Tag Archives: elections

Is Your Polling Place In A Church?

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image of a Vote Here SignElection Day is Tuesday and many of us still travel to a polling place to cast our ballots in person. In many communities the polling place is located inside a church. It is not illegal to have voting in a church but the location still needs to meet election laws such as having no electioneering materials within a proscribed voting zone. What should you look for and what should you do to make sure a church follows the rules?
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Some bright spots in 2006 elections

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By now you know that the Democratic party won control of the US House and possibly won control of the US Senate as result of the 2006 midterm elections.

There were some bright spots for those of us who support separation of church and state.

Here in Ohio, Deborah Owens Fink, the state school board member who was leader of the movement to force Intelligent Design into Ohio public schools, lost her election for another term. She had only 29% of the votes.

Then of course J. Kenneth Blackwell, who had extreme religious conservative views, lost the Ohio governorship. You can view the exit poll here.

In Indiana, Rep. James Hostettler (R-IN) who introduced the “Public Expression of Religion Act” that was passed as the “Veterans’ Memorials, Boy Scouts, Public Seals, and Other Public Expressions of Religion Protection Act of 2006”, lost his House seat tonight. The law is now in the Senate as S.3696. (see previous post American Legion backs law in attempt to stifle religious dissent)

The open seats of former House members Mark Foley and Tom Delay passed into Democratic hands.

Although same-sex marriage ballot initiatives passed in most all states where it was on the ballot (Arizona being the exception), South Dakota voters rejected a draconian anti-abortion bill that had been signed into law in March. The law had been passed in an effort to challenge Roe v. Wade. The hope being that someone would file a lawsuit and the case would go to the US Supreme Court and its conservative majority.

The only sour note is that some of the Democrats who won on Tuesday are known as religious conservatives, however this way is better than an entire party pandering to the religious right.

Christian victims? Give me a break

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My heart is in the sanctity of life and marriage and values and defense against terrorism. I support what the president’s doing in Iraq, and if they’re spending too much money, then I’ll let someone else yell about that. But this president — it’s like this Mark Foley thing — that’s not going to discourage any evangelicals I know from voting. We lived through Bill Clinton, and this situation with Foley is minuscule in comparison. So, I really think it’s making a mountain out of a molehill.

Rev. Jerry Falwell on CNN’s The Situation Room 11/02/2006

Yes, Rev. Falwell, defender of the sanctity of life, marriage, and values, doesn’t seem to have a problem with child abuse.

It isn’t real surprising that Falwell said what he did. You can predict what a religious leader will say by just looking at the politics of the object he/she is discussing. I am pretty sure Falwell would put former Congressman Foley’s actions in proper context had Foley been a Democrat.

That is a big reason the current special relationship that religious conservatives and Republicans proves the point that church and state should be separate. Politics not only can corrupt a person but can corrupt your religion. I mean if your political values can allow you to think that child abuse is less of a moral problem than a blow job then you might need some remedial religion classes.

Of course hypocrisy isn’t the only problem with the mixing of religion and politics.

Last month, my local paper did their obligatory conservative-Christians-as victims election season report as if it were a new trend. Conservative Christians feel put upon because their anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-religious freedom, anti-science bigotry isn’t shared by everyone.

“The Christian majority is sick and tired of things like same-sex marriage and the (removal of the) Ten Commandments in the court- house,” he said. “Two people get upset, and the ACLU comes in. People are tired of things like one guy with a lawyer changing the entire face of a government building because of the Ten Commandments. What the hell was it hurting?”

Bob Burney, who hosts a Christian radio call-in program on WRFD (880 AM) in Columbus, hears the complaint a lot.

“It’s the clash of two worldviews,” he said. “Things have been declared to be unconstitutional that have been constitutional for 200 years,” he said. “Evangelical Christians are energized by their very strong perception that those on the left want to remove the Godly heritage that we have and move to a completely secular state.”

From “Enough was enough” Columbus Dispatch 10/09/2006

I wrote a letter to the editor about the article and it was published on October 18th:

I wanted to comment on the Oct. 9 Dispatch article “Enough was enough.” It doesn’t surprise me that conservative Christians would vote for a candidate solely on religious beliefs. We have some voters who choose a candidate simply because they recognize the name of the person on the ballot or because some relative served years before.

Unfortunately, atheists and secular humanists such as myself don’t have that luxury. Since the conservative Christians have invaded the political process, we have a de facto establishment of religion and no atheist or secular humanist candidate can pass the religious test that group has put in place. We have to vote for the whole package that a particular candidate brings into the campaign.

The New York Times reported on Oct. 8 that, since 1989, religious groups have received more than 200 special arrangements, protections or exemptions in congressional legislation, on topics from pensions to immigration to land use to exemptions from federal employment-discrimination laws.

These special arrangements also have come from winning court decisions and federal-agency rule changes. Ninety-eight percent of the special treatment goes to Christian groups. As The Times put it, “As a result of these special breaks, religious organizations of all faiths stand in a position that American businesses — and the thousands of nonprofit groups without that ‘religious’ label — can only envy.”

So forgive me if I don’t shed a tear the next time I hear the myth that conservative Christians are under siege.

Removing the 10 Commandments from public buildings promotes equality by removing the religious bigotry inherent in the Decalogue. Allowing gays to marry gives them the chance to formally share in what it means to commit to the one you love and removes the 2nd class status that comes from not being allowed.

Conservative Christians use politics to force their subjective “values” on others. Politics should be about doing the best for the most people. It should be about promoting shared values that have little to no negative impact on others.

Unconstitutional religious test in Texas judicial race

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One would think that an election involving judges would not suffer from any illegal activities – after all, judges start out as lawyers and they should know the law. It seems some Republicans in Texas need a refresher course.

In article on Law.com, Mary Alice Robbins reports that the Texas Republican Party sent a newsletter out that said E. Ben Franks, Democratic nominee for a seat on the 6th Court of Appeals, “is reported to be a professed atheist” and apparently believes the Bible is a “collection of myths.'”

The Republican Party notes in its recent newsletter that Article 16, §1(a) of the Texas Constitution prescribes the oath of office for all elected or appointed officials. The officeholder swears to faithfully execute the duties of the office and, to the best of his or her ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this state “so help me God.”

“I can take the oath,” Franks says.

However, the state Republican Party questions whether Franks will uphold the law, stating in the newsletter: “Should Franks be elected in November, one would have to conclude that he will hold true to his out of touch ‘atheist’ belief system and ignore the laws and Constitution of Texas.”

GOP Raises Religion in Court Race, Calling Democrat an Atheist

The problem is that the US Supreme Court case Torcaso v. Watkins (1961) struck down state religious tests for public jobs or offices. The US Constitution already includes a prohibition on religious tests.

In 1961’s Torcaso v. Watkins, a unanimous Supreme Court struck down a Maryland Declaration of Rights requirement that a person seeking to hold office in Maryland declare a belief in the existence of God. [Charles W. “Rocky” Rhodes, an associate professor at South Texas College of Law], who teaches constitutional law, says Torcaso applies to Article 1, §4 of the Texas Constitution, which provides that no one can be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided that he or she acknowledges “the existence of a Supreme Being.”

Even if Franks was a professed atheist — and Franks says he has never professed to be an atheist — that is not a valid disqualification from office in accordance with the U.S. Constitution, Rhodes says.

Referring to the Republicans’ allegation against Franks, Rhodes says, “What they’re trying to do is smear him.”

Indeed they are. So much for the GOP’s claim of religious liberty

Blackwell blinded by religion

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On Monday, 8/28, Ohio governor candidate, J Kenneth Blackwell, held a big press conference to announce an endorsement by a group of Christian pastors. Normally that wouldn’t bother me – even Rev Russell Johnson being one of the endorsers wasn’t a surprise. He had been endorsing Blackwell on the sly for sometime. Pastors and priests should be free to exercise their rights as citizens to endorse candidates for elected office. As long as they are doing it as individuals and not using the resources of their church in support of the person or against the other candidate.

What bothered me was Blackwell’s press conference and the inferences he and others made as written in the local papers.

We are fundamental believers in the fact that the public square should not be stripped or scrubbed clean of religion or faith or God,” Blackwell said. “I will fight for the right of the nonbeliever to not believe, because we all have a right to be wrong.”

Pastors stand up for Blackwell – Columbus Dispatch 8/29/2006

Hmm, ‘we all have the right to be wrong’?

Talk about being arrogant. Blackwell plays good word games. He could have said ‘I will fight for the right of the nonbeliever to not believe, because we all are equal under the law.’ but instead he took the opportunity to express that his religious beliefs are correct and the non-believer is wrong. Had he said what I suggested above, he would be in line with government neutrality toward religious beliefs. It is not about being “right” or “wrong”. If we are equal under the law than our beliefs don’t matter and shouldn’t matter.

Also not to beat a dead horse but there is not an effort toward the “public square” to “be stripped or scrubbed clean of religion or faith or God.” That will never happen regardless if Blackwell is elected or not. As I have posted before the “public square” doesn’t equal “government”. Some of us, including the founding fathers, don’t want religion mixing with government in the way that Blackwell intends.

I think he’s better than President Bush at articulating Christian values and how that plays out in terms of policy,” said [Bishop Harry] Jackson, a Democrat.

Wow, Blackwell is more religious than Pope Bush. That is saying a lot.

That is the shell game Blackwell and his supporters are playing. They are playing the religion card and it is bad for Democracy.

Democracy ideally relies on elected bodies of power to create laws and govern the day-to-day affairs of the nation. Debate ensues and usually compromise is reached. Because these bodies are not unanimous and are not taking the cues from the same source generally a mutually beneficial and efficient solution is reached. Democracy in essence relies on compromise and debate of parties seeking the best interest of the nation.

The problem with church and government mixing usually means the issues begin to be defined not as fair or just, but as good and evil. Religion has a bad habit of making a black and white argument. Christians, Muslims and Jews see the world as a test and struggle to the souls of humanity for eternal reward to the believers and eternal punishment for the unbelievers. Hence compromise with those outside the group in power usually isn’t an option as they are not good or as good as the ones with religion. In essence, it is wrong to compromise with evil.

Religion and Government Should Never Be Mixed

Ohio has a unique constitution in that some rights afforded to its citizens are not as vague or as open to misinterpretation as the Federal constitution. Here is an example:

No person shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or maintain any form of worship, against his consent; and no preference shall be given, by law, to any religious society; nor shall any interference with the rights of conscience be permitted. No religious test shall be required, as a qualification for office, nor shall any person be incompetent to be a witness on account of his religious belief….

Ohio Bill of Rights

I would be very interested if either candidate would support this constitutional right. I think Blackwell would have a tough time supporting it as his press conference made clear. Should we elect someone who can’t uphold even basic civil rights?

No joke: Some think DeLay in trouble because he stands up for Jesus

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I came across a blog today that mentioned a recent episode of “Hardball” on MSNBC (March 30th). The guests were Rev. Al Sharpton, civil rights activist and former Democratic Presidential candidate, and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (a conservative religious organization). The topic was “Is Christianity under attack?”

I had posted an earlier entry concerning the myth of Christian persecution in the US and how the right wing of the Republican party is co-opting that scare tactic for the upcoming elections. (see: Still the Biggest Lie: Christians in the US are persecuted)

I also mentioned that a conference was going to held to scare evangelicals some more to get them to vote GOP in 2006. It was called “War on Christians and the Values Voters of 2006” sponsored by a right wing Republican front group called Vision America that included speakers like Alan Keyes, Gary Bauer, Sen. John Cornyn, Phyllis Schlafly, Sen. Sam Brownback and Rep. Tom DeLay. (You are probably thinking “where are the religious people” – me too.)

It seems that Pastor Rick Scarborough, the founder and leader of Vision America, in introducing Rep. Tom DeLay, former majority leader in the US House of Represenatives, told the audience that DeLay was in legal trouble because he stood up for Jesus. The inference being that DeLay’s legal troubles came about because he is a hardcore religious conservative – as if the charges aren’t really true. (See: Tom DeLay corruption investigation)

On “Hardball” Rev Al Sharpton called religious conservatives on the ridiculous notion:

But I would like Tony to tell me how what Tom DeLay is facing has anything to do with his religion or any religion at all. I mean, I think it’s an insult to Christians to act like because of his religion, he’s been charged with what he’s been charged with. It has nothing to do with his religion.

I think everyone said that at this meeting this weekend that was cited when we came on. He was introduced as a man that was being persecuted because he stood up for Jesus. Tell me how Jesus and being accused of embezzling funds is the same thing. What chapter did you get that out of the New Testament?

Is Christianity under attack? (Video is included on the site)

Sharpton was a breath of fresh air, pointing out the myth of Christian persecution. Perkins even had to concede the point:

Well, clearly, it’s not a war on Christianity like we talked about last week with Abdul Rahman and what he was under, but it’s a hostility nonetheless.

I mean, you ask any parent if America today, they’re concerned. Their kids cannot pray in school, graduations, football games, no prayer, even the pledge.

Finally Sharpton but the nail on the issue:

SHARPTON: I think that it is absolutely insulting to the intelligence of Christians. You’re not going to meet anyone that believes in Christ more than me, but I believe in converting people, not forcing people to following my religion. We are living in what we want to be a democracy, not a theocracy, and it is dangerous to try and move in that direction.

PERKINS: And that’s what we’re saying. Let us live as we want to live.

SHARPTON: Well then you don’t put your cross up on public emblems.

*Side Note*

I checked out the Vision America site as I wrote this entry and I could not find any video or transcripts from their conference. I assume they will have DVDs or audio tapes for sale – they have to raise money some how.

What I did find out proves the point that such a group is really just a front group for the right wing of the Republican party.

Their BIG issue is called “The ValuesVoters’ Contract with Congress: A Declaration of American Renewal” which is similar to the infamous “Contract for America” that Republicans signed when they won the majority in the US House back in 1994.

Being a religious group there are the usual religious conservative wish items like a ban on abortion, forcing religious expression in government, ban on gay marriage, and a ban on cloning.

The contract also calls for items that are more political than religious such as:

The Parental Consent Act to prohibit the use of federal funds for any universal or mandatory mental health screening (H.R. 181)

Legislation affirming that government may not redefine “public use” to take the private property of one person to give to another.

Legislation to fundamentally reform the national tax system and reduce the tax burden on Americans; and Legislation to make permanent Marriage Penalty Relief and the Child Tax Credit.

True Enforcement and Border Security; and Legislation to prohibit, in cases of constitutional interpretation, the use of foreign law as authority.

Values Voters’ Contract with Congress (short form)

As Rev Sharpton pointed out in the interview:

I think there’s a difference when you say that polls say religion is under attack and saying Christianity is under attack and then acting as if Christianity and the right-wing are synonymous. I think that the right wing has got Christianity under attack or Christianity that was the basis of the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-war movement.

Yes, Rev Al there is a difference.

Thanks toYG Myspace Blog for the heads up on an interesting “Hardball” episode I missed hearing about earlier. (see: Chris Matthews is a moron….)