Good news – atheist member of Congress reelected Tuesday

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Some good news to report from the US General election, Pete Stark (D-13) of Fremont California, the only openly atheist member of Congress was re-elected Tuesday night. So we got that.

Democrat Pete Stark, a 19-term incumbent, won by 70.9 percent with all precincts reporting, compared with 28.2 percent for Republican Forest Baker and write-in votes of 0.9 percent. An independent candidate, Chris Pareja, was running as a write-in in the race.

Fremont-Hayward area: Democrats sweep federal, state races

More info on Pete Stark

RWNJ Ohio Teacher who burned cross in student’s arm settles lawsuit

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John Freshwater, the Mount Vernon, Ohio science teacher who was fired for burning a cross on a student’s arm and preaching his religion on school time, in 2008, settled a civil lawsuit with the parents of the victim for $450,000. He is still waiting on his appeal of his firing.

The money, to be paid by the school district’s insurance carrier, Ohio Casualty, will compensate Stephen and Jenifer Dennis for mental pain and suffering, and their son, Zachary, for physical pain and sickness.

Zachary Dennis alleges that John Freshwater pushed his Christian beliefs in science class two years ago and burned a cross on Zachary’s forearm with an electrical laboratory device.

Included in the $450,000 settlement is an annuity of $150,000, to be paid over 13years to Zachary, now enrolled in another school district. Jones Day, the law firm that represented the family, will get $25,000, which is apart from the $450,000 settlement.

Suit against science teacher settled for $450,000

Freshwater’s appeal of his firing is in the hands of a referee who has yet to rule.

Wall Street Journal tries to spin Barbary Treaties to support religious right

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One item of evidence used to support the separation of church and state is the text of a treaty signed in 1796 that states “As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion…”. The Wall Street Journal, in a blog post on Thursday tried to spin that fact to cheerlead for Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell, who got the concept of the separation of church and state wrong in a recent debate. Too bad the WSJ spin doesn’t work.

The text of the treaty in question is:

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 Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan 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.

Treaty of Peace and Friendship, Signed at Tripoli November 4, 1796

The Journal writes:

The language isn’t in either the original, Arabic-language version of the treaty or the contemporaneous, Italian-language translation. It only appears in the English-language translation made by U.S. consul-general Joel Barlow, a translation so shoddy fellow diplomats at the time described it as “extremely erroneous.”

But then they undercut their spin with:

Nevertheless, that English-language version, complete with the mysterious Article XI, is what the Senate ratified and what President Adams publicly cheered: “And I do hereby enjoin and require all persons bearing office civil or military within the United States, and all others citizens or inhabitants thereof, faithfully to observe and fulfill the said Treaty and every clause and article thereof.”

Obscure Treaty Is Cited in Church-State Separation Debate

There has been a long running campaign by those on the religious right to rewrite history and prescribe values to the founders that just didn’t exist in their time – like the founders didn’t want a separation of church and state.

The paragraph noted above is true, even if the text in Article 11 was added by Joel Barlow, the Senate ratified the treaty unanimously on June 10, 1797 and no one, not even the public, complained about the text.

Why? Because they believed in the words in that treaty and had no problem signing it and ratifying it. They agreed with the text and it became the law of the land.

The Wall Street Journal blog post doesn’t change the facts or change that United States said in public it “is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion.”

Unbiased “God in America” uses biased scholar

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I started watching the PBS mini-series “God in America” tonight and while the program claims to be unbiased one of the people interviewed is an old friend of the late Dr. James Kennedy, who holds a limited view of the separation of church and state.

Daniel Dreisbach is interviewed extensively in the first couple of episodes as they deal with religion in Early America through the writing of the Constitution. This disappointed me.

Dreisbach was a friend of the late evangelical Dr. James Kennedy. I wrote about his appearance in a FOX “news” religion special in 2006. See “Fox News report on “Religion in America” was slanted”. He used the usual religious right claim that the wall of separation of church and state written by Jefferson in his letter to the Danbury Baptist was a one way wall meant to keep only the federal government from establishing a church and didn’t apply to the states.

In a long interview on the “God in America” website Dreisbach continues the sham: (their questions are in bold)

[What was behind the ban on religious tests for office?]

… There is a forgotten religion clause in the unamended Constitution of 1787. And in Article VI, Clause 3, there is a prohibition on religious tests for federal officeholders. This is a rather significant departure from the Old World practices, where oftentimes a public officer was required to take a religious test.

Now, there have been those in our own time who have viewed the religious test ban as the cornerstone of the secular state and in some respects a precursor to the First Amendment, which was not added to the Constitution till 1791.

I see the religious test ban a little bit differently, because I think this also reaffirms this idea of federalism. I would argue that the religious test ban was written into the Constitution not out of a general denunciation of religious tests, but rather it was written into the Constitution to support and defend religious tests, albeit the religious tests that were already in place at the state and local levels. The great fear in 1787 was that this new federal newcomer would sort of come crashing onto the scene and supplant the various policies and practices at the state level. …

“Wall of separation”: Why did Jefferson write that letter to the [Danbury Baptist Association] and explain stuff to them?

[....]

I think that what we read in this “wall of separation” statement is not a broad principle that church and state must always be separate. Rather he’s reaffirming the principle of federalism. He’s explaining why he, as president, cannot issue such proclamations, and yet he, as the governor of Virginia, had issued days for prayer, fasting and thanksgiving.

And again, I would say that this is the lens through which you must look at whatever the Constitution has to say about religion. It is fundamentally about the separation of powers between what the national government can do and what state and local authorities can do. And the wall of separation is really, in my opinion, an affirmation of the principle of federalism.

Now, this is a metaphor that was picked up much later in American history. It was mentioned by the Supreme Court in an 1879 decision, but it’s really not until the mid-20th century, in an important Establishment Clause case in 1947, a case called Everson v. Board of Education, that the Supreme Court picked up Jefferson’s metaphor and virtually elevates it to the status of constitutional law. So today it’s very hard to have a conversation about church and state without invoking this “wall of separation” metaphor. It’s come to define the way in which many Americans, including scholars and jurists, talk about, think about the prudential and constitutional relationship between church and state. …

For white Protestant males, it wasn’t much of a wall, was it? For blacks, Catholics, Mormons, it must have felt much more like a wall.

I certainly think that we have seen a transition in our understanding, interpretation and application of the wall of separation or, more broadly, this idea of separation of church and state. It certainly means something very different if you live in a culture, in a society that presumes a Protestant cultural hegemony, and you move into the future, as we have done, to a society that is much less Protestant and is much more secular in nature.

We have a kind of religious diversity unimagined by the Founders. … So there has emerged a kind of a secular construction, a secular interpretation of separation of church and state, which is significantly different than a strictly Protestant conception of what separation of church and state means.

I think this is why so many very pious Protestant Christians today denounce the wall of separation, because they see it not as something that protects the exercise of one’s religious expression, but something that is used to exclude them from public life. It’s an instrument used to deny them the ability to contribute as citizens to public debates if their debates are informed by religious ideals.

Do you think they’re right to feel that?

There are certainly examples in our society today where this wall of separation has been used — and, I think one could argue, misused — to exclude faith-based ideas and faith-based arguments in the broader secular culture. …

Isn’t that the problem? The moment it becomes a faith-based idea, secularists and people who don’t believe the same thing feel that God or religion has skipped over that wall.

I don’t think that there’s any objection to allowing the faith-based ideas or arguments to be expressed. I think that the state cannot adopt policies that are not defensible on legitimate secular grounds. So there’s two parts to this. I think all arguments should be open in that marketplace, but the state is limited in the kinds of policies that it can adopt. …

Interview: Daniel Dreisbach

It seems that even after four years, Dreisbach is still wrong about church and state.

I am also concerned that the other people set to be interviewed during the rest of the series don’t seem to have any atheist or freethought cred – I didn’t know any of them.

“Christmas with a Capital C” is porn for Bill O’Reilly

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This is a trailer for an actual movie called “Christmas with a Capital C” that stars Ted McGinley and Daniel Baldwin. Baldwin is the bad nasty atheist trying to “steal” Christmas from a town that violates the 1st amendment by putting up a creche on city property. Amazes me that people protecting their civil rights are seen as the bad guys

Christmas with a Capital C


(H/T vjack via twitter)

There is just so much wrong with the scenes in the trailer. This is porn for the likes of Fox “News” Bill O’Reilly.

Good thing is according to the IMDB it is going straight to DVD on
November 2nd.

Pope knows Nazis but doesn’t know what atheism is

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Pope Benedict XVI is visiting the United Kingdom this week. It is the first state visit of a Pope to the UK since 1982. Not only is there the issue of clerical child abuse to deal with but Benedict stepped in the crap by suggesting that the Nazis and Hitler were atheists. Obviously he knows about Nazis having been in the Hitler Youth but he doesn’t know his history very well.

The Pope said on 9/16 in front of Queen Elizabeth II:

Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a “reductive vision of the person and his destiny”

Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society. In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate.

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI Palace of Holyroodhouse – Edinburgh Thursday, 16 September 2010

Jaw drops on floor….

Even a middle school student of history KNOWS that Hitler and the Nazis were NEVER atheist or anti-theist. NEVER were.

Religious conservatives like Pope Benedict like to rewrite history and attempt to associate Hitler with atheism since it fits their narrative. In fact Hitler was another in a long line of Catholic fascists in history – the same religion that gave us the Spanish Inquisition.

All one has to do is read what Hitler wrote and said during his time:

“I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord’s work.”

Adolf Hitler, Speech, Reichstag, 1936

And that is just one of many quotes proving the Pope’s comments were ignorant.

Evan Harris in The Guardian wrote:

Secularism is unfairly characterised and attacked by religious leaders as a way of seeking to protect their privileges.

Secularism is not atheism (lack of belief in God) and nor is it humanism (a nonreligious belief system). It is a political movement seeking specific policy end-points. Many secularists are religious and many religious people – recognising the value of keeping government and religion separate – are secular.

A secularist manifesto

The Catholic Church has been good at collaborating in order to preserve their power and privilege. The Church did that with the Nazis when they signed The Reichskonkordat

This agreement did some of the following:

* Unhindered correspondence between the Holy See and German Catholics. (Article 4)
* The right of the church to collect church taxes. (Article 13)
* The oath of allegiance of the bishops: “Ich schwöre und verspreche, die verfassungsmässig gebildete Regierung zu achten und von meinem Klerus achten zu lassen” (English: I swear and vow to honor the constitutional government and to make my clergy honor it; Article 16)
* State services to the church can be abolished only in mutual agreement. (Article 18)
* Catholic religion is taught in school (article 21) and teachers for Catholic religion can be employed only with the approval of the bishop (article 22).
* Protection of Catholic organizations and freedom of religious practice. (Article 31)
* Clerics may not be members of or be active for political parties. (Article 32)

A secret annex relieved clerics from military duty in the case that mandatory military service should be reinstated.

There is some feeling that the Pope slandered secularism and atheism to distract from the clerical child abuse issue in the media. That could be a reason he made such a stupid statement about Nazi history.