Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

The Seven Aphorisms

November 17, 2008

As you’ve probably noticed in the news, the Supreme Court has begun hearing the case of the Summum religion, who tried to erect a monument displaying their Seven Aphorisms in a public park in Park Grove Utah, and were turned down by the city. This, despite the fact that the park has a prominent display of the Ten Commandments.

Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog has a great interview on the case, the arguments being presented, and the direction the court will take. The primary disagreement seems to be whether the monument would be private speech, in which the government would not be permitted to quibble based on content, or government speech, in which the government gets more latitude about what it says.

I find that a bit puzzling. What does it matter if the monument is private or government speech? In either case, the Ten Commandments monument, and its proposed Summum counterpart, are religious statements on public land. They are promotions of religion. Either they should all be allowed, or none should be allowed at all.

The silliest opinion seems to have come from Justice Scalia. He holds that the Ten Commandments are not a religious display of all, because of their historical importance to America. Right. I suppose he doesn’t think the Establishment Clause holds much historical importance, then.

Personally, I think Park Grove should go in for a monument to the Eight I’d Really Rather You Didn’ts of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. That would be a real show of support for religious freedom.


Why Pastor Gus Booth opposes religious freedom

September 24, 2008

While listening to NPR this afternoon, I happened to hear an interview with Pastor Gus Booth of the Warroad Community Church in Minnesota. Booth, along with 30 othe preachers around the country, has pledged his intent to commit a flagrant violation of the constitutional separation of church and state by endorsing a presidential candidate in his sermon.

You see, for the last 54 years, federal tax law has forbidden churches from endorsing or opposing political candidates. This is because churches are tax-exempt institutions, so such meddling in politics would be construed as the use of tax-free dollars to engage in a political campaign. In other words, what Booth plans to do is blatantly illegal. It may not yet be clear, however, why that means that he (and the Alliance Defense Fund, which spearheaded the Pulpit Initiative”) opposes religious freedom. I’ll spell it out.

  1. The public endorsement of a religion violates religious freedom.
  2. The public endorsement of a political candidate by a religious organization indicates that that political candidate supports the ideals of that religion.
  3. Therefore, the public endorsement of a political candidate by a religion amounts to the public endorsement of a religion.

It’s not rocket science. The Constitution dictates that religion must stay out of politics, and vice versa. People like Pastor Booth and the Alliance Defense Fund are working to undo the protections that ensure freedom of and from religion in this country. They will fail, but it saddens and enrages me that anyone would want to try.

Pope Ratzinger meets with President Bush

April 18, 2008

Political and religious leaders are perhaps in the greatest position to bring about meaningful change.  For that reason, when they abuse that position by misrepresenting the truth, I become livid.  This is a reaction I will probably never be able to master (though I’ve managed to stop being surprised.)

Case in point: President Bush and Pope Benedict traded remarks during the Catholic leader’s first visit to the United States as pope. Both men’s comments were unsurprising. Then Pope Benedict let this doozy fly:

From the dawn of the republic, America’s quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator.

This, of course, is untrue.  The freedoms guaranteed by the US Constitution have nothing to do with the dominion of any God.  The very notion is ludicrous.  The Bill of Rights specifically guarantees freedom of religion, for one thing.  This must also include the right to follow no religion at all.

Consider, also, the following:

  • The word “god” does not appear in the Constitution
  • The Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary of 1797, a legally binding document, proclaims explicitly that “the Government of the united States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion” (see Article 11)
  • Many of the Founding Fathers were deists (including Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine)

The attack on church/state separation has to stop.  Believe whatever you want, and practice whatever faith you want, but leave it out of the public sphere.  The alternative is to sanction some beliefs and exclude others, which is exactly what the framers of our Constitution set out to avoid.