In Justice Scalia’s world polytheists and atheists would be marginalized.

I’ve long suspected that at least one of the Supreme Court justices would retire during Bush’s term and I was really hoping it’d be Scalia instead of O’Connor mainly because if Scalia had his way America would definitely take a greater turn toward theocracy. Take this column by Robyn E. Blumner at the St. Petersberg Online website in which she reports on the dissenting opinion written by Scalia in a recent Ten Commandments case:

In McCreary County vs. ACLU of Kentucky, a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court ordered the removal of the Ten Commandments from courthouses in two Kentucky counties. Scalia, in an apoplectic dissent, made a case for a civil religion. He claimed the founders intended for government to endorse a belief in a single, personal God who is directly engaged in the affairs of men.

“With respect to public acknowledgment of religious belief,” Scalia wrote, “it is entirely clear from our nation’s historical practices that the Establishment Clause permits this disregard of polytheists and believers in unconcerned deities, just as it permits the disregard of devout atheists.”

Did you get that? As far as Scalia is concerned if you’re not a member of the Big Three monotheistic religions in America (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) then as fas as he’s concerned anything you have to say on the matter of religion can be ignored. Some folks wonder why it is that Atheists tend to get along with many believers of minority religions such as Neo-Pagans/Wiccans, Buddhists, Hindus and so on while seeming to end up in constant conflict with Christians and a lot of it has to do with the fact that, more often than not, Atheists find themselves on the same side of an issue as the minority religions. Scalia offered up some of the standard quotes from the Founding Fathers that many Christians like to use as “proof” they intended this to be a Christian nation which Blumner does a pretty good job of debunking.

Scalia is actually being quite generous here in granting Jews and Muslims the same status as Christians in the eyes of the U.S. Government and his rationale is that all three supposedly believe in the same God and the divinity of the Ten Commandments, but there’s a couple of problems with that argument…

“(W)e do not count heads before enforcing the First Amendment,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor scolded. She reminded Scalia of the oft-repeated principle that the very purpose of the Bill of Rights was to remove certain subjects “beyond the reach of majorities.”

Scalia seemed rhetorically unprepared when Justice John Paul Stevens informed him that the Decalogue comes in different forms depending on one’s faith. The Kentucky counties chose to display the King James version. But Jews and Catholics have their own. By choosing one form over another, Kentucky was violating the very denominational neutrality that Scalia claimed to support.

His answer to this inconsistency was to punt. “I doubt that most religious adherents are even aware that there are competing versions with doctrinal consequences (I certainly was not),” Scalia wrote. He then claimed that due to the context of the postings, no viewer could “conceivably” believe that the government was taking religious sides.

Oh, no? Then why didn’t the good people of Kentucky choose the Jewish version?

The answer is, of course, obvious: Because it wasn’t Jewish people who put up the TC where they didn’t belong. So I’m sad to see O’Connor stepping down as she was often a good check against the likes of Scalia, but fortunately it appears that Justice Stevens may be a bit of an ally in keeping the wall of separation strong. If Bush manages to get someone with similar Fundamentalist views as Scalia on the court then there could be some serious trouble coming, but let’s hope that doesn’t happen. Better yet, let’s hope Scalia decides to retire soon.

27 thoughts on “In Justice Scalia’s world polytheists and atheists would be marginalized.

  1. I read this the other day, and it makes me hopping fucking mad!  Even more enraging is that there are so many ignorant fucks that think Scalia’s RIGHT.  I cited this article in a 10C thread on another board – take a look at some of the responses (read from bottom to top, this particular board displays most recent posts first).

    As I said there, “This is a Supreme Court Justice – someone want to tell me again why I (and the other 7 million or so like me) shouldn’t be worried about the theocracy I’ve been watching the neo-cons build toward over the past quarter century?”

    If the Court gets repopulated with people of like mind with Scalia, we’re fucking DOOMED.

  2. Never mind what the founding fathers thought, Americans are free to choose what AMERICANS LIVING NOW think the nation should be and can become. Harking back to the original vision for the nation is useful to establish historical context, but if America is about anything, it is about being able to become anything you want to become.

    Trouble is, a small number of Americans think that they control the agenda, and to a certain extent they do, inasmuch as they control the media and the legislature. Keep remembering that trying to contain an agenda is like trying to contain a sandcastle on the beach. It works for a little while then it inevitably submits to the ‘sea’ of public opinion. They will fail.

    As an old European, I take a great interest in the 400 year old ‘American experiment’. It has entered dark times of late, but the spirit of America lives on in most of the people. They do not want a return to the feudal ‘bending-the-knee’ and ‘tugging-the-forelock’ semi-democracies that we have in old Europe. (I am not a citizen, officially I am a SUBJECT of her majesty – it says so in my passport).

    Make no mistake, the people who truly understand this, and want to avoid an oligarchy of crowned heads (i.e. Bush family), big business and religions running the show, bear an awesome responsibility to keep the experiment alive.

    Don’t give the old-worlders an inch – fight for all you are worth and spread the word.

  3. I’m not sure wishing for Scalia’s retirement is a great idea. That would just give bush another post to fill on the Supreme Court, and with O’Connor retiring and Rehnquist ill he’s already likely to have two openings before his term is up in 2006.

    As wretched as Scalia is, giving bush yet another opportunity to fuck up this country for the next 30 years doesn’t seem like a good thing to me. The one (very small) consolation I have is my hope that he’ll lean more toward pro-business nominees than toward religious nutballs.

    He’s already said that he won’t use abortion and gay marriage as “litmus tests” for his nominees; we may only have to deal with years of decisions that are bad for consumers, rather than bad for free thought and democracy. We’ll soon find out, I guess.

  4. From what I have been reading, ol’ Bushie is under some decent pressure from Fundie groups who think that they gave him the election.  They are attempting to make him choose someone who would overturn Roe vs Wade.  For some reason, Gonzales’s name has been floating around quite a bit. 

    President Bush on Wednesday assailed critics of potential Supreme Court nominee Alberto Gonzales, from the political right as well as the left. The Senate’s top Democrat said the attorney general was qualified but wouldn’t necessarily get “an easy way through” confirmation.

    Even before Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced her plans to retire, some conservatives had begun warning Bush about selecting Gonzales, the former White House counsel, objecting to his record on abortion and affirmative action.

    Liberals, meanwhile, have expressed reservations about Gonzales’ decisions on detainee treatment, death penalty cases and executive privilege.

      I agree with Adam as well, I would rather see pro-business candidates than religious hardliners.

  5. (BelfastBoy) Never mind what the founding fathers thought, Americans are free to choose what AMERICANS LIVING NOW think the nation should be and can become. Harking back to the original vision for the nation is useful to establish historical context, but if America is about anything, it is about being able to become anything you want to become.

    The problem is that Scalia and Thomas, the two justices held up by Bush as his models for appointment, claim to be “strict constructionists.” We know, of course, that this is not the case, but there you go. For Scalia to read something into the founding documents that simply doesn’t exist belies that claim. As a member of Opus Dei, Scalia’s protestation that he didn’t know there were doctrinal differences between varying versions of the ten commandments is disingenuous horseshit.

    (Warbi) From what I have been reading, ol’ Bushie is under some decent pressure from Fundie groups who think that they gave him the election.  They are attempting to make him choose someone who would overturn Roe vs Wade.

    He’s under a lot of pressure. The fundies think (with some justification) that their mobilization over the same-sex marriage issue is what tipped the election, and they want payback. Their demand that Bush name another reactionary like Scalia will trigger the “Nuclear” issue in the Senate all over again.

    I wonder sometimes if these people really understand the old adage that says “be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.”

  6. To the people who insist that this nation was founded for Christians, I point out that it was also founded for white men.  Do we then deny civil rights to females and minoroties?  On some people, this dosn’t work because the answer would be a resounding “YES!”.  Oh, Canada…

  7. With respect, Justice Scalia’s dissent contradicts the view that the 1st Amendment promotes a theocracy.  The Establishment Clause endorses a free exercise of religion (a freedom that is restricted in an absolute theocracy). 

    The court in McCreary went beyond the 1st Amendment by asking the government to adhere to religious neutrality.  Under this decision, government cannot appear to side with any religion.  As Justice Scalia’s dissent, as well as the majority opinion in such recent 1st Amendment cases as Van Orden v. Perry, point out, a nation that is based on Christian principles (a position not refuted by either Justice Souter or Robyn Blumner) should acknowledge its foundations.

    Banning the 10 commandments from public display is as much of a religious establishment as having them there in the first place.  Granting the assumption, for the sake of argument, that the decalogues inherent purpose is religious and its display is endorsement, is not hiding the exhibit or “un”endorsing the exhibit the opposite?  Couldn’t it be argued that an effort to stifle the 10 commandments we are promoting irreligion (a religion all its own)?

  8. The United States isn’t based on Christian principles. This fact is even enshrined in law via the Treaty of Tripoli.

    And, no, not displaying the Ten Commandments on government buildings is not the same as promoting “irreligion.” To do that you’d need a plaque that actually encouraged disbelief.

  9. (Cody Herche) Banning the 10 commandments from public display is as much of a religious establishment as having them there in the first place.  Granting the assumption, for the sake of argument, that the decalogues inherent purpose is religious and its display is endorsement, is not hiding the exhibit or “un”endorsing the exhibit the opposite?  Couldn’t it be argued that an effort to stifle the 10 commandments we are promoting irreligion (a religion all its own)?

    That’s preposterous sophistry. “Irreligion” is, by definition, not religion. It is impossible to promote a “religion” that does not, in fact, exist. Try this on for size:

    I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology. Thomas Jefferson

    or maybe this will work for you:

    …the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion. Treaty of Tripoli, 1797

    or maybe this will do it:

    The establishment of religion clause means at least this: Neither a state nor the federal government may set up a church. Neither can pass laws that aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing Tp.

    Now go to the chalkboard and write “The United States is not a christian nation, and atheism is not a religion” 100 times. Any contention to the contrary is dishonest and false.

  10. I actually wrote about this on the fourth.

    I’ll say it here again: Golly – I sure like being told by a fucking Supreme Court Justice that I can be legally “disregarded”.

    Where the fuck did my America go?

  11. America’s founding fathers were Christians? Funny, I was under the impression that most of them were Deists who professed disbelief in miracles, virgin births and the like. Silly me.

    “…our rulers can have no authority over such natural rights, only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. In neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”—Thomas Jefferson

  12. I’m absolutely astounded that Gonzales has even a chance to be a future Supreme Court justice. Torture memo Gonzales? Heck, why does this seem to create so little outcry?

  13. People keep saying they are sad to see O’Connor go, that her’s was the voice of reason.  Look at how any 5-4 judgements there are, and think how different it would be if she were another Scalia.

    But if she really gave a fuck, why is she stepping down at a time when Bush can appoint a successor, virtually guaranteeing that future decisions will swing the other direction?  She just handed them another way to continue adding to the long-term damage they’ve done to this country.

  14. Her husband has Alzheimer’s. I don’t like the timing either, but I cannot begrudge her wanting to spend what time he has left with him. Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease.

  15. Okay, this may get lengthy, but some slightly misleading points need to be cleared up. Les states that Scalia’s dissent stands for the proposition that:

    As far as Scalia is concerned if you’re not a member of the Big Three monotheistic religions in America (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) then as fas as he’s concerned anything you have to say on the matter of religion can be ignored.

    Not quite Les.  Let us review together Justice Scalia’s dissent.  Some background is necessary to do this.  Blithely tossing out quotes which have no contextual meaning and then dissecting them is hardly a good way to analyze any judicial opinion or engage in a discussion.

    Background:

    At issue is the interpretation of the Establishment Clause.  The Establishment Clause is contained in the First Amendment to the Constitution and provides:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…

    At issue in the Kentucky (where the Scalia quote comes from) and Texas case, were postings of the 10 commandments.  In one case they were on the wall of a courthouse, in the other they were on stone monument outside a Texas court. The Court split 5-4 deciding each case, and there were separate outcomes for each case (something I suggested would occcur when this topic was first broached some time ago here). The Court found the Kentucky display unconstitutional and the Texas display constitutional.

    The facts of the case, rather than an overriding legal principle are what determined each case.  Justice Scalia is taking issue with this.  I believe for good reason.  He writes:

    Today’s opinion forthrightly (or actually, somewhat less than forthrightly) admits that it does not rest upon consistently applied principle. In a revealing footnote, ante, at 11, n. 10, the Court acknowledges that the “Establishment Clause doctrine” it purports to be applying “lacks the comfort of categorical absolutes.” What the
    Court means by this lovely euphemism is that sometimes the Court chooses to decide cases on the principle that government cannot favor religion, and sometimes it does not. The footnote goes on to say that “in special instances we have found good reason” to dispense with the principle, but “[n]o such reasons present themselves here.”
    Ibid. It does not identify all of those “special instances,” much less identify the “good reason” for their existence.

    Scalia is right about this.  Justice Breyer, writing for the majority in the Texas case states:

    If the relation between government and religion is one of separation, but not of mutual hostility and suspicion, one will inevitably find difficult borderline cases.  And in such cases, I see no test-related substitute for the exercise of legal judgment.

    Legal judgment in the context of Breyer’s opinion means: The Justice’s opinion.  Scalia, and many of those who admire Justice Scalia feel as he does when he writes in response:

    What distinguishes the rule of law from the dictatorship of a shifting Supreme Court majority is the absolutely indispensable requirement that judicial opinions be grounded in consistently applied principle. That is what prevents judges from ruling now this way, now that thumbs up or thumbs down—as their personal preferences dictate.

    So, Scalia would like a legal principle which can actually be utilized as precedent rather than relying upon whatever a majority of the Supreme Court thinks is fairsies at the time the next case comes before it.  Sounds like a good idea to me.

    THE QUOTE:

    The quote comes from the end of a portion of Scalia’s dissent.  Here is fuller version of it, properly put into context:

    Besides appealing to the demonstrably false principle that the government cannot favor religion over irreligion, today’s opinion suggests that the posting of the Ten Commandments violates the principle that the government cannot favor one religion over another. See ante, at 19;
    see also Van Orden, ante, at 11–13 (STEVENS, J., dissenting). That is indeed a valid principle where public aid or assistance to religion is concerned, see Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 536 U. S. 639, 652 (2002), or where the free exercise of religion is at issue, Church of Lukumi Babalu
    Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah, 508 U. S. 520, 532–-5331993); id., at557 –558 (SCALIA, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment), but it necessarily applies in a more limited sense to public acknowledgment of the Creator. If religion
    in the public forum had to be entirely nondenominational, there could be no religion in the public forum at all. One cannot say the word “God,” or “the Almighty,” one cannot offer public supplication or thanksgiving, without contradicting the beliefs of some people that there are many gods, or that God or the gods pay no attention to human affairs. With respect to public acknowledgment of religious
    belief, it is entirely clear from our Nation’s historical practices that the Establishment Clause permits this disregard of polytheists and believers in unconcerned deities, just as it permits the disregard of devout atheists.
    The Thanksgiving Proclamation issued by George Washington at the instance of the First Congress was scrupulously nondenominational— but it was monotheistic. 3 In Marsh v. Chambers, supra, we said that the fact the particular prayers offered in the Nebraska Legislature were “in the Judeo-Christian tradition,” id., at 793, posed no
    additional problem, because “there is no indication that the prayer opportunity has been exploited to proselytize or advance any one, or to disparage any other, faith or belief, ” id., at 794–795.

    Historical practices thus demonstrate that there is a distance between the acknowledgment of a single Creator and the establishment of a religion. The former is, as Marsh v. Chambers put it, “a tolerable acknowledgment of beliefs widely held among the people of this country.” Id.,
    at 792. The three most popular religions in the United States, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam—which combined account for 97.7% of all believers—are monotheistic. See U. S. Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of Census, Statistical
    Abstract of the United States: 2004–2005, p. 55 (124th ed. 2004) (Table No. 67). All of them, moreover (Islam included), believe that the Ten Commandments were given by God to Moses, and are divine prescriptions for a virtuous life. See 13 Encyclopedia of Religion 9074 (2d ed.
    2005); The Qur’an 104 (M. Haleem trans. 2004). Publicly honoring the Ten Commandments is thus indistinguishable, insofar as discriminating against other religions is concerned, from publicly honoring God. Both practices are
    recognized across such a broad and diverse range of the population—from Christians to Muslims— that they cannot be reasonably understood as a government endorsement of a particular religious viewpoint.

    What Scalia is correctly pointing out with the quote, and this is clear if you read the ENTIRE DISSENT, is the following:

    1) There is a history of the acknowledgment of God by the Founding Founders;

    2) God is singular and in capitalized, which indicates an interpretation that a belief in a monotheistic God was widely held by the Founding Fathers;

    3) The Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution;

    4) The Founding Fathers by their very actions found nothing unconstitutional about acknowledging God;

    5) American jurisprudence should follow the intent of the Founding Fathers.

    2) This acknowledgment was and is widespread

  16. A good rule of thumb for any law is this: would you still support it if the roles were reversed?  In the TC case, suppose someone wants to put up a few pages of the Quran?  The Talmud?  Bhagavad-Gita?  Satanism is a monotheistic religion, do we exclude them?  Where do we draw the line?

    Consigliere:

    Why is it that

      5) American jurisprudence should follow the intent of the Founding Fathers

    is used so often in support of causes that directly oppose the actual words of the founding fathers?  If people agree with a particular part of the Constitution they stick to strict interpretation, but if they disagree with something they start talking about what the FF *meant* to say instead of what they actually said.

    As for beliefs that were widely held by the founding fathers, these include all manner of things that sound very silly these days.  It’s almost as bad as basing your actions on the beliefs of a bunch of Mediterranean goatherders from a couple thousand years back.

    And Cody:

    >Under this decision, government cannot appear to side with any religion.

    Gee, it sounds like you are paraphrasing the Establishment Clause.

    >a nation that is based on Christian principles should acknowledge its foundations

    And now it sounds like you firmly wedged your head up your ass.  Since when is this a Christian country?  The FF’s used the word ‘God’ a lot, but most references to ‘Christ’ were of the sort that end up as quotes of the day here on SEB.  This isn’t a Christian country and never has been, despite the revisionist efforts of Scalia et al to make it so.

    >Banning the 10 commandments from public display is as much of a religious establishment as having them there in the first place

    Nonsense.  Putting them up is advertising for a specific religion.  Taking them down stops that advertising from taking place.  More people have more freedom (i.e. the ‘Greater Good’) with them down.

    >Couldn’t it be argued that an effort to stifle the 10 commandments we are promoting irreligion (a religion all its own)?

    Not by thinking people.

  17. Couldn’t it be argued that an effort to stifle the 10 commandments we are promoting irreligion (a religion all its own)?

    Hehehe…  In Cody’s world black is white, up is down, democrats are republicans, cats are dogs, and the absence of religion is actually a religion.

    Hey Cody, is the absence of water actually a liquid all it’s own?

    Christ on a pogo stick. It’s statements of utter lunacy like that that make me want to go out and violate some idiot’s civil rights. rolleyes

  18. Consi sayeth:

    3) The Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution

    How many times does a reference to a supreme being/beings appear in the Constitution?

  19. brap:

    it’s almost as bad as basing your actions on the beliefs of a bunch of Mediterranean goatherders from a couple thousand years back.

    Oh really?  Three branches of government, with separate checks and balances is akin to the belief of goatherders?  I would say that you were overreaching by making that statement, but I fear I would be vastly underreaching.

    As to your rule of thumb, I would agree.  When looking at history, I think it is fairly clear that American jurisprudence and legislation has been influenced by the Koran and Satanism not at all.  So we can safely conclude that given their lack of historical contribution in influencing American Law their would be no safe harbor secular reason for posting them, as posited by the Supreme Court. 

    uber:

    How many times does a reference to a supreme being/beings appear in the Constitution?

    It appears not at all.  However, if you read the Clause itself, how those who wrote the Clause practiced the application of the Clause within the scope of their duties, and the caselaw, Scalia’s point is well taken.

  20. Consigliere, your (and Scalia’s reasoning is horseshit.

    first off, the word “god” does not appear at all in the Constitution—not once.

    Second of all, the writings of both Jefferson, Madison and other “founding fathers” clearly indicate that they broached no favoritism of, or discrimination against, ANY religion or in fact irreligion.  The issues of religion were, in the eyes of the “founding fathers” was to be kept wholly separate from the business of government.

    That we even have a “chaplain” for the Congress and that Congress is opened with a prayer was decided based upon a political compromise by Madison.  google Madison and his “detached Memoranda” and his “Memorial and Remonsterance” and read them.

    religious demonstrations, icons and prayer should be totally banned from every crevice of government at every level in which it promotes the favoritism of one religion over another or over those that chose to believe in no gods.  there are ample opportunities to worship as one sees fit in the private sector or the privacy of their homes.

    So, to some up for both Consigliere and Scalia both—your bullshit doesn’t flush on either a historical level or a reasoning level.

  21. Consi sayeth:

    how those who wrote the Clause practiced the application of the Clause within the scope of their duties

    Is there ANY application of the clause (by the clause writers in the scope of their duties) that automatically and formally dismisses polytheism and atheism as invalid and determines that this country, while having a Christian heritage (as well as a heritage bases on many other religious/nonreligious concepts), is supposed to be solely monotheistic and/or Christian?

  22. Consigliere:

    Maybe you haven’t been paying attention, but ‘Three branches of government, with separate checks and balances’ is a fairy tale that has little in common with our current political setup.  When Congress voted (quite unConstitutionally) to surrender their war-making powers to the President, they put a pretty significant nail in the coffin.

    And even if that were not the case, the boundaries get blurred if each of the three branches of government has been preloaded with right wingers who feel that the words of those ancient goatherders are more applicable to modern life than is either common sense or the Constitution.

  23. Uber:

    The question you ask, gets at a point that the majority opinion in the KY case makes.  How does one know that the Framers were referencing a monotheistic god and not gods.  Scalia answers this in a footnote in the opinion.  He writes in footnote 3:

    3 The Court thinks it “surpris[ing]” and “truly remarkable” to believe that “the deity the Framers had in mind” (presumably in all the instances of invocation of the deity I have cited) “was the God of monotheism. ” Ante, at 32. This reaction would be more comprehensible if the
    Court could suggest what other God (in the singular, and with a capital G) there is, other than “the God of monotheism.” This is not necessarily the Christian God (though if it were, one would expect Christ regularly to be invoked, which He is not); but it is inescapably the God of
    monotheism.

    I am compelled to agree. 

    Furthermore, Washington, Marshall, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, et. al. all made reference to God, singular and with a capital G.  Now it is also clear that making this reference publicly, AND within the scope of their official duties, the early founders surely knew that:

    One cannot say the word “God,” or “the Almighty,” one cannot offer public supplication or thanksgiving, without contradicting the beliefs of some people that there are many gods, or that God or the gods pay no attention to human affairs.

    YET THEY DID.  In doing so, it is clear that when they authored the Establishment Clause they had something different in mind then this hysteria of “You can’t mention God in the public square.”

    That wasn’t the case when this country was founded, and there is no good reason that should be the case now.

    brap:

    Maybe you haven’t been paying attention, but ‘Three branches of government, with separate checks and balances’ is a fairy tale that has little in common with our current political setup.

    It has been my experience that there is little to be gained via public discourse with individuals that such statements.

  24. A small word from north of the border!!

    Unfortunately for all you religious fanatics, America was not founded as a Christian State.
    From My book God-101;

    Many of the American founding fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, Thomas Paine, James Madison and Ethan Allen were well known Deists. (Diesm – a belief in God without accepting any particular religion!)
    This resulted in much of the language and philosophy that is in the “United States Declaration of Independence.

  25. (Deism – a belief in God without accepting any particular religion!)

    Not quite. A Deist is someone who believes a god created the universe in one fell swoop and then left it alone (No influence over the natural world beyond its creation, and no Divine revelation of any kind).

    Atheism was difficult to accept before evolutionary theory and similar discoveries gave an explanation for how the world could have come about without intelligent guidance. Deism was the only reasonable refuge for those who didn’t believe in a “God” who exerted control over his creation.

    I’m pretty sure Jefferson and Franklin would have been full-blown atheists if they had been born a little bit later. But that’s just speculation on my part.

  26. Consigliere:

    >it is clear that when they authored the Establishment Clause they had something different in mind then this hysteria of “You can’t mention God in the public square.”

    But it’s not at all clear that they thought it was okay for a specific religion to use taxpayer assets to advertise their belief system in the public square.

    I’ve never seen anyone argue your point of view in an all-inclusive way, i.e. believing in the other guy’s right to do the same.  As a result I am left with the belief that those people don’t actually want freedom of speech, they just use it as an excuse to push their agenda.  I’d be much more sympathetic if they were open to other viewpoints, but since they are not I myself need to reject their viewpoint.

    Putting up the TC is the lowest act.  Letting everyone put up their beliefs is a little better, but it gets crowded pretty quick and you’d find that most people don’t want to hear what the other guy believes anyway.  So the next step up is telling everyone they can believe what they want, but nobody gets to put signs on the lawn.  Maximum freedom for whole with minimal restrictions on personal freedoms.

    Unless of course your whole deal is purposefully trying to force the other guy to accede to your worldview.  Most people don’t want to admit that’s what they’re doing, so they dress it up in ‘free speech’ terms.  Makes them feel better about themselves.

    I think religion and sex have some legal commonalities: what you do in the privacy of your own home is your own business as long as you aren’t hurting someone else.  Bring it out into the public square, and it’s a whole different story.  Societies exist to balance personal freedom to act against the public’s freedom from being acted upon.  Allowing a single exception to this rule just to accomodate the belief system of one specific group is counter to the greater good.

  27. brap wrote:

    But it’s not at all clear that they thought it was okay for a specific religion to use taxpayer assets to advertise their belief system in the public square.

    It’s actually pretty clear that it wasn’t okay:

    …the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical… —Thomas Jefferson, VA Statue for Religious Freedom (1786)

    Jefferson wrote it, James Madison brought about its passage, and the state of Virginia’s constitution still contains it.

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