 2003 and a 3-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court agreed. The city has been fighting and now the state will help them.
Texas: Bible Ordered Removed from Courthouse
More than once I've written about the Bible display at Houston's court house. Since 1956 there has been a monument in front of the civil courthouse which prominently features a Bible and many see it as support for the idea that America is a Christian Nation. Now, a federal judge says that it has to go.
Religious Divide Between U.S. & Canada
There are, obviously, a lot of differences between the United States and Canada - with one of the biggest being religion. For Americans, religion is naturally an important part of public and political life; not so for Canadians.
Illinois: Church Ticketed for Loud Music
Usually if people complain about noise from a church, it's from the bells ringing. Sometimes, though, the parishioners singing can be just as bad or worse. In Elgin, Illinois, a church has received a ticket for the noise they have been making.
Stars and Stripes... and Crosses?
General Counsel Raquel Rodriguez, the top lawyer for Florida Governor Jeb Bush, has a card posted in her reception area that depicts an American flag with a cross superimposed over the field of stars. This, apparently, is not considered a problem - in Florida, it's considered OK for the state's chief legal officer to promote Christianity in the office.
Tolerance vs. Intolerance, Secularism vs. Theocracy
There's been a lot of discussion on the internet about an article written by Robert Reich in which he argues that while terrorism is dangerous, it's ultimately just a tactic utilized by the real danger: those who adhere to ideologies that teach humans to reject modernity in favor of a divinely mandated social order. For some reason, conservative Christians have been bothered by this.
Texas: Bible Display to Promote America as Christian Nation
I've written before about the Bible displayed at Houston's court house. Since 1956 there has been a monument there prominently featuring a Bible. Many believe it appropriate and some are arguing that it supports their faith that America is a Christian Nation.
Pulpit Politics & Republican Candidates
Many conservative Republicans would like churches to participate in partisan politics without losing their tax exempt status - a right they don't wish to extend to secular non-profits. Is this just a cynical attempt to help churches that will help them, or is it as they claim an effort to extend free speech rights to pastors?
Florida: Public Prayers Divide, Don't Provide Wisdom
Why do people pray? There are a variety of reasons, but when politicians prayer in a public context they commonly pray that God will provide them with guidance and wisdom. Most of the time, though, such prayers actually only create division and hard feelings.
Fallout Over Atheist Invocation
A couple of days ago I reported on the bigots who walked out before an atheist could deliver an invocation at a Tampa city council meeting. They, according to reports, didn't want to have to listen to someone who didn't share their beliefs. Public reactions have been similar.
PA: Couples Challenge Home Schooling Regulations
All states have some regulation for homeschooled children, but Pennsylvania's is perhaps the most stringent: affidavits at the beginning of each school year, medical records, a log of progress, and a report at the end of the year. Some religious parents say this creates an "undue burden" and they should be allowed to ignore it all.
More on Religious Exemptions at School
I wrote recently about a case at the University of Utah where the administration agreed to craft a policy that would allow religious exemptions for students not to follow the standard curriculum. At the time, I criticized this because of some very unpleasant consequence that might result - and I'm not the only one.
Florida: Bigots Walk Out on Atheist Invocation
In Tampa, Florida, an atheist was allowed to deliver an invocation before the meeting started - but three members (half the council) was so incensed that an atheist could be given the same consideration as a Christian that they walked out rather than stay and listen to what he had to say. Yes, religious tolerance and liberty are alive and well in Tampa.
Millions Would Declare Christianity America's Official Faith
Most Americans favor religious pluralism, but it's disturbing just how many would support making Christianity the one official religion of the United States. It's more than you might think and it's dangerous.
Bill Bennett Boondoggle?
Should federal funds designed to enhance "school choice" be directed to home schooling promotion? That's what's happening in Arkansas and through the efforts of Bill Bennett.
South Carolina: Sectarian Council Prayers Struck Down
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Great Falls, South Carolina, city council can't begin meetings with sectarian prayers that invoke Jesus Christ's name. This may affect similar prayers used throughout the South where local governments regularly abuse their power to promote and endorse Christianity.
South Dakota: Bishop Gets PP Link Off State Web Site
Governor Mike Rounds of South Dakota has removed from the state's library web site to Planned Parenthood - after complaints from Robert Carlson, bishop of the Sioux Falls Catholic Diocese. According to Carlson, he has a duty to provide "moral guidance" to the governor - guidance that ensures that Catholic beliefs are reflected by the state government.
Spain: Government Might Finance Mosques
Under a 1979 agreement with the Vatican, Spain's government provides funds for Roman Catholic churches, a benefit now being considered for all religious groups. In particular, they are looking to fund mosques - partly for the sake of fairness and partly to discourage them from seeking funds from foreign extremist groups.
Criteria for Muslim Prison Chaplains Being Tightened
Correcrions officials in the United States are concerned about the growth of Islam in America's prisons - and how they might be able to control it. Without proper "guidance" from "approved" Muslim chaplains who preach the "correct" version of Islam, who knows what might happen?
Minnesota: Judge Openly Advocates Theocracy
Tim Tingelstad is a candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court. He is running on a platform that is against abortion, quotes the Bible, and argues that public schools would improve if school districts used state money to create religiously based schools.
Bush Looking for Catholic Parish Directories
Not content with getting Protestant church directories, the Bush reelection campaign is now trying to get their hands on Catholic parish directories as well. This seems to be sparking similar complaints and outrage as the Protestant effort.
Canada: Illegitimate Religions Getting Uppity
One of the difficulties inherent in a very religiously diverse society is that the many smaller religions will demand the same rights as the larger, more established religions. This means that the government and employers must be more flexible and make more allowances for others - something that not everyone is happy about.
Michigan: Voters OK Amplified Muslim Prayers
I wrote a number of times about the saga of Hamtramck, Michigan: the council wanted to consider allowing mosques to begin broadcasting calls to prayer in Arabic and lots of Christian bigots came out to protest. Well, the measure passed unanimously, but the bigots still weren't done. Now, however, voters have approved the prayers, 55% to 45%.
Arkansas: Pastor's Sermon Challenged as
A complaint has been filed with the IRS against Ronnie Floyd, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Springdale, because a recent sermon allegedly crossed the line separating church and state. According to the complaint, he went too far endorsing President Bush and attacking John Kerry.
Against Religion in Government
There are many who think that "religion" has a lot to offer government and can help improve the way government works. That is why, apparently, voters prefer politicians who speak with religious rhetoric - and they don't like it when people are overtly critical of religion. This, however, is entirely unjustified and unfair.
Germany: Possible Ban on Religious Symbols in Government
Concerned with the possibility that government employees might be identified with one religion or another, Berlin's city government is considering a law that would prohibit civil servants from wearing religious displays while on the job and performing government duties.
There are quite a few people who are convinced that the American government should be in the business of promoting religion and encouraging religious beliefs. Sometimes a thin veneer of academic respectability is even applied to it.
Republicans on Church/State Separation
Conservative Republicans don't think very highly of the separation of church and state - indeed, they often insist that it doesn't exist and is merely a liberal plot to undermine Christianity and American culture.
Bible Should Be Imposed on Americans
Political questions are often also moral questions and when thinking about moral questions Christian naturally look to the Bible for inspiration and/or guidance. This isn't a problem - the problem arises when those same Christians believe that their Bible should become the basis for the civil laws and public policies that apply to everyone.
School Choice, School Fraud
Proponents of "school choice" and voucher schemes commonly emphasize the ability of private organizations to be more efficient and thus do a better job at delivering a product than the government. Of course, they also do a good job at delivering corruption and fraud.
Canada Nixes Bibles for New Citizens
For the past 50 years, the Canadian Bible Society has handed out copies of the New Testament to new Canadians at citizenship ceremonies - but the government has ordered that this stop. According to officials, people feel pressured to accept a Christian religious text and this is incompatible with Canada's multicultural values and identity.
Reactions to Muslims Complaints of Pledge
Not long ago I wrote about a Muslim family that filed a lawsuit over the use of the Pledge of Allegiance in their public school. Their child wasn't forced to participate, but there were serious repercussions for the lack of participation. As one might expect, some of the reactions have been negative.
Falwell's Tax-Exempt Status Challenged
Jerry Falwell has apparently endorsed George W. Bush for president and, as a consequence, Americans United for Separation of Church and State has filed a complaint with the IRS asking them to take a look at his tax-exempt status. He may lose it - again.
Churches Should Not Endorse Political Candidates
More and more people are trying to find ways for churches and church leaders to endorse political candidates. Right now that isnâ€™t possible because of churchesâ€™ tax-exempt status, but there are efforts to change that. Hopefully they will fail because this isnâ€™t the sort of thing we want to happen in America
Church of England: Christmas is for Christians Only!
Although it has long been a Christian holiday - and was a pagan holiday before that - in recent years Christmas in the West has been largely secularized. The Church of England would like to reverse the secularization process and has demanded that the Royal Mail issue only religious stamps at Christmas time - no snowflakes, no Santas, and no secular imagery.
Religious Freedom Based Upon Christianity?
Itâ€™s not uncommon to find a religious conservative criticizing the idea of separating church and state by claiming that religious freedom in America is based not on strict separation but, rather, on Christian ideals. Thus, it is argued, the way to preserve religious liberty is to make government and society more explicitly Christian.
Woman Who Brought Church/State Case Dies
Sidney G. Schempp, the woman who helped her son Ellery Schempp launch the Supreme Court case that struck down the recitation of the Bible verses and the Lord's Prayer in public schools, died last Monday. Her husband, Edward Schempp, dies last November.
Army Won't Distribute Medals with Bible Verses
A man named Bob Parker has been distributing honorary medals to the families of fallen soldiers, police, and firefighters that include a reference to Bible verse John 15:13, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." The reason is obvious, but now the U.S. Army refuses to continue distribution.
Seeking Political Churches
Religious organizations are allowed to promote specific positions on any political or moral issues but they aren't allowed to endorse or attack any specific candidates. Some are upset by this and would like religious leaders to start doing just that - a proposed law would free to endorse political candidates all they want.
"In God We Trust"? License Plates
With a successful vote in the state House of Representatives, North Carolina is now just one step away from having specialized license plates bearing the slogan "In God We Trust,"? the sale of which would benefit North Carolina troops deployed overseas.
Shrieks of Joy for "In God We Trust"
When the city council of Oceanside, California, voted to hang a small plaque bearing the words "In God We Trust"? under the city seal on the wall behind the council dais, observers reacted with shrieks of joy and high-fives. Shrieks of joy? Over a plaque?
Baptists on Church/State Separation
Today in America the most visible representatives of the Baptist tradition are the Southern Baptists. What make this interesting is the fact that contemporary Southern Baptist fight against the separation of church and state even though historically the Baptist tradition has strongly supported separating church and state.
America a Christian Nation?
Many evangelical Christian believe that America is a Christian Nation - founded by Christians for the purpose of advancing Christian goals and promoting Christian ideals. In such a scheme, non-Christians are second-class citizens at best who should be thankful that they live in a Christian society. Others disagree.
Bush-Cheney Calendar of Holy Days and Days of Obligation
The recent revelation that the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign has set target dates for volunteers to do things with their churches like turn over church directories, hold pot-luck dinners, and so forth has led to a lot of criticism. Some, though, might recommend that they create a full calendar of Holy Days and Days of Obligation for their faithful.
Preacher Going on Trial in Boy's Death
In Milwaukee, Ray A. Hemphill, preacher at his Faith Temple Church of the Apostolic Faith, will go on trial for the abuse and death of an autistic 8-year-old in an apparent attempted exorcism. Hemphill, however, claims that it was merely a very intense "prayer service."
Officer Disciplined for Following Religious Conviction
Sometimes a person's religious convictions causes conflicts with their duties at their job. Forced to choose, many choose their religious principles and if the employer balks, a lawsuit may follow. Very often we'll see such people defended by conservative religious organizations, but not always - and that choice is illuminating.
Traditionalists vs. Secularists
Many treat secularism and the separation of church and state as a threat to traditional values - by which they really mean Christian values, although they aren't always forthright enough to admit that. The question is, should secularism really be treated as a novel and anti-traditional innovation or is it instead a vital aspect of American history and traditions?
Muslims Win Legal Battle in Prisons
Muslim prisoners in California have been fighting rules that allow prison officials to deny sentence reductions or imposing disciplinary measures on Muslims who insist on attending religious services or growing short bears. Now, at least one judge agrees with them and has granted them relief.
Too Many Christians?
Penn State University recently tried to deny official recognition to a Christian club on the grounds that there were already so many Christian clubs that there was a duplication of effort and the resources could better be used elsewhere. That's not an entirely odd argument, but the group challenged it and won (probably correctly). More interesting has been some of the reactions.
Virginia's Blue Laws Revived
Oops! In an attempt to finally eliminate the state's blue laws, Virginia lawmakers in reality only eliminate the amendments which caused the laws not to be enforced. Thus, the original blue laws are still on the books and they now have to be enforced! No one is happy about this.
Religious Backing of Medical Marijuana
The debate about whether marijuana should be made available to people for specific medical reasons has been primarily political for a while. Now, however, some religious groups are starting to get involved and are arguing that principles of charity and compassion require that drugs like this be made available.
Death Row Appeal: Prosecutor Used Bible Reference
Robert Karl Hicks does not seem to be a very good man. Convicted of stabbing a woman to death, he was given the death penalty. Now he is appealing that conviction because during the trial the prosecutor suggested that the Ten Commandments don't allow for insanity as a defense against murder charges.
European Court Upholds Headscarf Ban
According to the European Court of Human Rights, universities may ban Muslim headscarves in order to maintain a division of religion and state. In France? In Germany? In Britain? No, in Turkey - a nation that faces difficulty getting into the European Union in part because of it's Muslim culture and background.
Judge Ordered to Restore God Reference
A couple of days ago I wrote about James M. Honeycutt, a district court judge in North Carolina who has insisted on religion-neutral oaths in his court. A complaint was filed against him over this and now the state Supreme Court ordered him to restore God to the oaths.
Vote Ahead for Mt. Soledad Cross
Not long ago I wrote that an agreement had been reached in the 15-year legal battle over the Mount Soledad in San Diego. The cross was supposed to be removed from public land and taken to private property, but the agreement hadn't been finalized yet and now it looks like more time is needed.
Gay Marriage Would Undermine Church/State Separation?
When church/state issues are raised in relation to gay marriage, it's usually to argue that bans on gay marriage serve to enshrine particular religious conceptions of marriage and, therefore, the bans violate the separation of church and state. Now I see someone arguing that legalizing gay marriage would lead to violations of church/state separation.
Judge Removed God from Oaths, Complaint Filed
A while ago I wrote about Judge James M. Honeycutt, a district court judge in North Carolina who has insisted on religion-neutral oaths to ensure that courts do not evince a pro-Christian bias. Now, an official complaint has been filed against him because people simply don't approve of the government being neutral.
Importance of Secularism
Today secularism is one of the principle boogeymen of the Christian Right and conservative religious believers of various sorts. They complain that secularism is so thoroughly godless that it lacks any basis for morality and is, therefore, at the root of modern society's problems. But what would they replace it with?
Religion and the President
Although it is common wisdom that George W. Bush is a 'religious' president and has the support of many "religious"? Americans, the fact of the matter is he scares a lot of devoutly religious people in America. Bush's support comes from one sector of American religion, not American religion generally.
Protestant Clergy: Too Much Church/State Separation
According to research done by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, more than three-fourths of all Protestant clergy in America think that the separation of church and state has gone 'too far.'?
Must Church/State Separation Be Forced?
One of the interesting features of the recent debate over the status of the Pledge of Allegiance is how often people end up talking about 'force.'? It's OK for force people to connect a particular type of theism with an expression of patriotism, but it's not OK to 'force'? people to insert 'under God'? voluntarily when the recite the Pledge. Why is that?
Religion in American Politics
What's more annoying: the fact that Americans tend to distrust atheist and irreligious people or the fact that when this is noted and commented on, journalists and writers don't seem to consider this to be a problem? I guess I would vote for the latter because so long as it continues, it will be harder to change the first part.
EU Constitution: Godless
Members of the European Union have had a lot of difficulty hammering out a Constitution that every nation could accept. One of the sticking points has been a relatively minor matter: should Christianity be cited as a basis and source for European culture and values? Conservative and Catholic nations have fought for its inclusion, but in the end they lost and the Constitution is godless.
UN Must Listen to Religious Leaders?
Should religious leaders play a greater role in official international deliberations simply because they are religious leaders? That's what the Archbishop of Canterbury thinks. According to Rowan Williams, religious leaders should be brought into UN Security Council meetings and their voices listened to.
Problems With Denominational Schools
Can religion and education mix? Just about everywhere you go in the world you can find schools that mix religious and secular education, but there are those who argue that such mixing doesn't work very well because one or the other suffers as a consequence.
Clarence Thomas: 18th Century Judge
In my coverage of the recent Supreme Court decision on the Pledge of Allegiance, I noted how Justice Clarence Thomas adopted the rather extreme view that the Establishment Clause only applied to the federal government and that, therefore, individual states should be free to establish their own churches and religions. Apparently, he regularly adopts an 18th century view of things.
Ron Reagan on Religion in Politics
When his father was buried, Ron Reagan made some remarks about the relationship between religion and politics which many believe were thinly veiled criticisms of President Bush. Some also believe that these remarks shouldn't be taken very seriously because Ron Reagan is an atheist.
America's Religious Divisions
There's a lot of talk about religious divisions in America: Protestant vs. Catholic, Christian vs. Non-Christian, liberal vs. conservative. None of them capture the distinction which probably plays the biggest role when it comes to culture and politics, though: those who support a secular state and those who support a theocratic system.
Anti-Catholic Bigotry or Political Prudence?
Efforts by Roman Catholic leaders to get both politicians and regular voters to more closely adhere to church policy regarding abortion (but not much else) has caused some to become concerned about the possible influence of the Vatican on American politics. Is this a return to anti-Catholic bigotry?
Spanish Bishops Urged Votes Against Secular Parties
Prominent clerics in Spain's Roman Catholic Church urged the faithful against secular parties in Sunday's European elections. The requests were apparently made in part due to the ringing success of Spain's domestic socialist party.
Federal Judge Backs Fortunetellers
Tennessee had a law banning the telling of fortunes for a fee, but when challenged they changed it to require that fortunetellers include a disclaimer. That has now been struck down as an unconstitutional restriction on free speech
Judge Leads Court in Prayer
In 1984, Senior Orange County Circuit Judge Frederick Pfeiffer was admonished by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals for starting each session with a prayer. For some reason, though, he has continued anyway. Now a lawyer is challenging both that and his practice of leading the court in the Pledge of Allegiance, which the lawyer says was prejudicial against his Canadian clients.
Removing God from Society
Part of the problem in the debate over the separation of church and state is that young people aren't taught what it means. Schools and parents fail in their job to teach that the American government exists for all citizens, no matter what their religion or even if they have no religion at all. People grow up thinking that their own beliefs are and should be privileged.
Desert Cross Ruled Unconstitutional
One federal court has already ruled that a 5-foot-tall cross on federal land in the Mojave Desert cross near the Nevada border is unconstitutional. Now, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld that decision - despite the fact that the federal government is trying to arrange a sale of the land under the cross to a local Veterans of Foreign Wars post.
Conservatives Trying to Loosen Rules on Church Politicking
Quite a few people in America are concerned about the idea of churches participating in partisan political campaigns - endorsing candidates, being transformed into campaign centers, etc. Some conservatives, however, are eager for exactly that to happen.
Gay Marriage Foes Using Churches
Opponents of gay marriage in Oregon are trying to get a measure on November's ballot that would authorize an amendment to the state constitution banning such unions. They are falling short of their goal, however, and have started using churches in the effort - a step that may violate the churches' tax exempt status.
Politics Common in PA Churches
I wrote a couple of days ago about efforts by the Bush campaign to get specific churches in Pennsylvania to start participating in partisan campaign activity on behalf of Bush. Evidently, such use of churches is rather common in Pennsylvania.
"In God We Trust" License Plate?
In the hopes of generating revenue for the families of deployed North Carolina National Guard members, the state government is looking at creating special license plates that say "In God We Trust."
L.A. Sued for Removing Cross
I wrote a couple of days ago that Los Angeles County had decided not to pursue a legal case defending the image of a cross on their seal which had been challenged by the ACLU. Now, the Thomas More Law Center has decided to sue the county for the decision to remove the cross.
God Bless America: National Hymn?
Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Representative Gene Green (D-TX) introduced bills in Congress that would make "God Bless America" the "national hymn". National Hymn? Yes, that's right, they think that America needs a national hymn. Because we're all not religious enough, I guess.
Novak on Church/State Separation
I've written about Michael Novak before - and not very kindly, I must confess. Of course, that's only because he has in the past been singularly incapable of honestly and accurately discussing matters like atheism or the separation of church and state. Sadly, nothing has changed.
Bush Enlisting Churches for Campaign
President Bush owes conservative evangelicals for winning the last election - without their support, he wouldn't be where he is now. He knows this and knows that he needs their support again, which is probably what is motivating the effort of some to get specific churches to start participating in partisan campaign activity on behalf of Bush.
Los Angeles to Remove Cross Image
The ACLU initiated a case against Los Angeles County because an image of a Christian cross appears in the county's seal. Many have said that this is a trivial issue and not worth pursuing, but county attorneys determined that the chances of their winning were too low to bother fighting and so are recommending ditching the cross.
Faith-Based Official Promotes Culture War
Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, has made it clear that President Bush's effort to get the federal government to fund religious groups is part of the conservative 'culture war' in America. He even considers liberal religious people to be on the 'other side.'
PA Council Debates Spoken vs. Silent Prayers
The borough council meetings in Downingtown, PA, open with a prayer - a moment of silence for prayer, that is. One member, Councilman Thomas Roderer, didn't like that and has tried to introduce a spoken prayer. Well, he calls it a prayer - in reality it's a political propaganda piece masked as an appeal to God. Naturally it offended just about everyone.
AU Calls for Audit of Catholic Diocese
The recent attempt by Bishop Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs to tell Catholics they shouldn't vote for pro-choice candidates if they want to receive communion has generated a reaction from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State: they are asking the IRS to take a look at whether Sheridan has violated the diocese's tax exempt status.
Fight over Michigan Muslims' Call to Prayers Continues
The Hamtramck City Council's decision to approve a noise ordinance that allows a Muslim call to prayer to be broadcast over loudspeakers from the Al-Islah Islamic Center has been affirmed by a 5-0 vote, but it will still go to the voters for approval either in July or in August. Considering the level of bigotry there, it's not certain whether it will pass.
Town Supports Discriminatory Pastor?
If a preachers volunteers a lot of time for a town, it would seem fair to provide him with funds to help organize events. But what if that preacher also throws his support behind efforts to discriminate against racial minorities? No town would continue to fund him. On the other hand, if he just wants to support discrimination against gays, thatâ€™s not so bad.
God in the EU Constitution
European nations are still having trouble reaching some sort of agreement on whether God should appear in their constitution. Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Slovakia want it there; France, Sweden, Spain, and Denmark are among those who don't.
Unitarians are a Religion After All
I wrote last week about how Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn ruled that the Unitarian-Universalist wasn't a 'real'? religion and, therefore, didn't deserve religious tax exemptions. Well, it looks like all the public attention may have done some good because she wisely decided to reverse herself.
Religious Freedom in Greece
The Olympics will be starting soon in Greece and so of course there will be all kinds of news stories about Greece and Greek history. One thing that probably won't be reported on very much, though, is the abysmal state of religious freedom in Greece.
Wafer Watch: Double Standard in Religion Reporting
There is a lot of attention paid to John Kerry's religious habits: where he goes to church, when he goes to church, and whether he receives communion or not. Is it interesting that similar attention is paid to the religious habits of George W. Bush? What about Republican Catholics who are pro-choice?
Church Resists Licensing for Camp, Posts Armed Guards
There are a lot of church groups that don't want to have to submit to any sort of government supervision or control over their activities. When those activities are religious, like with typical church services, that is understandable and correct. When those activities move into the secular area, like with daycare, there is a real conflict involved.
Texas: Unitarian-Universalism Not a Religion
You have probably heard of the Unitarian-Universalist church. They have organizations in every state and churches in most communities. They have roots going back hundreds of years and some of America‘s most prominent leaders have belonged to it. In Texas, however, they no long qualify as a religion because they don‘t require members to believe in God.
Town May Rescind ‘Dianetics Month’
It's pretty common for mayors and other politicians to get requests that they proclaim a day, week, or month to commemorate some person, idea, or event. Unfortunately, those who agree don't always do the smart thing by taking a close look at what they are being asked to commemorate. If Mayor George Roy of Calera City had done that, he wouldn't have been led to proclaim May to be "Dianetics Month."
Reining in the Faithful
Catholic leaders are taking new steps to enforce political orthodoxy among America's Catholics. Before archbishops threatened to withhold communion from politicians who had their own ideas about how Catholic doctrines should be translated into public policy. Now, the Archbishop of Colorado Springs is threatening to do the same with citizens who vote for those politicians.
Objections to Politicized Prayer Breakfast with Pataki, Laura Bush
First Lady Laura Bush attended a prayer breakfast with New York Governor George Pataki on the National Day of Prayer - but it was a very partisan, political event that was combined with a narrow understanding of religion and Christianity. Because of that, there was a serious protest mounted even by Christians.
City Considers Funding Salvation Army Shelter
Officials in Janesville, Wisconsin have voted to provide $250,000 to help establish a Salvation Army shelter - one that would help the homeless, but which would also provide a place for religious worship. Does the government have the authority or responsibility to help advance religion in this manner?
Church Playing Politics
Is it a good idea for the Roman Catholic Church to try to insert itself in the middle of political debates by attempting to intimidate Catholic politicians into voting certain ways? Well, the bishops certainly think that its a good idea - at least when it comes to matters like abortion - but they may be making a serious mistake.
Religious Bias? EMT Wouldn't Take Woman to Abortion Clinic
Should an emergency medical technician be permitted to refuse to take a woman to an abortion clinic? Not if she is suffering from abdominal pain - one EMT who refused to help in such a case has been fired because the woman then had to be taken to the emergency room. The EMT is alleging religious bias.
Cuomo: Religious Belief and Public Morality
The Roman Catholic Church is attempting to come down hard on Catholic politicians who won't try to criminalize abortion. According to some, it's not possible to be a "good Catholic" without doing that - thus excluding both those who don't disagree with abortion and those who think that fighting abortion should be done via other means. How valid is this position?
Churches Playing Partisan Politics, Playing with Fire
In exchange for their easy tax-exempt status, churches aren't allowed to engage in partisan political activity. But what about ballot initiatives - is that partisan political campaigning or not? In Oklahoma, some churches are working to block a new law legalizing gambling on Indian reservations, and that could get them in trouble.
Feds to Screen Muslim Prison Chaplains?
Concerned that Muslims in American prisons could become radicalized, the Justice Department is looking at screening who will be allowed to serve as chaplains across the country. Those who hold extremist views will be denied access to prisoners. That sounds understandable - but there is a danger in the government performing tests on just what religions are "acceptable" and what aren't.
National Day of Prayer... or Politics?
Is the "National Day of Prayer" an exercise in religious devotion or an exercise in political pandering? Supporters would like you to think the former, but the evidence indicates that the latter is mostly true: people are using religion in order to score political points.
Religious Bigotry and the National Day of Prayer
An excellent example of how the so-called "National Day of Prayer" is really just a partisan political event designed to promote the idea that the only "correct" form of Christianity is the conservative brand favored by the Christian Right can be found in the fact that even Mormons, themselves conservative on religious and social issues, have been shut out by the event's organizers.
Bigots Still Mad About Muslim Calls to Prayer
I reported a few days ago about the situation in Hamtramck, Michigan: the council wanted to consider allowing mosques to begin broadcasting calls to prayer in Arabic and lots of Christian bigots came out to protest. Well, the measure passed unanimously, but the bigots still aren't done with their fight.
Illinois Schools accused of Religious Bias
Texas-based evangelist Ronnie Hill was invited to speak at several Illinois schools last year and this raised a number of complaints regarding church/state separation. Although months have passed, there is a concern that there are still problems with the school favoring specific religious beliefs.
Debates over Prayer Breakfasts
Some people in California are giving more attention to debates about the propriety of elected government officials giving official sanction and support to religious events like prayer breakfasts and the National Day of Prayer. A few, at least, seem to understand that this might not be within the proper authority of the state.
No Freedom From Religion
People who don't know anything about a topic shouldn't put themselves in the position of offering their ill-informed opinions on it. That should be an obvious truism, something that everyone knows and everyone follows, but I'm sad to say that it's ignored on a constant basis - especially by those who feel it is their duty to tell others how awful atheists and secularists are.
Atheist Warden Punished for Refusing Training at Church
Last year I reported on an atheist prison warden in Ohio who, without realizing it, forced inmates to watch a television program that promoted evangelical Christianity. As a result, he was demoted - even though it should have been obvious that forcing religion on inmates was never his intention. Now he's being punished again for refusing to attending a training seminar at a church.
Alabama Atheists Still Being Denied Equal Treatment
Not long ago I reported on how atheists in Alabama were being denied equal treatment because politicians were refusing to sponsor their event in the same way that the events of religious groups were sponsored. Now, Gov. Bob Riley, Alabama Attorney General Troy King, State Auditor Beth Chapman, and State Treasurer Kay Ivey have joined in the refusal.
PA Governor Rendell Supports Prayer, Not Reason
Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania thinks that it is an appropriate use of his power to support and encourage prayer, but he doesn't think that it is an appropriate use of his power to support and encourage the use of reason. Perhaps if he took some time out of his busy day to use a little reason himself, it might occur to him just how stupid that position really is.
Residents Support Religious Symbol in City Logo
The logo of Redlands, California, contains a Christian cross and the city government has agreed with a request from the ACLU to remove it. Some residents are, however, quite angry about this - they think that the promotion of Christian religious symbols is appropriate for their government to be doing.
Prayer Breakfast Disinvites Muslim, Mayors Skip It
A prayer breakfast in Oregon has revealed what is wrong with having prayer breakfasts for politicians in the first place. Mayor Rob Drake invited Muslim Shahriar Ahmed to attend and give a prayer. The steering committee of the Beaverton-Tigard Chapter of the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship voted to disinvite Ahmed. This caused Drake and many others to skip the breakfast completely.
Supreme Court Lets VMI Prayer Ruling Stand
I've reported here in the past about the attempts to halt official prayers at the state military school Virginia Military Institute. Courts have consistently held that the mealtime prayers violated the constitutional separation of church and state, but the school has kept appealing, right up to the Supreme Court. The most recent appeal has been turned down.
Ethical Group Qualifies for Tax Exemption
In Texas, it is standard for religious organizations to receive a variety of automatic tax exemptions. In 1996, the Ethical Society of Austin (ESA) applied for such a religious tax exemption and was initially approved - but then the Comptroller revoked their exemption on the grounds that the organization does not require members to worship a Supreme Being.
Salt Lake Strip Club Gets Reprieve
The Main Street Coffee House pretended to be a church by having worship services on Sundays - this, it was hoped, would force the nearby Crazy Goat Saloon to close because it is illegal to have a sexually oriented businesses (SOBs) within 1,000 feet of a church . The cafe, however, wasn't financially viable and is closing - which means that the strip club can stay open, at least for now.
Christian Bigotry over Muslims' Call to Prayers
Hamtramck, Michigan is a small town that is becoming increasingly diverse - and that means an increasing Muslim population. Now a mosque has requested that they be allowed to broadcast calls to prayer in Arabic. It is expected that the resolution approving it will pass easily - but the suggestion has brought out local Christian bigots in droves.
Supreme Court Rejects Case of Religious Police Officer
An Indiana state trooper objected to being assigned full-time to work at a casino because gambling was against his religious beliefs. He was fired for refusing the assignment and he sued the state, alleging discrimination based on his religion. The Seventh Circuit Court ruled against him and the Supreme Court has rejected his appeal.
Town Won't Support National Day of Prayer
Many politicians refuse to stand up for the separation of church and state because it means standing up against popular measures. The town council of Belvidere, New Jersey, however, did just that when they voted 4-2 not to publicly support the upcoming National Day of Prayer.
Asserting Church over State
There are a number of people in America who would like to see our democratic system overthrown and a theocratic system based upon reactionary Christianity imposed on the population. Their numbers aren't large but their influence on the general Christian Right movement is distressing.
Does Christianity Exist?
There are a lot of different forms of Christianity in the world today - a bewildering array of sects, denominations, and groups who have some things in common but sometimes even more that separates them. How would a complete outsider be able to determine just what really is "Christianity" and what isn't? Indeed, is there even such a thing as "Christianity"?
Alan Keyes: Separation is a Lie
Many people may be familiar with the name Alan Keyes, but not familiar with what the man does or what he stands for. To put it simply, he is a fanatic and an extremist who would favor allowing each individual state to impose their own brand of theocracy on the people living there - and if anyone doesn't like it, they should just move. It is people like him who put freedom and liberty in jeopardy.
Prayer-Critic's Home Vandalized for Passover
The conflict over school board prayers in Manatee County, Florida, have gotten a step worse. I've reported many times before on the controversy - first they insisted that they would keep saying Christian prayers, then they decided to drop that and go for some form of nondenominational prayers, then they ended up sticking with Christian prayers after all.
Politically Charged Prayer Bashes JFK, Separation
One of the problems with hiring preachers to say prayers before legislative sessions is that these prayers can so easily be used to promote a political agenda - which means that the public pays a religious leader to instruct the legislature that certain political positions are more "religiously correct" than others.
Goat Sacrifice Disturbs Neighbors
Santeria is a widely misunderstood religion - so misunderstood, in fact, that it is common for people to file complaints about Santeria whenever they see evidence of it being practiced. The ritual killing of animals like goats and chickens is particularly disturbing to people and the source of quite a few police complaints.
Bible Verses on a Fire Truck
A fire truck in Marion, Indiana, now has part of a Bible verse painted on the side: "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil" (from Psalm 23). This isn't a volunteer fire department, it's a city fire department. I wonder why they thought it was OK to use public vehicles to endorse one religion's scriptures?
Lawsuit over Evolution Disclaimers Going Forward
Cobb County school administrators were hoping that a federal judge would dismiss a lawsuit against them that challenged their use of anti-evolution disclaimers in science text books. Fortunately, the judge decided that there was enough merit to the case to let it proceed.
Pro-Christian Bias May End in Britain
n Britain, parents who want to send their children to church schools are eligible for subsidies that pay for a school transport pass; parents who don't want to send their children educated in a religious school have to pay the costs for them to get to secular state schools. That discrimination may end because of a case brought by a former Lancashire policeman.
Jehovah's Witnesses Banned in Moscow
For years, now, the Jehovah's Witnesses have been having trouble in Russia. A 1997 religion law established Orthodox Christianity as the nation's dominant religion and pledged respect for other religions like Buddhism, Islam and Judaism. Other groups, however, have restrictions placed upon them - with Jehovah's Witnesses being one of them.
Religious Discrimination in Daycare
A former administrator-director of Elmore Community Children's Center in Ottawa County, Ohio, has filed a lawsuit claiming that she was fired because of religious discrimination. Perhaps those running the daycare center felt that non-Christians couldn't be relied upon to do a proper job.
Mount Soledad Cross to be Moved
After a 15-year legal battle, the Mount Soledad in San Diego may finally be removed from public land and taken to private property. The agreement hasn't been finalized yet, but it looks like it will go through and people can get on with their lives again.
Constitutional Amendment to Defend
Should the Supreme Court decide to striking down the phrase "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, there are people ready to act and introduce a constitutional amendment allowing the use of that phrase in the Pledge - among other things.
Reasoning Behind Headscarf Ban in France
The decision to ban Muslim headscarves from public schools led to widespread criticism of France. Many argued that it was simply anti-Muslim legislation and had nothing to do with preserving French secularism. I have found an excellent defense and explanation of the decision by one of the people who served on the commission that recommended the ban.
World Journalism Institute
Have you heard of the "World Journalism Institute"? Probably not. It's an organization of journalists committed to helping members "accurately" report "the work of God in today's world." In other words, they are committed to reporting events from a conservative, evangelical Christian perspective.