Government must not fund a private entity’s religiously motivated discrimination. Nor may government grant special religious exceptions from a law when it would cause harm to others, such as same-sex couples who want to become foster parents and the children in need of homes.
Allowing the U.S. House of Representatives to prohibit secular invocations excludes millions of Americans who identify as non-theist, agnostic, spiritual but not religious or “nones,” relegating them to the status of second-class citizenship.
Three years after Kentucky clerk Kim Davis was in the news for denying same-sex couples marriage licenses, a New York town clerk similarly cited religious beliefs when she discriminated against Dylan Toften and Thomas Hurd and refused to grant them a license. The clerk apologized this month.
Perhaps Altoona council members were inspired by news coverage of states around the country considering legislation that would require public schools and other public buildings to display “In God We Trust.” These bills are part of the Religious Right’s Project Blitz agenda to promote “Christian nation” views.
Clergy who spout the Religious Right line have dominated the political scene in Bible Belt states for a long time. But as demographics in the country shift, right-wing evangelicals are seeing their market share slip, even in places like Tennessee.
Five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that government bodies could open their sessions with invocations, even if the majority of them are Christian. But the court also said that since these invocations are intended to solemnize the occasion, the prayers offered should not proselytize or disparage the beliefs of others.
The framers of the Constitution believed that houses of worship should not receive tax dollars. They didn’t feel this way because they were hostile to religion – far from it. The Founding Fathers understood that faith communities prosper when voluntarily supported by members.