Monday, October 31, 2011

My reply to Doug Indeap on the constitutional separation of church and state.

Commentor Doug Indeap has some comments on my posts about the principle of "separation of church and state". Doug is an attorney and an atheist.


... the Constitution founds the government on the power of the people rather than god(s) and keeps its separate, in some measure at least, from religion.
The Constitution has nothing to say about God, for or against. It clearly ascribes sovereignty to the people ("We the people...") who, then as now, were overwhelmingly Christian and who were guided by explicitly Christian morals.

The salient point, which Doug omits, is that the Constitution nowhere makes any reference to "separation" from religion. If the Framers had meant to do so, they would have. There was clear intent to acknowledge sovereignty of the American people, who were a deeply Christian people.

The First Amendment constrains government from interfering in religion in two ways only:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an Establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

No mention whatsoever of "separation".

In fact, when the Constitution was ratified, many states had established state churches, and a primary purpose of the Establishment Clause was to strengthen and protect the established state churches from the federal government-- the same federal government Doug now invokes to sandblast every vestige of Christianity from public schools.

"Establishment of religion", which is the only religious act prohibited to the federal government by the First Amendment, had and has a very specific meaning. It refers to the legal enactment of an official religion. The Church of England is an established church.

A state with an established religion divides it's citizens into two classes: adherents of the National Church, and non-adherents. All citizens are compelled to financially support the National Church. Citizens associated with the National Church are given preference in government jobs, voting rights, practicing certain professions such as teaching, etc.

That is what the Founders prohibited in the First Amendment. They did not mandate "separation" in any other form, because they knew that separation between religion and government was not possible for a sovereign people who were deeply religious. The Establishment Clause was intended to promote religious expression, by getting the federal government out of the "religious watchdog" business. That, of course, frustrates religious watchdogs, like Doug.

To bring home the point, the Founders added the Free Exercise clause. Free Exercise of religion was to be permitted, with no constraint by the federal government. The government was put out of the watchdog business. The purpose of the First Amendment was to get the government out of the business of regulating religious expression.

Ironically, atheists like Doug now spend much of their time trying to get the federal government to regulate religious expression.

It is important to distinguish between the "public square" and "government" and between "individual" and "government" speech about religion.

The distinction is nowhere in the Constitution. Doug is just makin' stuff up.

The constitutional principle of separation of church and state does not purge religion from the public square--far from it.

There is no "constitutional principle of separation of church and state".

Constitutional "separation of church and state" is a principle held dear by atheists, nativists, a host of anti-Catholic bigots, and notably the Ku Klux Klan, for whom "separation of church and state" is part of the Klan Creed. The constitutional "principle of separation" has long been used by ideologues to suppress disfavored religious expression. You might call it a religious "Jim Crow". The government water fountain isn't for people who believe in God.

So while there is no constitutional "principle of separation of church and state", the constitutional principle of separation of church and state has been used by atheists and others who despise Christianity precisely for the purpose of purging religion from the public square. They purge what they can. Have you ever seen an atheist sue in federal court to expand religious rights? They always sue to censor. No God-talk at the water fountain.
Indeed, the First Amendment's "free exercise" clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views--publicly as well as privately.
Unless the public expression is by the people of a school district who want to have a plaque containing a prayer in their children's school. Then Doug calls the police to enforce the constitutional "principle of separation of church and state". Doug doesn't see the irony in the invocation of the First Amendment-- which was written to prohibit government injunctions against religion-- to empower the federal government to censor religious expression.
The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion.
No, Doug. The First Amendment only prohibits the Congress from making a law Establishing a religion. Full stop. Doug's "promote or otherwise take steps toward..." are weasel words that he (not the Constitution) applies to religious expression. Government life is full of promotion of religion-- the president says "God Bless America" or proclaims a National Day of Prayer, Congress begins sessions with prayer, references to God are everywhere on national monuments, and schoolbooks in every classroom in the country refer to "Endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights...".

None of these establish a national church. All of them are perfectly constitutional, and all of them "promote" religion.
As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers instructing students in class), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment's constraints on government.
I agree. A schoolteacher should not make a law respecting an establishment of religion. A schoolteacher also must also not infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms, and shall not require excessive bail. School janitors and bus drivers are similarly constrained.
When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please.
Whew!... Thanks for the favor, Doug.
If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated.
That is enumerated by the "... Free Exercise except for school employees at work" clause to the First Amendment, which is often overlooked.
While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government in any particular circumstance may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.
The whole point of the First Amendment, Doug, is that the government is prohibited from making "distinctions" as to when religious expression is permitted and when it is not.

Let me say it again in case I was unclear:

The whole point of the First Amendment, Doug, is that the government is prohibited from making "distinctions" as to when religious expression is permitted and when it is not.

Uncle Sam doesn't get to make distinctions about Free Exercise. That is what the "Free" is all about, Doug.
Nor does the constitutional separation of church and state prevent citizens from making decisions based on principles derived from their religions.
Whew!, again...
Moreover, the religious beliefs of government officials naturally may inform their decisions on policies. The principle, in this context, merely constrains government officials not to make decisions with the predominant purpose or primary effect of advancing religion;
Your principle of "separation" has no basis in the Constitution, Doug, so it constrains no one.
in other words, the predominant purpose and primary effect must be nonreligious or secular in nature.
Citizens, and that includes government officials, may have any damn purpose or primary effect they want. No "purpose or primary effect" police.

No. Established. Church. That's it, Doug. Otherwise, free exercise.

And government officials exercise religion freely all the time, Doug. This ain't just theoretical. The president says "God Bless America" until he's hoarse, asks the nation to pray for our soldiers, and issues National Day of Prayer proclamations until he gets writer's cramp. National monuments are slathered with God-talk (should the schoolchildren cover their eyes, Doug?), and military chaplains conduct Mass, hear Confession, and administer Last Rites in Afghanistan. Are the Sacraments' "predominant purposes and primary effects non-religious and secular"?

Why don't you take the chaplains to court, Doug? After all, administering Last Rites to a soldier in Kandahar is a whole hell of a lot more religious than an anodyne little prayer on a school wall. Both are paid acts of government agents. Why take one to Federal Court, and not the other? Why not seek an injunction against military chaplains, as well as teachers?

Here's why, Doug: it would blow the lid off your hate campaign against Christianity, and set you bigots back a century.
A decision coinciding with religious views is not invalid for that reason as long as it has a secular purpose and effect.
A religious purpose or effect does not render a government official's act unconstitutional. There have been countless acts with religious purposes and effects made by government officials. They're all perfectly Constitutional.

Only making a law establishing a national religion would be unconstitutional. We've never even been close to that, Doug, so breathe easy.

Otherwise, free expression of religion, Doug, and that's for everyone, not just you.

More to come...

Friday, October 28, 2011

My apology on my comparison of a young atheist censor to Nazi Youth

Commentor Anonymous on my criticism of atheist Rhode Island high school student Jessica Ahlquist, who is suing her school district to force it to remove a small 50 year old prayer on a wall mural in the auditorium.

...And by the way - comparing a high school student who had the guts to stand for her principles with Nazi youth? You should be deeply, deeply ashamed of yourself. If you have an ounce of integrity, you need to apologize for this, as publicly as your initial comments were made...
Anonymous has a point. I concede.

Nazi Youth were German teens raised in pre-war and wartime Germany who were indoctrinated in Nazi ideology (such as censorship, centralized state power, and hatred of religious expression unacceptable to the state). The kids were organized in a system similar to the Boy Scouts (who were banned in Germany, just as atheists have tried to suppress Scouting in the United States). Many were conscripts, forced to join the organization under duress. They underwent strenuous physical and military training, and were subjected to intense social and ideological pressure to conform to Nazi ideology. Particular effort was made to sever sentimental ties to family and church and to inculcate a deep respect for the absolute power of the state. Failure to assent to Nazi ideology endangered their lives and the lives of their families.

Jessica Ahlquist is an American teen raised in the most prosperous and free nation on earth. She has been raised in a culture founded on respect for the rights and opinions of others. She has learned in school about the Constitutional guarantees of free exercise of religion and of freedom of speech. As an atheist who holds a minority view, she has been the beneficiary of the deep tolerance Americans have for diversity of opinion, respectful discourse, and the free exchange of ideas.

In her first public act as a young adult, Jessica initiated federal litigation against her classmates and neighbors in an effort to censor their expression of religious belief. She has asserted in court documents that the mere presence of a Christian prayer on a wall causes her such intense suffering as to warrant removal of the prayer by force, irrespective of the opinions of others. Her litigation is based on the principle of "a wall of separation between church and state", which is found nowhere in the Constitution, but is fundamental to jurisprudence advocated by nativists, anti-Catholic bigots, and the Ku Klux Klan.

But you're right, Anonymous. My comparison between the atheist high school student raised in a free society who sues her friends and neighbors to censor them and German children conscripted and indoctrinated in an odious totalitarian ideology in the midst of war is deeply unjust. I hope my apology is taken in the spirit in which I intend it.

My apologies to Nazi Youth.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A celebration of Justice Thomas

National Review On Line has a very nice symposium marking the 20th anniversary of Clarence Thomas' tenure on the Supreme Court. Thomas is an originalist, with a deep respect for the literal meaning of the Constitution and for the actual intent of the Framers. His opinions are eloquent and meticulously reasoned. He has disdain for the concept of "living Constitution", which is an unconstitutional tactic to bestow upon liberal shibboleths the patina of law. A "living" Constitution is no constitution, but mere rule by judges.

Thomas' confirmation hearings were indeed a "high-tech lynching". Liberals ambushed him with slander about decade-old sexual harassment. It was perhaps the pinnacle of filthy leftist politics. Thomas was a black man who left the liberal Democrat plantation, and the party of slavery-Jim Crow-lynchings-and government dependency doesn't like black men who think for themselves.

Thomas continues to be subjected to vilification by the left. He is a courageous man and a superb Justice. May God bless him, and I pray that he has many more years of distinguished service to our country on the Supreme Court.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hugo Black and the real history of "the wall of separation between church and state"

Commentor anonymous:

...[T]he Supreme Court has been consistent through the history of the United States on the subject to the establishment Clause, with the cases building on each other in a very easy to follow manner. Whine all you want, but this is not a set of precedents that are likely to be overturned any time soon, if ever.

Let's take a closer look at "separation of church and state" in American culture and law.

Of course "a wall of separation between church and state" is found nowhere in the Constitution. It was a casual phrase used by Thomas Jefferson in a personal letter written to the Danbury Connecticut Baptists association in 1802. Jefferson played no role in the ratification of the Constitution, and his personal letters obviously have no credible bearing on Constitutional law.

In fact, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment

"Congress shall make no law respecting an Establishment of religion..."

was ratified in order to protect state established churches.  At the time of the ratification, many states had official churches.  The Establishment clause was ratified in large part to prevent federal interference with local government-sponsored religious activity-- to protect local governments' sponsorship of religious activities from federal censorship. Established state churches only disappeared with the 14th Amendment, which applied the Bill of Rights to the states through the doctrine of incorporation.

Jefferson's letter was forgotten for a half century, until it was reprinted in 1853. His phrase "wall of separation between church and state" first appeared in Supreme Court jurisprudence in 1878 in the Reynolds v. United States decision. In that ruling (about a bigamy conviction of a Mormon), the Court found that invocation of "religious duty" was not a defense to a criminal indictment.

The "wall of separation" phrase languished in jurisprudence for another 70 years, but it did not languish in American culture.

In the early 20th century, anti-Catholic bigots promoted the doctrine of "a wall of separation between church and state" to extinguish Catholic schools and other institutions. The Ku Klux Klan spearheaded the "wall of separation" doctrine. From the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project:

During the Ku Klux Klan’s revival during the 1920s, the organization formed a strong presence in the Pacific Northwest. In Washington, the majority of the Klan’s work was devoted to passing an anti-Catholic school initiative and attempting to spread their particular brand of white, Protestant supremacy. Yet while Oregon passed an anti-Catholic school bill in 1922, heavily backed by the Oregon Klan, Washington voters rejected a similar measure–and the influence of the Washington Klan–two years later. The Ku Klux Klan that surfaced in the 1920s formed the second wave of Klan activity in the United States. Unlike the first emergence of the Ku Klux Klan, formed in the South in 1868 and mainly concerned with keeping black people from exercising their new freedoms, the second wave of the Ku Klux Klan focused their efforts on a wider range of issues. This new wave portrayed themselves as a race-protecting group that “espoused a virulent form of racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, and anti-immigrant sentiment. . . .”

. . . The Oregon School Bill aimed to close private Catholic schools in Oregon and have the children sent to the public school system. Since public schools taught state-mandated curricula, the Klan saw this measure as a way to “Americanize” Catholic children and limit the amount of “non-Protestant” instruction they received. Oregonians who supported the Compulsory Education Bill, including the Oregon Klan, made the argument that private and parochial schools were often controlled by non-American organizations that emphasized foreign ideologies over traditional American values.

So how does this invocation of "wall of separation between church and state" become Supreme Court doctrine, extending from a casual phrase by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to an obscure comment in an 1878 Supreme Court ruling on bigamy to a pervasive doctrine of anti-religious censorship in the public square in the 21st century?

Here's how:

On August 11, 1921 Fr. James Coyle, a Roman Catholic priest in Birmingham, Alabama, was shot to death on the porch of his rectory by E.R. Stephensen, a local Ku Klux Klansman. Fr. Coyle had just performed a wedding between Stephensen's daughter and her Puerto Rican husband.

Stephenson was defended by five lawyers, four of whom were Klan members. The fifth lawyer who volunteered to defend Stephenson was Hugo Black, a prominent local attorney. Despite the fact that the Catholic priest was unarmed and the murder was committed in public in front of witnesses, Stephensen was acquitted of murder based on "self-defense"and "temporary insanity".

Defense attorney Black joined the Ku Klux Klan after the trial. In the Klan, Black was a Kladd of the Klavern, which was an initiator of new Klansmen.

From The Volokh Conspiracy:

... Black was head of new members for the largest Klan cell in the South. New members of the KKK had to pledge their allegiance to the “eternal separation of Church and State.”... Separation was a crucial part of the KKK’s jurisprudential agenda. It was included in the Klansman’s Creed... 

Several years later, Black ran for U.S. Senate from Alabama. He barnstormed the state, campaigning on a virulent anti-Catholic platform and demanding "a wall of separation between church and state". His strongest support came from his Klan base, and he gave many anti-Catholic "wall of separation" speeches to Klan meetings across Alabama.

Black, a Democrat, won the Alabama senate seat in 1926, defeating his Republican opponent with 80.9 % of the vote. He easily won re-election in 1932, with 86.3 % of the vote. He was a staunch defender of FDR's New Deal and of Roosevelt's court-packing plan.

In 1937 Roosevelt appointed Black to the Supreme Court. Despite controversy about his Klan history, Black was easily confirmed. He quickly acquired a reputation for idiosyncratic interpretation of the Constitution.

In 1947, Justice Hugo Black wrote the majority opinion in Everson v. Board of Education, the landmark Establishment Clause Supreme Court decision that barred use of tax revenues to transport children to religious (Catholic) schools.

Justice Black wrote:

No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State.'" 330 U.S. 1, 15-16 [emphasis mine]

In 1962, Justice Hugo Black wrote the majority opinion in Engel v. Vitale, the landmark Establishment Clause Supreme Court decision that outlawed prayer in public schools.

Justice Black wrote:

The petitioners contend among other things that the state laws requiring or permitting use of the Regents' prayer must be struck down as a violation of the Establishment Clause because that prayer was composed by governmental officials as a part of a governmental program to further religious beliefs. For this reason, petitioners argue, the State's use of the Regents' prayer in its public school system breaches the constitutional wall of separation between Church and State. We agree with that contention since we think that the constitutional prohibition against laws respecting an establishment of religion must at least mean that in this country it is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers for any group of the American people to recite as a part of a religious program carried on by government. [emphasis mine]

Justice Hugo Black began his political career in the wake of his successful defense of a Klansman who murdered a Catholic priest. The modern application of the non-Constitutional doctrine "a wall of separation between church and state" derives from Black, a former Kladd of the Klavern of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan, who used his Klan base to secure a Senate seat and ultimately an appointment on the Supreme Court.

The phrase "a wall of separation between church and state" played little role in jurisprudence until the mid-20th century. The doctrine has long played a large cultural role, preserved by pervasive anti-Catholic bigotry through organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan, and became a 'Constitutional principle' through the jurisprudence of an anti-Catholic bigot. It is used today to suppress prayer and religious expression in all public schools in the United States.

Why is it that discussions of the "separation of church and state" don't generally include the cultural and political history of the "doctrine"? Why is the central role that "separation" played in the political and judicial rise of Justice Black-- the father of modern Establishment Clause jurisprudence-- never seems to show up in New York Times Op-Ed columns or NPR's  "All Things Considered"? Ever see a press release by Americans United for Separation of Church and State note the fact that "an eternal separation of church and state" was a part of the KKK’s jurisprudential agenda and the Klansmen's Creed, and that one of those Klansmen jurists wrote the Supreme Court opinions establishing "separation of church and state" as the law under which we live?

Commenting on the Black's "wall of separation" doctrine, twogaybullies express (approvingly) the censors' view quite nicely:
Black was a former member of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and a rabid anti-Catholic. He hated Catholics almost as much as I do. He once worked as defense counsel to a KKK member accused of murdering a Catholic priest. The KKK member was acquitted, thank goodness!
The term “separation of church and state” first became case law when Justice Black cited it in Everson v. Board of Education (1947). The case involved a school district that used its buses to help transport children to Catholic schools. Keep in mind that Black was a Catholic-hater of the first degree, although that certainly had no bearing on his judgment at all. Black interpreted the constitution with an eye toward Thomas Jefferson’s “Letter to the Danbury Baptists”. He plucked the phrase “separation of church and state” from Jefferson’s letter, albeit wildly out of context. Which is really odd, because Thomas Jefferson was not the author of the constitution. In fact, he had nothing to do with its text as he was serving as the US Ambassador to France at the time. But I don’t care. I like Black’s conclusion and I don’t care how he came to it.
For years, the doctrine established in Everson v. Board of Education has been used as a weapon against people of faith, and that’s great. That’s what it’s supposed to [be] used for...

Do you understand?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What part of "freedom" don't you get?

Commentor Anonymous on my post about the atheist litigation in Rhode Island to force a high school to remove a small prayer on a wall mural:

Anonymous said...

Imagine that an atheist principal or teacher made a sign that said "There is no God: discard your outdated religious beliefs and start growing morally and mentally!" Then they hang this sign prominently in a public school.
These is no Constitutional issue. The relevant First Amendment clauses are:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an Establishment of Religion, or prohibiting the Free Exercise thereof..."

The sign is not an Establishment of Religion, which means an official Government Church.

The sign does not interfere with Free Exercise of Religion, because it doesn't prevent anybody from exercising or expressing their own religious belief.

There's no coercion involved. It's just a sign.
Would that be ok with you? Freedom of speech, right? 
I would go the the next school board meeting, and say I didn't like the sign. Not because it broke the law (it didn't), or because it violated my rights (I have no right to be unoffended), but because it's wrong. I don't like wrong stuff on signs in schools.

If the board voted (I like democracy) to leave the sign up, I'd try to get a sign I agreed with put up next to it. If not, I'd tell my kid to ignore it. Good civics lesson for my kid about tolerating things that you don't agree with. It's a free country.

Would you call a Christian student who complained about atheism being pushed by public officials a "little brownshirt"? I somehow doubt it. 
A Christian who dragged another man into court to silence him would be a brownshirt. Brownshirts can be atheists, Christians, etc. Censorship isn't denominationally restricted, although atheists do seem to have an inordinate fondness. I don't like government censorship, and I don't like the use of force to shut people up.
Private speech is protected. But government officials and institutions cannot push their religious views - be it atheism or Christianity - onto their students. This is the law, and it is a good law.
The Free Speech Cause of the First Amendment:

"Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech..."

makes no mention of private, public, government, whatever. It doesn't prohibit speech of any sort. It protects speech. It prohibits laws that abridge freedom of speech. It prohibits the use of government force to shut people up (vide supra).

An example of government force to shut people up would be a federal judge forcing a school to remove a prayer.

And "government officials and institutions push their religious views" all the time and everywhere. Our money invokes God, our Pledge invokes God, every politician who ever lived has invoked God, our national monuments are slathered with God-talk, our military employs chaplains, our legislative bodies employ chaplains who say prayers at legislative sessions, Presidents proclaim Thanksgiving and National Days of Prayer, Presidents say "and God Bless the United States of America" at the end of every State of the Union speech, and Presidents take the oath of office with their hand on a Bible...

Yet you claim that 'it's the law' that "government officials and institutions can't push their religious views?"

What planet are you living on?

The most powerful government officials in American constantly push religious views. And it's entirely Constitutional, because it does not Establish a National Church and because we all have the right, from President to plumber, to Free Exercise of Religion and Freedom of Speech.

What part of "freedom" don't you get?

Monday, October 24, 2011

P.Z. Myers and "freedom of conscious"

P.Z. Myers has an amusing post:
Lavender becomes us
October 23, 2011 at 3:32 pm PZ Myers
Minnesota Atheists are highlighted in Lavender magazine. The reason? Gays and atheists often find themselves fighting on the same side in battles against the Religious Righteous, and Minnesota Atheists recently filed a friend of the court brief in a pending argument against the odious “Defense of Marriage Act”.
The amicus brief filed by Minnesota Atheists supports the couples in their effort to get rid of the law and argues the unconstitutionality of DOMA, noting the law’s theological basis.
The Minnesota State Constitution, with clauses guaranteeing freedom of conscious and freedom of religion, and the U.S. Constitution, which establishes freedom of religion in the First Amendment and equal protection for all in the Fourteenth Amendment, are violated by DOMA, according to the brief.
Berkshire said the religious roots of the law are grounded in “conservative Christian” views and leave those who have differing beliefs out in the cold.
“[DOMA is] a religious law that’s not just a difference of opinion,” Berkshire said. “It’s a religious law that’s harming people.” The amicus brief gives several sectarian arguments why same-sex marriage is considered unacceptable by some religious institutions, but says there is no secular reason to bar same-sex couples from opportunities given to heterosexual couples.
There those atheists go, making the world more tolerant and wiser one step at a time.

Minnesotans are certainly free to be conscious and to practice their religion. Practicing religion while unconscious is apparently not specifically protected in the Minnesota State Constitution, although perhaps it's incorporated in a penumbra.

The "religious roots of the law" are just the sovereignty of the citizens of Minnesota, a process colloquially known as "democracy". People vote their conscience. Democracy is circumvented when ideologues use the courts, rather than the legislature, to make law. Rule by judges is oligarchy, not democracy.

Traditional law regarding marriage-- that it is intrinsically heterosexual-- obviously isn't a violation of the rights of gays, who share exactly the same rights as all Americans. Those would be the right to free exercise of religion, freedom of speech, freedom from unlawful search and seizure, etc. The prerogative to marry anyone you want has never been a right, much to the disappointment of polygamists, pet owners, and pederasts. Law governs marriage, and marriage-without-borders has never and nowhere been law.

The right of citizens of Minnesota-- gay or straight-- to vote in accordance with their beliefs-- religious or irreligious-- is protected by the Constitution. As long as Minnesotans remain conscious.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ann Coulter on liberals and Islam

Here's a great website that has a bunch of Ann Coulter quotes. As I've noted, I'm a big Coulter fan. I agree with her on most everything, but even more, I love her attitude. She suffers no fools, and conservatives today are engulfed in liberal foolishness. To paraphrase Lincoln (originally about Grant): we cannot spare Coulter; she fights.

Ann Coulter quote  # 40:

Here the country had finally given liberals a war against fundamentalism and they don’t want to fight it. They would have, except it would put them on the same side as the United States.

Islam is a target-rich cesspool of things that liberals claim to despise.  Batshit religious fervor, 'divine' commands to murder, incessant warfare, misogamy, female genital mutilation, public executions, homicidal homophobia, no access to pornography, etc.

To a lib, Islam should be like Fred Phelps on crack .

In the days following 9-11, I believed that the terrorist attacks would finally put an end to liberal delusions about Islam. We could unite to fight this scourge.

But while some libs (and to their credit, some New Atheists) came over to reason and stood up to Islamic totalitarianism, many if not most liberals soon slid back into their accommodationist crouch. Political correctness and denunciation of 'Islamaphobia' for any salient criticism of Islamism soon became the norm in lefty circles.

Coulter is right about the paradox. Liberals who castigate our society for providing insufficient opportunities for women in highest levels of the corporate world are reticent to excoriate a culture that beats women who drive. Liberals who denounce Christians for opposition to gay marriage go mute when Islamic totalitarians hang gay teenagers.

I disagree with Coulter on one point. She asserts that liberals' motive for accommodation of Islamism is lack of patriotism. Although liberals suffer no surfeit of patriotism, I believe that liberals' motive for Islamist coddling is raw hatred of Christianity.

Many on the left will side with anyone and anything that is an enemy of Christianity. It is, I believe, the Left's deepest hatred, and it's primal motivation.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

"...somebody who actually understands the spirit and ideals of American freedom."

Regarding the ACLU suit by the high school girl in Rhode Island about the school prayer mural:

Commentor RickK:
I was going to comment, but KW is doing such an excellent job that I've nothing more to add other than this:
Everybody please re-read KW's comments word for word. They're the only thing on this thread that is written by somebody who actually understands the spirit and ideals of American freedom.

Here's KW's insight, with my commentary:

KW to CrusadeRex: 

You suggest that bullying of this girl was because she asked for it,
I don't know to what extent she has actually been bullied. She has admitted lying-- she claimed in a radio  interview a while back that she really wasn't offended by the prayer, but now she claims that she suffered much and that she lied back then to deflect bullying.

So the bottom line is that she is an admitted liar. The question now is: what part of her story is a lie?

If she's being threatened physically, or seriously harassed, that's very wrong. If kids and others are just telling her what they think of her tactics, that's fair game. She sued them. They were minding their own business. If she's entitled to feel 'ostracized, harassed and intimidated' or whatever by an innocuous prayer on a wall, they're sure as hell entitled to feel 'ostracized, harassed and intimidated' by a federal lawsuit. She basically called the police to censor her classmates and friends. Blowback, cupcake. Censorship ain't free.

If you sue somebody, expect blowback. If you don't, you're too stupid to be suing anybody. But the little Fraulein isn't stupid. She's disingenuous, pretending to be a victim to elicit sympathy.
and if she doesn’t like the giant prayer in her school she can go somewhere else.

Millions of Christian kids, and Jewish kids, and Muslim kids are in private school or homeschooled, at great sacrifice to their families.  Why are atheists exempt from seeking other educational venues?
As if that wasn’t enough, you then go on to suggest segregated schools for atheists.
If you want Christianity (which is what you actually mean by "religion") sandblasted from schools, get your own schools. You can have censorship and scientism and narcissism ten periods a day. "Trofim Lysenko High School of Science". Has a ring.
Is this your idea of religious liberty?
Yep. Free choice. The government can't establish a religion, and can't interfere with free exercise of religion or with freedom of speech. A non-compulsory prayer in a school doesn't establish a religion, anymore than the President saying "God Bless America" establishes a religion or any one of the thousands of prayers and invocations of God by government officials establishes a religion.

The ACLU/atheist use of federal power to censor prayer does violate the right to free exercise of religion and the right to freedom of speech.
If a public school painted a giant mural of the Bakunin quote “He who desires to worship God must harbor no childish illusions about the matter but bravely renounce his liberty and humanity”
There is no Constitutional issue with such a mural, if assent to it was not compulsory.

So let's take a look at what I'd do if my school put up the Bakunin quote:

1) I'd go to the principal and I'd ask him to place a quote next to it that refuted Bakunin (e.g. "We hold these truths to be self-evident..."). I'd ask him to include an analysis of Bakunin and the subsequent expression of his ideas in the history curriculum, and to ask the kids to compare and contrast the expression of Christian ideas. This would be a wonderful opportunity to discuss the political manifestations of atheism and Christianity.
2) If he didn't, I'd get my friends and neighbors to go with me, and ask.
3) If he didn't, I'd go to the next school board meeting and ask.
4) If someone at the school board meeting stood up and said "Take down the quote",  I'd disagree emphatically. I'd point out that Bakunin's ideas were very important, and that this was a superb opportunity for the kids to take these issues seriously. I would only ask that opposing views be presented as well.
4) If they didn't, I'd get involved in the next school board election, and work for candidates who agreed with me.
5) If that didn't work, I'd tell my kids that the quote was a lie, I'd tell them what I thought the truth was, and I'd tell them a lot about Mikhail Bakunin and anarchism and atheism and materialism. I'd tell them that this experience with the school is a good lesson about living in a democracy. Learn to deal with ideas you don't like, without using force.

Not only would my approach be the right thing to do, but my kids would learn a lot from it. They'd learn a lot more than if I sued the school.
,would it be fare to say that the offended students deserve to be bullied, or should find somewhere else to go to school? Of course not.
A Christian student who sued in federal court to censor people would deserve harsh critique by the people he was suing. I'll say it again: censorship has a price.

A giant mural that offends the religious sensibilities of the minority is no more appropriate than one that offends the majority.

No one has a right not to be offended. If you're offended, tough sh*t. You have the right to reply with your own idea. No one has the right to censor.

Using force (e.g. a federal suit) to censor someone who "offended" you is itself a violation of the Constitution, which prohibits the government from regulating speech.
Neither one of them belongs in a public school because we all share the same rights.

They both belong in public school, because we all share the same rights. It's a free country. Ideas should be challenged with ideas, not censorship.

Why is your default always to silence ideas? Why not insist on expression of all ideas?
It’s not up to you or anyone else to decide the level of offense a religious minority should be forced to suffer. 
There's no "suffering" from reading someone's opinion. There is no force in a wall prayer or in a Bakunin quote. None whatsoever. It is merely an expression of an idea, and you have no right to silence that idea by force. You do have a right to express your own idea.
Public schools must remain absolutely neutral on the subject of religion to protect the religious liberty of all students,
What a stupid thing to say. There is no such thing as "neutral" in religion. "Religion" is a menagerie of beliefs, not points on a line. Catholicism isn't at 10 to the right of zero, and Buddhism isn't at 4 to the left of zero. There's no "neutral". There are just different religious viewpoints, related to each other in complex and unquantifiable ways.

What you really mean by "neutral" is no religion, which is atheism, functional or explicit. But "no religion" isn't neutral. The Soviet eradication of religion from Russian life wasn't "neutrality" about religion. The eradication of religion from schools isn't "neutrality" about religion.

What arrogance to call eradication of religion "neutral". Atheists have been trying to eradicate religion for a couple of hundred years, and it's been anything but "neutral".

and in the case of the youngest students, the right of the parents to teach their children whatever religious conviction they want without completion from a public school.
Public schools teach kids countless things that don't coincide with parents' views. My kids are indoctrinated in left-wing cr*p in history class all the time. My options are to take it to the teacher and discuss it, to go to the school board, or to take my kids out of public schools.

I have no business going to federal court to silence left-wing instruction in schools. I despise leftism, but I have no right to silence it by force, invoking the First Amendment that guarantees freedom of speech.
If you feel it’s absolutely necessary to have overtly religious expression by your kid’s school, it’s you who can pull them out and stick them in a private school.
If you feel it’s absolutely necessary to have overtly irreligious expression by your kid’s school, it’s you who can pull them out and stick them in a private school.
Until then, don’t expect non-believing students and their parents to sit idly by while you fight to have your public schools send unwanted messages of religious inspiration.
Until then, don’t expect believing students and their parents to sit idly by while you fight to have your public schools send unwanted messages of irreligious inspiration.

Welcome to freedom, pal. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A prayer and a Federal Court

Here's my little quiz for atheists.

Christians and others can take it too, but they'll probably find it too easy. Atheists will struggle with it.

Here are two things:

Old prayer on the wall of Cranston High School

United States Federal District Court, Providence, Rhode Island 

One thing is:

A harmless object no one is forced to  obey, to pay attention to, or even to look at. It enrages ideological fanatics, who are actually not harmed by it in any way.

The other thing is:

An institution of government power that exercises force and mandates obedience, with the threat of civil and criminal sanctions for those who disobey. Although it is prohibited by the Constitution from violating citizens' rights to free expression, it is used by ideological fanatics to silence others.

Which one of the objects pictured above is an example of government force, and which one is an example of harmless free expression?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Take one prayer down, we put a thousand up

The Cranston High School prayer:

Atheists assert that this innocuous prayer on the wall of a Rhode Island High School for 50 years without controversy is unconstitutional and thus in violation of federal law. It is currently the object of a federal court suit.

From the Providence Journal:

Update: Judge sees Cranston school prayer for himself

6:00 PM Thu, Oct 13, 2011 | Permalink
News staff Email

Journal staff writer

PROVIDENCE, RI -- Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and the Cranston School Committee were in federal court this afternoon, debating the constitutionality of a school prayer painted on the auditorium wall of Cranston High School West.

It's barely even a prayer. The only religious references at all are "Our Heavenly Father" and "Amen". Te rest is civic boilerplate.

It is much less religious than "God bless America", which the President says every time he opens his mouth, and Presidential proclamations for Thanksgiving and a National Day of Prayer. It is less religious than "... Endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights..." and "... that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom... , which are in every history textbook in the school, and countless prayers and invocations of God on national monuments, in political speeches, etc, etc.

No one in his right mind believes that these prayers are unconstitutional.

The hearing was delayed for about an hour, when U.S. District Judge Ronald R. Lagueux announced he wanted go to the school and see the prayer for himself. During his visit, he examined it close up, and sat in multiple seats in the auditorium, looking over at it.

What a farce. The judge should order a psychiatric examination on the atheists who brought this suit.

He also toured the school lobby, which has several banners hanging from the ceiling exhorting students to achieve.

A federal judge walks through a building deciding what people are allowed to say and not allowed to say. That's the atheist version of the First Amendment.

Lynette Labinger, the ACLU lawyer representing high school junior Jessica Ahlquist, said the painting was an unconstitutional state endorsement of a religious prayer. The statement was titled "School Prayer," she said, it begins with "Our Heavenly Father" and ends with "Amen."

"This is government speech," she told Lagueux. "This is a government prayer."

The Constitution restricts religion in only one way: "Congress shall make no law respecting an Establishment of religion". Nothing about "government speech" or "government prayer". The men who ratified the Constitution spoke publicly about religion and prayer a lot, and all government officials since have done so as well.

The Constitution only prohibits legislation establishing an official National Church, like the Church of England.

The Constitution also guarantees free exercise of religion and freedom of speech. Something that the ACLU brownshirts are fanatically trying to extinguish.

But Joseph V. Cavanagh, the Cranston School Committee's lawyer, said the mural, written and put up in the high school auditorium in the early 1960s, was essentially a secular call to students to do well and be good citizens with some religious references common to the time it was written.

"It's not in your face," Cavanagh said. "It's not forced on anyone."
It's not forced on anyone.

Oh, perhaps I was unclear. Let me rephrase it: 

It's not forced on anyone.

Perhaps I was insufficiently precise. What I meant was:

It's not forced on anyone.

Only the atheists are using force.
Jessica Ahlquist, a 16-year-old junior at the school, argues that the prayer, which has been on display at the school for 50 years, violates the First Amendment.

Ya' know, the Amendment that guarantees freedom of speech.

The Rhode Island Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit on Ahlquist's behalf in April, alleging the prayer makes Ahlquist feel "excluded, ostracized and devalued as a member of the school community" because she does not share the religious beliefs on display. Ahlquist is an atheist.
She doesn't share the civic beliefs on display either. The only way little Fraulein Atheist won't feel "excluded, ostracized and devalued" is if people can only say stuff she agrees with.

Ahlquist's lawyers are seeking a court order to force officials to remove the prayer, which they claim violates the First Amendment's establishment clause, which bars the government -- the School Committee -- from promoting religious messages.
It's the Establishment Clause, not the Promoting Religious Messages clause. The prayer ain't a National Church. It's not an Establishment of anything. It's barely even a prayer.

American government officials have been 'promoting religious messages' for more than two centuries. Are we a theocracy yet?

One of the earliest soul-crushing religious messages was:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are Created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness..."
That's the one that really pisses the atheists off.

In March, the School Committee voted to keep the prayer because it is a historic document created more than 50 years ago -- along with a school creed, school colors and a mascot -- to give the new school an identity and tradition, they say.

The School Committee wants to keep the prayer mural up, arguing the painting of the prayer, a gift from the school's first graduating class in 1963, expresses the givers' intent, not government policy. The committee also challenges whether Ahlquist was genuinely offended by it.

Never delude yourself that atheists have a shred of respect for human rights. Atheism is an assertion of power, against man no less than against God.  Every atheist's concession to moral law is a tactic, not a conviction.

Every atheist government has been a totalitarian hellhole. Atheists are inveterate totalitarians, and we ignore their efforts to silence us at our peril.

The proper response to this naked censorship is to make thousands of copies of the prayer, and let students distribute them all over the school. Kids giving to kids. They can't stop students from doing it. Put the prayer on the walls, on the doors, in the desks, on the floors, in every crevice they can find. Pay a visit to the courthouse and to the ACLU offices. Distribute the prayer everywhere they're trying to silence us.

Take one prayer down, we put a thousand up.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Wall of Separation between Ed Brayton and freedom

Ed Brayton from Dispatches from the Culture Wars finds me 'blathering'.

...[Egnor's] style is to quote a single line from an article about it, then deliver a single line in response. I imagine he thinks those responses are pithy and clever; they are, in fact, ignorant, mean-spirited and considerably more juvenile... 

It seems I need more practice. Here goes:

Egnor Blathers About a New Subject
October 14, 2011 at 12:57 pm Ed Brayton
His subject is the case in Rhode Island, where a school has a large mural on one of its walls that contains a prayer, prompting a student to file a lawsuit. In Egnor’s fevered mind, that makes the student a “brownshirt” — because obviously not wanting the government to force religion on a small minority of people who do not share those views is just like being a fascist who commits violence against a small minority of people who are already considered second class citizens in society.
Actually, a salient characteristic of fascism is the inordinate passion for centralized federal power. Atheists detest subsidiarity-- the freedom of local towns and citizens to make decisions for themselves.  Atheists love federal power. It atheists had a church, it would be a federal courtroom.  Atheists are fanatically cleansing any and all reference to religion from the public square, with federal criminal and civil sanctions imposed on resistors.

Seems a bit more fascist than a little prayer.

Mr. Brayton oddly asserts that the obscure small prayer on a wall mural in a school auditorium, with no  controversy or even notice for 50 years, amounts to 'the government forcing religion on a small minority of people who do not share those views...'

The 'forced' religion is hard to see.

No one was required to assent to the prayer. No one was required to recite the prayer. No one was required to read the prayer. No one was required to even look at the prayer. No one was required to have anything to do with prayer at all. The mysteriously 'oppressed' Cranston High School minority (i.e. atheists, in case you wondered) seemed not to even notice the soul-crushing prayer on the wall for 50 years.   


1) The school has a small prayer on a wall mural.


2) The atheist drags her classmates and neighbors into federal court and threatens them with civil and criminal sanctions.

Who is forcing whom?
Actually, I imagine that the young lady has shown considerably more mental and moral strength than Egnor is ever likely to obtain. 
I do have the strength to see an idea I don't like without filing a federal lawsuit to silence it.

She has the courage to take on Christian hegemony in her school...
Christian hegemony in a public school? Are you kidding, Ed? Christian expression has been sandblasted from public schools, and atheists have taken stainless steel brushes to scrape the remnants out of the cracks between the bricks. No prayers, no bibles, no crucifixes, no religious clubs, no discussion of theology, no written prayers or plaques or murals, no challenging Darwin in bio class. Christmas Winter concerts, Easter Spring concerts, Easter Spring vacation. You couldn't find "Christian hegemony" in a public school if you used a microscope.

...which will inevitably subject her to the taunts, harassment and, quite possibly, vandalism and violence
which is odd, because people usually are grateful to be sued in federal court and threatened with financial devastation and even criminal sanctions because they have a small 50 year old prayer on a mural that nobody noticed. People can be so... oversensitive.

...of the mentally and morally stunted local population of Christians. 

Brayton assures us that this cleansing of all Christian expression has nothing to do with any imaginary personal bigotry on his part...

Lest you think I’m joking, I cannot think of a single plaintiff in any similar case who has been spared those things. Not one. Those responses range from threats of violence (Tammy Kitzmiller, for example, received threats to the life of her daughter) to actual violence (Joann Bell had her family’s home firebombed and received her own obituary in the mail — and she’s a fellow Christian). Nor are these ancient examples, they have happened in the last 25 years.
In the 20th century, 45 million Christians have been killed for their faith. Mostly by atheists. Atheists are the ideological group least likely to be martyred (can you name the atheist martyrs?).  They are also the group most likely to kill others for their beliefs.

Sorry about those taunts, Ed.

We do [have a Constitution that guarantees freedom of speech], of course, but like most of his ilk Egnor deliberately erases the distinction between individual speech and government speech.
Governments don't speak. Government is an abstraction. People speak. And people who are high level government officials speak about God all of the time. Presidents, congressmen, senators, etc. refer to God endlessly. Endlessly.

The Constitution prohibits an Establishment of Religion, not speech about religion. A small prayer on an auditorium wall does not Establish a National Religion.

Here's a question, Ed: Presidents read little prayers and talk about God out loud in public all the time. Washington did it. Obama does it.  And everyone in between did it. Are they breaking the law? If the President, who is the most powerful official in our government, can talk about God and prayer, why can't a school display a little prayer? Is it safe when Lincoln did it, but intolerably dangerous when the principal of Cranston High School does it? Was delicate little Miss Atheist as traumatized by reading Lincoln's Second Inaugural, which is essentially a sermon, as she was by noticing the little prayer on the mural? Does she have prayer-panic every time Obama says "God Bless America"?

Atheists are such selective censors.

Does she have to look away when she reads "...endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights..." in the Declaration of Independence? Does "In God we Trust" on our money cause her shock and angst? It must be sooo humiliating. When she wins money from her lawsuit, she won't even be able to look at at!

A lifetime of exclusion, ostracism and devaluation.

And now, to add to her suffering, there's a prayer on the wall in the auditorium of her school!


A student who wants to say the same prayer in that mural has that right protected by the constitution. They can’t force others to listen to it or disrupt class, of course, but they can say it to themselves or out loud if they wish, they can gather their friends together and say it at the flagpole before or after school, they can even use a classroom before or after class to meet with others and say all the prayers they want. That has nothing to do with what the government can or can’t say. 
But the presence of the same little prayer on a mural on a school wall is a federal case? The exact same little prayer that Johnny and Suzie can say to their friends or out loud at the flagpole or in the hall next to the mural?

This belongs in a federal court?

Great sense of proportion, Ed.

And if a school ever decided to put up a prayer to Allah instead of “Almighty God” you can guarandamntee that Egnor would suddenly discover the distinction.
There is no Constitutional issue with a prayer displayed in a school, as long as it is not an Establishment of Religion. As long as there is no force involved. Any prayer, any faith. Even no faith. I'm not a Muslim, but I wouldn't got to court to remove a Muslim prayer on a wall in a school. I might go to the school board to ask that prayers from other faiths be included. But I wouldn't call the police if I saw a Muslim prayer, or a Jewish prayer, or a Buddhist prayer, or a secular humanist prayer affirmation.

I wouldn't personally agree with some of these prayers, but I think it would be a good thing for the kids to see them, and learn about them, especially if they represent ideas other than the students' own.

It's wrong to call the police when you see a prayer, Ed.
[T]he government’s endorsement of that prayer... results in exclusion, ostracism and devaluation of anyone who is not Christian. Egnor just doesn’t care because he is one.
The government endorses all kinds of prayers. It employs military and congressional chaplains who pray on government property to government employees and officials, Presidents issue proclamations for National Days of Prayer, national monuments are slathered with prayers, etc, etc, etc. Nobody is excluded, ostracized, or devalued by prayer.

You seriously need to get out more, Ed.

This case has nothing to do with free speech, it has to do with the Establishment Clause. That’s clearly stated in the very text he quotes. He still doesn’t get it. 
Ed is arguing that the little prayer on the wall in Cranston High School established a National Church. For 50 years we were ruled by The National Church of Cranston High. Who knew?

But this case is brought by the ACLU, which fights constantly and tirelessly for freedom of speech. I see no need to even list the cases, since this should be too obvious to dispute.

The ACLU has a long history of advocacy for abhorrent causes, even Nazis. In Cranston, they're just keeping with tradition.

Challenge to Ed: cite the atheist litigation that has sought greater freedom of speech.

See, here’s how it works on Planet Wingnuttia. When the powerful majority wants to push their dominant religion on the minority of people, that’s freedom of religion.  When that small minority dares to assert that they have a right not to have the government force those beliefs on them, they are brownshirted censors. Unless, of course, the government decided to push any other religion. If the government were to push Islam instead, for example, then the government would be the brownshirts. When Orwell writes of this sort of destruction of language, we rightly recoil in horror. Yet it goes on every day.
Here, Ed, is how it works on Planet Freedom. Public expression of an idea isn't 'forcing a belief'. It's just expressing an idea. Anybody can express an idea. Majority, minority, plurality, one guy, whatever. A religious idea or a secular idea. Any idea. That includes individuals, groups, government officials, school boards, secular humanist societies, Presidents, plumbers, Rosary Societies, fundies, the godless, whatever. And they can express it in their home, or in their school, or in the street, or on the National Mall. Anywhere.

The appropriate response to an idea with which you disagree is to state your own idea, if you choose.

The inappropriate response is to sue in federal court to get the government (i.e. the court) to use force to silence the idea.

Freedom, Ed. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Nuke the Moon

I can't resist linking to Frank J.'s legendary post "A Realistic Plan for World Peace". One of the funniest essays I've ever read.

Lest I be accused of lunar war-mongering, I do realize that none of Frank J.'s recommendations would pass the Just War Doctrine test.

Aquinas would not be amused. Well, maybe a little...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

"What if it's a big hoax and..."

A while back this cartoon-- a refreshingly candid implicit admission of politically motivated junk science-- was making the rounds:

It's been upgraded, and now accords with reality:

The stakes are high in the climate debate.

Friday, October 14, 2011

My reply to a commenter on the Rhode Island school prayer case

This comment is worth a post. This is in reply to my post on the high school kid in Rhode Island who is suing to force her school to remove a prayer in a mural on the wall:

Anonymous said...

So, protesting a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution is "thuggery"?

Display of a prayer on a wall in a school isn't a "violation of the U.S. Constitution".

The Constitution references religion in four places:

1) The Religious Test Clause (Article VI, paragraph 3), which prohibits the use of a religious test that requires a government official or employee to adhere to a religious belief.

2) The Establishment Clause: "Congress shall make no law respecting an Establishment of Religion..." , which prohibits the establishment of an official National Church (analogous to the Church of England). A little prayer in a mural on the wall of a high school doesn't establish a National Church. The Constitutional Convention had regular prayers, as did government bodies at all levels. They still do. None of this establishes a National Church.

3) The Free Exercise Clause: "Congress shall make no law... prohibiting the free exercise thereof...", which clarifies the reason for the Establishment Clause. The purpose of the First Amendment is to foster free expression. Government is prohibited from censoring free expression. The First Amendment was enacted specifically to prevent just the sort of censorship that atheists demand.

4) The Freedom of Speech Clause: "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech..." The reference to religion here is implicit, rather than explicit. Congress is prohibited from silencing free expression. This of course includes religious expression.

The Constitution is an impediment to atheists' use of censorship, so they misrepresent the Constitution to circumvent the Constitution.

The prayer displayed on the wall of the Rhode Island school is a violation of atheist sensibility, which makes atheists use force to stop it. Atheists are inveterate totalitarians. Can you name one lawsuit atheists have filed in which they weren't censoring someone?

The school is a public school. A creature of the government, and despite your whining that it somehow isn't, it is a state actor. Hence, it may not express any endorsement of religion.
The government may not establish a National Church. A small prayer displayed on a mural in a school does not establish a National Church.

The government endorses religion everywhere and all the time:

1) "in God we trust" on money
2) "Under God" in the Pledge
3) Prayers to begin each session of Congress
4) Military chaplains (federal employees on the federal payroll)
5) The "National Cathedral"
6) Presidential invocations: "... and God bless the United States of America"
7) Presidential addresses: Nearly every Inaugural address and every State of the Union Address. Lincoln's Second Inaugural is a sermon.
8) Monuments in Washington D.C. are slathered with references to God (Capitol, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln memorial, etc)
9) The Declaration of Independence, displayed in the National Archives (oops!), explicitly asserts that our Creator is the Source of our rights.
10) Explicitly religious holidays are federal, state and local holidays (Christmas, Easter, etc)
11) Thanksgiving was established specifically as a day to give thanks to God. Here is President Washington's Thanksgiving address on October 3, 1789:

"Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness. Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us. And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best. Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789."

12) Here is Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation from October 3, 1863:

"By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth."

By the President: Abraham Lincoln 

13) Here are the salient passages in President Obama's Thanksgiving address on November 3, 2010:

"... As we stand at the close of one year and look to the promise of the next, we lift up our hearts in gratitude to God for our many blessings...As Americans gather for the time-honored Thanksgiving Day meal, let us rejoice in the abundance that graces our tables, in the simple gifts that mark our days, in the loved ones who enrich our lives, and in the gifts of a gracious God..."

14) etc, etc, etc...

Here, Anonymous, are just a few of the "state actors" who have endorsed religion much more frequently and emphatically than the miscreant high schoolers in Rhode Island:


What's an atheist totalitarian to do? Government endorsement of religion is... is... everywhere...

You are correct that the words "separation of church and state" do not appear in the Constitution.
But the words "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion", a provision that has been applied to the states as a consequence of the Reconstruction amendments to the Constitution. Posting a prayer as an official action, which this has been done, is a prohibited endorsement of religion.
Lincoln's Second Inaugural invoked God repeatedly. Lincoln quoted Matthew 7:1 and 18:7 and Revelation 16:7. His speech was delivered on the Capitol steps, and is reproduced in virtually all history schoolbooks.

Presidents endorse religion on an almost daily basis-- "God bless America", etc.

But a little prayer on a wall a school is a... federal case?

And thus is unConstitutional. I know that thugs like you aren't used to having your thuggery called out, so you project and call the minority (whose rights the Constitution is intended to protect) thugs, but the only thugs are the loudmouthed jackasses like you who are finally being called on their jackassery and are braying in shock that you can't run roughshod over everyone else anymore.


This is not preventing the free exercise of religion or free speech.

Right. Federal court injunctions can be ignored without consequence.

You can pray all you want - as a private citizen.

I don't ask Anonymous to define my rights for me.

You can whine loudly all you want about it, as you have done. What you can't do is get the state, via a public school, to endorse any religious views.

The White House phone number is 202-456-1414. Give 'em a call, Anonymous. Let President Obama know that he's breaking the law by saying "... and God bless the United States of America" after his speeches. Call the Congress (Obama will know the number) and tell them that they're breaking the law when they open sessions with prayers. Call the National Archives ("... We are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights...), the National Park Service (the monuments are slathered with God-stuff). Give 'em a tiny piece of your godless mind.

Government officials love to be told what they're allowed to say by atheists. Why restrict your bile to schoolchildren?

So go ahead, violate Matthew 6:5 by wandering the halls ostentatiously praying out loud for everyone - show us what hypocrites you truly are. But don't expect to be able to use the government to give you an assist.

The prayer on the mural in Rhode Island is silent, and quite small. But thanks for the spiritual advice. Coming from an atheist, it means a lot to me.

The Cranston school board will lose. This is a foregone conclusion. If the case reached the Supreme Court, Justices Alito, Roberts, and Scalia would whack the school board over the head and rule against them. The only ones who are costing them money are themselves, with their stupid refusal to obey the law.

Hey, why resist? We should just let atheists tell us what to do, and obey. Isn't that what this is all about, anyway?

Oh, and your post formatting skills suck.

Sue me.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pubescent brownshirt suffers prayer-panic in Rhode Island

Prayer sparks atheist’s fight

01:00 AM EDT on Tuesday, October 11, 2011

By Paul Davis

Journal Staff Write
The Providence Journal / Kathy Borchers


As a high school freshman, Jessica Ahlquist wore shiny braces, read books and never missed an episode of “Dr. Who,” a TV show about a time-traveling alien who saves civilizations, helps people and rights wrongs.
She bakes cookies shaped like Charles Darwin, too.

“I was very shy,” says the 5-foot-tall student.
At her press conference.

Hardly anyone noticed her — until she spotted a school prayer affixed to a wall in the auditorium of her new school, Cranston High School West.

When she regained consciousness, she told paramedics: "Take me to the ACLU!"

The prayer, still on display, begins “Our Heavenly Father,” and urges students to “grow mentally and morally.” Amen, it ends.

It was the 'mental and moral growth' that really ticked her off.   

That’s illegal, thought Ahlquist, who began speaking up about the prayer at school meetings.
A mundane prayer on a plaque on a wall in a school is "illegal". If we only had a Constitution that guaranteed freedom of speech....

Now, more than a year later, the 16-year-old junior is at t
he center of a U.S. District Court suit that alleges the prayer — on display in the school for nearly 50 years — violates the First Amendment.
The courts have plenty of time on their hands.

The Rhode Island Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit on Ahlquist’s behalf in April, alleging the prayer makes Ahlquist feel “excluded, ostracized and devalued as a member of the school community” because she does not share the religious beliefs on display. Ahlquist is an atheist.
Atheists have diaphanous egos. They're paragons of courage, reason, and logic. But with a brief glance at a prayer they collapse in exclusion, ostracism, and devaluation.

What a horrendous assault on her shy fragile soul spirit whatever.

To recover from her exclusion, ostracism and devaluation, she calls the police and sues her school district. Her complaint: 'I saw a prayer in my school'.

Her lawyers are seeking a court order to force officials to remove the prayer, which they claim violates the First Amendment’s establishment clause, which bars the government from promoting religious messages.
Censorship. Atheist boilerplate. Can you think of a single atheist lawsuit that protected freedom of speech?

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Ronald R. Lagueux is scheduled to consider the injunction and Ahlquist’s suit against the City of Cranston and the School Committee.
Federal judges are the prefect folks to be deciding what the people of Cranston put on the walls of their schools for their children.

“It’s a cutting-edge case that raises some important issues,” says Joseph V. Cavanagh Jr., one of several lawyers representing the school and city.

“Both sides,” he adds, “are passionate about the issue.”
One side (the people of Cranston) are passionate about freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The other side (the publicity-seeking little brownshirt and the ACLU) are passionate about censorship and suppression of religion.

In addition to Cavanagh — who frequently represents The Providence Journal –– the school is represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a conservative legal group in Washington, D.C. All of the lawyers are working pro bono for the school.

According to Cavanagh and the other attorneys, the case centers on preserving the past.
It's about preserving the Constitution, which guarantees free exercise of religion and freedom of speech, which is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

In March, the School Committee voted to keep the prayer because it is a historic document created more than 50 years ago — along with a school creed, school colors and a mascot — to give the new school an identity and tradition, they say.

The vote was “based not upon some desire to inject religion into the public schools,” but on a belief “that school history and tradition should be maintained,” they argue.
No one, including the little victim, is required to assent to, read, or even look at the prayer.

In the last five decades, thousands of students, teachers, parents and residents have attended events in the auditorium, say Cavanagh and others.

“Except for the complaint that is the subject of this case, the record is devoid of any complaints about the mural.”
Thats because everyone else is sane and respects the rights of others.

Ahlquist’s attorneys –– Thomas R. Bender and Lynette Labinger, a Providence Housing Court judge –– disagree.

They say a similar prayer mural at the Bain Middle School “was quietly removed” after the ACLU filed its suit.
"Remove the prayer, or we'll destroy you financially. "  What to do...?

And before their vote to keep the prayer, School Committee members spoke about their religious beliefs — proof that their reasons are religious and not historic, they say.
Religious speech police, on the job.

In their arguments, both sides invoke New England’s early religious leaders — from the pious Puritans to Rhode Island founder Roger Williams, an early proponent of religious freedom and the separation of church and state.
A prayer isn't the church, and a school isn't the state. And 'separation of church and state' appears nowhere in the Constitution, which was ratified in a Congress in which prayers were invoked often.

“This is a state with a long tradition of religious freedom,” say the lawyers for the school and city. But it is a state with an “equally long tradition of religious expression in public.”

The issue surfaced in summer 2010, when a parent complained about the prayer to the ACLU.
"9-11. Can I help you?"

"....(noise, screaming, panic)... I've...I've... seen a...a...a... prayer... "

"Relax, Sir. Psychiatrists are on the way. Are you breathing ok...?"

In response, Executive Director Steven Brown asked Cranston School Supt. Peter L. Nero to remove the prayer mural, a 1963 gift from the school’s first graduating class.
"Remove it, and no one gets hurt, except for my usual and customary legal fees, damages, pain and suffering..."

“I understand that this prayer may have been posted in the auditorium for a long time. However, the crucial protections of the Bill of Rights have been around even longer,” Brown wrote.
The Bill of Rights was enacted to prevent public expression of religious belief... wasn't it?

Officials reviewed Brown’s request in 2010 and 2011.

Ahlquist, then a sophomore, remembers speaking at the first meeting.

Her "shyness" had remissions.  

“I didn’t want to talk. I was terrified of saying I was an atheist.
So don't say it.

When I spoke, I heard a gasp.

It was laughter.
I knew then that people didn’t share my beliefs. It was an unwelcoming atmosphere. People belittled me and treated me like a little kid.”
You are a little kid. A litigious closed-minded atheist little kid.

In March, after a heated debate, the School Committee voted 4 to 3 to continue to display the prayer.
But that's democracy! That's not in the Constitution!

“We don’t want to erase our schools’ history because one person in the history of the school objects,” said School Committee member Frank S. Lombardi in a news release.
An atheist is an army of 1.

A banner near the main entrance to the school explains what the school expects of its students.

A Cranston West graduate, it says, should be “an informed, involved citizen who advocates for positive changes ...”
Censorship, litigation and anti-Christian bigotry is so... positive.

Jessica Ahlquist grew up in Warwick and Coventry, the daughter of an atheist firefighter father and a “spiritual” mother. She was baptized in a Catholic church in Providence, bur rarely went to church.

“My parents encouraged me to ask questions and think for myself,” she says.

Unless she sees a prayer, in which case she collapses.  

She began questioning religion at 10, after her mother became ill. “I was praying and it wasn’t helping.”

In the fifth grade, she cried when she learned about American slavery. A few years later, she reacted in the same way to the Holocaust.

Such a sensitive soul. She'd never sue anyone, or try to censor a little prayer....

When a friend showed her the school prayer at Cranston West, she told her father, who said, “What do you want to do?”

“I wanted to say something, but I was busy with my final exams, and I didn’t know who to talk to,” she says.
"Hello, ACLU, this is Jessica. Can you help me censor the people in my school district?"

Later, when a school board subcommittee met to discuss the issue, Ahlquist spoke up.
Free speech is important to Jess. Not to others, though.

Since then, she says, students and adults have called her a “stupid atheist,” an ACLU tool, a witch and a “media whore.” They’ve also threatened her through e-mails or at school, she says.
What a terrible thing to say. She's not a witch.

A former classmate told her that, if she knew what he really thought of her, she would kill herself, she says.
That's sooo not nice. She's considering suing.

After the school prayer complaint, Ahlquist create d a Facebook group to support the prayer’s removal. She’s appeared on TV and radio, been a speaker for the Secular Student Alliance and has appeared on YouTube videos.
She's overcoming her shyness.

Next month, the ACLU will present her with the William G. McLoughlin First Amendment Award, named after a Brown University history professor and liberal activist.
She's also a finalist for the annual Stalin award, named after a fellow atheist who also got testy about free expression of religion. Here's hoping...

Her frequent appearances, say the lawyers for the city and school, show that she does not fear harassment, as she claims in her suit. “These are not the actions of a frightened student, but of a zealous advocate.”
She struggles so with shyness. The press conferences are so therapeutic.

The lawyers also question her delay in addressing the school prayer issue. And they note that in some interviews, Ahlquist calls the prayer’s message a positive one.
The prayer invokes mental and moral growth. She needs it.

Ahlquist says she made the statement to stop future threats and insults. She says she never imagined the issue would become so public — and so overwhelming.
Right. Censoring your friends and neighbors and dragging them into federal court to gag them usually goes unnoticed.

“At first, I saw this as a legal issue. But people on the other side have turned this into a religious war against atheists.”

Right. She sues her friends and neighbors in federal court to deprive them of the right to free expression of religion and freedom of speech. 

They don't like that.

That's proof that they are attacking her.

The proper court ruling on this farce will be to tell her that she can ignore the prayer, if she wants to. It's a free country. For everyone. And she and the ACLU can reimburse the good people of Cranston for all of their legal fees incurred in their defense against this pubescent totalitarian and her atheist enablers.