The news these days related to separation of church and state is often not good. The U.S. Supreme Court continues to hammer away at the church-state wall, and Christian Nationalist organizations have formed a well-heeled Shadow Network that is trying to force all of us to live under their religion.
But some good news does leak out now and then. Here are two stories you might have missed that should brighten your day.
Tennessee: Drag Ban Blocked
The first comes from Tennessee, where state legislators passed a constitutionally vague, mean-spirited measure meant to stop people from hosting drag performances. The law was scheduled to take effect Saturday, but that didn’t happen because a federal judge put it on hold.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker, an appointee of President Donald Trump, no less, found that the law likely violates freedom of speech.
“If Tennessee wishes to exercise its police power in restricting speech it considers obscene, it must do so within the constraints and framework of the United States Constitution,” Parker wrote. “The Court finds that, as it stands, the record here suggests that when the legislature passed this Statute, it missed the mark.”
The lawsuit will go on, and drag remains under attack in several other states, but it’s good to see that in this opening skirmish, the Christian Nationalists lost.
Texas: Banned Books Are Back
The second story is out of Texas, a state that these days seems to be in competition with Florida for which can be most embarrassing and un-democratic. Officials in Llano County ordered that several books be removed from the public library system because a few residents objected to their content. A federal court has put a stop to that.
Among the titles targeted were Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson, In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak, Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings and Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero. Some were labeled “pornographic filth” and “CRT and LGBTQ books.”
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman noted that several of the banned titles have won awards and are well regarded.
“Because Plaintiffs have clearly shown Defendants’ actions likely violate their First Amendment right to access to information, they have clearly shown they are suffering irreparable harm,” wrote Pitman.
Christian Nationalist extremists will continue their efforts to turn our democracy into a theocracy. But recent events show that if courageous citizens fight back, we can win.