The Wall of Separation Blog https://www.au.org/ en Separating Together: Living – And Learning – During The Coronavirus Outbreak https://www.au.org/blogs/resources-at-home <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Separating Together: Living – And Learning – During The Coronavirus Outbreak</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, 04/01/2020 - 10:40</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/woman%20reading%20alone%20%282%29.jpg?h=0b533ab2&amp;itok=V3SCu6G7" width="1700" height="525" alt="reading alone" title="reading book" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p><em>Even as we keep physically distant from one another during the coronavirus outbreak, it’s important that we find ways to connect with people and stay engaged on the issues we care most about – including the separation of religion and government. During good times and bad, we remain committed to defending the Constitution and its promise of religious freedom.</em></p> <p><em>That’s why, over the coming days and weeks, we’ll be sharing recommendations of books, articles, podcasts, movies, and other resources you can check out if you have some extra time on your hands and are trying to keep occupied. Some will be serious, some will be more light-hearted, but all of them are offerings from our staff, supporters and friends to help us all make the best of these trying times – and come out all the stronger for it in the end. Bookmark this page and keep checking back, as we plan to keep updating it. And share your own recommendations <a href="https://secure.everyaction.com/zcNH73ZKKEq3_sSiAqUVGw2?ms=social">here</a>!</em></p> <p><strong>Monday, March 23, 2020:</strong></p> <p>If it hadn’t been for the coronavirus, Americans United’s first-ever National Advocacy Summit (NAS) would have been well under way today. The event has been rescheduled for <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-03/NAS-FAQ-Final.pdf">Sept. 13-15</a>, but you can get a head start on things by checking out these resources from NAS speakers:</p> <ul><li><strong>Jeff Sharlet</strong>, an award-winning literary journalist, will keynote the event. Sharlet is the author of several books, including two about the secretive Religious Right group the Family. Check out <em>The New York Times</em> bestseller <em><a href="https://www.harpercollins.com/9780060560058/the-family/">The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power</a></em><em> </em>and <em><a href="https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/jeff-sharlet/c-street/9780316179737/">C Street:  The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy</a></em>. Many of us are spending a lot more time indoors these days so now is a great time to binge watch <a href="https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/netflix-the-family-jesse-moss-secret-christian-cult-washington-dc-869396/">“The Family,”</a> the Netflix series based on Sharlet’s work. (Sharlet served as executive producer of the series.)</li> </ul><ul><li>Writer/researcher <strong>Katherine Stewart</strong> will speak on a panel about Christian nationalism during the NAS. Now would be a great time to read her eye-opening new book, <em><a href="https://www.bloomsbury.com/us/the-power-worshippers-9781635573435/">The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism</a></em>. You might also pick up Stewart’s previous book, <em><a href="http://thegoodnewsclub.com/">The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children</a></em>, an expose of Religious Right-led efforts to proselytize in America’s public schools. Stewart also recently wrote <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/06/opinion/sunday/trump-evangelicals.html">this piece for <em>The New York Times</em></a> (which quotes AU President and CEO Rachel Laser) about the Trump administration’s proposed rules that would roll back religious freedom protections for vulnerable people who rely on taxpayer-funded social services provided by faith-based agencies.</li> </ul><ul><li>T<strong>he Rev. Kentina Washington-Leapheart</strong>, an ordained minister who currently works as a writer and consultant, will join her wife, the Rev. Naomi Washington-Leapheart, and others for a panel on the connection between racial justice and religious freedom. She contributed to <em><a href="https://www.thepilgrimpress.com/products/the-words-of-her-mouth-psalms-for-the-struggle-spong">The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle</a></em><em>, </em>which the editor described as “conversation with the psalms in this season of child separation and climate change and #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter.”</li> </ul><ul><li><strong>Robert P. Jones</strong>, the CEO and founder of the Public Religion Research Institute, is another NAS speaker who has published books. Jones’s <em><a href="https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-End-of-White-Christian-America/Robert-P-Jones/9781501122323">The End of White Christian America</a></em> is an interesting dissection of demographic trends in America and where they are taking us. Jones’s newest book, the forthcoming <em><a href="https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/White-Too-Long/Robert-P-Jones/9781982122867">White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity</a></em>, is a powerful look at the disturbing relationship between American Christianity and white supremacy. The book will be released in June, a few months before the NAS.</li> </ul><ul><li>Not to toot my own horn too much, but I’ll be moderating a panel at the NAS, and I’ve written some books, too. <em><a href="http://www.prometheusbooks.com/books/9781591021148">Why The Religious Right Is Wrong About Separation of Church &amp; State</a></em> debunks claims that America was founded to be a “Christian nation.” <em><a href="https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781616149123/Taking-Liberties-Why-Religious-Freedom-Doesn%27t-Give-You-the-Right-to-Tell-Other-People-What-to-Do">Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn’t Give You The Right To Tell Other People What To Do</a></em>, makes it clear that religious freedom was never intended to be an instrument to harm others or take away their rights.</li> </ul><ul><li>Take a break from all that reading by checking out singer-songwriter <strong>Scarlett Rabe</strong>, who will provide entertainment during the NAS. Follow her on <a href="https://www.instagram.com/scarlettrabe/?hl=en">Instagram</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/scarlettrabe?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor">Twitter</a> and check out her music on her <a href="https://www.youtube.com/user/scarlettrabe">YouTube channel</a>.</li> </ul><p>We’ll be back on this blog from time to time with more ideas on how to school yourself about separation of church and state during this period of working from home, self-quarantining and sheltering in place. We’d love to have your ideas, too – send them to us on <a href="https://twitter.com/americansunited">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/americansunited/">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://www.instagram.com/americansunited/">Instagram</a>, or send them to us<a href="https://secure.everyaction.com/zcNH73ZKKEq3_sSiAqUVGw2?ms=social"> via this form</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/history-and-origins-of-church-state-separation" hreflang="en">History and Origins 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/katherine-stewart" hreflang="en">Katherine Stewart</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/jeff-sharlet" hreflang="en">Jeff Sharlet</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/family" hreflang="en">The Family</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 01 Apr 2020 14:40:55 +0000 boston 16095 at https://www.au.org Could Someone Persuade Jerry Falwell Jr. To Stop Talking? Please? https://www.au.org/blogs/falwell-liberty-university <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Could Someone Persuade Jerry Falwell Jr. To Stop Talking? Please? </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, 03/26/2020 - 09:57</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/liberty%20univ%20flickr.jpg?h=2e2bd29a&amp;itok=NwseCqpl" width="1700" height="525" alt="liberty univ" title="liberty univ " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University and a prominent evangelical supporter of President Donald Trump, is ramping up his campaign of misinformation about the coronavirus.</p> <p>Fresh from his March 13 appearance on Fox News during which Falwell speculated, with absolutely no evidence, that the virus is a North Korean bioweapon, the fact-lacking Lynchburger has struck again. This time, he appeared on Todd Starnes’s <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRIzp8xOq7M">podcast to boast</a> about his plans to keep Liberty open during the pandemic, all the while spewing even more nonsense. (Starnes, you may recall, is the guy whose right-wing nuttery is so out there that even Fox News <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/media/464127-radio-host-todd-starnes-out-at-fox-news">cut him loose</a>.)</p> <p>Falwell was only on the show for about four minutes but managed to spread an astonishing amount of rubbish in that time period. He asserted that the reaction to the virus is “politics – it’s just politics,” inaccurately called coronavirus a flu (<a href="https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-disease-2019-vs-the-flu">it’s not</a>) and harrumphed, “I’m not worried about it.”</p> <p>According to Falwell, the media has blown the virus out of proportion “just to hurt Trump.” (He failed to explain how the media has managed to kill more than <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/1093256/novel-coronavirus-2019ncov-deaths-worldwide-by-country/">21,000 people worldwide</a>.) He said it was important to speak out because otherwise, the country might “resort to socialism.” (Note to Falwell: <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/03/25/coronavirus-mcconnell-schumer-trump-admin-announce-stimulus-deal/5076640002/">You’re too late</a>.)</p> <p>“Government’s not the answer,” Falwell drawled. “Common sense is the answer. Churches are the answer.”</p> <p>Falwell’s version of “common sense” includes reopening Liberty and allowing students to live close together in dorms and mandating that faculty and staff report to work – even after state officials closed public schools for the year and urged people not to gather in groups of 10 or more.</p> <p>Although in-person classes are canceled at Liberty, students can elect to attend remotely while living on campus, and nearly <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/24/us/liberty-university-reopens-coronavirus-trnd/index.html">2,000 returned after spring break</a>. Falwell’s decision has been widely panned; Marybeth Davis Baggett,<em> </em>an English professor at the school, <a href="https://religionnews.com/2020/03/22/dear-liberty-university-board-please-stop-jerry-falwell-jr-before-its-too-late/">has called on Liberty’s board to overrule him</a>. Lynchburg Mayor Treney Tweedy <a href="https://apnews.com/326b67255b5436bd2a6bf2443ae5be96">called the move “reckless</a>.”</p> <p>Board action against Falwell isn’t likely to happen, and if I were Baggett, I’d start polishing my resume because, except for at its law school, faculty at Liberty don’t have tenure. Still, it’s good to see people standing up to Falwell. The man is putting lives at stake.</p> <p>The good news is that Falwell is an outlier. Across the country, most religious leaders and educators are doing the right thing and holding worship services or classes virtually. They know that the only way we’ll get through this public health emergency is if we work together – even if we’re physically apart.</p> <p>Americans United is doing its part. All staff members are working remotely to protect church-state separation. We haven’t let up one bit. That includes urging governors <a href="https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/religious-services-shouldnt-be-excluded-from-bans-against-large-gatherings-to">not to grant houses of worship exemptions</a> from restrictions on mass gatherings and speaking out against Christian nationalists like Falwell whose views endanger our people.</p> <p>Be assured that AU's activism and tenacious defense of America’s precious legacy of religious freedom, undergirded by the separation of religion and government, will continue – before, during and after this crisis.</p> <p><em>Photo: By Taber Andrew Bain via Creative Commons</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/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/jerry-falwell-jr-0" hreflang="en">Jerry Falwell Jr.</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/virginia" hreflang="en">Virginia</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/liberty-university" hreflang="en">Liberty University</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/lynchburg" hreflang="en">Lynchburg</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 26 Mar 2020 13:57:56 +0000 boston 16099 at https://www.au.org A Legislator In Pennsylvania Has Introduced An Offensive Prayer Day Resolution. Lawmakers Should Denounce It. https://www.au.org/blogs/offensive-pennsylvania-resolution <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">A Legislator In Pennsylvania Has Introduced An Offensive Prayer Day Resolution. Lawmakers Should Denounce 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">Wed, 03/25/2020 - 11:55</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/PA%20capitol%20hburg.jpg?h=5888d62a&amp;itok=EeXYwtPC" width="1700" height="525" alt="PA capitol" title="Harrisburg " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>President Donald Trump proclaimed March 18 a National Day of Prayer in response to the coronavirus pandemic. That was a misguided move. <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/trump-prayer-day">As we noted at the time</a>, mixing religion and government won’t protect anyone from the virus.</p> <p>Now a legislator in Pennsylvania has proposed another<a href="https://www.abc27.com/news/local/harrisburg/state-rep-files-controversial-resolution-for-day-of-humiliation-fasting-and-prayer-amid-coronavirus-outbreak/"> </a><a href="https://www.abc27.com/news/local/harrisburg/state-rep-files-controversial-resolution-for-day-of-humiliation-fasting-and-prayer-amid-coronavirus-outbreak/">resolution calling for prayer</a> that’s even more offensive because of the way it’s worded.</p> <p>State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, a Republican who represents parts of Clinton and Centre counties, has introduced<a href="https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billInfo/billInfo.cfm?sYear=2019&amp;sInd=0&amp;body=H&amp;type=R&amp;bn=835"> </a><a href="https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billInfo/billInfo.cfm?sYear=2019&amp;sInd=0&amp;body=H&amp;type=R&amp;bn=835">House Resolution 835</a> that would designate March 30 as “A State Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer” in Pennsylvania.</p> <p>The resolution is littered with offensive Christian nationalist language, among those a declaration that “The House of Representatives devoutly recognizes the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God in all the affairs of men and of nations” and a call for the state to “recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history: that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.”</p> <p>It goes on to urge Pennsylvanians to “abstain on that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.”</p> <p>But hands down the worse passage is this one: “May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of the pandemic, which now desolates this Commonwealth may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins…?”</p> <p>In other words, we sinned so we deserve the death and destruction brought about by this pandemic – and all we can do now is beg the fundamentalists’ vengeful deity to mitigate its effects. That may be standard far-right Christian theology, but it’s nothing a state government should endorse. Not only does language like that offend non-Christians and non-believers (and, I am sure, plenty of Christians as well), it goes out of its way to blame innocent people for a worldwide pandemic. It offers a cold shoulder to the more than <a href="https://www.wgal.com/article/coronavirus-covid19-in-pennsylvania-updates/31924015">850 people in Pennsylvania </a>who’ve been infected with coronavirus, in effect saying, “It’s your own fault. Maybe you should have prayed more.”</p> <p>Does the commonwealth of Pennsylvania really want to be on record saying that?</p> <p>Thankfully, some Pennsylvania legislators are pushing back. State Rep. Kevin J. Boyle, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery counties, <a href="https://twitter.com/RepKevinBoyle/status/1242198957461307395">put it bluntly in a tweet</a>: “I do believe this is the stupidest resolution I’ve ever seen a politician introduce.”</p> <p>This resolution reflects the worst kind of narrow-minded, exclusionary fundamentalist theology. It is divisive and offensive. Pennsylvania legislators should do more than reject it out of hand: They ought to condemn it.</p> <p><em>Photo: Pennsylvania's capitol building in Harrisburg</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> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/ceremonial-deism" hreflang="en">Ceremonial Deism</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/prayer-proclamations" hreflang="en">prayer proclamations</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/pennsylvania" hreflang="en">Pennsylvania</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 25 Mar 2020 15:55:25 +0000 boston 16097 at https://www.au.org In The Face Of A Pandemic, The Government Can Curb Gatherings – And That Includes Houses Of Worship https://www.au.org/blogs/no-church-exemption <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">In The Face Of A Pandemic, The Government Can Curb Gatherings – And That Includes Houses Of Worship</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, 03/24/2020 - 11:43</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/empty%20church%2022.jpg?h=dbeb3295&amp;itok=Yg-pj2IE" width="1700" height="525" alt="empty church" title="church pews" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>In normal times, when a house of worship holds its services, how many people attend and what form that worship takes would be none of the government’s business.</p> <p>These are not normal times. The coronavirus has reached the level of a pandemic, and states and cities are taking unprecedented steps to curb gatherings of people. Most schools have closed and events like concerts, plays, lectures, movies, sporting matches, social functions and others have been shut down.</p> <p>The restrictions include houses of worship, and the vast majority of religious leaders are being responsible and have either moved services online or canceled <a>them outright.</a> Some religious leaders have issued <a href="https://action.groundswell-mvmt.org/petitions/faithful-distance-commit-to-church-social-distance">thoughtful statements</a> about the need to behave in a way that protects us all during this difficult time. The leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals and <em>Christianity Today</em> have <a href="https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/march-web-only/walter-kim-nae-timothy-dalrymple-cancel-church-or-not.html">issued a statement</a> that will likely resonate with many religious people: Believers aren’t being asked to stop worshipping – merely to do it differently.</p> <p>Unfortunately, not everyone is taking the threat of coronavirus seriously or they’re misunderstanding how religious freedom impacts restrictions.</p> <p>In some states, notably Michigan, government officials have spawned confusion by issuing orders that ban gatherings of 50 or more but go on to<a href="https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2020/03/21/coronavirus-whitmer-updates-order-assemblies-exempt-churches-penalty/2885395001/"> </a><a href="https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2020/03/21/coronavirus-whitmer-updates-order-assemblies-exempt-churches-penalty/2885395001/">effectively exempt worship services</a>. Under pressure from conservative legislators, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) granted such an exemption last week.<a href="https://www.rawstory.com/2020/03/michigan-governor-blames-gop-and-separation-of-church-and-state-on-failure-to-ban-megachurch-gatherings/"> </a><a href="https://www.rawstory.com/2020/03/michigan-governor-blames-gop-and-separation-of-church-and-state-on-failure-to-ban-megachurch-gatherings/">She told Fox News on Sunday</a> that she acted because, “Well, you know, the separation of church and state, and the Republican legislature asked me to clarify that that’s an area that we don’t have the ability to enforce and control.”</p> <p>But Whitmer is wrong about that. Separation of church and state does not demand that houses of worship get an exemption in a case like this. In fact, granting worship facilities special treatment while denying it to similarly situated secular events – concerts, public lectures, rallies, etc. – is preference to religion, which the government is not supposed to show.</p> <p>Religious freedom doesn’t mean the right to expose others to harm, injury or death. Certain religious practices can be curbed or banned if they threaten others. In this case, the government is acting to protect citizens by issuing neutral rules that treat religious and secular bodies exactly the same – 50 people can’t gather for a flute recital on Sunday morning, nor can they for a religious service.</p> <p>Americans United is<a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-03/AU%20Letter%20to%20MI%20Gov.%20Whitmer%20on%20Coronavirus%203.23.20.pdf"> </a><a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-03/AU%20Letter%20to%20MI%20Gov.%20Whitmer%20on%20Coronavirus%203.23.20.pdf">working to educate policymakers</a> about this important issue and how separation of church and state is to be applied during these challenging times.<a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-03/AU%20Letter%20to%20MI%20Gov.%20Whitmer%20on%20Coronavirus%203.23.20.pdf"> </a><a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-03/AU%20Letter%20to%20MI%20Gov.%20Whitmer%20on%20Coronavirus%203.23.20.pdf">In a letter</a> sent to Whitmer yesterday, AU President and CEO Rachel Laser observed, “[A]t this moment, the Constitution not only permits but demands that the safety and health of every single person must take precedence. In order to protect the lives and health of those who attend religious services and those who might be in contact with them, we urge you to rescind immediately the religious exemption for houses of worship.” (AU is sending similar letters to the governors of other states who have exempted houses of worship.)</p> <p>In a media statement, Laser said, “We applaud the faith communities that are finding creative ways to worship together online or by broadcast, and we hope that people will find comfort by participating in these virtual services. We may be physically apart, but we will get through this public health crisis together – even if it’s together in new ways.”</p> <p>At Americans United, we’re working hard to convey the message that we’re all in this together. For everyone to make it through safely, we all have to abide by the same rules – and that includes America’s houses of worship.</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/government-support-of-religion" hreflang="en">Government Support 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/michigan" hreflang="en">Michigan</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/national-association-evangelicals" hreflang="en">National Association of Evangelicals</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/christianity-today" hreflang="en">Christianity Today</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 24 Mar 2020 15:43:56 +0000 boston 16096 at https://www.au.org Some Tenn. Legislators Want To Name The Bible The Official State Book. It’s Not A Good Idea. https://www.au.org/blogs/Tennessee-bible-bill <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Some Tenn. Legislators Want To Name The Bible The Official State Book. It’s Not A Good Idea.</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, 03/19/2020 - 10:22</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/rep%20shaw%20tn.png?h=9ae44441&amp;itok=rD-aEPMA" width="1700" height="525" alt="Rep Shaw " title="Tenn rep" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Officials in Tennessee have been arguing over a bill to declare the Bible the state’s official book. This is not a new argument in the Volunteer State. A proposal like this passed the legislature in 2016, but Gov. Bill Haslam (R) rightly vetoed it.</p> <p>The measure (HB 2778) has not improved with age. During a recent debate in the Tennessee House of Representatives, legislators got bogged down in arguments over theology. At times, <a href="http://tnga.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=414&amp;clip_id=22139">the debate</a> sounded more like something you’d hear in a seminary, not a legislative chamber.</p> <p>State Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station) tried to argue that the Bible has special meaning for Tennessee because many copies of the book are printed in the state. But when he was challenged by Rep. Johnny Shaw (D-Bolivar) who argued that it’s not the place of government “to tell people how to practice their personal religion,” Sexton gave up the game by responding, “I say we have taken God out of our country, and it’s time for us to put him back. It’s time for us to put the Word where it belongs.”</p> <p>The lawmakers also sparred over which version of the Bible they’d be endorsing. While Sexton insisted that there’s only one version, which he called the “Holy Bible,” in fact there are many interpretations of that book. One legislator, Rep. Dwayne Thompson (D-Cordova), said he had done some research and found 92 English-language versions of the Bible “and there’s probably a lot more than that.”</p> <p>Some of the most interesting comments came from Rep. Kevin Vaughn (R-Collierville) who told lawmakers that voting against the bill “is not a referendum on your personal beliefs or your personal relationship with your creator or your savior” – a line that won him applause.</p> <p>Vaughn spoke with great emotion, admitting, “I have struggled with this.” But in the end he said he could not support the measure, even though he believes the Bible to be the infallible word of God.</p> <p>“I just don’t believe that bestowing a ceremonial title on the living word of God is something that this body needs to engage in. … It tends to alienate,” Vaughn said. “It has even created division within this body.”</p> <p>Yes, it has. And it would create division among the population of Tennessee as well. That state includes many varieties of Christians but also non-Christians and non-believers as well. The government can best respect all of their rights by refraining from elevating a text that some (but by no means all) Tennesseans regard as sacred above all others.</p> <p>P.S. The Tennessee legislature did not vote on this measure and now plans to go out of session due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the bill may resurface later this year so Americans United will continue to monitor the situation. You can read our <a href="https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2020-03/TN SB 2696 FINAL.pdf">letter to lawmakers about the bill here.</a> </p> <p><em>Photo: Rep. Johnny Shaw speaks against a bill naming the Bible the official book of Tennessee</em></p> <p> </p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/tennessee" hreflang="en">Tennessee</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/ceremonial-deism" hreflang="en">Ceremonial Deism</a></div> </div> </div> Thu, 19 Mar 2020 14:22:47 +0000 boston 16094 at https://www.au.org Evangelical Leader Rebukes Trump Over Use Of Term ‘Chinese Virus’ https://www.au.org/blogs/evangelical-criticizes-trump <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Evangelical Leader Rebukes Trump Over Use Of Term ‘Chinese Virus’ </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, 03/18/2020 - 12:05</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/coronavirus%20tube.jpg?h=9fd69161&amp;itok=27Ocg6jc" width="1700" height="525" alt="coronavirus" title="virus" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Yesterday on this blog <a href="https://www.au.org/blogs/falwell-on-fox-news">we made note</a> of the unhelpful antics of Jerry Falwell Jr., who has been downplaying the seriousness of the coronavirus and spreading wild tales about it being a North Korean bioweapon.</p> <p>This type of talk has consequences. <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/03/17/816501871/poll-as-coronavirus-spreads-fewer-americans-see-pandemic-as-a-real-threat">A recent poll</a> shows a stark difference between the political parties, with a majority of Republicans saying that the threat of the virus is overblown. (President Donald Trump, who a few weeks ago dismissed fears of coronavirus as <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/17/politics/fact-check-trump-always-knew-pandemic-coronavirus/index.html">a “hoax”</a> finally seems to be taking matters more seriously, so those views may change.)</p> <p>It’s important to point out that not all evangelicals are lining up behind Falwell. Some are <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2020/03/17/evangelical-leader-denounces-trump-calling-coronavirus-chinese-virus/">challenging the president’s reckless rhetoric</a>. One of the most prominent is Eugene Cho, who until recently was the pastor of a large evangelical church in Seattle.</p> <p>As the effects of coronavirus (also known as covid-19) become undeniable, Trump and his Fox News factotums have shifted gears. They now admit that covid-19 is a threat, but they also insist on calling it the “Chinese virus.”</p> <p>This is yet another of Trump’s not-so-subtle dog whistles to rile up the racist elements of this base. And, like Falwell’s daft comments, it’s not helpful. We’ve already seen <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/20/us/coronavirus-racist-attacks-against-asian-americans/index.html">reports of attacks on Asians</a>, who, some people falsely assume, brought the virus to America.</p> <p>Coronavirus did originate in the Wuhan area of China. But despite conspiracy theories circulating on the right, it was not created in a laboratory and had <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200317175442.htm">a natural evolution</a>.</p> <p>As Cho noted, calling covid-19 a “Chinese” virus “only instigates blame, racism, and hatred against Asians – here and abroad. We need leadership that speaks clearly against racism; Leadership that brings the nation and world together. Not further divides.”</p> <p>Cho’s right. Asian Americans are suffering the effects of the pandemic alongside everyone else. No American in his/her right mind wanted this outbreak to happen.</p> <p>We can get through the next few weeks and months – but only if we work together. Unfortunately, Trump is not well positioned to create that kind of unity. His history in this area is not good. This is the man, after all, who stirred up fears of Muslims while on the campaign trail in 2016 and who has since instituted an ineffective and discriminatory <a href="https://www.au.org/tags/muslim-ban">Muslim Ban</a>.</p> <p>There is a better way: Stop scapegoating and fear-mongering. The first step is to realize that words matter – even what we call this virus.</p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/jerry-falwell-jr-0" hreflang="en">Jerry Falwell Jr.</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/muslim-ban" hreflang="en">Muslim Ban</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 18 Mar 2020 16:05:05 +0000 boston 16093 at https://www.au.org Jerry Falwell Jr. Is Spreading Misinformation About Coronavirus – And Endangering America In The Process https://www.au.org/blogs/falwell-on-fox-news <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Jerry Falwell Jr. Is Spreading Misinformation About Coronavirus – And Endangering America In The Process </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, 03/17/2020 - 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/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/falwell%20on%20fox%20.png?h=08e8b563&amp;itok=PdvHtWKg" width="1700" height="525" alt="falwell fox" title="fox news" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>The spread of coronavirus is affecting all aspects of life. Universities are moving to remote instruction, public schools and libraries are closing, millions of Americans (including the staff of Americans United) are working from home and in some cities and states, restaurants and bars have shuttered. </p> <p>We see daily reminders to wash our hands, avoid crowds and maintain proper social distance. It’s disruptive, to be sure, but one thing is clear: Americans are resilient, and we can get through this if we all work together. </p> <p>Unfortunately, some people are working against national interests by spreading messages that are not only inaccurate and counterproductive but dangerous. Among them is Christian nationalist leader Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. </p> <p>Falwell <a href="https://www.thedailybeast.com/jerry-falwell-jr-suggests-to-fox-and-friends-that-north-korea-created-the-coronavirus">appeared on Fox News Channel’s “Fox &amp; Friends”</a> on Friday and asserted that people are “overreacting” to the global pandemic. Falwell parroted an argument that’s popping up in conservative circles these days – that coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) is similar to the seasonal flu and it’s no big deal. Falwell vowed to keep Liberty open but had to reverse himself after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam banned all gatherings over 100 people.</p> <p>Falwell’s view are pure malarkey. We have a vaccine for the seasonal flu that helps keep the mortality rate at 0.1 percent. As of yet, there’s no vaccine for COVID-19. Coronavirus also spreads faster than the flu and poses a much more serious threat to older people and those with compromised immune systems. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified before Congress last week that COVID-19 is “ten times more lethal than the seasonal flu.”  </p> <p>Falwell also asserted that there’s a political dimension to the virus, insisting that Trump’s enemies are using the outbreak to hurt him. </p> <p>“Impeachment didn’t work, the Mueller report didn't work, Article 25 didn’t work. Maybe this is their next attempt to get Trump,” <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/jerry-falwell-jr-suggests-coronavirus-is-plot-to-hurt-trump-2020-3">he said</a>.</p> <p>A moment later, Falwell really went off the rails, suggesting that coronavirus could be a type of biological weapon cooked up in a lab by North Korea in cahoots with China. There is absolutely no evidence for this.  </p> <p>As Falwell spewed this nonsense, none of the hosts on “Fox &amp; Friends” even mildly pushed back. A similar dynamic played out on Sunday morning when U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) <a href="https://www.motherjones.com/coronavirus-updates/2020/03/devin-nunes-this-is-why-we-cant-have-nice-things-coronavirus/">appeared on Fox</a> and urged people to go out to restaurants and bars, advice that stands in stark contrast to what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html">is telling Americans</a>.  </p> <p>The same First Amendment that protects religious freedom and instills separation of church and state also ensures freedom of the press. But it is irresponsible to use those freedoms to harm others. It’s no surprise that Falwell, who advocates for the misuse of religious freedom to justify discrimination, would also wield other First Amendment freedoms like a weapon. But decent people have free speech, too. Let’s use ours to denounce Falwell’s wild-eyed conspiracy theories and reckless lies.  </p> <p><em>Photo: Screenshot from Fox News Channel</em></p> <p> </p></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference"> <label>Tags</label> <div class="items"> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/jerry-falwell-jr-0" hreflang="en">Jerry Falwell Jr.</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/liberty-university" hreflang="en">Liberty University</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/fox-news-channel" hreflang="en">Fox News Channel</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/north-korea" hreflang="en">North Korea</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/china" hreflang="en">China</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 17 Mar 2020 13:07:37 +0000 boston 16092 at https://www.au.org Mixing Church And State Won’t Save Anyone From Coronavirus https://www.au.org/blogs/trump-prayer-day <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Mixing Church And State Won’t Save Anyone From Coronavirus</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, 03/16/2020 - 12:16</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/trump%20corona.png?h=b52ca227&amp;itok=7lWO9x73" width="1700" height="525" alt="coronavirus " title="trump white house " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>In all of the breaking news about coronavirus, you might have missed the announcement on Friday that President Donald Trump declared Sunday an official Day of Prayer in response to the epidemic.</p> <p><a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-national-day-prayer-americans-affected-coronavirus-pandemic-national-response-efforts/">The proclamation</a> is typical of these kinds of things. The assumption is that everyone is religious, everyone will pray and that falling to your knees is just the normal reaction to a crisis like this. Trump and his advisers seem unable to grasp that not everyone in America prays, and even many of those who do pray don’t need to be directed by the government to do it.</p> <p>Even in a proclamation meant to unify the country, Trump couldn’t resist some shameless self-promotion. The proclamation refers to the “bold” action his administration has taken to combat coronavirus. In fact, Trump has been <a href="https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2020/03/6-ways-the-trump-administration-has-botched-responses-to-the-coronavirus-and-climate-change/">widely panned</a> for his ineptitude in the face of the outbreak, especially his March 11 error-laden <a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/fact-check-friday-trumps-coronavirus-response-plagued-misstatements/story?id=69590582">nationally televised address</a>. Trump also used the proclamation to pander to his Christian nationalist base – it quotes not one, not two, but three passages from the Bible; no other religious text was referenced.</p> <p>Americans United President and CEO Rachel Laser had a powerful reply to Trump <a href="https://twitter.com/rachelklaser/status/1238620397131763712">on Twitter</a>: “People should feel free to pray – or not – but it’s preposterous that prayer alone will make us “easily prevail” over #coronavirus. How about showing some leadership, Mr. President, instead of shirking it? You can START by making tests widely available #covid_19.”</p> <p>Trump is known to admire President Andrew Jackson. While Jackson is a problematic figure in many ways (especially his treatment of the Native population), he got one thing right: In 1832, a cholera epidemic swept America, and Congress asked Jackson to declare an official day of prayer and fasting. Jackson announced in a letter that if Congress passed the resolution, <a href="https://www.au.org/church-state/february-2016-church-state/featured/presidential-proclamations">he would not sign it.</a></p> <p>“I could not do otherwise without transcending the limits prescribed by the Constitution for the president; and without feeling that I might in some degree disturb the security which religion now enjoys in this country in its complete separation from the political concerns of the General Government,” Jackson said.</p> <p>Trump should follow Jackson’s example and stop using the government to promote prayer. And while he’s at it, maybe he could do something to actually respond to this growing public health crisis instead of just offering pious platitudes.</p> <p><em>Photo: President Trump discusses the response to the coronavirus outbreak. Screenshot from WBAL-TV.</em></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/history-and-origins-of-church-state-separation" hreflang="en">History and Origins 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/ceremonial-deism" hreflang="en">Ceremonial Deism</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/prayer-proclamations" hreflang="en">prayer proclamations</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 16 Mar 2020 16:16:48 +0000 boston 16091 at https://www.au.org Half Of Americans Say The Bible Should Influence U.S. Law – But Which Interpretation? https://www.au.org/blogs/bible-as-law <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Half Of Americans Say The Bible Should Influence U.S. Law – But Which Interpretation? </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">Fri, 03/13/2020 - 10:22</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/Bible%20hands%203.13.20%20.jpg?h=22a0b3e1&amp;itok=Lmrgqawj" width="1700" height="525" alt="Bible and hands " title="bible" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>The Pew Research Center yesterday <a href="https://www.pewforum.org/2020/03/12/white-evangelicals-see-trump-as-fighting-for-their-beliefs-though-many-have-mixed-feelings-about-his-personal-conduct/">released a new poll</a> about religion and politics. As usual, there’s a lot to chew on, but one finding really stood out: Americans are almost evenly split over whether the Bible should influence U.S. law.</p> <p>Pew found that 23 percent of American adults said the Bible should influence the law “a great deal.” An additional 26 percent say it should influence the law “some.” By contrast, 50 percent told pollsters the Bible should have not much or no influence over American law.</p> <p>Pew then asked a follow-up question of those people who backed Bible-based law: If the Bible and the will of the people conflict, which should prevail? Twenty-eight percent of all adults backed the Bible. Among white evangelicals, that number soared to 68 percent.</p> <p>Christian nationalists are fond of tossing around the term “biblical law” as if there was an agreed-upon definition of what that means. But there’s not, and that’s one reason why American law is not based on the Bible (or any other religious book).</p> <p>To be sure, some people do advocate for this. At the farthest fringes of the Religious Right sit a band of extremists known as <a href="https://www.salon.com/2015/07/31/secrets_of_the_extreme_religious_right_inside_the_frightening_world_of_christian_reconstructionism/">Christian Reconstructionists</a>. Openly theocratic, the Reconstructionists yearn to build a society based on the legal books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Many of the criminal penalties listed in these books are harsh.  At different points, they call for the death penalty for adultery, blasphemy, worshipping false gods, propagating false religious doctrines, cursing your parents, incorrigible juvenile delinquency and witchcraft. Christian Reconstructionists assert that these offenses merit the death penalty because that’s what the Bible says. Some of them even argue – and they’re serious about this – that executions should take place by stoning.</p> <p>Few Americans would agree with the Reconstructionists that this is an appropriate application of biblical law. So what is, exactly? Some conservative Christian nationalists point to passages in Leviticus to buttress their anti-LGBTQ views, while progressive Christians cite Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount to justify social service programs. So which side is using the Bible properly to “influence” the law?</p> <p>And there’s the problem. The Bible is sprawling work written over hundreds of years, and through cherry-picking and isolating passages, you can find support for many different positions; sometimes the text seems to say one thing, and other times it says the polar opposite. Also, we must remember that English-language versions of the Bible are translations, and scholars still quibble over questions of accuracy.</p> <p>But the more important issue is that many people tend to project onto the Bible the political beliefs they already hold. Is Jesus a bootstrap capitalist or a quasi-socialist? He can be both, depending on which church you attend on Sunday.</p> <p>That’s one reason we don’t base American law on the Bible – it’s not biblical law, it’s <em>someone’s interpretation</em> of biblical law.</p> <p>Better to stick with what the founders gave us: a secular constitution, a secular government and an official policy of separation of church and state. That system has given us more freedom and rights than any officially “biblical” government ever could.</p> <p> </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/history-and-origins-of-church-state-separation" hreflang="en">History and Origins 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/pew-research" hreflang="en">Pew Research</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/polls" hreflang="en">polls</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/christian-reconstructionism" hreflang="en">Christian Reconstructionism</a></div> </div> </div> Fri, 13 Mar 2020 14:22:56 +0000 boston 16089 at https://www.au.org TV Preacher Jim Bakker Is Hawking A Fake Coronavirus ‘Cure.’ Government Officials Are Right To Stop Him. https://www.au.org/blogs/jim-bakker-silver <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">TV Preacher Jim Bakker Is Hawking A Fake Coronavirus ‘Cure.’ Government Officials Are Right To Stop Him.</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, 03/11/2020 - 11:48</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/jim%20bakker%20with%20silver%20.jpg?h=bd9efeba&amp;itok=vsRaysxk" width="1700" height="525" alt="Jim Bakker " title="Bakker and silver " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-banner" /> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary items"><p>Coronavirus is spreading across the country, and government officials are working to educate Americans about the threat – and that includes cracking down on hucksters hawking dubious “cures.”</p> <p>Among the most prominent of these snake-oil salesmen is Jim Bakker. You might remember Bakker, a protégé of televangelist Pat Robertson, from the late 1980s. He ran a ministry called PTL, which was involved in all sorts of <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1989/10/06/us/bakker-is-convicted-on-all-counts-first-felon-among-tv-evangelists.html">financial shenanigans</a>. Bakker was found guilty of committing mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy. He served five years in federal prison.</p> <p>Bakker emerged from prison and for a brief time claimed to have been humbled by his experience. But he was soon back to his old tricks. Bakker now runs an “End Times” ministry in Branson, Mo., that airs on satellite networks and online. He spends much of his time trying to convince people to buy <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/12/03/456677535/apocalypse-chow-we-tried-televangelist-jim-bakkers-survival-food">emergency food supplies</a> from him so they can ride out the Apocalypse.</p> <p>Lately, Bakker has been pushing a substance called “Silver Solution” that he claims was created by God. In cahoots with a woman named Sherrill Sellman, Bakker has been telling his viewers that this goop can cure coronavirus in 12 hours. (He also says the solution can cure HIV, venereal diseases and SARS.) Bakker offers the solution for a “donation” – in other words, he’s selling it.</p> <p>There’s one serious problem: There is no known cure for coronavirus (also known as covid-19).</p> <p>Government officials have decided it’s time to crack down on Bakker’s lies. A few days ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) <a href="https://www.fda.gov/inspections-compliance-enforcement-and-criminal-investigations/warning-letters/jim-bakker-show-604820-03062020">told Bakker to stop</a> marketing the silver product as a cure for coronavirus.</p> <p>“The FDA considers the sale and promotion of fraudulent COVID-19 products to be a threat to the public health,” FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn said in a public statement. “We have an aggressive surveillance program that routinely monitors online sources for health fraud products, especially during a significant public health issue such as this one.”</p> <p><a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/09/fda-and-ftc-warn-televangelist-jim-bakker-and-six-others-to-stop-selling-fraudulent-coronavirus-products.html">NBC News reported</a> that FDA officials are concerned that the use of untested remedies may persuade people to delay or stop effective forms of treatment, “leading to serious and life-threatening harm.”</p> <p>Days before that, officials with the New York State Office of the Attorney General ordered Bakker to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/mar/09/jim-bakker-letitia-james-coronavirus-product-stop-promoting">cease claiming</a> that Silver Solution can cure coronavirus.</p> <p>In a March 3 letter to Bakker, Lisa Landau, chief of the Health Care Bureau of the New York Attorney General’s Office, pointed out that the World Health Organization “has noted that there is no specific medicine to prevent or treat this disease. Therefore, any representation on the Jim Bakker Show that its Silver Solution products are effective at combatting and/or treating the 2019 novel coronavirus violates New York law.”</p> <p>Added Landau, “Your show is hereby advised to immediately cease and desist from making misleading claims regarding the Silver Solution’s effectiveness as they violate New York’s consumer protection statutes … which prohibit fraudulent and deceptive business practices and false advertising.”</p> <p>Now comes word that officials in Missouri <a href="https://ago.mo.gov/home/news/2020/03/10/ag-schmitt-files-suit-against-jim-bakker-for-selling-fake-coronavirus-cure">are suing Bakker</a> over his claims.</p> <p>Eric Schmitt, the state’s attorney general, issued a press release yesterday about the legal action.</p> <p>The release reads in part, “Anyone who has bought ‘Silver Solution’ from the Jim Bakker Show should know that it cannot cure or treat coronavirus. The lawsuit filed this morning requests a restraining order and permanent injunction ordering Bakker to stop selling Silver Solution as a treatment for coronavirus.”</p> <p>Bakker (who, by the way, is <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/jim-bakker-trump-saved_n_5e1401f8e4b0b2520d26d35e">a proud member</a> of President Donald Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Board, aka the League of Evangelical Lickspittles) may claim that what he’s doing is religious freedom, as opposed to mere hucksterism. But such claims should not protect him from being held responsible for his actions. As the FDA noted, when Americans are misled by people like Bakker, they may put their faith in false cures and delay treatment that might actually help them. In the face of a public health emergency, that’s unacceptable.</p> <p>Americans United has explained repeatedly that religious freedom gives you the right to believe whatever you want about religion, but it does not give one person the right to cause harm to another or take away their rights. This situation is a perfect example of why we must not allow that. Bakker is working against the best interests of the country and exacerbating what could become a pandemic. Religious freedom provides no harbor for such irresponsible and dangerous actions. Government officials have a right, indeed a duty, to put a stop to Bakker.</p> <p>P.S. For accurate information about coronavirus, visit the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html">Centers for Disease Control’s website</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/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/religious-right-0" hreflang="en">Religious Right</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/pat-robertson" hreflang="en">Pat Robertson</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/missouri" hreflang="en">Missouri</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/new-york" hreflang="en">New York</a></div> <div class="item"><a href="/tags/fda" hreflang="en">FDA</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 11 Mar 2020 15:48:54 +0000 boston 16086 at https://www.au.org