It’s beginning to look a lot like a Satanic Christmas in Michigan.

Here’s a prime example of the old maxim “be careful what you wish for” from my home state.

whycelebratechristmasFor reasons I’ve never been able to understand, Christians are always trying to get their religious displays on Government property around this time of year. They claim it’s not because they’re trying to foist their religion on everyone else or to imply that the Government favors their particular religion and everyone knows they’re lying and that’s totally what they want.

They have a problem, however, with that damned pesky Constitution amendment saying that the government is supposed to be neutral about religion resulting in various court rulings over the years that have basically said: Sure, you can put your nativity scene on the lawn of your state capitol/courthouse/city hall/other random government building so long as you allow other religions to offer up displays if they want to. To their great luck for many, many years the only other group that would ask were the Jews so they could slap up a menorah and pretend they were complying with the law. Hell, half the time they’d slap one up even if the Jews didn’t ask because they thought it was fooling everyone into thinking they were being all diverse and shit.

Recently, however, there’s been an increasing tendency for people with other, yucky, religions — or, GASP, no religion at all — of asking to put up their own displays alongside the Christian ones. Needless to say this has caused all manner of hand wringing with some state and local governments deciding they should probably get out of the whole religious display business and banning them from government property (as they should). This came to a head this year as The Satanic Temple has been particularly active in getting permission for displays in Oklahoma (since put on hold due to the destruction of the Christian Ten Commandments display it was meant to offset) and in Florida’s Capitol holiday display.

Here in Michigan we’ve been stuck under a Republican led state congress (both houses) and governorship for several years now thanks to the gerrymandering they managed to get in place during the last census. They like to think they’re pretty smart for having pulled that off so they put their thinking caps on and tried to come up with a way to allow a nativity scene in our capitol while keeping those other, yucky, religions out. What they came up with was a new requirement of no permanent displays. More specifically, any display you put up in the Michigan State Capitol has to be torn down at the end of the day and then put back up the next morning. Surely a rule this tedious would keep out all but the most devout Christians, right?

Satanic holiday display is coming to Capitol

The display, which depicts a snake wrapped around the Satanic cross presenting a book as a holiday gift, will be featured on the northeast lawn at the Capitol Dec. 21 to 23, said Jex Blackmore, a member of the Detroit chapter of the Satanic Temple. The cross reads, “The greatest gift is knowledge.”

“Encouraging families to have important discussions and to learn from each other and to spend the holidays promoting knowledge … is just something we think is important,” Blackmore, whose phone number begins with the digits 666, said today.

[…] Blackmore said her group requested the display after the Capitol Commission last month received a request for a Christian Nativity to be displayed at the Capitol. With lame-duck lawmakers debating a controversial religious freedom bill, Blackmore said the Satanist display “provides some poignant commentary about the diversity of beliefs represented by Michigan citizens.”

Oops. The folks at the Detroit chapter of The Satanic Temple have someone who is more than willing to comply by the rule of putting it up in the morning and taking it down at night and repeating the process the next day.

Here's what it will look like.

Here’s what it will look like. What a horrible message to convey! They want you to be smart!

That’s not the best part of this story, though. This is:

The Nativity, meanwhile, has been scrapped. Truscott said today the Nativity was approved but the out-of-state person backing it couldn’t find someone to put up and tear down the display each day. That’s necessary because Capitol rules forbid permanent displays.

Truscott said the person behind the Nativity, who hasn’t been named, is still trying to find someone to manage the display.

Cue the outrage from the government flunky who had to approve it:

John Truscott, a member of the Michigan State Capitol Commission, which approved the display, said the commission had to OK it because members were “constrained by the Constitution” and must “recognize everybody’s First Amendment rights.”

But Truscott added, “Personally, I think this is absolutely repulsive and I’m very frustrated by it. I don’t appreciate a group trying to hijack a Christian holiday.”

Fuck you, John Truscott. I don’t appreciate Christians trying to hijack my government to promote themselves. Don’t want a Satanic holiday display at the capitol? Then don’t allow any religious displays at the fucking capitol. It’s really very simple. If you allow one then you have to allow them all and if your prefered group is too fucking lazy to follow the rules you put in place to try and prevent others from participating, well, that’s their fucking problem. Besides, it’s not like the Christians didn’t hijack this holiday from the Pagans to begin with.

Here’s the cherry on top of this cake. Hemant Mehta over at The Friendly Atheist reached out to The Satanic Temple spokesperson about this news story and got the following awesome comment from them:

When Jex first reached out to the Capitol Commission to learn how she could submit our display, she refrained from mentioning that she is a representative of the dreaded Satanic Temple.

Jex was told at that time that the new requirement for holiday displays (that they be taken down each evening and replaced again in the morning) was a result of trying to deter “that group from Florida” — clearly a reference to The Satanic Temple — winning the right to exhibit our holiday display in the Florida Capitol Rotunda.

That’s right. The rule that makes this delicious bit of schadenfreude possible was specifically meant to keep The Satanic Temple out of the Michigan capitol. It’s a mistake to assume your followers are less lazy than any other religion’s followers.

I’m guessing that as this story goes viral the out-of-state asshole who wants to put a nativity at the state capitol will find someone willing to put it up and take it down every day if for no other reason than to ensure the Satanic display isn’t the only one there. Christians get mad when they have to share with other religions as it is. They sure as hell aren’t going to sit by and let some other group, especially Satanists, have the spotlight to themselves. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the rules change again next year.

On prayer in school.

prayerinschool

If you really think we need school-led prayer, then consider the fact that to be legal it would require your kids to participate in prayers by any religion that wishes to be included. Imagine your kids reciting a Islamic or a Hindu prayer. How about a Wiccan spell, which is like prayer in many ways. Shinto prayers can be interesting and, if pressed, I’m sure even us Atheists could come up with something in the way of a Secular Invocation. Would you have a problem with your kids being required to participate in any of those things? If so then shut the fuck up about schools not being allowed to lead kids in your Christian prayers.

A young atheist looks for input on a proselytizing teacher.

ifyouarentevangelizingyouarentsuccessful1I received this email the other day and thought I’d share it with you. I’ve already sent off my reply, but I offered to post an anonymized version of it if he wanted to hear what others might have to say. He agreed so here it is:

 Hi Les, if you’re reading this, I’d like to say thank you for taking the time to do so. I’m sure you get hundreds of emails every day from fans and freaks alike, so I wouldn’t blame you if you happened to not read some of them.

Anyway, my purpose in writing to you is to share with you a ridiculous religious speech that I was forced to endure in my high school history class. The way my teacher runs the class, there isn’t much actual teaching done on her part (she doesn’t even know most of the material herself) but last week she decided to share some of her “knowledge” with us.

I’m not sure how it actually started, but she got my immediate attention when she said that “Numerous people throughout history have tried to prove the contents of the bible wrong, but always ended up failing or proving it correct and then becoming Christians”. She then continued to say that the bible was a largely important and accurate historical reference and that basically it’s infallible. She said that the reason that the bible has been censored and edited by rulers throughout history was because they were making it closer to the “original” which according to her, was written by the apostles not long after the death of Jesus. Which is obviously completely false. She also stated that there are many examples of contemporary people writing about Jesus when he was alive and that it was “clearly” documented by Pontius Pilate himself. Another false statement.

This entire thing just really got on my nerves, not only because she is supposed to be a teacher (and therefore separating church from state) but because the bullshit that she was telling us was actually believed by my ignorant classmates. I was just wondering what your take on this was.

I don’t know many atheists at my school, I live in the bible belt – so I decided to come talk to you about it because after reading your blog, I’ve realized that our views on most subjects are basically identical and I think you’re a cool guy.

So, what’s your guy’s take on this? What, if anything, do you think our young friend should do about the situation?

[SEB Guest Post] Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing.

Pic of Church and State street signs.OK. My Mother sent me another one of these infuriating chain mails. Here it is (minus the touching pictures) and below it is a rebuttal I would like her to read, although I’m not sure I’ll send it.

Subject: Re: Honored to do this

The first picture and the last picture are taken at the beach in Santa Barbara right next to the pier.  There is a veterans group that started putting a cross and candle for every death in Iraq and Afghanistan .  The amazing thing is that they only do it on the weekends.  They put up this graveyard and take it down every weekend.  Guys sleep in the sand next to it and keep watch over it at night so nobody messes with it.  Every cross has the name, rank and D.O.B. and D.O.D.  on it. Very moving,  very powerful??? so many young volunteers.  So many 30 to 40 year olds as well.   Amazing !

Did you know that the ACLU has filed a suit to have all military cross-shaped headstones removed? and another suit to end prayer from the military completely. They’re making great progress. The Navy Chaplains can no longer mention Jesus’ name in prayer thanks to the ACLU and our new administration.

I’m not breaking this one. If I get it a 1000 times, I’ll forward it a 1000 times!

Please, let us pray…

Prayer chain for our Military … Don’t break it!

Please send this on after a short prayer. Prayer for our soldiers Don’t break it!

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, hold our troops in Your loving hands Protect them as they protect us Bless them and their families for the selfless acts they perform for us in this our time of need.

These things I humbly ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior,

Amen.’

Prayer Request: When you receive this, please stop for a moment and say a prayer for our troops around the world.

There is nothing attached. Just send this to people in your address book. Do not let it stop with you. Of all the gifts you could give a Marine, Soldier, Sailor, Airman, & others deployed in harm’s way, prayer is the very best one.

GOD BLESS YOU FOR PASSING IT ON!

Mom, the ACLU has done and still does great things for this country. Please read the following in its entirety.

Taken from http://aclu.org/faqs— > “The ACLU has never pursued the removal of religious symbols from personal gravestones. In fact, following lawsuits filed by the ACLU and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Department of Veterans Affairs agreed to allow family members to include a religious symbols on headstones.

The ACLU has long argued that veterans and their families should be free to choose religious symbols on military headstones — whether Crosses, Stars of David, Pentacles, or other symbols — and that the government should not be permitted to restrict such religious expression in federal cemeteries.

Personal gravestones are the choice of the family members, not the choice of the government. The ACLU vigorously defends peoples’ freedom to choose the religious symbols of their choice. The right of each and every American to practice his or her own religion, or no religion at all, is among the most fundamental of the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

The Constitution’s framers understood very well that religious liberty can flourish only if the government leaves religion alone. The free exercise clause of the First Amendment guarantees the right to practice one’s religion free of government interference. The ACLU will continue working to ensure that religious liberty is protected by keeping the government out of the religion business. You can read more about the ACLU’s position on religious liberty at www.aclu.org/religion.”

Also I could find no such suit to end prayer in the military. That is another Lie. And really sounds ridiculous to me how that could even be possible.

So, this BS you were tricked into forwarding is nothing more than propaganda. Jesus freaks, enemies of liberty, twisting the truth because they are afraid of non-Christians (such as myself) actually practicing the FIRST AMENDMENT. What you are supporting (by forwarding the nonsense above) is an anti-American sentiment that doesn’t allow a soldiers personal spiritual beliefs be represented on his own headstone.

Many soldiers are not Christian, some are Jewish, Muslim, etc. and would never wish to lay under a cross but even though they died to protect the first amendment, the first amendment has not been observed to respect and honor those fallen.

So Mother, do me favor, if you REALLY want what’s best for this country you will forward this to all your friends and help end a little of the ignorance that plagues and threatens to destroy this country. If everyone started researching all the people and issues they feel strongly about, they might learn they were lied to & this country might have a chance. (And Palin would not be so well liked!)

In fact anyone who does not forward this has no regard for the truth nor respect for what our soldiers die for every day, FREEDOM.

I LOVE YOU

Your Son,

D.

SEB Mailbag: Chain Mail from Ben Stein. Kind of.

I’ve mentioned before that most of my extended family is religious to some degree or another so it’s not uncommon for me to receive chain mails with variations on the taking-the-Bible-out-of-school-is-the-cause-of-all-our-societal-problems theme. I got one such chain mail today and while I can usually just ignore them with only minor irritation, today’s missive bugged me enough that I hit the Reply All button and dashed off a reply that could very well put me in the doghouse with some folks for a while.

It was a lengthy enough reply, and of sufficient quality, that I thought I’d share it here with you folks. I won’t mention which side of the family it came from nor whom sent it as that’s not important. My goal wasn’t to shame anyone or make them feel stupid, but to point out the inaccuracies and deceptions the chain mail contained. It purports to have been written by Ben Stein, but as you will see in the reply that’s only half-true.

First, the original email:

The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary.

My confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish.  And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees…  I don’t feel threatened..  I don’t feel discriminated against.. That’s what they are, Christmas trees.

It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, ‘Merry Christmas’ to me.  I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto.  In fact, I kind of like it.  It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu ..  If people want a creche, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians.  I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period.  I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country.  I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren’t allowed to worship God as we understand Him?  I guess that’s a sign that I’m getting old, too.  But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different:  This is not intended to be a joke; it’s not funny, it’s intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham’s daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her ‘How could God let something like this happen?’ (regarding Hurricane Katrina)..  Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response..  She said, ‘I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives.  And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out.  How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?’

In light of recent events… terrorists attack, school shootings, etc..  I think it started when Madeleine Murray O’Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn’t want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.  Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school.  The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself.  And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock’s son committed suicide).  We said an expert should know what he’s talking about..  And we said okay..

Now we’re asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out.  I think it has a great deal to do with ‘WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.’

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to hell.  Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says.  Funny how you can send ‘jokes’ through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing.  Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing yet?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you’re not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit.

If not, then just discard it… no one will know you did.  But, if you discard this thought process, don’t sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

My Best Regards,  Honestly and respectfully,

Ben Stein

I will reproduce my reply after the break.

Continue reading

Porky Pig recites the Pledge of Allegiance minus “under God.”

There’s something missing in this recital of the Pledge of Allegiance by Porky Pig:

Now that’s a pledge I can support and one I think we should go back to. Or, even better, I think we should use the version Francis Bellamy wanted which included the word Equality alongside Liberty and Justice.

As it stands now, I won’t recite the Pledge of Allegiance because it doesn’t include me.

Found over at Friendly Atheist who notes that yesterday was the 56th anniversary of the addition of the words “under God” to the Pledge.

Pennsylvania town bans holiday displays after atheists ask to participate.

Talk about taking your ball and going home. Rather than allow an atheist group to erect a secular statement honoring atheist soldiers next to a Nativity scene that they had allowed for years, the Chambersburg borough council decided to ban all town-square displays:

Earlier this month, PAN Capital Area director Carl Silverman of Camp Hill wrote the borough a letter stating its intention to erect the sign. While the group believed it did not need the borough’s permission because the creche required none, it was submitting a proposed design in “the spirit of cooperation,” the letter said.

“We didn’t want to take Jesus out of the public square,” Silverman said. “We want to put atheism in the public square.”

Bill McLaughlin, president of Chambersburg’s borough council, said that after discussion with the borough’s solicitor, two practical options emerged — it could either allow everything or allow nothing to be displayed on the fountain. Council chose to allow nothing, he said.

At least they’re smart enough to know that it’s an all-or-nothing situation, unlike many small towns that think they can be selective in who they allow to put up displays on public land, and they’re not hiding their biases and prejudices in any way either:

McLaughlin said he took PAN’s letter as “a demand, with an implied threat of legal action.”

“The down side of ‘everything’ is it means everything,” McLaughlin said. “It would mean this group, and groups that are much more odious.” That was something, he said, council could not live with.

A letter submitted in “the spirit of cooperation” is considered an implied threat? That’s a new one. Still it’s refreshing to see that he doesn’t consider the atheists to be the worst of the possibilities.

So just what was on the atheist’s sign that was so terrible that the council could not live with it? Actually, not all that much:

The sign, which he said has not yet been made, would have had a picture of a sun rising over the words “Celebrating Solstice. Honoring Atheist War Veterans.” The sun would have had an italicized “A” in the middle.

Wow, that’s just horrible!

The response from the True Believers™ has, of course, been nothing but positive and supportive as they always are. Yeah, right:

Robert wrote:
May “GOD” send you and your organization straight to “HELL”!!! I’am a true believer and when an parasitic organism like yours starts ruin the wonderful Christmas holiday season for everyone. May you all drop DEAD MAGGOTS!!!

William wrote:
You people are fucking nuts. You want to advertise NOTHING. Do we really need signs that say believe nothing. Funny how I am a Jew and yet a nativity scene has NEVER affected my life. Guess what? It never will because I am not a fucking loser like you. I hope one day you happen to walk on my posted property.

mike wrote:
Thanks for screwing up our town, Chambersburg. I was in war and I know for a fact that there are no Atheists in war. If you dispute that then feel free to go to war and find out for your self, I know a great front line position just waiting on people like you. I am looking forward to seeing you in hell while we sit in heaven looking down on you Atheists

No one seems to realize that the folks at PAN didn’t win anything at all. They weren’t out to have the creche removed. They just wanted to be able to participate in the display, which they have every right to do. It was the council that decided to ban all displays if they couldn’t legally restrict it to just the one they wanted. It’s an all or nothing situation. You either allow everyone to participate or you don’t allow anyone to do so.

At least the True Believers™ have an option open to them:

A solution may be on the horizon. Central Presbyterian Church, on the square across from the fountain, is considering construction of a perch on its property where the Nativity scene could be displayed.

Which is where the damned thing should have been in the first fucking place. Why these Christians feels they should have a right to be the sole display on public property is beyond me. Well, it’s not really beyond me, they think that because they are the majority that gives them the right. As exemplified by this comment:

Lisa Blackstock of Mercersburg is spearheading a demonstration at noon Saturday in Chambersburg’s downtown. She believes the majority of people in the community want the creche to remain. “This is Christ-mas. It’s a no-brainer if you ask me,” Blackstock said. “There’s no way people in Chambersburg should let (PA Nonbelievers) win.”

In other words: We’re the majority and, ignoring how it came about, it’s our holiday so we demand special favor from the government.

Because that’s what Christmas is all about. Lording your superiority over all the lesser world views.

ADF recruiting Fundies to challenge IRS ban on churches endorsing politicians.

The Fundies are getting worried that they’re losing the Culture War it seems. The Alliance Defense Fund is looking for pastors to challenge the IRS rules against churches endorsing political candidates:

CHICAGO—Declaring that clergy have a constitutional right to endorse political candidates from their pulpits, the socially conservative Alliance Defense Fund is recruiting several dozen pastors to do just that on Sept. 28, in defiance of Internal Revenue Service rules.

The effort by the Arizona-based legal consortium is designed to trigger an IRS investigation that ADF lawyers would then challenge in federal court. The ultimate goal is to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out a 54-year-old ban on political endorsements by tax-exempt houses of worship.

“For so long, there has been this cloud of intimidation over the church,” ADF attorney Erik Stanley said. “It is the job of the pastors of America to debate the proper role of church in society. It’s not for the government to mandate the role of church in society.”

[…] The battle over the clergy’s privileges, rights and responsibilities in the political world is not new. Politicians of all stripes court the support—explicit or otherwise—of religious leaders. Allegations surface every political season of a preacher crossing the line.

What is different is the Alliance Defense Fund’s direct challenge to the rules that govern tax-exempt organizations. Rather than wait for the IRS to investigate an alleged violation, the organization intends to create dozens of violations and take the U.S. government to court on First Amendment grounds.

“We’re looking for churches that are serious-minded about this, churches that understand both the risks and the benefits,” Stanley said, referring to the chance that they could lose their coveted tax-exempt status or could set a precedent.

Fortunately this challenge isn’t going.. uh… unchallenged:

Yet an opposing collection of Christian and Jewish clergy will petition the IRS today to stop the protest before it starts, calling the ADF’s “Pulpit Initiative” an assault on the rule of law and the separation of church and state.

Backed by three former top IRS officials, the group also wants the IRS to determine whether the nonprofit ADF is risking its own tax-exempt status by organizing an “inappropriate, unethical and illegal” series of political endorsements.

“As religious leaders, we have grave concerns about the ethical implications of soliciting and organizing churches to violate core principles of our society,” the clergy wrote in an advance copy of their claim obtained by The Washington Post.

[…] Former IRS lawyer Marcus S. Owens, however, opposes the ADF’s strategy and its legal reasoning. Working with the Ohio-based clergy, he contends that the Supreme Court would be unlikely to overturn appellate court rulings on the issue or a related precedent of its own.

Owens also criticizes ADF and its lawyers for “actively advising churches and pastors that they should violate the tax law and offering to explain how to do that. The tax system would be shut down if you allowed attorneys to counsel people on how to violate the tax law.”

Owens, a former director of the IRS office that regulates tax-exempt organizations, will ask the tax agency to investigate ADF lawyers for “this flagrant disregard of the ethical rules.” He is joined by former IRS commissioner Mortimer M. Caplin and Cono R. Namorato, who headed the office of professional responsibility at the IRS until 2006.

The two Ohio pastors, the Rev. Eric Williams and the Rev. Robert F. Molsberry, have called for hundreds of clergy to preach on Sept. 21 about the value of the separation of church and state.

Even given the Conservative bent of the current Supreme Court I’d still be very surprised if they overturned the IRS rules considering the rather large number of court challenges that have failed as well as a precedent setting SCOTUS case in the past. That said perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad thing to have them challenge it as they risk their tax-free status in doing so. Personally I think Churches should be stripped of their tax-free status and then they can endorse politicians all they want. Make the tax scale progressive so the biggest churches pay more taxes than the smaller churches and things would be just dandy.

Lawsuit already filed over “I Believe” license plates.

One of the stories making the rounds of various atheist blogs recently was about attempts in some southern states to pass legislation for new vanity plates for True Believers™. The plates would have the words “I BELIEVE” with a picture of a cross on a stained glass window. Needless to say, the imagery raises some church/state concerns. South Carolina is the first state to actually pass the legislation to make these plates possible and it’s already resulted in a lawsuit by the folks at Americans United:

COLUMBIA, South Carolina — A group that advocates separation of church and state filed a federal lawsuit Thursday to prevent South Carolina from becoming the first state to create “I Believe” license plates.

The group contends that South Carolina’s government is endorsing Christianity by allowing the plates, which would include a cross superimposed on a stained glass window.

You just know the conservative Christians are going to have a field day over this lawsuit claiming it’s us nasty atheists trying to push God out of the public square once again, but as it turns out there’s no atheists involved in the lawsuit:

Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed the lawsuit on behalf of two Christian pastors, a humanist pastor and a rabbi in South Carolina, along with the Hindu American Foundation.

Not that that’ll stop them from claiming it’s anti-religious sentiment that’s prompting the lawsuit:

Republican House Speaker Bobby Harrell said residents asked for a way to express their beliefs, and legislators responded.

He disputed Lynn’s accusation that they were pandering to constituents in an election year.

“That’s what critics always say when they see something they don’t like,” Harrell said. “I think this has less to do with the First Amendment and more to do with their disdain for religion generally.”

An argument that’s obviously flawed due to the fact that religious leaders are the ones involved in the suit:

But a Methodist pastor who joined the lawsuit, the retired Rev. Thomas Summers of Columbia, said the plate provokes discrimination.

“I think this license plate really is divisive and creates the type of religious discord I’ve devoted my life to healing,” he said.

Another of the ministers, the Rev. Robert Knight of Charleston, said the plates cheapen the Christian message.

“As an evangelical Christian, I don’t think civil religion enhances the Christian religion. It compromises it,” Knight said. “That’s the fundamental irony. It’s very shallow from a Christian standpoint.”

Get ready to cue the gnashing of teeth and whines about us atheists at Wing Nut Daily in 5… 4… 3…

 

Don’t Ask Bobby Jindal Anything “Sciency”

[Crossposted from Smugbaldy.com]

Here’s some more for our Republican War on Science file.  Or should that be – Idiocy in high places file?  Either way, LA Govenor Bobby Jindal demonstrated yesterday that he has no grasp whatsoever of the issues surrounding the establishment of religious dogma under the heading of “Intelligent Design” in our science classes.

Here are some areas where Governor Jindal demonstrates his willful ignorance of the underlying issues:

When asked if he had doubts about the Theory of Evolution, Jindal replied:

I don’t think this is something that the Federal or State government should be imposing its view on local school districts.  As a conservative I think that government that’s closest to the people governs best. I think local school districts should be in the position for deciding the curricula and deciding what students should be learning.

In this case that’s absolutely, positively wrong, Mr. Governor, and you should know it.  You should be aware that Federal interests trumps State and Local interests whenever constitutional rights of American Citizens are infringed.  In the case of Intelligent Design (or ID), federal courts have found that ID is nothing more than Christian Creationism with some scientific-sounding jargon.  The teaching of this isn’t just bad science (or non-science) it also violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.  As such – any local school board that attempts to sneak ID into public schools is actually indoctrinating students into a “state-preferred” religion, and the Federal government has an expressed interest in keeping that from occurring.  That is, unless you all want to have your kids recite the Branch Dividian creed in Bology class.  Thought not.

Jindal goes on to say:

I don’t think students learn from us withholding information from them.  Some want only to teach intelligent design, some want only to teach Evolution. I think both views are wrong … As a parent when my kids go to public schools, I want them to be presented with the best thinking.  I want them to make decisions for themselves. I want them to see the best data.

That’s not entirely true now, is it?  The best data in human sexuality clearly demonstrates that abstinence education doesn’t work, but conservative parents like Jindal want their kids exposed to it rather than comprehensive sex-education that could save their lives.  The best data available also clearly demonstrates that Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is scientific, while Intelligent Design is instead a religious-political position.  And nobody in a state like Louisiana, that has a large population of conservative Christian voters, wants to dwell on that little truth nugget.

Interestingly, conservatives are ok with science as long as it doesn’t appear to step on their religious toes too much.  For example, most parents are OK with teaching about viruses and bacteria in science classes – especially techniques for minimizing the spread of harmful ones like hand washing and food service sanitization.  Unfortunately, you can’t have it both ways Mr. Govenor.  If your more fundamentalist supporters have their way, ID would replace Evolution in science classes, and we’d also have to replace bacteriology with an “evil spirit” theory of disease.  Interestingly, in some areas (not just beloved Louisiana) this is what passes for medical science, sometimes with disastrous results.

Of course, the scariest part of this whole episode is that, Bobby Jindal is reported to be on McCain’s VP short list, which would mean he has a great shot at becoming president himself since McCain is older than, well, everyone.  Is it too much to ask that we get presidential and vice-presidential candidates that have more than a thimble full of scientific literacy?