Posts Tagged ‘Separation of Church and State’

Sean Faircloth: Attack of the Theocrats

January 17, 2012

Atheists Talk radio show is interviewing politician and church-state separation activist Sean Faircloth this upcoming Sunday, January  22nd. Starting in 2009 Sean Faircloth was the Executive Director of the Secular Coalition of America, and in 2011 he became the Director of Strategy and Policy for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

I’m hosting Atheists Talk this weekend, so in preparation and interest I have started reading his newest book, Attack of the Theocrats, and watching videos of his speeches. I think I’m going to connect with his message that secular activists need to focus first on the real human harm that results from religious privilege, and not get lost in symbolic battles that  stoke theistic ire and strengthen resistance to secular activism.

From Attack of the Theocrats:

…the secular movement suffers from a noble flaw. Secular people tend to have an almost religious faith in statistics and dry arguments and abstractions as the proper method by which to carry the day. This has made it difficult to connect with the broader American public, particularly when many of our battles emphasize symbols – and not the numerous religious laws that harm real people.

Secular Americans remain a sleeping giant, a huge demographic that has thus far failed to flex its own muscle, much less galvanize the general population. We ignore people suffering under religious privilege while shaking our fist at a slapped-together manger with a plastic baby Jesus in the town square at Christmas time. While symbols are meaningful and these particular symbols on public grounds do violate Madison’s Constitution, Secular Americans must do better to reach all Americans. We must explain the human story – the human harm and the outright abuse of our tax dollars that result from religious privileging in law.

In the video below Mr. Faircloth outlines for the audience a few of the cases from Attack of the Theocrats, and lists his proposals for how secular activists can direct our efforts to focus on religious privilege that is enshrined in laws, and which are causing real human harm and waste of tax dollars.

Video first seen at RDF.

I Don’t Want To Vote On Marriage Law

January 15, 2012

I have a problem with the majority voting on the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of the minority. It doesn’t matter which groups we are discussing when we say the “majority” and “minority”; what we have are two sets of people – human beings – that are different in some way.

Legislation can be introduced to help define and clarify, to put in black and white, what we hold to be universal human rights, but even without these laws in place, they are called universal human rights because we know that these are so basic, so beyond reproach or question that laws are almost superfluous. Almost. The majority can become blind to the minority. This can lead to a belief that the differences that define the the minority are somehow a threat to that which defines the majority, or that the differences of the minority are undesirable because they’re not shared by most people. And so laws can act as a safeguard for the rights of the minority for cases in which their voices cannot be heard over the crowd.

I think it is horrific that we allow any human being to have their rights curtailed by the whimsy of popular opinion. That is one of the reasons I am angry about this November’s ballot initiative in Minnesota, which leaves it up to us, the voters, to amend the Minnesota Constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Other reasons that I’m angry about the proposal include the traditional objections to polluting our constitution with language that would bar citizens from their rights, because I support human happiness and this amendment would hurt gay human beings, and because I detest the political drama and fear-mongering that is caused by this American Idol-esque “let the people have a say” and “down with activist judges” posturing.

So why are we voting on whether Bob and Steve should be allowed to get married? Well, because bigoted, sex-obsessed, fearful, religious zealot nutjobs…oh, we’ll skip that for now. Let’s just go with this:

Some people (see past sentence) want to amend the constitution to “protect” heterosexual marriage from gay people, and they think the best way to do this is to amend the constitution. Per Article IX of the MN Constitution we, the voters, must approve any changes to the constitution. That’s why we’re voting on Bob and Steve’s rights this November.

But why do the bigoted, sex-obsessed, oops some people want to amend the constitution? Why is the law in the Minnesota Statutes not enough? Judges refer to the Constitution to make decisions and rulings. Right now, judges in Minnesota can point to the constitution and say that nowhere in our Constitution does it explicitly ban the marriage of gay people. This amendment would put language in place that would explicitly ban the marriage of gay people. Several states have already used the lack of this language in their constitutions to overturn statutes that ban gay marriage, thus making gay marriage legal in those states. Some people in Minnesota are trying to prevent that from happening in this state.

This is marriage law that we’re discussing, not theology. Churches can be as restrictive as they want about marriage within the confines of their religion, but every resident of Minnesota should have the right to be treated as equal to every other resident of Minnesota under Minnesota law.

So no, I don’t want to vote on the proposed amendment that would make it very difficult for gay residents to marry in Minnesota. And I don’t want you to be able to either.

But if it is there when I step into the voting booth in Novemeber, I will be voting NO, the Minnesota Constitution SHALL NOT be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.

….

And in light all of that, this is a heartening development from Friday:

From The Colu.mn:

Legislators Propose Repeal of Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment

DFL legislators in the Minnesota House introduced a bill during the legislative recess on Friday to repeal a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage from the 2012 ballot. The bill faces high hurdles as the Republicans still control the House.

Here’s text of the bill:

H.F. No. 1885, as introduced – 87th Legislative Session (2011-2012) Posted on Jan 13, 2012

A bill for an act relating to marriage; repealing a proposed amendment to the Minnesota Constitution recognizing marriage as only a union between one man and one woman;repealing Laws 2011, chapter 88.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA:

Section 1. REPEALER.

Laws 2011, chapter 88, is repealed.

Sec. 2. EFFECTIVE DATE.
Section 1 is effective the day following final enactment.

The bill was submitted by Karen Clark of Minneapolis, Leon Lillie of North St. Paul, Kate Knuth of New Brighton, Rena Moran of St. Paul ; Marion Greene of Minneapolis, John Lesch of St. Paul, Mindy Greiling of Roseville, Carolyn Laine of Columbia Heights, Ryan Winkler of Golden Valley, Alice Hausman of St. Paul, Linda Slocum of Minneapolis, Joe Mullery of Minneapolis, Phyllis Kahn of Minneapolis, Dianne Loeffler of Minneapolis, Frank Hornstein of Minneapolis, Bill Hilty of Finlayson and Kathy Brynaert of Mankato

Props for the effort, but as the article points out, this is likely not going to get anywhere since the Republicans control the House, and the seated Republicans are fairly united in their support of the amendment:

Those in red boxes are Republican legislators. Source

 

The Way Things Used to Be

October 20, 2011

This one is going around teh Facebook today.

I like the reminder that we were not founded on Christian values as I’ve heard people put forth (e.g., “This country was founded on the Ten Commandments!“), and that our government documents used to reflect our shared secular values.

I’m not so much of a fan of the idea that we should adhere to the original values because they are the original values that were agreed upon around 200 years ago. As a progressive I understand that change is necessary as our interactions with and understanding of the world around us evolves. We should adhere to the secular values implied in the image below because only by keeping the divisive religious dogma of hundreds of different religious ideologies out of our government – the one thing that unites most of us in this country – can we live together in something that approaches harmony.

Text Reads:

Did you know?

The original Constitution of the United States that was ratified in 1789 had only one reference to religion: [Article 6] No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

The de facto motto of the United States, adopted as part of the Great Seal of the U.S. by an Act of Congress in 1782 was E. Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One). Congress changed it 174 years later (1956) to “In God We Trust.”

The original ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ was written in 1892 by Baptist Minister Francis Bellamy who DID NOT INCLUDE the words “Under God.” Those were added by Congress 62 years later (1954).

The U.S. didn’t issue Paper Currency until 1861, and ‘In God We Trust’ didn’t appear on it for 96 years (1957).

Just after the Red Scare in the 1950’s, CONGRESS CHANGED the Pledge of Allegiance and our Nation’s Motto over the FEAR of COMMUNISM.

In a time when fear is traded like a commodity, and the word SOCIALISM is being used to create the same fear as the old word COMMUNISM, let’s REMEMBER that our country was NOT founded on fear. NO, OUR NATION was founded out of HOPE for a better world where all people were EQUAL – that we were ONE from MANY.

Let’s not let fear change our nation’s great tradition & direction again.

State-Encouraged Church Attendance

September 26, 2011

I saw this over at the ever-brilliant, ever-sarcastic Cafe Witteveen:

It’s official. Even police know what people like me have been saying for years … church is equal to punishment.

If you break the law in Bay Minette, Alabama, you can either serve time in prison or in church … your choice.

I never expected anyone to validate that church is punishment. I hope they seat these prisoners away from any bibles. I wouldn’t want them getting any ideas about God-approved baby killing or raping the women in the pews around them if they read it.

Just sayin’.

Okay…so Cafe Witteveen is using sarcasm and humor to address the situation. I’m more feeling this right now:

From WKRG.com News:

Operation Restore Our Community or “ROC”…begins next week. The city judge will either let  misdemenor offenders work off their sentences in jail and pay a fine or go to church every Sunday for a year.

If offenders elect church, they’re allowed to pick the place of worship, but must check in weekly with the pastor and the police department. If the one-year church attendance program is completed successfully, the offender’s case will be dismissed.

Bay Minette Police Chief Mike Rowland says it costs his department about 75 bucks per inmate per day. Rowland says the ROC program will be cost-effective and could change the lives of many people heading down the wrong path.

So far, 56 churches in North Baldwin County are participating in ROC.

Rowland says the program is legal and doesn’t violate separation of church and state issues because it allows the offender to choose church or jail…and the church of their choice.

Let’s take this apart. Just a little. Just a slightly harder look at some of the implications and assumptions being made here.

Offenders have a choice.

Let’s see… you can either go to jail and pay a fine, or continue about your daily routine and devote an hour or two per every 168-hour week to going to church. How is this a reasonable choice? If the offender has a family to support, or a job, or is in school, or has no money to pay fines, or don’t want a permanent criminal record, there is no choice here. In the video above Chief Rowland says that if he would have to choose between going to jail and paying a hefty fine or just going to church he’d certainly select church. Really? I’m shocked!

This isn’t a violation of church and state.

I don’t know if this would legally be considered a church-state violation, but it seems to me to be walking a fine line. A judge is telling offenders that their only options are go to jail and have a permanent criminal record or go to church and have your case dismissed. Go do something that is really, really painful for a variety of reasons or go to church. The judge is determining that what these criminals need is religion to straighten out their lives. There are no secular options – no community service, no counseling programs – for citizens who do not believe in God.

But don’t worry, there are a lot of options for different churches in Bay Minette and the surrounding area – 109 of them. You’ve got yer Baptist, yer Catholic, yer Methodist, yer Assembly of God, yer Presbyterian, yer Episcopal, a few of them Lutherans, and about a gazillion different house of worship with the phrase “of Christ” in the name somewhere. Why they even have themselves a Temple…for the Pentacostals. I mean if you can’t find yourself a house of worship in that list…what’s that? What’s a synogogue? Hell no, they don’t got any of them mosques down here. That’s a New York problem.

 Church “could change the lives of many people heading down the wrong path.”

Church will save you. You will get some of those morals thingies that non-criminals have if you go to church. You need God to be a good person.

In the video above, Chief Rowland tells us that 30-day drug and alcohol programs don’t work…that longevity of treatment is the key. He assures us that “long-term programs do work”. So why not extend drug and alcohol programs…why not have mandated attendance at post-program meetings, something that may address an underlying addiction? Or…there’s a invisible guy in the clouds, I guess.

People who commit crimes don’t attend church. If they start going to church, they won’t commit any more crimes.

I’m guessing that some of these misdemeanor criminals are already going to church. So, what you’re telling the good people of Bay Minette Alabama is…if you’re going to church and you commit a crime, there’s no punishment. You just keep going to church. You have just made misdemeanors easier to commit, Bay Minette. Good job.

This “solution” is small-minded and I will be shocked if it curbs crime in Bay Minette, Alabama. But let me know how that works out for you.

What are you doing for Darwin Day?

February 11, 2011

Tomorrow is Charles Darwin’s 202nd birthday. How are you celebrating?

I’m going to the ZOO!

I’m pulling together an event with the Minneapolis Skeptics to celebrate International Darwin Day. We’re going to visit the Como Park Zoo’s primate house, chat Darwin, share our favorite evolution books, movies, and news, take pictures with our primate cousins and/or whatever else people feel like doing. We’ll be meeting inside the main entrance at 1pm, and I invite you to join us. If you come out, look for me – I’ll be the woman holding the Happy Darwin Day sign! 

If you’re not into the zoo, you could visit the Science Museum of Minnesota tomorrow between 1pm-4pm; they’re holding a Darwin Day event and showing a film called A Portrait of Charles Darwin.

And/or, go pick up a copy of Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth at Big Brain Comics in downtown Minneapolis on Saturday.  Bonus: The cartoonists, Zander and Kevin Cannon, will be signing their graphic novel about evolution at 4pm.

And finally – you can help celebrate Darwin Day and the importance of scientific inquiry by signing a petition hosted by Rep Pete Stark and the American Humanist Associateion in support of H. Res 81, which would recognize every February 12th as Darwin Day.

From the AHA website:

In a statement, Representative Stark said, “Darwin’s birthday is a good time for us to reflect on the important role of science in our society. It is also a time to redouble our efforts to ensure that children are being taught scientific facts, not religious dogma, and to fight back against those who seek to undermine the science of climate change for political ends.”

Go HERE to learn more and to sign the petition.

Happy Darwin Day!