Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 2, 2006

CHURCH-STATE SHOWDOWN IN INDIANA....It's not unusual for state legislatures, like the U.S. Congress, to start the day with an official non-denominational prayer. On the Hill, the House and Senate have chaplains to cover this, while many states invite local religious leaders to handle the invocation. Yes, this is all legal -- the Supreme Court cleared the way for these prayers in 1983, ruling that a legislature could hold nonsectarian invocations, in part because they reflect "elements of the American civil religion."

The fight over invocations in Indiana's legislature, however, is anything but civil. For years, pastors have been brought in to lead state lawmakers in prayer at the start of their work day with increasingly evangelistic language. Matters came to a head in April when the Rev. Clarence Brown delivered an invocation that included thanks to God "for our lord and savior Jesus Christ, who died that we might have the right to come together in love." He said he had been thinking about the separation of church and state, but decided to ignore it because "I have to do what Jesus Christ says for me to do as a witness."

Once his prayer was complete, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma (R) announced that Brown would "bless us with a song," leading to an energetic rendition of "Just a Little Talk With Jesus."

It was the tipping point. The Indiana Civil Liberties Union filed suit in the name of four people -- a retired Methodist minister, two Roman Catholics, and a state lobbyist for a Quaker group -- arguing that the practice of legislative invocations had crossed the line from nonsectarian civil religion to state-sponsored promotion of Christianity.

About a month ago, a federal judge agreed, ruling that the Constitution insists that "one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another." Indiana's legislative prayers represent "a clear endorsement of Christianity, sending the message to others that they are outsiders and the message to Christians that they are favored insiders."

So, state lawmakers are prepared to be more inclusive now, right? Not so much.

[U.S. District Judge David F. Hamilton] ordered the House to avoid mentioning Christ in the formal benedictions. As the House prepares to open its 2006 session on Wednesday, a number of politicians have vowed to defy Hamilton, whom they accuse of undermining a 188-year Indiana tradition and interfering in legislative branch affairs.

Terry Goodin, a Democrat who rejects Hamilton's order, is among at least two dozen House members who have asked to give Wednesday's prayer. He said he would "absolutely" speak Christ's name if given the chance.

"Really, who do you pray to? If you're offering up a prayer, you're praying to a deity. You don't offer prayers to just an open space," Goodin said. "I will give the same type of prayer that's been given for 100 years. I won't change my words because of someone in the judicial branch who tells me I must."

Judge Hamilton, who is the son and grandson of Methodist ministers, said he intends "to take appropriate steps to insure compliance," suggesting that lawmakers who ignore the ruling will likely be held in contempt of court. This could get ugly.

I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to church-state separation, but this case does raise legitimate questions about drawing the civil religion line. Opponents of the status quo believe it's ridiculous for lawmakers to officially promote and endorse Christianity on the floor of the legislature. They're right. Supporters of evangelistic legislative prayers believe it's ridiculous to insist that prayers are fine so long as they're watered down and generic in order to make everyone feel comfortable. They're right, too.

I have a compromise solution to offer: Indiana lawmakers can pray, alone or in groups, to any god they like, and with any language they like, before and after the legislative work day begins. Lawmakers who don't want to pray, or prefer a more inclusive, non-faith-specific prayer, can get together alone or in groups as well. The floor of the legislature would be reserved for official legislative work, while everyone, including lawmakers, could worship however they please, just not on the floor of the state capitol. There'd be no need for lawsuits, or defiance of court orders, because everyone could worship, or not, on their own time and with no restrictions or church-state questions.

What do you say, Indiana?

Steve Benen 2:06 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (71)

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Comments

our Hoosier Statehouse has had for years a little room set aside for prayers, quiet time, devotions, etc...I bet it used to be called a chapel !

Posted by: wilson46201 on January 2, 2006 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

The culture wars are really beginning to bore me. People are starving, AIDS is spreading, the deficit is rising.

Please drop it and move on.

Posted by: Thinker on January 2, 2006 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

The floor of the legislature would be reserved for official legislative work

That's crazy talk! Bring back that reasonable Kevin guy.

Posted by: benjoya on January 2, 2006 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

What do you say, Indiana?

But what fun is religion unless you can shove it down the throat of others? I mean, sure, your kid can say grace before he eats lunch in the lunchroom, but it doesn't do any good unless he says it over the loudspeaker so everyone else can hear and know that he's praying and is much more devout than all of his classmates, all of whom are going to Hell.

I used to call these kinds of people "Pharisees," but they didn't get the reference.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on January 2, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

I'd say you're making way too much sense for the current Republican-controlled legislature to understand. And in particular, Bosma, who's on a bit of a mission (no pun intended) to score points with the lowest common demoninator of Hoosier Evangelicals. Bob Garton, another Republican, isn't far behind either.

If we (Hoosiers in general) had any sense, we toss these yo-yos (and Mitch "My Man" Daniels, too) and get some people who know what they're doing.

Of course, if we had any sense we'd never have elected Dan Quayle, Dan Burton, John Hostelter, Mike Pence and some of the other idiots we've had/have to office.

Posted by: Jim H from Indiana on January 2, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

This is a slippery slope and why the separation of church and state was established. To pay a chaplin and/or to have an official invocation is unconstitutional.

Posted by: Keith H on January 2, 2006 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

I just want to point out that you HAVE to proselityze (spelling?) if you're a Christian. That's explicitly stated in the Christian Bible. There can be interpretations of how to do it, but you have to do it.

The upshot is that this makes me support Brenan's idea. If someone asks you what you are doing, explain honestly. When you pray, don't be ostentatious about it (another Christ statement that many forget) but do it quietly.

And keep it out of the machinery of government. Everyone can meet for a little prayer meeting outside or something! I don't see what's so hard about this.

Posted by: MNPundit on January 2, 2006 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Indiana is also the state that recently tried to pass an "Unauthorized Reproduction" bill which would have made marriage a requirement to use assisted reproductive technology, including criminal penalties for unmarried women who got pregnant "by means other than sexual intercourse.".

The bill never made it out of committee due to a wave of negative publicity (which goes to show there's some shreds of common sense left in Indiana). However, those wingnut legislators are still there and are obviously spoiling for a fight.

Posted by: fiat lux on January 2, 2006 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

About a month ago, a federal judge agreed, ruling that the Constitution insists that "one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another.

Well, the very acknowledgement of the Judeo-Christian deity already is "officially preferring" a particular "type" of religion. I would gather that this line of judicial reasoning accepts the existence (and the legitimacy in the public sphere) of a general cultural preference for monotheism over non-monotheistic religions. Functionally, that's the equivalent of sanctioning official bias against, say, Hinduism or Buddhism. I personally don't have a problem with that if that's what the people's duly elected representatives want, but I do agree that addressing Jesus Christ in this governmental setting crosses a line, because it removes the "Judeo" from "Judeo-Christian", and, depending on how the praryer is structured and whether or not scripture is read, likely removes Catholics and Orthodox Christians as well.

I tend not to favor an overly strict separation doctrine. I wouldn't get overly heated about, say, religion in the context of taxpayer supported education as long as there's no coercion involved (i.e., families have a choice in the matter). But the heavy-handed or coercive use of praryers or religious symbolism in official legal settings -- whether judicial or legislative -- strikes me as exactly what we shouldn't be doing. This is inserting religion into the very locus of the state.

Posted by: Jake on January 2, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

I was a member of the Greater Lafayette chapter of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union (ie: the aclu affiliate) in the 1980s, and saw this sort of thing fairly often. I think it is a matter of critical mass, so to speak -- that is, if enough people make religion a part of official public life, and very few people oppose it, then it goes on. It would help if several thousand Indiana residents complained about an official religion being exercised in the state government.

I wonder how these legislators would react if some non-Christian came in and gave a sermon attacking the basis of Christianity. I doubt that they would support it on First Amendment grounds.

Posted by: Bob G on January 2, 2006 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

I have begun to use the term "secular fundamentalist" for people who get too worked up about this stuff. On the other hand, the term doesn't really apply to "a retired Methodist minister, two Roman Catholics, and a state lobbyist for a Quaker group".

Posted by: Lindata on January 2, 2006 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

I have a compromise as well:

Keep your God out of my government and I'll keep my government out of your God

See, this nonsense is why the church/state separation is so important.

Posted by: ChrisS on January 2, 2006 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

When your popularity wanes because of your bad policies and inept legislative ability, who better to turn to than God? God forgives scoundrels as long as they accept Him. Let us pray that the electorate are less forgiving.

Posted by: parrot on January 2, 2006 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

When your popularity wanes because of your bad policies and inept legislative ability, who better to turn to than God? God forgives scoundrels as long as they accept Him. Let us pray that the electorate are less forgiving.

Posted by: parrot on January 2, 2006 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

There really can't be reasonable folks who still consider this sepration of church and state, can there? Can they at least just start a movement to strike that annoying little phrase from the Constitution rather than beating around the bush (no pun intended)?
http://www.polizoo.com/2006/01/cshtuartceh.html

Posted by: Frankie D on January 2, 2006 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

Lindata:>"I have begun to use the term "secular fundamentalist" for people who get too worked up about this stuff."

Since fundamentalists believe the bible is the fundamental, god-given and perfect guide to the truth, what's your secular equivalent?

What secular document is:
1. god-given
2. fundamental and
3. perfect ( with out error. )

And please supply some quotes from prominent secularists who claim this

Posted by: Joey. G. on January 2, 2006 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

I suspect she meant secular fanatics......the opposite of fundamentalist fanatics......otherwise, as you point out, it just doesn't make sense.

Posted by: chris on January 2, 2006 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I would be all for some sort of compromise, as would Governor Mitch, in fairness (at least he so claims publicly), but Bosma and the far right are not going to let a wedge issue pass them by. There are a few things to remember about Bosma:

1. He is a successful attorney, a partner in a boutique firm in Indianapolis that is involved in some pretty complex litigation. He also taught several subjects in my bar review class. In other words, he is smart enough to know that this is an establishment clause case, not a free exercise or free speech claim, and has conceded as much in his briefs. He is smart enough to know that most of what he is saying publicly is BS.

2. The case was originally filed against "the Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives." A few months ago, Bosma successfully petitioned the Court to amend the caption to read "Brian Bosma in his capacity as Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives," and has since then begun complaining about being "sued personally" over this issue.

3. Anyone who has worked in the Statehouse or knows anyone who has worked there knows that Bosma has a reputation as a notorious skirt chaser and seems to hire and enjoy the company of attractive female interns. I have heard accounts of inappropriate conduct directly from one recipient, a good friend of mine. Perhaps Boz is trying to cozy up to the far right in case indiscretions become a political issue during a run for higher office.

Posted by: John M on January 2, 2006 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

"I ask Americans to bow our heads in humility before our Heavenly Father, a God who calls us not to judge our neighbors, but to love them, to ask His guidance upon our nation and its leaders in every level of government."
-- George W. Bush, National Day of Prayer Proclamation, January 20, 2001
http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/quotes/bush.htm

No we won't judge our neighbors but our government will, and our president will continue to authorize illegal wiretaps of neighbors that are in need of being judged due to issues of national security which has nothing to do with which faith a person practices (except muslims whose mosques have been judged to possibly be radioactive and have been secretly geiger-countered over the years).

Indiana is full of folks who think/believe a christocentric worldview is the only one conceivable!

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on January 2, 2006 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

I have to say, this nonsense about casting a magic spell at the opening of legislative meetings should be embarrassing for all concerned.

Posted by: Jim on January 2, 2006 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

The so called all inclusive left and the Athiest Communists Liberals Union are scared to death of GOD who they claim does not exist. To claim that a prayer that mentions Christ is somehow offensive or not inclusive is IGNORANT. To any who dont know,Christ is the only person to ever ever demand to include all... all who call on him will be answered. The first step to ridding people of freedom is to remove the one bond we all have... GOD, even those who deny him will see the error of their ways and to bad for them. Who is offended in a prayer,I mean really offended ?.... NOBODY How are you offended by a GOD that dont exist ? Its nothing other than HATE for CHRISTIANS. HATE by those who claim to be "all inclusive" but are IGNORANT SHELFISH BLOWHARDS . Maybe we should act as if they dont exist. And really is their that much resistance to prayer or does the press hipe it like everything else to sell ads. To the METHODISTS preacher sounds to me you need to spend more time on the knees head bowed.That is the best METHOD you and GOD. IF and when I call out JESUS CHRIST and you are offended so be it. BE OFFENDED!!! ILL PRAY FOR YOU!!!

Posted by: Glyn Lockhart on January 2, 2006 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

"Supporters of evangelistic legislative prayers believe it's ridiculous to insist that prayers are fine so long as they're watered down and generic in order to make everyone feel comfortable. They're right, too."

No, they're not right. What the fuck are you talking about?

The fact that they are not right was established by the Federal Judge, remember?

It's not "ridiculous" to ask that people water down their religious fuckery so as not to offend those whose beliefs differ.

Christ is not my fucking "Savior." Far from it.

According to my religion, Jesus is fucking piece of dog shit and I don't want MY GOVERNMENT preaching otherwise, thank you very much.

Posted by: Sarah Davison on January 2, 2006 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Judge Hamilton, who is the son and grandson of Methodist ministers, said he intends "to take appropriate steps to insure compliance," suggesting that lawmakers who ignore the ruling will likely be held in contempt of court.

Hells yeah. Who are they to break the law? In a country like this, govt officials have to obey the law, too.

Supporters of evangelistic legislative prayers believe it's ridiculous to insist that prayers are fine so long as they're watered down and generic in order to make everyone feel comfortable. They're right, too.

I think it's precisely the point that the "watered down" version does makes a difference. If it didn't, why would fundamentalist Christians be getting so upset about it?

I, for one, might stop being upset about the whole issue if we could stick with watered-down (or non-demoninational, whatever you want to call them) invocations & blessings, rather than insisting on prohibiting even very hints of religion generally at legislatures, courts, schools, et al. But I think all truly committed liberals must remember that-- and point out that-- a *real* separation of curch and state would *not* include mentions of God, because to do otherwise is unfair to atheists. And in a matter such as this, it should not matter that a majority of Americans are christians. So my position is really a compormise, and I'm not even 100% sure that it's right for us to compromise that far.

What do you say, Indiana?

I'm not from Indiana, but the First Amendment applies to every state and should not be interpreted differently in different states. So I want Indiana to get it right.

Posted by: Swan on January 2, 2006 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Steve's idea is a good one, but that horse has been out of the barn since 1983. In trying to work within that ground that is left over to fight over, let's hope these jackasses are willing to go to jail for contempt of court. It seems beyond debate that this prayer doesn't just favor Christianity: it favors evangelical Protestant Christianity, and they don't think Catholics are Christians. This has to be beaten back now, because the "civic religion" rulings are nothing but the result of years of working the refs -- it wouldn't be part of our "civic religion" if it hadn't been winked at for 100s of years.

Posted by: KPatrick on January 2, 2006 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, Glyn, for such an awesome and literate demonstration of why the founding fathers thought separation of church and state to be so easily dealt away that it needed to be engrained into the very Constitution to protect the country.

Do I care if you blather loud and hard about Christ? Absolutely not. Please, feel free to do so. In fact, I think that there are at least three or four channels being beamed into my home at this very moment dedicated to just such pontificating. I'll turn them on when I want to, just as I'll walk away from your streetside sermon when I want to.

However, you may not, MAY NOT, weasel your religion (which, BTW, is pretty darned similar to my own beliefs, from the sound of it, other than the whole have-to-destroy-America-to-prove-I-love-Christ bit) into our government. Remember freedom of religion? No state sponsorship of religion? What do you call it when state resources are used to give a pulpit to and broadcast the message of a minister proselatizing Christ? I, and, as luck would have it, at least one federal judge, would call that state sponsorship of religion.

Please, pray for me. I'll pray for you as well. Tit for tat and all that. But, short of a Constitutional ammendment transforming our nation of laws into a Christian theocracy, I certainly won't be praying that misguided legislators get their way and destroy my country in favor of a wrong-then/wrong-now 188 year old "tradition".

Posted by: Jet Tredmont on January 2, 2006 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

Mnemosyne is right. The whole point of the exercise for the Jeebus-Nazis is to be able to lord their piety over adherents to "lesser" religions.

"And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward." -- Matthew 6:5.

Posted by: Alan on January 2, 2006 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

More church-state follies, courtesy of Bush's faith based initiative:

After he pleaded guilty to marijuana possession, a county drug court judge in Michigan gave the 23-year-old Flint construction worker a choice: agree to live for a year at Inner City Christian Outreach, a faith-based residential facility, or be sent to jail. Hanas chose Inner City, which is run by a Pentecostal church.

At Inner City, staffers told Hanas that his Roman Catholic faith was "witchcraft" and prevented his priest from visiting him or giving him his rosary beads, Hanas said.

And instead of substance-abuse treatment, Hanas said he was forced to read the Bible several hours each day, attend five hours of church on Sundays and was told the only way he would successfully complete the program was to convert to the Pentecostal church.

"I felt helpless. I was threatened by prison and jail by the pastor the whole time I was in there," Hanas said. After three months, the judge responded to his complaints by removing him and sending him to jail.

Faith-based organizations face suits

Posted by: Jinzang on January 2, 2006 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

I have a better solution.

Let the session begin with a prayer led by, say, a Jesuit (Catholic) priest proclaiming forth and wide the holy truth of "immaculate conception", "transubstantiation", "purgatory", "all saints' communion", etc. Then sit down and whatch the evangelicals screech and tear their shirts in grief. Next session, reverse the parts, or bring in a rabbi that all Christians nuts can gang upon. Repeat for several sessions, until (a) the stack of reciprocal lawsuits is tall enough that even the lawyers among the legislature members start calling for some restraint, thus bringing back "da wall" out of practical necessity, or (b) a bloody holy war 16th century style ensues.

Posted by: glopk on January 2, 2006 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

This is what the Democratic Party stands for so you guys should go down swinging. The important word being DOWN.

Posted by: Chad on January 2, 2006 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

I second glopk's idea. Lawsuits like leafcakes!

Posted by: scarpy on January 2, 2006 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

i'm down with glopk's catholic idea. and santeria, too!

Posted by: benjoya on January 2, 2006 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

Glyn - You self-righteous christian nationalists have only one answer -- dominion over those who disagree.

Luckily all your sins will be forgiven... cause if God were paying attention, he MIGHT be pissed about all the killing, pride, gluttony, theft, and sodomy promoted by his institutions. Not to second-guess the Almighty, or anything, but that's what passes for faith at my house.

Posted by: sadderbudwiser on January 2, 2006 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a prominent secularist:

No man [should] be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor [should he] be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor ... otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief ... All men [should] be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and ... the same [should] in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779.

This, I feel is a very powerful statement backing up the separation of church and state. The key words here are "diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities"

How comfortable would the Indiana legislature be if my Lama came in an gave a Buddhist blessing invoking the Green Tara for protection and compassion in the days business. My bet is the fundies would go bonkers.

Posted by: MyPetGoat on January 2, 2006 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

In short -- even if the state is the business of God, God is not the business of the state.

And, by the way, to those who make the state the target of their work for God, it ain't tax-deductible.

Posted by: sadderbudwiser on January 2, 2006 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

Glyn Lockhart aptly demonstrates Mnemosyne's point about latter-day Pharisees by not only attempting to shove its beliefs down others' throats but shouting apparent insults while doing so e.g. "IGNORANT SHELFISH BLOWHARDS". To be honest though, I'm not sure of the meaning of that latter reference - obnoxious oysters perhaps? In any event, Lockhart epitomizes the whiny insecure religionist "victim" of which there is increasingly far too many.

Posted by: Ian S on January 2, 2006 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

Chad

"This is what the Democratic Party stands for so you guys should go down swinging. The important word being DOWN."

Sure, Chad. Republicans are uniformly a bunch of theocrat idiots who want evangelical Christianty shoved down their throats by government representatives at every opportunity.

It's the arrogance of fundy-promoting shills like you, Chad, that is going to cause the dirty alliance the Republicans have been managing for the last twenty years to explode into several large unattractive pieces.

The most unattractive and annoying piece, of course, will be the religious fanatic right who are increasingly ghetto-izing themselves with their bizarre beliefs that the Constitution exists to protect their brains from receiving any factual information that contradicts their religious mythos.

Fuck fundies. The fundies are the ones going down the toilet, along witht their lies about gay people, about science, about inter-racial relationships, about rock 'n' roll, and about sex.

Buh-bye and, yeah, please do drink some cyanide laced Kool-Aid next time you visit your local ChurchMart or whatever you call it.

Posted by: Dolores Clitoris on January 2, 2006 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

Separation of Church and state was a simple matter when 95 percent of the people were Christians. Now with religious plurality it is much tougher....I say let them pray however they like as long as it is short...with no singing or evangelism on the side...a civil prayer is a meaningless form.

Posted by: Phill on January 2, 2006 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

The majority opinion seems to be that Government should not support Chaplains.
Maybe we should rid our Military of Chaplains, or a least prohibit the Government from supporting them with pay, etc. Not being Military, they would require a special law if we were to let them near troops in combat (can't have just any Civilians running around up there, might get hurt). We could also convert existing Chapels to other uses. And have you noticed the Crosses and Stars of David on Public Lands (Cemeteries)?
Military members can pray at anytime.

Posted by: Russ on January 2, 2006 at 9:26 PM | PERMALINK

"Fuck Christianity"

Posted by: Jesus on January 2, 2006 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

and all other lunatic cloud being worshippers
u people should be in strait jackets and padded rooms
secular fundamentalism be praised

Posted by: Jesus on January 2, 2006 at 9:46 PM | PERMALINK

Woo!

Like court rulings banning the mention of Jesus do anything other than ensure evengelicals will be even more active in politics. I'm not sure what persons the civil liberties found for the suit, but I have serious doubts to their intentions. Read your own quotes. How does a court ordered ban on the word 'Jesus' count as 'free to profess'.

"All men [should] be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and ... the same [should] in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."
-- Thomas Jefferson, Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779.

Banning of the word's Jesus, God, Allah, Jehovah, Moses and Muhammad just for sensitive atheist year's sounds more like state sponsored suppression of religion than tolerance to me.


Posted by: McAristotle on January 2, 2006 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

What can be expected when the KKK ran the state less than 100 years ago. Backwoods Hoosiers are anything but progressive. Is it any wonder firms are leaving the state in droves and factory employment is the lowest it has ever been.

Posted by: weverettdunn on January 2, 2006 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

Christ is not my fucking "Savior." Far from it.

According to my religion, Jesus is fucking piece of dog shit and I don't want MY GOVERNMENT preaching otherwise, thank you very much.

Posted by: Sarah Davison on January 2, 2006 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, if you really believed he didn't exist, you wouldn't hate him so much. And you could ignore any references to God without emotion.
And if you aren't really sure, how do you know what happens to you when you die?

Have a nice life.

Posted by: McAristotle on January 2, 2006 at 10:03 PM | PERMALINK

Indiana legislature be if my Lama came in an gave a Buddhist blessing invoking the Green Tara for protection and compassion in the days business. My bet is the fundies would go bonkers.

Posted by: MyPetGoat on January 2, 2006 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

Salem's mayor has witchcraft festivals and no one gives a hang. Indian tribes have animist celebrations with the involvement of local elected officials and no one stops them...


Posted by: Mcaristotle on January 2, 2006 at 10:08 PM | PERMALINK


Hey, if you really believed he didn't exist, you wouldn't hate him so much. And you could ignore any references to God without emotion.

What if she believes that (a) there is a divine being known as Jesus Christ, and (b) that He hates humanity and wants us to suffer? It's hardly an indefensible position, given the state of the world and the presumed capacity of an omnipotent being to rectify it. And what's with all this desire to be "worshipped," anyway? Is God all-powerful but not all-secure?

Alternatively, what if she hates what she considers a fictional entity as a stand-in for a philosophy espoused by that entity and followed in the real world? I know people who hate Dagny Taggart, and this hatred isn't tempered by the knowledge of her nonexistence. Yes, it'd be clearer to say "I hate Ayn Rand," but that's because we know who wrote "Atlas Shrugged." Heaping abuse upon Jesus is clearer and more compelling than "I hate the scribes responsible for compiling the Old Testament and the church councils that selected the books of the New Testament, especially the Deuteronomists and the decision to drop the Gospel of Thomas."

Posted by: cminus on January 2, 2006 at 10:42 PM | PERMALINK

Put this in the same category as General Boykin's musings about his God being bigger than the enemy's, or then-SBC president Bailey Smith's 1980 statement that "God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew."

Anyone with the most rudimentary understanding of evangelical theology knows that this kind of stuff is inevitable. (Hide it under a bushel? No! They're gonna let it shine.)

Posted by: Wally Ballou on January 2, 2006 at 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

Indian tribes are soverign, or are supposed to be, and by all means deserve to be, therefore, they can do whatever they want.

Salem's Fesival of the Dead and related events are more like a rennaissance festival that uses local lore as a tourist attraction.

http://www.salemwitch.com/webresources.php

salem brochure
http://www.salem.org/HHEventBooklet-12pgs.pdf

So, how are these festivals and events equivalent to praying to Jesus before making laws that affect everyone?

Posted by: MyPetGoat on January 2, 2006 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

What if she believes that (a) there is a divine being known as Jesus Christ, and (b) that He hates humanity and wants us to suffer? It's hardly an indefensible position, given the state of the world and the presumed capacity of an omnipotent being to rectify it.

Posted by: cminus on January 2, 2006 at 10:42 PM | PERMALINK

If the creator of the universe genuinely hates you, why bother putting up a fight. Just jump and kill yourself already?

-------------------------
And what's with all this desire to be "worshipped," anyway? Is God all-powerful but not all-secure?

Posted by: cminus on January 2, 2006 at 10:42 PM | PERMALINK

Well, you can look on it this way.

He respects free will and would give people who deny his existance what they want on death. Eternal isolation and separation from him and those he saved. That is unpleasant, so he hopes to convince us in our time on earth - to have a relationship with him.

The alternative is to stick people who denied his existance all their lives in heaven against there will. And since they hate jesus-freaks anyway, it might not be quite what they want.

The Christian god is all powerful, but clearly follows some kind of self-imposed code.

If not, it wouldn't be necessary for Christ's sacrifice to save mankind or for the world to actually exist. It wouldn't have be necessary to leave a tree of knowledge in the garden of eden or a talking snake. He'd just remake everything exactly the way it was without sin...then again that's not very different from a reality-wide lobotomy.

God has a very special place for mankind. An omnipotent creator, does however come in at a few rungs above man. Which is why the relationship is termed 'worship'. If your ego can't take that, that's your loss.

Posted by: McAristotle on January 2, 2006 at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

I cannot believe people insist on shoving their religion down someone else's throat. I'm a Christian, but I know being a Christian American means you acknowledge that you don't have to be a Christian to be an American. If these people insist on taking up "The Publically Paid For" time at a gov't job to observe the religion they prefer, then the Americans that aren't Christians should not have to pay taxes since they're religion is not acknowledged OR represented. Christians aren't the only people paying taxes in this country, but they seem to think that their deity should be the only one praised at these gov't. sessions. We are not a Christian Nation. We are a nation where Christians can "BE!" And so can every other person that doesn't worship the same way. OR doesn't worship anything/one at all. When it really comes down to it----conservatives in charge in this country are Christians until it clashes with Capitalism and this capitalist gov't. is run with tax dollars paid by people of every religion. If the gov't. expects everyone to pay taxes---they had better represent every religion of every tax payer OR let every non-Christian off the tax hook before "W" builds a steeple on the White House.

Posted by: scott on January 2, 2006 at 11:29 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, Mcaristotle:

Nice copy of my Jefferson quote, it's very clear (by your own remarks) that you do not understand it. It definitely bears repeating.

"All men [should] be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and ... the same [should] in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."
-- Thomas Jefferson, Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779.

Your interpretation:
Banning of the word's Jesus, God, Allah, Jehovah, Moses and Muhammad just for sensitive atheist year's sounds more like state sponsored suppression of religion than tolerance to me.

Let's break it down, and the whole quote will be used.

No man [should] be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor [should he] be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor ... otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief

You can't be forced to believe in something, your money can't be taken unwillfully and given to religious organizations (ie. faith based initiatives). You can't be discriminated against for your beliefs. Isn't it a bit ironic that the house introduced a bill recently that allowed faith based initiatives recieving federal funds to discriminate based on religion?
http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c109:1:./temp/~c109vq90V4::
It's at the bottom of page

All men [should] be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and ... the same [should] in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
-- Thomas Jefferson, Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779.

Again, reworded, Jefferson states you can believe what you want. However there are three key words here when it comes to public affairs.

1. diminish - this word is the only one the fundies care about, the "you can't tell me what I can and can't say in legislative meetings" crowd.

2. enlarge - using the public arena to make the "word" heard or use the beliefs for self(ish) promotion

3. affect - using specific religious beliefs to set public policy

That's it. Unless you want to call Thomas Jefferson some Unitarian heathen religion supressing pussy.

Posted by: MyPetGoat on January 2, 2006 at 11:49 PM | PERMALINK

these people insist on taking up "The Publically Paid For" time at a gov't job to observe the religion they prefer, then the Americans that aren't Christians should not have to pay taxes since they're religion is not acknowledged OR represented.

Posted by: scott on January 2, 2006 at 11:29 PM | PERMALINK

Look, Christians contribute to taxes which pay for things they don't believe in too. Like abortion or stem-cell research. Whereas atheists are using even the slightest indirect link like 'air time' or use of a public building
to target Christians whenever they can.

Separation of church and state has been abused by the ACLU to target Christians and only Christians.
Case in point, the town of Salem has witchcraft material on its city guide. That's state resources spent on Wicca - no one really cares.

http://www.salemweb.com/guide/witches.shtml

However, there's plenty of money for the ACLU to shut down historic Christian monuments.

I don't see how banning prayer where no one listening is obligated to participate is consistent with free speech.

Posted by: McAristotle on January 2, 2006 at 11:53 PM | PERMALINK

Well....how about this? In the Indiana Legislature, anyone who wants to propose a law, have them bitten by a poisonous snake. If they live, then they can propose the law in "tongues". If two independent sources can translate the "tongues" in some kind of general agreement, then a vote will be taken.


Gee, this Evangelical Christianity stuff is really easy! Why is everyone so upset????????

Posted by: rainyday on January 3, 2006 at 12:25 AM | PERMALINK

"Separation of church and state has been abused by the ACLU to target Christians and only Christians."

Bullies have abused public events and offices to show off how Christian and 'pious' they are. Everyone knows in their hearts that it's nothing more than a disgusting display of pride.

Posted by: Swan on January 3, 2006 at 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

"Separation of church and state has been abused by the ACLU to target Christians and only Christians."

Any support for this statement, by the way? It sounds pretty fanciful.

Posted by: Swan on January 3, 2006 at 12:32 AM | PERMALINK

This is why secularists get upset, you give em an inch, they'll take a mile. Clearly he knew the rules and decided to break them anyway.

Matters came to a head in April when the Rev. Clarence Brown delivered an invocation that included thanks to God "for our lord and savior Jesus Christ, who died that we might have the right to come together in love." He said he had been thinking about the separation of church and state, but decided to ignore it because "I have to do what Jesus Christ says for me to do as a witness."

Oooohhh rainyday: I got to have front row seats for the snakebite ritual, my money is on the snakes. It'd be a great daytrip from Dayton to see that. hehe

Mc: ACLU attacks only Christians? They defended Rush and won an opinion for Falwell's position. How about that?

http://www.aclu.org/religion/tencomm/16254res20050302.html

What else does Salem have besides its lore and mystique surrounding witches? 19 innocent people died at the hands of religious fanatics. This almost 400 year old story is the main attraction in the town. I didn't see any religious propoganda in the brochure, only the addresses of a couple local groups for those interested and ways to donate to non-profits, homeless shelters etc...
Can you say tourist attraction?

When someone says Salem, Mass., what comes to mind first? Witches!!!
When someone says Indiana State Legislature, what comes to mind? Jesusland?

Posted by: MyPetGoat on January 3, 2006 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

We could also convert existing Chapels to other uses.

So you're advocating that the government take over private property? How ... Stalinist of you.

And have you noticed the Crosses and Stars of David on Public Lands (Cemeteries)?

Cemetaries are not public lands -- they are privately owned by their residents. When you buy a grave, what you're actually buying is a (very small) piece of real estate.

Why do all your ideas have to do with the government taking away private property, anyway? What do you have against private property? Do you think that everything should be owned communally?

Posted by: Mnemosyne on January 3, 2006 at 1:21 AM | PERMALINK

Don't worry guys - once my co-religionists comprise 50% +1 in the United States we are going to support a consitutional amendment that ends the seperation of church and state. Assuming it passes, the legality problem is solved right there. Don't tell the evangelicals but they are just laying the ground work for our take over. Kind of like John the Babtist. We are just over 24% of the population (I really need to get the Lutherans and Episcopalians back the the fold) but we are the largest denomination in 38 states including Indiana. Eventhough our religion will be the official faith of the US, we will leave the prayers in the church and not the legislature. There is one catch however, no meat will be served in the commissary on Fridays.

Posted by: Benedict on January 3, 2006 at 1:40 AM | PERMALINK

Nobody tell McMao who was next against the wall after the monarchists. Let him re-read his Little Red Book on his own.

Posted by: Ayatollah Khomeini on January 3, 2006 at 2:14 AM | PERMALINK

Can you say tourist attraction?

When someone says Salem, Mass., what comes to mind first? Witches!!!

Posted by: MyPetGoat on January 3, 2006 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

So tourists don't visit state capitals's in Indiana?

You guys are way deep in the liberal bubble ont his. I'm quoting the ranking Democrat on this issue from the link.

'That is not how a vocal group of Indiana legislators see the issue. Unlike on some fronts in the culture wars, elected Democrats and Republicans have come together to criticize Hamilton's ruling.

"I see where religions were forbidden in other countries. In communist countries. In totalitarian countries. I think this smacks of that," said Rep. B. Patrick Bauer (D), the House minority leader and former speaker. "We need a clarification or we need a correction." '

Posted by: McAristotle on January 3, 2006 at 2:25 AM | PERMALINK

Bosma said he remains "frustrated that we have a federal court judge dictating what is stated by men and women of faith on the floor of the Indiana House of Representatives." He said previous prayer givers have told him they will not return if they cannot speak of Christ.

And this is from a Democrat. Liberals stand for freedom of speech ...unless you are a Christian.


Posted by: McA on January 3, 2006 at 2:27 AM | PERMALINK

Didn't Jesus say you should pray "in your closet," i.e. quietly and in private, and not "as the pharisees do," loudly and in public, showing off their piety in front of others?

So why not designate a CLOSET in the capitol building, where Rev. Brown and his friends can go to pray, QUIETLY AND IN PRIVATE?

Posted by: Nancy Irving on January 3, 2006 at 3:17 AM | PERMALINK

McAristotle, don't be a putz.

"That's state resources spent on Wicca - [but] no one really cares."

A couple of things on this point.

First: by your logic, any mention of any belief system--Hinduism, Christinaity, Buddhism, Atheism, Zoroastrianism, or Moon-is-made-of-green-cheeseism--would be forbidden on any site sponsored by any government entity. If Salem can't mention Wicca, neither can Chicago mention Catholic churches, nor Seattle mention the history of Indian tribes and their religious beliefs. Because the stuff about Wicca on the salemweb site is historical or anthropological in character: it's talking ABOUT Wicca, not promoting it. And it's not unreasonable to do so when witchcraft played such a formative role in the city's history. The difference with what's happening in Indiana is this: the prayers in the legislature were arguably crossing the line into proselytizing, which means the government was implicitly ENDORSING a religion. You can't possibly claim that salemweb.com is endorsing Wicca. (Well, I suppose you could claim that, but....)

Second: I don't think that www.salemweb.com is even an official site of the city of Salem: that site would be www.salem.com. The site you linked to looks to me like it was probably put up by something like the Chamber of Commerce. I didn't exhaust every single page, so I could be wrong, but I see no indication anywhere on the site that salemweb.com has any connection to the city of Salem. Cripes, the city's site doesn't even link there. If they sponsored it, why don't they even acknowledge its existence?


Next...

"You guys are way deep in the liberal bubble ont his. I'm quoting the ranking Democrat on this issue from the link....'I see where religions were forbidden in other countries. In communist countries. In totalitarian countries. I think this smacks of that,' said Rep. B. Patrick Bauer (D), the House minority leader and former speaker."

I'm guessing you haven't spent much time in Indiana. Had you done so, you wouldn't necessarily put forward any of its legislators as representatives of reasonable discourse (hint: just because we're liberals, doesn't mean we automatically take anything said by a Democrat to be reasonable). Now, repeat this slowly: NOBODY IS FORBIDDING THE PRACTICE OF ANY RELIGION HERE. We are simply saying that a session of the Indiana legislature is not the appropriate place in which to engage in such practice. Any legislator can still go out, on any day of the week, and profess any belief they like. Comparing what's happening in Indiana to what happened under any totalitarian regime is almost laughable, except that it diminishes the indignities suffered by those whose religious practice really WAS forbidden--sometimes with deadly consequences. Did Patrick Bauer face possible execution for saying a prayer? No, I didn't think so.

If you want to have a reasoned discussion about the role of religion in American life, fine. But don't expect anyone to listen to you until you start making serious arguments, instead of trivializing it by citing overblown rhetoric. Sound bites about how we're turning into Soviet Russia won't cut it.

Posted by: skeptic on January 3, 2006 at 5:30 AM | PERMALINK

Same issue as the ten commandments. Those who wanted it were not claiming that this some some set of rules that had evolved over time to better the survival of society and its members. Those who wanted it wanted everyone to accept their intrepretation and belief that this was a gift of "their" god to mankind and that without it, we are lost and will fall to the wraith of their vengeful god.

Christians get on such a guilt trip if they do not take their evangelical role seriously. If they are not crying from the rooftops or from the podiums of capitals, they are lost to their fate in hell. Hell of a thing to have to live with.

Posted by: lou on January 3, 2006 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK


Look, Christians contribute to taxes which pay for things they don't believe in too. Like abortion or stem-cell research. Whereas atheists are using even the slightest indirect link like 'air time' or use of a public building
to target Christians whenever they can.

So, you mean that if atheists stop raising Cain over things like the Indiana Legislature's prayer practices, Christians will stop trying to ban abortion and stem cell research?

If not, then your analogy is nonsense. Or, rather, it proves exactly the opposite of what you think it does.

Posted by: cminus on January 3, 2006 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK


He respects free will and would give people who deny his existance what they want on death. Eternal isolation and separation from him and those he saved. That is unpleasant, so he hopes to convince us in our time on earth - to have a relationship with him.

The alternative is to stick people who denied his existance all their lives in heaven against there will. And since they hate jesus-freaks anyway, it might not be quite what they want.

This might make sense from a liberal protestant viewpoint, or even a particularly intellectual Catholic one, but not from a fundamentalist one. Nonbelievers do not go to oblivion, they go to Hell. God does not fail to reward them, he actively punishes them. It doesn't matter whether the nonbeliever takes the position "if there were a God, I would worship him" -- your God demands unconditional worship.

If you do not blindly love God, if you do not have a "relationship" with God, then you will be made to suffer? Your God sounds like the ultimate stalker. That's not my God. My God has self-esteem.

Posted by: cminus on January 3, 2006 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: shoo on January 3, 2006 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Tried to look up the new ARIS data but couldn't find a link (last one I had was [www.gc/cuny.edu/studies/introduction.htm] but that was from 2001 and it's not available at this time...) but be that as it may, in 2001, their statistics show that even though the US has historically had a Christian majority, the lead is shrinking. To quote - "Christianity has suffered a loss of 9.7 percentage points in 11 years -- about 0.9 percentage points per year. If this trend continues then by about the year 2042, non-Christians will outnumber the Christians in the U.S."
So, unless they can get their religeon enshrined as THE religeon of the U.S., eventually they could be out-numbered. At that point will it be okey for me to insist that they acknowlege my dieties? Of course not. I wouldn't want to, and I'm sure my gods have no desire for coerced and/or insincere prayers.

Posted by: Mara on January 3, 2006 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

The Flying Spaghetti Monster, Creator of this universe and the next three universes in queue, knows your heart, because it was It who made it from the Pasta and the Sauce and the Meatball from which all things come in Its divine and delicious plan. Heretofore, the Al Dente Diety has refrained from intervention in trivial squabbles hereunder the Platter and the Bowl. But revelation is called for by the urgency of the struggle here reported, and I, the Pastafarian Prophet On The Clock, am annointed with the Oil of Extra Virgins and my poor eyes opened to the One True Truth: As our Master Creator Monster Pasta Whatsis commands, so shall I say unto you: The Truth is, Indiana was an accident. The FSM, though perfect, dropped a cheese grater, which broke into an Indiana-shaped piece and Satan. So it doesn't really matter whether they pray in Indiana or whom they pray to. Rubbish is rubbish, even when the Almighty makes it.

Posted by: shieldvulf on January 3, 2006 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

I commend to all of you Mark Twain's "Letters to the Earth". It is the best description (and skewering) of public Christianity I've ever read. You'll never think about public prayers the same way again, and you'll live longer because you laughed so much reading it.

Posted by: CambridgeKnitter on January 3, 2006 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK

However, there's plenty of money for the ACLU to shut down historic Christian monuments.

Care to provide us with a list of these "historic Christian monuments" falling under the wreckers ball?

Posted by: tam1MI on January 3, 2006 at 11:44 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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