The Wall of Separation Blog https://www.au.org/blogs/feed en Philadelphia Doesn’t Have To Allow Religious Discrimination In Foster Care, Says Appeals Court https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/philadelphia-doesnt-have-to-allow-religious-discrimination-in-foster-care <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Philadelphia Doesn’t Have To Allow Religious Discrimination In Foster Care, Says Appeals Court </span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/95" lang="" about="/user/95" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">boston</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Tue, 04/23/2019 - 13:18</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/claire-l-hillan" hreflang="en">Claire L. Hillan</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/dads%20with%20baby%2C%204.23.19.jpg?h=b6f81db3&amp;itok=sY4uQd7i" width="1700" height="525" alt="dads with baby " title="two dads with infant " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>A federal appeals court yesterday upheld LGBTQ equality in foster care.</p> <p>The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/04/22/716179430/catholic-foster-care-agency-can-not-discriminate-against-lgbtq-couples-court-say">ruled that the city of Philadelphia</a> is not constitutionally required to continue to contract with a foster care agency that refuses to certify same-sex couples as foster parents.</p> <p>The religiously affiliated agency, Catholic Social Services, filed the lawsuit, <em>Fulton v. City of Philadelphia</em>, against Philadelphia when city officials terminated the agency’s contract to provide foster care because it would not follow the city’s anti-discrimination rules. The court held that religion is not a license to discriminate, rejecting Catholic Social Services’ request to force Philadelphia to continue to place foster children in the agency’s care while the lawsuit moves forward.</p> <p>This is a huge win. As Americans United explained in our <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2019-04/Fulton%20brief%2C%2010.4.18.pdf">friend-of-the-court brief</a> in the case, 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 – in this case, both the same-sex couples who want to become foster parents and the children in need of homes.</p> <p>Decisions like this one have far-reaching implications. In several cases, people and entities have tried to argue that foster care agencies have a religious-freedom right to discriminate against LGBTQ foster parents. In Michigan, for example, the Religious Right group Becket Fund represents foster parents who are suing to allow foster agencies to discriminate. And in South Carolina, Americans United has filed a lawsuit, <em><a href="https://www.au.org/tags/maddonna-v-dept-of-health-and-human-services">Maddonna v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services</a></em>, against the federal and state governments on behalf of a Catholic family that was rejected by an evangelical Christian foster agency for being the “wrong religion.”</p> <p>The arguments made in favor of religiously motivated discrimination in foster care also have been made in other contexts. We’ve pushed back against the same contentions in cases like <em><a href="https://www.oyez.org/cases/2017/16-111">Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission</a></em>, where business owners argue that their religious beliefs allow them to refuse to serve LGBTQ people. These arguments, if allowed to succeed, would excuse discrimination – including discrimination based on religion, sex, gender, race, marital status and more in nearly any context.</p> <p>The 3rd Circuit rejected this line of thinking in <em>Fulton</em>, explaining that “religious belief will not excuse compliance with general civil rights laws” – a rule that the Supreme Court had acknowledged in <em>Masterpiece Cakeshop</em>. The appeals court also rejected the foster care agency’s assertions, which were similar to those we’ve seen in other recent cases, that the equal enforcement of civil rights laws is somehow a form of anti-religious hostility.</p> <p>Barring a request for Supreme Court review, the <em>Fulton </em>case will be sent back to the federal trial court for the parties to gather and present additional evidence. And in the meantime, Americans United will keep fighting so that all people regardless of religion, race, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity, or other characteristics enjoy equal rights and are not discriminated against based on the religious beliefs of a foster-care agency, business, or health care provider that wants to deny them their dignity.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/discrimination-in-the-name-of-religion" hreflang="en">Discrimination In The Name of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-funded-discrimination" hreflang="en">Government-Funded Discrimination</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/denials-of-service" hreflang="en">Denials of Service</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/foster-care" hreflang="en">foster care</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/philadelphia" hreflang="en">Philadelphia</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/adoption" hreflang="en">Adoption</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/pennsylvania" hreflang="en">Pennsylvania</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 23 Apr 2019 17:18:35 +0000 boston 15112 at https://www.au.org Appeals Court Blesses Religious Privilege In U.S. House https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/appeals-court-blesses-religious-privilege-in-us-house <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Appeals Court Blesses Religious Privilege In U.S. House </span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/95" lang="" about="/user/95" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">boston</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Mon, 04/22/2019 - 11:32</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/US%20House%20chamber%20cropped_0.jpg?h=0c987418&amp;itok=M-VGs9M2" width="1700" height="525" alt="congress " title="US congress" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>When it comes to religion, the country is becoming more diverse by the day. A recent poll showed that people who have no religion now account for nearly a <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/nones-are-on-the-rise-what-does-that-mean-for-america">quarter of the population</a>, and another survey indicates that attendance in houses of worship has <a href="https://news.gallup.com/poll/248837/church-membership-down-sharply-past-two-decades.aspx">dropped sharply since 2000</a>.</p> <p>In light of these changes, courts should not formalize religious (largely Christian) privilege in government – yet that’s exactly what a federal appeals court did on Friday.</p> <p>The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/news/house-chaplain-not-allow-atheist-prayers-federal-appeals-court-says">upheld rules promulgated by the U.S. House of Representatives</a> that effectively bar Dan Barker, a former Christian minister turned atheist, from delivering an invocation.</p> <p>Barker, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, wanted to give a secular invocation before the House. Although the House has a chaplain paid by taxpayer funds, it often allows guest religious leaders (usually Christians although non-Christians are invited on occasion) to deliver opening prayers. Barker argued that House members could benefit from hearing a secular invocation as well and was invited to deliver one by U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.).</p> <p>But the House chaplain, the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, was determined to stop Barker. Conroy made a number of arguments for why Barker should be excluded, at first asserting that Barker is not a properly ordained religious figure. Conroy’s legal counsel later argued that the House’s rules require that guest chaplains deliver “a religious invocation,” and since Barker was not willing to do that, he could be denied.</p> <p>The appeals court apparently accepted this reasoning, writing in its ruling in <em><a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2019-04/Barker%20v.%20Conroy.pdf">Barker v. Conroy</a></em>, “The House’s requirement that prayers must be religious nonetheless precludes Barker from doing the very thing he asks us to order Conroy to allow him to do: deliver a secular prayer.”</p> <p>Allowing the House 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. Ironically, this is the segment of the population that is growing most rapidly.</p> <p>The court’s reasoning appeared to be heavily influenced by separation-of-powers concerns and other legal principles that are applicable solely to the courts’ relationship with Congress. To respect the right of non-believers, this ill-advised decision should be limited to that context.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/official-prayer" hreflang="en">Official Prayer</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/congress" hreflang="en">Congress</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/us-house-of-representatives" hreflang="en">U.S. House of Representatives</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/patrick-conroy" hreflang="en">Patrick Conroy</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 22 Apr 2019 15:32:39 +0000 boston 15108 at https://www.au.org Kim Davis Copycat Clerk Apologizes For Refusing To Serve N.Y. Same-Sex Couple https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/kim-davis-copycat-clerk-apologizes-for-refusing-to-serve-ny-same-sex <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Kim Davis Copycat Clerk Apologizes For Refusing To Serve N.Y. Same-Sex Couple</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/69587" lang="" about="/user/69587" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">LHayes</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 04/19/2019 - 09:07</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/liz-hayes" hreflang="und">Liz Hayes</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/Gay%20couple%20married%20red%20rose.jpg?h=fa9d810f&amp;itok=nyhEYzED" width="1700" height="525" alt="Gay couple&#039;s wedding" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><table><tbody><tr><td> <p>Dylan Toften and Thomas Hurd went to the office of the town clerk for Root, N.Y., on July 30 last year to get a marriage license.</p> <p>They didn’t leave with their license. Instead, <a href="https://www.lambdalegal.org/blog/20190411_settlement-upstate-ny-same-sex-couple-denied-marriage-license">they were served discrimination in the name of religion</a>: The clerk said she would not give them a license because of her personal religious beliefs in opposition of same-sex couples getting married.</p> <p>No, the clerk’s name isn’t Kim Davis, then-county clerk for Rowan County, Ky., who made headlines in 2015 when she refused to do her taxpayer-funded job and denied same-sex couples marriage licenses in the months after the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land.</p> <p>This clerk is Laurel “Sherrie” Eriksen, and earlier this month she was required to offer a public apology for discriminating against Dylan and Thomas as part of a legal settlement negotiated by Lambda Legal, the LGBQ advocacy group who represented the couple.</p> </td> <td> <p><img alt="Thomas Hurd and Dylan Toften" data-entity-type="file" data-entity-uuid="4e759e6e-39d8-40f0-ae25-e782c3ff9ace" src="/sites/default/files/inline-images/Thomas%20Hurd%20and%20Dylan%20Toften%20Root%20NY%20WRBG%20TV%20Albany.png" /></p> <p><em>Thomas Hurd and Dylan Toften talk to WRBG TV in Albany, N.Y., about the town clerk who denied them a marriage license. Credit: <a href="https://cbs6albany.com/news/local/disciplinary-hearing-for-root-town-clerk-pushed-back-same-sex-marriage-license-toften-hurd">Screenshot from WRBG TV</a>.</em></p> </td> </tr></tbody></table><p>“In my capacity as town clerk, it is my responsibility to provide marriage licenses to all couples, regardless of sex or sexual orientation, so long as they meet all applicable New York State legal requirements,” <a href="https://twitter.com/CBS6_Emily/status/1116130285253480448?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1116130285253480448&amp;ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.lgbtqnation.com%2F2019%2F04%2Fwatch-town-clerk-publicly-apologize-denying-gay-couple-marriage-license%2F">Eriksen read</a> during the April 10 town council meeting. “As such, my office, and I personally, will issue marriage licenses to any couple, without exception, who is legally entitled to be issued one. On July 30th of last year, there was an unfortunate incident involving Mr. Thomas Hurd and Mr. Dylan Toften who came to my office seeking a marriage license. I am sorry for any harm or inconvenience my actions caused the couple.”</p> <center><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr" xml:lang="en">Town of Root clerk apologizes tonight 8 months after denying a gay couple their marriage license. The town has also reached a cash settlement with the couple. Hear from them tonight only on <a href="https://twitter.com/CBS6Albany?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CBS6Albany</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MarriageEquality?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MarriageEquality</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LoveIsLove?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LoveIsLove</a> <a href="https://t.co/e39x399HRK">pic.twitter.com/e39x399HRK</a></p>— Emily DeFeciani (@CBS6_Emily) <a href="https://twitter.com/CBS6_Emily/status/1116130285253480448?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 11, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async="" src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></center> <p>The town also agreed to pay the couple $25,000 as part of the settlement. While it’s a shame that Eriksen put taxpayers in the position of paying for her discrimination, they could be facing the <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/kentuckys-governor-loves-kim-davis-but-he-doesnt-want-to-pay-her-legal">$225,000 in legal bills</a> that Kentucky taxpayers may get saddled with to resolve Kim Davis’ refusal to serve same-sex couples.</p> <p>On the bright side, Dylan and Thomas were able to get married after going to another community for their license. Of course, they should never have been turned away by Root’s town clerk: government officials must follow the law and must not discriminate. If religious beliefs prevent someone from fulfilling the duties taxpayers are entrusting them to complete, they shouldn’t be working in that position.</p> <p>“We feel vindicated and grateful that the Town of Root has realized its obligation to respect our family and all same-sex couples on the same terms as any different-sex couple who wants to marry,” Dylan said in a statement. “We are happy the state of New York supports our marriage and that we were able to not allow this one town clerk in our town to get away with violating the law and discriminating against LGBT families.”</p> <p>We at Americans United congratulate Dylan and Thomas on both their marriage and their victory in the fight for LGBTQ rights and religious freedom in New York. AU continues this fight in states around the country to ensure religious freedom is not weaponized to harm others; you can <a href="https://www.au.org/get-involved/donate/form">support our work here</a>.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/discrimination-in-the-name-of-religion" hreflang="en">Discrimination In The Name of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-funded-discrimination" hreflang="en">Government-Funded Discrimination</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/lgbtq-rights" hreflang="en">LGBTQ Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/denials-of-service" hreflang="en">Denials of Service</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/marriage-equality" hreflang="en">Marriage Equality</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/new-york" hreflang="en">New York</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/kim-davis" hreflang="en">Kim Davis</a></div> </div> </div> Fri, 19 Apr 2019 13:07:51 +0000 LHayes 15107 at https://www.au.org Troubled Pa. Rust Belt Town Wants ‘In God We Trust’ On Police Cars https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/troubled-pa-rust-belt-town-wants-in-god-we-trust-on-police-cars <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Troubled Pa. Rust Belt Town Wants ‘In God We Trust’ On Police Cars</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/95" lang="" about="/user/95" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">boston</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Thu, 04/18/2019 - 10:44</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/police%20car%2C%204.18.19.jpg?h=33e2a458&amp;itok=xYbfNWYf" width="1700" height="525" alt="police car" title="police car " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>I grew up in Altoona, Pa., a small city nestled in the Appalachian region of central Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Railroad and light industry formed the basis of the economy when I was a kid. We had a vibrant downtown and a sense of optimism about the future.</p> <p>It didn’t last. Railroads collapsed as an economic powerhouse, and one by one the factories began closing. Stores downtown shuttered, and the city’s population, which was about 68,000 when I was a kid, plummeted to 45,000. These days, many young people get educated and <a href="https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2017/10/10/smartest-americans-west-coast/">move away</a>. The opioid crisis has <a href="http://www.witf.org/news/2018/07/businesses-contribute-3-million-to-fight-opioid-epidemic-in-blair-county.php">ravaged the area</a>.</p> <p>It’s a typical tale of Rust Belt woe, and in light of it, you’d think Altoona’s leaders would have a lot on their plate. So what’s the city council up to? Well, they recently spent time debating a proposal to plaster “In God We Trust” stickers on Altoona’s police cars and other city vehicles. The local newspaper, the <em>Altoona Mirror</em> (I interned there as a general assignment reporter way back in the summer of 1983) <a href="http://www.altoonamirror.com/news/local-news/2019/04/in-god-we-trust-decals-proposed-for-city-vehicles/">reports that the council thinks it’s a great idea.</a></p> <p>The proposal was brought to the council by Matt Stachmus, a local veterinarian. Stachmus told the council he was inspired by an incident in 2015 when he, his wife and their 5-year-old daughter were out walking the family dog. Their dog, a terrier, was attacked by a neighbor’s Rottweiler. Stachmus and his neighbor were both armed – yeah, it’s that kind of a town – so Stachmus shot the Rottweiler. (The terrier later died of its injuries.)</p> <p>Now, if you’re wondering what any of this has to do with “In God We Trust” stickers on municipal vehicles, you’re not alone. Perhaps Stachmus or 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 <a href="https://www.au.org/tags/project-blitz">Project Blitz agenda</a> to promote “Christian nation” views and misuse religious freedom as a sword to harm others instead of as a shield to protect.</p> <p>In any case, the council found Stachmus’ story inspiring and asked the city solicitor to look into the matter.</p> <p>I was alternately amused and disgusted by the reaction of Councilman Dave Butterbaugh, who said, “Some liberal wacko may sue us, but it’s the right thing to do.”</p> <p>I doubt anyone will sue – cases like this are tough to win because “In God We Trust” was named the national motto by Congress in 1956 – but if someone in Altoona did speak out against the proposal, that person might not be a "wacko." He or she could just be an advocate of separation of church and state who’s concerned that the rights of everyone in town be respected, religious believers as well as non-theists.</p> <p>I’d also point out to Butterbaugh that if an Altoonan did object, that person would be a <em>constituent</em>. The job of a city councilmember is to respectfully listen to constituents even if you don’t agree with them, not call them names.</p> <p>Altoona’s officials and its police department have a duty to represent and respect everyone in town, including Christians, Jews, Muslims and, yes, ardent atheists. They can best do that by focusing on policies that help the entire community. Symbolic mergers of religion and government, even when found on the back of police cars, run counter to that goal.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-support-of-religion" hreflang="en">Government Support Of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/nontheists-rights" hreflang="en">Nontheists&#039; Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/displays" hreflang="en">Displays</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/project-blitz" hreflang="en">Project Blitz</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/pennsylvania" hreflang="en">Pennsylvania</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/police" hreflang="en">police</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/god-we-trust" hreflang="en">in god we trust</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/national-motto" hreflang="en">national motto</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 18 Apr 2019 14:44:56 +0000 boston 15106 at https://www.au.org In Tennessee, Opponents Are Battling The Religious Right’s ‘Slate Of Hate’ https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/in-tennessee-opponents-are-battling-the-religious-rights-slate-of-hate <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">In Tennessee, Opponents Are Battling The Religious Right’s ‘Slate Of Hate’ </span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/95" lang="" about="/user/95" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">boston</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 04/17/2019 - 09:06</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/church%20and%20LGBTQ%20flag%20cropped%2C%204.17.19.jpg?h=bc6afb21&amp;itok=7OlX504A" width="1700" height="525" alt="church and rainbow flags " title="LGBTQ friendly church " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>OneNewsNow, the fake news service of the American Family Association, ran <a href="https://onenewsnow.com/church/2019/04/15/tn-pastor-lawmakers-need-to-hear-from-silent-majority?utm_source=OneNewsNow&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=16793420&amp;utm_content=990784194782978688&amp;utm_campaign=38611">a column recently</a> by a right-wing Tennessee pastor who seems awfully upset that progressive religious leaders in the state are standing up to his repressive political agenda.</p> <p>Several bills have been introduced in Tennessee that would attack LGBTQ rights. One bill would declare that marriage in Tennessee is limited to one man and one woman – even though the U.S. Supreme Court said otherwise in 2015’s <em><a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/september-2015-church-state/featured/mad-men">Obergefell v. Hodges </a></em><a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/september-2015-church-state/featured/mad-men">decision</a>. Other bills would allow tax-funded foster care and adoption agencies to refuse services to same-sex couples and target the rights of transgender people.</p> <p>The package of bills, dubbed the “slate of hate” by opponents, is drawing strong pushback, much of it anchored in progressive churches and synagogues. More than 100 religious leaders in Tennessee have <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/more-100-faith-leaders-unite-denounce-tennessee-gop-s-slate-n987611">signed a statement</a> denouncing the bills.</p> <p>This bothers Dale Walker of the Tennessee Pastors Network, who insists that these are not even legitimate houses of worship.</p> <p>“Just because it sounds like a church, just because it looks like a church, just because they’ve got people in there that call it a church, and just because they’ve got a name that sounds like a church, doesn’t mean that they are a Bible-believing church,” Walker wrote.</p> <p>Typical of many in the Religious Right, Walker thinks he can define what constitutes a legitimate church. I’m sure many progressive religious leaders in Tennessee would counter that there's nothing illegitimate about believing in a faith that rejects hate, discrimination and treating some people like second-class citizens.</p> <p>Walker added, “The leftist churches and the progressive churches, they’re willing to put their name on the list. And Bible-believing churches today are going to have to get a backbone and not act like a bunch of Jezebel’s prophets.”</p> <p>Here is what’s really bothering the guy: He’s got competition. 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.</p> <p>At the same time, a coalition of progressive Christians, Jews, non-theists and religious minorities who’ve had enough of seeing their family, friends, neighbors and co-workers being attacked because they’re members of the LGBTQ community are mobilizing, speaking out and fighting back against the Religious Right. And Americans United is part of it. AU’s Public Policy Department and our Tennessee Chapter have been working alongside religious and secular groups to stop much of the slate of hate.</p> <p>In our political system, all voices have the right to be heard. Walker had better get used to it. His opponents, Americans United among them, aren’t going anywhere. In fact, I promise you our voice is only going to get louder.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/discrimination-in-the-name-of-religion" hreflang="en">Discrimination In The Name of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-funded-discrimination" hreflang="en">Government-Funded Discrimination</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/gay-marriage" hreflang="en">Gay Marriage</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/tennessee" hreflang="en">Tennessee</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/afa" hreflang="en">AFA</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/onenewsnow" hreflang="en">OneNewsNow</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 17 Apr 2019 13:06:32 +0000 boston 15105 at https://www.au.org A Va. Pastor Offered A Textbook Example Of How Not To Deliver An Invocation To Government https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/a-va-pastor-offered-a-textbook-example-of-how-not-to-deliver-an-invocation <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">A Va. Pastor Offered A Textbook Example Of How Not To Deliver An Invocation To Government</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/95" lang="" about="/user/95" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">boston</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Tue, 04/16/2019 - 08:52</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/VA%20invoc.PNG?h=64f55eaf&amp;itok=9O69Pwl7" width="1700" height="525" alt="Virginia invocation" title="Va. House prayer " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Last week my colleague Liz Hayes <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/are-arizona-legislators-seeing-the-light-in-secular-invocations">wrote about a secular invocation</a> that was delivered before the Arizona House of Representatives with no fuss and no outrage. Previous attempts to deliver secular invocations before that legislative body didn’t go off so well, making this one noteworthy for the lack of rancor.</p> <p>Alas, it doesn’t always work out that way. In Virginia, the House of Delegates was recently subjected to an invocation by a guest pastor that offended some members – and rightly so.</p> <p>Pastor Randall Snipes of Oak Ridge Baptist Church was invited by House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Chesterfield) to deliver an invocation on April 3. Snipes used his time at the podium to <a href="https://bluevirginia.us/2019/04/video-fundamentalist-pastor-delivers-incredibly-offensive-invocation-to-virginia-house-of-delegates">attack non-theists and rant about legal abortion.</a></p> <p>Snipes began by looking forward to “a day that you have set aside where every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that ‘Jesus is Lord.’” That’s bad enough because not every member of the House of Delegates is a Christian.</p> <p>Snipes went on to say, “God, I pray that you would convict us of that day where those who love you will be rewarded, and those who reject you will be sentenced. … God, we ask … for forgiveness. Lord, forgiveness for the millions and millions of innocent lives that have been murdered for the sake of convenience. God, we ask you for forgiveness for the bloodshed that is on our hands as a nation. And Lord, we don’t deserve it. God, we confess before you that we do not deserve it. But Lord, we have nowhere else to turn but to you, and to ask as humbly as we know how, God, that you would forgive us. That you would help us turn from our wicked ways. God, that we would seek your face.”</p> <p>The site Blue Virginia noted that several members were offended by Snipes’ comments. Del. Mark Levine (D-Arlington), calling the invocation <strong>“</strong>incredibly offensive,” asserted, “Religion should always be welcome as a shield, but never used as a sword to mistreat others. No one invited into the House of Delegates should be praying to God that any of us go to hell. I’m sure this guy would be happier living in a theocracy, but his comments were un-American and beneath the dignity of Virginia and the House of Delegates.”</p> <p>Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax), the Democratic leader in the House, called the invocation “very disappointing” and added, “Prayers should be inclusive. The invocation on the floor of the House on the day of the reconvened session was divisive and meant to score political points.”</p> <p>Five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court <a href="https://www.oyez.org/cases/2013/12-696">ruled that government bodies could open their sessions with invocations</a>, 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 nor disparage the beliefs of others.</p> <p>Snipes’ offensive invocation violated both of these standards. The people of Virginia deserve better.</p> <p><em>(Photo: Screenshot from the Virginia House of Delegates) </em></p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-support-of-religion" hreflang="en">Government Support Of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/official-prayer" hreflang="en">Official Prayer</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-minorities-rights" hreflang="en">Religious Minorities&#039; Rights</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/invocations" hreflang="en">Invocations</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/virginia" hreflang="en">Virginia</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 16 Apr 2019 12:52:20 +0000 boston 15103 at https://www.au.org The Founders Opposed Taxpayer-Funded Religion To Help Faith, Not Hurt It https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/the-founders-opposed-taxpayer-funded-religion-to-help-faith-not-hurt-it <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">The Founders Opposed Taxpayer-Funded Religion To Help Faith, Not Hurt It</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/95" lang="" about="/user/95" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">boston</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Mon, 04/15/2019 - 10:29</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/Tax%20Day%2C%204.15.19.jpg?h=f2fcf546&amp;itok=KeuVtZ1O" width="1700" height="525" alt="Taxes " title="Paying taxes " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Today is <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=tax+day&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Esearch">Tax Day</a>, so if you haven’t done your taxes yet, you’ve got some time left to get busy.</p> <p>Tax policy is a complicated subject, and you’ll find lots of opinions about it – often heated ones. While Americans may disagree on how much they should be taxed and what those taxes ought to pay for, there’s one thing I’d hope we could all agree on: No taxpayer should be compelled to subsidize religion.</p> <p>Unfortunately, we’re drifting from this idea. Private school voucher plans that use public funds to subsidize private religious schools are operating in some states, and President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/02/28/698686759/devos-announces-support-for-proposed-school-choice-tax-credit">proposed a nationwide tuition tax credit scheme</a> (a type of backdoor voucher plan) that would cost billions.</p> <p>In addition, “faith-based” initiatives continue to proliferate. Under Trump, some taxpayer-subsidized religious institutions have boldly declared that they have a right to take money from the public yet refuse to serve certain classes of people, a situation Americans United is <a href="https://www.au.org/tags/maddonna-v-dept-of-health-and-human-services">challenging in federal court in South Carolina</a>.</p> <p>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. While they clearly believed that forcing people to support religion against their will was a violation of the fundamental right of conscience, the Founding Fathers also understood that faith communities prosper when voluntarily supported by members.</p> <p>In 1785, James Madison penned the <a href="https://billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/primary-source-documents/memorial-and-remonstrance/">“Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments”</a> – a broadside that blasted a proposal to force all residents of Virginia to pay a tax to support Christian ministers.</p> <p>The document is essentially a list of 15 reasons why church taxes are a terrible idea. The entire thing is brilliant, but point seven is especially relevant today:</p> <p>“Because experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. Enquire of the Teachers of Christianity for the ages in which it appeared in its greatest lustre; those of every sect, point to the ages prior to its incorporation with Civil policy.”</p> <p>Far be it from me to paraphrase Madison, but he’s essentially saying here that evidence shows that church taxes haven’t helped religion, they’ve ruined it. He points out that the Christian faith received state support for 1,500 years, and this led the clergy to become arrogant and lazy. It also sparked ignorance among lay members and fostered persecution. Madison recommends that you ask ministers – they'll tell you that Christianity did better before it took state money.</p> <p>Madison was right, and we can see evidence of this is the world today. Consider the countries that still have taxpayer-supported, state-sponsored religion. They tend to be either nightmarish theocracies or places where religion plays a largely ceremonial role but dwindling numbers of people actually bother to attend services.</p> <p>America needs to re-embrace one of its founding principles: No one should be taxed to pay for the religion of another. On Tax Day, recommit to that idea yourself and <a href="https://www.au.org/become-a-member">work with Americans United</a> to buttress it.</p> <p>P.S. Benjamin Franklin also had a <a href="https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-33-02-0330">great quote</a> on this topic: “When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are oblig’d to call for the help of the Civil Power, ’tis a Sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”</p> <p> </p> <p> </p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-support-of-religion" hreflang="en">Government Support Of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/taxpayer-funding-of-religion" hreflang="en">Taxpayer Funding Of Religion</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/james-madison" hreflang="en">James Madison</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/memorial-and-remonstrance-against-religious-assessments" hreflang="en">Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/faith-based-initiative" hreflang="en">faith-based initiative</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 15 Apr 2019 14:29:50 +0000 boston 15102 at https://www.au.org Are Arizona Legislators Seeing The Light In Secular Invocations? https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/are-arizona-legislators-seeing-the-light-in-secular-invocations <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Are Arizona Legislators Seeing The Light In Secular Invocations?</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/69587" lang="" about="/user/69587" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">LHayes</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 04/12/2019 - 11:29</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/liz-hayes" hreflang="und">Liz Hayes</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/Arizona%20Secular%20Invocation%20Robert%20Peoples%204.9.19%20Secular%20Coalition%20for%20AZ%20vid.png?h=3be162c8&amp;itok=a91h6DtQ" width="1700" height="525" alt="Robert Peoples giving secular invocation" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Robert Peoples may’ve made history with his secular invocations offered during sessions of the Arizona state House and Senate this month.</p> <p>His words might be historic not because they were the first such invocations offered in those chambers, but because they may be the first secular invocations offered that weren’t immediately criticized by Arizona legislators who didn’t find them to be satisfactorily prayerful or religious enough.</p> <p>Peoples, founder of the Arizona-based Affinis Humanity Coalition, <a href="https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2019/04/02/humanist-delivers-invocation-in-az-senate-be-the-curators-of-inspiration/">delivered his first invocation</a> on April 1 to the Arizona State Senate. He was a guest of state Sen. Andrea Dalessandro (D-Green Valley) and the Secular Coalition for Arizona.</p> <p>“In classical times, we’ve been asked to look above us for inspiration. But today, I ask that you look within and be the curators of inspiration,” he urged the Senate.</p> <p>His inspiring words were apparently well-received because this week he was invited by state Rep. Isela Blanc (D-Tempe) <a href="https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2019/04/11/humanist-delivers-invocation-in-az-house-be-the-lighthouses-of-reason/">to give an invocation before the state House</a>.</p> <p>“It is imperative for our hearts and minds to evolve with the new information. Like the Rock of Gibraltar, we must stand unwavering in our quest for intellectual nobility and humanist dialogue,” Peoples said Tuesday. “Today, I ask that you be the lighthouses of reason and let empathy be its doors. Thank you.”</p> <p>So far, there’s been no reports of an outcry over Peoples’ words. It’s a nice contrast to the responses some others have received when offering secular or nontheistic invocations in the Arizona Capitol:</p> <p><strong>*</strong> <strong>In February,</strong> state Rep. Athena Salman (D-Tempe), an atheist, <a href="https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2019/02/13/az-atheist-lawmaker-gives-invocation-then-gets-mocked-by-christian-colleague/">urged her colleagues</a> to “reflect on the wonders of the universe” in her invocation, which ended with the words, “No matter what we may call it, we give thanks to the awe and inspiring power of nature itself.”</p> <p>As soon as she finished speaking, state Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) rose and, apparently displeased with an invocation that failed to mention a god, welcomed a “guest” to the chamber: “God is in the gallery, as He is everywhere. And the same God who, by the way, created nature, which purportedly created this tiny speck of a planet in which this tiny speck of a legislature legislates.”</p> <p><strong>*</strong> <strong>In April 2017,</strong> a different Arizona House Republican took issue when <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/june-2017-church-state/people-events/ariz-house-of-representatives-assails-atheist">Salman gave an invocation</a> that spoke of the power of unity, justice and humanity: “In a nation often eager to be polarized in its views, allow us in this moment to recognize what we have in common: A deep-seated need to help create a more just and positive world.”</p> <p>Rep. Mark Finchem (R-Oro Valley) apparently wasn’t feeling the unity: He immediately objected, claimed Salman’s invocation violated House rules because it didn’t call on what he understood to be a higher power and gave an alternate prayer that invoked Jesus.</p> <p><strong>* Back in 2013</strong>, then-freshman state Rep. Juan Mendez (D-Phoenix), also an atheist, <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/just-like-a-prayer-arizona-state-rep-isn-t-satisfied-with-non-theistic">urged his colleagues</a> not to bow their heads in prayer, but instead, to “take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people of our state.” (Mendez has since been elected to the state Senate and is newly engaged to Salman).</p> <p>The next day, Rep. Steve Smith (R-Maricopa), ranted about Mendez’s “failure” of an invocation and said a prayer “for repentance of yesterday,” asking his fellow lawmakers to “give our due respect to the Creator of the universe.”</p> <p>Let’s hope Arizona legislators are coming around to the fact that they represent people who have diverse religious and nonreligious views and that all of them can contribute meaningful dialogue and inspiration in the halls of government.</p> <p><a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/a-tale-of-two-invocations-in-the-pennsylvania-capitol">As we saw play out in Pennsylvania last month</a> – when a nontheist woman (and AU client) was praised for her secular, inclusive invocation days before a Christian legislator was called out for her proselytizing, divisive invocation – referencing a god or sectarian beliefs in an invocation does not necessarily an inspiring message make. But invocations that call on our common values and goals? Those are the words that our elected representatives need to hear as often as we can say them.</p> <p><em>(PHOTO: Robert Peoples, founder of the Arizona-based Affinis Humanity Coalition, offers a secular invocation to the Arizona House of Representatives. CREDIT: <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&amp;v=_xInrfCmVMU">Screenshot from the Secular Coalition for Arizona</a>)</em></p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-support-of-religion" hreflang="en">Government Support Of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/official-prayer" hreflang="en">Official Prayer</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/nontheists-rights" hreflang="en">Nontheists&#039; Rights</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/arizona" hreflang="en">Arizona</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/invocations" hreflang="en">Invocations</a></div> </div> </div> Fri, 12 Apr 2019 15:29:54 +0000 LHayes 15101 at https://www.au.org Theocrats Are Scary – And That’s The Truth https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/theocrats-are-scary-and-thats-the-truth <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Theocrats Are Scary – And That’s The Truth</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/69587" lang="" about="/user/69587" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">LHayes</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Thu, 04/11/2019 - 10:10</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/Image%20from%20iOS%20%289%29.jpg?h=5cfa9bcc&amp;itok=_6otDRw2" width="1700" height="525" alt="Women in Handmaid&#039;s Tale costumes" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., who’s seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, and Vice President Mike Pence (former governor of Buttigieg’s home state) are both Christians from Indiana – yet you might have noticed that they don’t agree on much.</p> <p>Pence is known for his anti-LGBTQ views, a stance that Buttigieg, who’s gay, not surprisingly finds troubling. During a recent speech, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/08/politics/pete-buttigieg-mike-pence/index.html">Buttigieg laid into Pence</a>, remarking, “If me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade. And that’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand. That if you got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me – your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”</p> <p>Pence and Buttigieg read the same Bible but have come to radically different conclusions on what that book says. Their sharp disagreement is a reminder of an uncomfortable fact for the Religious Right: Despite their claims, what they seek is not a society based on the Bible but <em>their interpretation</em> of the Bible – and those can be two very different things.</p> <p>That’s why I had to chuckle the other day when I received <a href="https://americanpastorsnetwork.net/2019/04/09/truth-is-absolute-and-comes-from-only-one-source-the-bible/">a press release</a> from Sam Rohrer, president of a Religious Right group called the American Pastors Network. Rohrer boldly announced that he has determined what truth is – quite a feat considering that philosophers have been grappling with that question for thousands of years.</p> <p>But let’s play along. So what is truth? According to Rohrer’s email, “Truth Is Absolute and Comes from Only One Source – the Bible.”</p> <p>Says Rohrer, “In every aspect of life and culture we can consider, biblical truth has a role – gender, marriage, immigration, fiscal responsibility, government leadership, religious liberty, sanctity of life issues and much, much more.”</p> <p>According to Rohrer, the Bible not only speaks to every political issue we confront today, but the things it says about those issues just happen to dovetail exactly with the far-right political views held by Rohrer and his pals. How convenient!</p> <p>What about Buttigieg’s truth, which also derives from his Christian faith? Well, according to Rohrer, Mayor Pete’s truth is false. But if you ask Buttigieg, he’d probably tell you that Rohrer is the one who has misread the Bible.</p> <p>On it goes. Now add in the many Americans who derive their truth from religious books other than the Bible or from secular sources. Those sources are deeply meaningful for the people who value them but false to Rohrer. (Let’s face it, most religions and all secular philosophies are false to Rohrer.)</p> <p>I get nervous when I hear Religious Right types talk about building a “biblical” society, not only because such schemes erode the church-state wall, but because I know that someone will have to decide what “biblical” means. And if the someone is a budding theocrat like Rohrer whose truth resembles <em>The Handmaid’s Tale</em>, we’re all in trouble. (And just to be clear, we should not adopt policies based on progressive readings of the Bible either. There should be a secular rationale for all of our laws.)</p> <p>As the late James Dunn, a Southern Baptist champion of freedom of conscience <a href="https://bjconline.org/truth-with-the-bark-on-it-the-wit-and-wisdom-of-james-dunn/">was fond of saying</a>, “The trouble with a theocracy is everyone wants to be Theo!”  </p> <p>Right on, Dr. Dunn. There is a better way. It’s called separation of church and state, and the founders gave it to us for a reason – chiefly so that we’d always have the right to make up our own minds about religion and never have to live under someone else’s narrow, repressive and dogmatic version of “truth.”</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/foundations-of-church-state-separation" hreflang="en">Foundations of Church-State Separation</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/mike-pence-0" hreflang="en">Mike Pence</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/sam-rohrer" hreflang="en">Sam Rohrer</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 11 Apr 2019 14:10:26 +0000 LHayes 15100 at https://www.au.org Miss. Officials Have No License To Force Drivers To Affirm Belief In God https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/miss-officials-have-no-license-to-force-drivers-to-affirm-belief-in-god <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Miss. Officials Have No License To Force Drivers To Affirm Belief In God</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/95" lang="" about="/user/95" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">boston</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 04/10/2019 - 08:38</span> <div class="field field--name-field-authored-by field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Authored by</label> <div class="item"><a href="/about/people/rob-boston" hreflang="und">Rob Boston</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image"> <label>Image</label> <div class="item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/banner/public/images/blog_post/MS%20plate%20cropped%2C%204.10.19.jpg?h=5e5c65e4&amp;itok=BdhX314D" width="1700" height="525" alt="MIss. plate" title="Mississippi license plate" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>In Mississippi, the state’s default vehicle license plate now contains the phrase “In God We Trust.”</p> <p>What if you don’t believe in God or would rather not make a religious affirmation on your car, truck or SUV? You can apply for a specialty plate that doesn’t contain the phrase – but it costs $30 more. (And if you own a trailer you’re completely out of luck – state law bans specialty plates on those.) What about just covering up the phrase with, say, a piece of tape? That won’t work either; residents can be fined $25 if they do that.</p> <p>If this doesn’t seem right to you, you’re not the only one. An Americans United attorney <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2019-04/Miss.%20license%20plate%2C%204.9.19.pdf">wrote to state officials yesterday</a> and advised them that they are in violation of court precedent.</p> <p>“Government must never pressure citizens to publicly display any religious belief,” wrote AU Associate Legal Director Alex J. Luchenitser to Mississippi Department of Revenue Commissioner Herb Frierson and Attorney General Jim Hood. “Yet Mississippi is forcing its many residents who do not believe in a god to choose between displaying a religious message that is contrary to their beliefs or paying a fine or fee.” (The American Humanist Association has also weighed in with <a href="https://americanhumanist.org/featured/humanist-legal-center-seeks-god-free-mississippi-license-plates/">its own letter</a>.)</p> <p>AU’s letter cites the leading case in this area, <em><a href="https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/430/705">Wooley v. Maynard</a></em>, from 1977. Some background: Since 1969, New Hampshire license plates have contained the state motto “Live Free or Die.” George Maynard and his wife, members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith, disagreed with that statement on political and religious grounds, so they covered it up. In 1974, George Maynard was charged with violating a state law that made it a crime to obscure the letters or numbers on a license plate. The law was interpreted to mean not just the identifying numbers and letters on the plate but also the motto.</p> <p>Maynard ended up being cited for violating the law several times. Eventually, he filed a federal lawsuit charging that his rights were being violated. Two federal courts ruled in Maynard’s favor, but the governor of New Hampshire insisted on appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court accepted the case and on April 20, 1977, ruled 6-3 in Maynard’s favor.</p> <p>Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Warren Burger observed, “New Hampshire’s statute in effect requires that appellees use their private property as a ‘mobile billboard’ for the State’s ideological message – or suffer a penalty, as Maynard already has. As a condition to driving an automobile – a virtual necessity for most Americans – the Maynards must display ‘Live Free or Die’ to hundreds of people each day.”</p> <p>Added Burger, “The First Amendment protects the right of individuals to hold a point of view different from the majority, and to refuse to foster, in the way New Hampshire commands, an idea they find morally objectionable.”</p> <p>The same principles hold true in Mississippi. It simply isn’t right to compel people to advocate for God on their license plate if they’d rather not.</p> <p>This matter doesn’t have to go to court. There is an easy solution: Mississippi can keep its “In God We Trust” plate for those who want it, but officials should offer a secular plate for residents who don’t want to display the religious phrase – and make it available at no extra cost.</p> <p>P.S. Getting "In God We Trust" on license plates is yet another scheme of <a href="https://www.au.org/tags/project-blitz">Project Blitz</a>. Your support helps AU fight this and other bad Blitz bills.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issues field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Issues</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/government-support-of-religion" hreflang="en">Government Support Of Religion</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-minorities-rights" hreflang="en">Religious Minorities&#039; Rights</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/issues/religious-freedom" hreflang="en">Religious Freedom</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/mississippi" hreflang="en">Mississippi</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/license-plates" hreflang="en">license plates</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/god-we-trust" hreflang="en">in god we trust</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 10 Apr 2019 12:38:39 +0000 boston 15099 at https://www.au.org