Separation of Church and State – The Sports Analogy

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It’s really hard for some religious believers to understand why the separation of church and state is really important. In an effort to advance the cause in support of strong separation I have come up with a good analogy to explain it. I call it “The Sports Analogy”.
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David Barton – most dangerous man in America and for our children

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David Barton appeared on “The Daily Show” on May 4th and I sighed. David Barton is a SELF-TAUGHT historian and favorite of the cheap labor religious right conservatives. He has been involved in re-writing history text books in the Texas state school system, and testifying to state legislatures and Congress. Luckily “The Daily Show” had a real scholar on the other night to counter Barton’s false view of history.

The main problem with David Barton is his history seems to stop in 1860. The most ridiculous claim he makes is that the Bill of Rights don’t apply to the states since they didn’t when the Constitution came into force in 1791. He ignores or dismisses the 14th Amendment that explicitly applied the Bill of Rights to the states.

Here is the first segment of Barton’s interview on May 4th

Click here to see Part 2 of the extended unedited Barton interview

Click here to see Part 3 of the extended unedited Barton interview

There are so many falsehoods that Barton communicates in the interview that the People for the American Way has detailed pages specific to the Daily Show interview. For example:

5. The Treaty of Tripoli

In discussing the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli and its clear declaration that “America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,” Barton told Stewart first that the language in the treaty’s Article 11 did not mean what it clearly states, and second that the U.S. State Department says there really is no Article 11 in the Treaty. Here is the full text of Article 11:

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

Barton argues unconvincingly that the Article was only meant to imply that American Christianity is different than European Christianity. His assertion that Article 11 is not in the treaty is simply wrong; it was unquestionably included in the treaty that was ratified unanimously by the Senate and approved by John Adams.

GOP Leaders’ Favorite ‘Historian’ David Barton on The Daily Show: Dishonest History & Frightening Constitutional Theory

Then on Wednesday May 18th, The Daily Show interviewed University of Pennsylvania historian Richard Beeman. Unlike David Barton, Beeman has a degree in history and works as a historian.

Beeman said on the show:

“The Constitution is federally devoid of any mention of religion except for one provision which says there shall be no test for public office or any position of public trust, so the only mention of religion is keep religion out of our government,” Beeman says, and “the debate in the [constitutional] Convention is virtually devoid” of religious references.

Here is part 1 of Richard Beeman’s extended unedited interview where he takes Barton to task for ignoring the 14th Amendment.

Link to Part 2 of the Beeman extended interview

As the Religious Right Watch wrote:

During part II of the interview with Beeman, Stewart noted that while Barton told him that he was OK with Sharia law in the US, he would likely make the opposite case to his conservative supporters.

In fact, that is exactly what happened, as Barton dedicated an entire radio program to denying what he plainly told Stewart about Sharia.

Such dishonest actions reflect the fact that Barton is a political activist, not a historian — he even was paid by the Republican National Committee to mobilize church groups to support President Bush’s reelection and Republican candidates. As Kyle notes, even his documentary on African American history is brazenly partisan.

Constitutional Historian Rebuts David Barton On The Daily Show

The goal of people like Barton – besides trying to institute Christian Dominionism – is to focus their religious right agenda on the local and state level as way to outflank national policies and laws that protect our religious freedom.

David Barton is a flim-flam man who has no real expertise in history and he should be kept FAR FAR FAR away from our government and our children.

Disliking Atheists – still happening

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Over the weekend I caught an article on the Washington Post website titled “Why do Americans still dislike atheists?” which made the case AGAIN that discrimination of atheists is wrong. What was more interesting was that some of the comments to the post proved the point.

The article by Gregory Paul and Phil Zuckerman included tid bits like this:

A growing body of social science research reveals that atheists, and non-religious people in general, are far from the unsavory beings many assume them to be. On basic questions of morality and human decency — issues such as governmental use of torture, the death penalty, punitive hitting of children, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, environmental degradation or human rights — the irreligious tend to be more ethical than their religious peers, particularly compared with those who describe themselves as very religious.

and this:

Nontheism isn’t all balloons and ice cream. Some studies suggest that suicide rates are higher among the non-religious. But surveys indicating that religious Americans are better off can be misleading because they include among the non-religious fence-sitters who are as likely to believe in God, whereas atheists who are more convinced are doing about as well as devout believers. On numerous respected measures of societal success — rates of poverty, teenage pregnancy, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, obesity, drug use and crime, as well as economics — high levels of secularity are consistently correlated with positive outcomes in first-world nations. None of the secular advanced democracies suffers from the combined social ills seen here in Christian America.

Why do Americans still dislike atheists?

The story isn’t new but being on the Washington Post website gives it some status than if it appeared on an non-theist blog like this one. There is a question about the claim the authors make that 60 million people “are not believers”. Friends of mine in the secular movement would love to see that evidence. The number we agree on is closer to 12% of the population not the 1/5th cited by the article. Of that 12%, 2.3% were atheists, 4.3% are “Huxlian agnostics”, and 5.7% were wishy-washy agnostic.

What was more interesting for me were that some of the comments to the story seemed to prove the point – that atheists are still disliked.

Americans don’t, for the most part, generally dislike atheists. It is more that, much as many people dislike religious believers who are very pushy and proselytize them in an intrusive, in your face manner, they equally dislike atheists who are very pushy and who proselytize on behalf of atheism’s beliefs in an intrusive, in your face manner. Religious believers and atheists who quietly hold their beliefs and teach them to their children at home, and who respect others’ rights to believe and teach to their own children at home what they wish even when it is different from them as religious believers or as atheists, are not any more disliked by the American people than anyone else is. In short, the American people expect both religious believers of all stripes and atheists to be tolerant and respectful of others’ views and lives. And they dislike those from both groups who are not

This is common. As long as we shut up and don’t draw attention then people like us. I only wish Christians and other strident religious people would do that then I might like them.

The author seems to be making a common mistake: atheism and nontheism are not interchangeable. As a nontheist/agnostic, I see atheism as requiring as great a leap of faith as any belief in God. Perhaps it is the scientist in me that wants proof before I commit. In this case, I am comfortable with admitting I don’t know. I don’t understand, but can accept that others think they do. And if you want to proselytize, be advised it will be an exercise in frustration on your part and a source of amusement to me

Here the reader makes the common mistake that atheism is a religion requiring faith when it is in fact the believer who needs faith to believe since they have no rational evidence that a god exists. The atheist simply doesn’t believe in any god.

The United States has the largest prison population in the entire world. It has absolutely nothing to do with religion. It has much more to do with Obama’s WAR on drugs – not his war on religion.

Our nation was founded by people of faith and the freedom of religion. Maryland was founded by people of the Catholic faith and Pennsylvania by people of the Quaker faith. If you don’t like American religiosity – try living in Saudi Arabia.

This comment shows the reader has no sense of history. Quakers and Catholics came to this country due to persecution elsewhere and both supported separation of church and state. The Quakers did as a matter of conscious and Catholics did because protestants ran all the government agencies. Check out this article about the Philadelphia Bible Riots in 1844:

As my colleague Rob Boston noted in a Liberty magazine article, the city’s public schools were Protestant-dominated and featured recitation of (the Protestant version of) the Lord’s Prayer, readings from the (Protestant) King James Version of the Bible, and singing of (Protestant) hymns. When Catholic Bishop Francis Patrick Kenrick objected, the school agreed to excuse Catholic students from the exercises.

Protestant extremists were outraged at this nod toward diversity, and full-scale Protestant-Catholic riots erupted. Many city residents were injured and killed, and houses and church buildings were burned. The militia had to be called in to restore order.

What Philadelphia Shouldn’t Forget: The City Of Brotherly Love Rioted Over Religion In Public Schools

Sounds like something that would happen on the streets of Saudi Arabia today.

Hatred is born from ignorance. We need more education to show that atheists are people too and maybe soon, we will be less disliked.

Supreme Court dismisses Arizona school tax credit case for the wrong reason

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The Supreme Court ruled Monday in the case of Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn Et al. that tax payers couldn’t sue Arizona for allowing a tax credit used to fund private sectarian schools in the state. While I disagree with the ruling since tax payers should have standing to sue – it is their money – I don’t think supporters of separation of church and state would win the case anyway.
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GOP wants to stamp your uterus with “In God in We Trust”

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Of course we all knew the Republicans who stormed to office this past November would continue their effort to cram their religious views down our throats. With close to 10% unemployment and the public demanding attention to creating jobs, Congressional Republicans instead want to stamp your uterus with the motto “In God We Trust”.

From the American Humanist Association:

Tell Your Representative To Vote “No” on H. Con. Res. 13

Dear Friends,

Yesterday, H. Con. Res 13, a resolution which reaffirms the official motto of the United States as “In God We Trust,” was passed in the House Judiciary Committee, and now faces general debate in the House. If passed on the House floor, the resolution would encourage the display of “In God We Trust” on public buildings, including government institutions and public schools.

Tell Your Representative To Vote “No” on H. Con. Res. 13

And of course the right wing nut jobs want to end abortion and here is one way of trying to do that.

GOP’s H.R. 3 abortion bill would require IRS to do “abortion audits”

Remember one of many big lies Republicans came up with to scare Americans about the Affordable Care Act, the one where the IRS would need 16,000 new agents to enforce health reform? Newt Gingrich pushed it, and Rep. Paul Ryan jumped on board saying that the IRS would get “16,000 agents to police this new mandate.”

It was, of course, patently untrue. But apparently the GOP liked the idea of IRS agents policing Americans’ healthcare decision so much they decided to adopt it as their own, but of course just apply it to women, and to abortion. Among the horrors of H.R. 3, the bill that redefined rape to only count if it was “forcible” (until enough people raised enough hell, they decided to drop it), is the degree to which abortion restrictions extend to private—not public—spending.

In H.R. 3, Republicans revive the mid-90s “Istook amendment” theory of the fungibility of money to include under their definition of “taxpayer funding for abortion” all tax deductions, credits or other benefits for the cost of health insurance, when that insurance includes under its plan coverage for abortion.

GOP’s H.R. 3 abortion bill would require IRS to do “abortion audits”

You know the drill. Call your Congress critter and let them know how you feel about these two bad bills. Unless you want the motto tattooed on your uterus?

Creationist teacher Freshwater’s appeal moves to Federal Court

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John Freshwater, a Mount Vernon Ohio teacher who was fired for proselytizing in his 8th grade science class has appealed his termination and it was announced today his appeal will be moving to Federal Court.

The board filed notice with U.S. District Court in Columbus on Tuesday to move the case to the federal court system because Freshwater’s appeal involves an allegation that his constitutional right to express a religious opinion was violated.

Freshwater was accused of preaching Christian beliefs in class and of using a scientific device to mark students’ arms with a cross. The hearing officer said there was a plausible explanation for that but didn’t explain further.

Fired Mount Vernon teacher’s appeal moved to federal court

Of course he should have been fired for burning things in a student’s arm. Now he can cry to a federal judge that his rights were violated because he was proselytizing in his public school class room.

This saga just doesn’t seem like it will end.