Follow by Email

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist

There has been uproar recently over a prayer banner that was removed from a public school on  judge's orders. The question, as always, was whether or not hanging that prayer banner violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. 


The question in my mind is "why is that even a question?" The Establishment Clause does one thing and one thing only: It bars Congress from writing a law that "establishes" an official religion of the United States. Since the public schools are overseen by the state, this should be a state's rights issue under the 10th Amendment rather than an establishment issue under the first. But even if you insist on applying the federal statute in this case: hanging the banner in no way establishes any religion. Period. 


You say that it affirms the existence of God? Not really. It "affirms the existence of God" in the same way that a poster of Clifford the Big Red Dog on a kindergarten classroom affirms the existence of dump truck-sized house pets. You are free to believe it or not, but the presence of the poster does not mean that the teacher, the school board or the state believe it to be true.


But the issue really goes deeper than that. What is so offensive about the presence of a prayer banner that means nothing to you if you claim to be an atheist? (Let me take this opportunity to say that that I am not out to attack those who claim the title "atheist.") The amount of offense taken suggests that the person complaining has had his own religious beliefs attacked. But wait, an atheist has no religion...right? 


Not according to the courts, anyway:

Kaufman v. McCaughtry
2005. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rules that a Wisconsin inmate barred from reading scientific books was being unconstitutionally prevented from exercising his religion - atheism - which values logic and reason and the scientific method for study.
1961. Supreme Court states that for a philosophy to qualify as a religion there need not be a deity involved. Listed in the decision as religions with no deity are Buddhism, Taoism, and Secular Humanism, among others. 


The philosophy religion known as Secular Humanism also goes by another name: atheism.

Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of conversing with a truly devout atheist knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that atheism is a religion. The dedicated atheist will be sure to tell you as often (and as loudly) as possible how illogical it is to believe in the Bible since a)there is no God and b)even if there was one, there is no way to scientifically prove that he exists and the Bible is, in fact, his word. 


He will then proceed to tell you, with a straight face, that evolution is indisputable (even though spontaneous generation can't be duplicated, there are no fossils that even sort of indicate cross-genus mutation, and carbon dating is at best unreliable). 


He will also tell you that Global Warming is real and it is all our fault because we want industrialization and cars and hairspray (even though the earth's climate changed radically multiple times before humans even existed), and while he tells you this he will be texting a friend on his iphone.

To the Atheist, the process is the supreme being. Logic. Reason. Science. That which cannot be proven empirically has no meaning. While the Christian proclaims faith in that which he does not see, the devout atheist denies that which he does not see and belittles anyone who claims that it does, in fact, exist.

The irony is that the Atheist, in making science the de facto supreme being, actually takes many more leaps of faith than does the Christian. The Christian needs only to take one: God exists. If he exists, then the rest - the fact that he created our world and gave us his word that we might understand him better - and all that follows, follows without any additional faith required. 


The atheist must take a new leap of faith every time science advances. Why? Because science is not the study of facts or ideas that have been proven. Science is the study of ideas that have yet to be proven wrong. The possibility exists that everything we know about science could change at any time. The atheist has to either be prepared to change with the science, or have faith that it never will. History suggests that depending on the unchanging nature of science is likely to be an exercise in extreme futility.


I am not a Christian because I have a lot of faith. I am a Christian because "I do not have enough faith to be an atheist." (Norman Geisler, Frank Turek)

65 comments:

  1. the Establishment Clause is about RESPECTING an establishment of religion... not creating one. When they put up Christian prayer banners, they are giving respect to one particular religion in a public building paid by all of our tax dollars. Please get your facts straight. We are all entitled to our own opinions... not our own facts.

    ReplyDelete
  2. "What is so offensive about the presence of a prayer banner that means nothing to you if you claim to be an atheist? (Let me take this opportunity to say that that I am not out to attack those who claim the title "atheist.") The amount of offense taken suggests that the person complaining has had his own religious beliefs attacked. But wait, an atheist has no religion...right?"

    The issue is not one of offense, it is about what can and cannot be allowed by Constitutional law that prevents exclusion or inclusion of someone's particular religious views. There are always plenty of "truck-stop" lawyers on blogs like this, so I will not add to it. I will explain using a very simple example. Let's suppose that a muslim group wants to pray every Friday at 12:00 noon for two hours. Unfortunately, this means that it will overlap with several class periods on Friday afternoons. However, this doesn't matter to the muslim students, they insist that it is their right to pray on Fridays at this time. Should the school cave in and let them do it, despite the fact that the instructors of the classes they will now miss will probably have to spend extra time accomadating those students? If you say yes, than suddenly the flood gates are opened, because now, the Buddhists want their holidays recognized and now the Hindus want their holidays recognized and now the Christians (oh wait, they already get their holidays recognized) and now the Jews want their holidays recognized and on and on. The point of preventing one relgion from privilege should now be apparent. If not, than you don't want to use intellectual honesty in the discourse of the issue.

    ReplyDelete
  3. @Atheism Resource:
    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

    In context, "respecting" does not mean "showing respect for," but rather "concerning, in regards to."

    But even if you allow for misinterpretation - the beginning of the First Amendment says that "Congress shall make no law..." Unless Congress passed a law directing that school to "show particular respect" for that religion, the First Amendment is again inapplicable to the situation.

    Keep in mind that the Constitution does not say that the school or even the state is not permitted to display anything that may or may not "respect" religion or the establishment thereof. It restricts Congress - and by extension the Federal government. It does not restrict the people (in fact, it demands that the people NOT be restricted) or the state government, and as the public school system is overseen by the state government rather than the federal government, the First Amendment once again does not apply.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I do insist on applying federal statutes in this case, as does the fourteenth amendment, which makes the Bill of Rights (including the establishment clause of the first amendment) applicable to state and local governments. As for whether the presence of the prayer constitutes "establishment", I'll grant you it's not quite so onerous as mandatory prayer. However, if it were a treatise by Karl Marx or a quote by Vladimir Putin, the argument that its presence doesn't imply that its ideals are espoused by the school would not carry weight with you, would they?

    Let me quote you here, because I love this part. "You say that it affirms the existence of God? Not really. It "affirms the existence of God" in the same way that a poster of Clifford the Big Red Dog on a kindergarten classroom affirms the existence of dump truck-sized house pets." Before I accuse you of reducto ad absurdum, let me commend you for illustrating how belief in God is tantamount to belief in a fictitious being. Now, of course, the point is that most of these people do indeed believe in God and furthermore assume that all the rest of us do too, and the statement made by the banner is a different one from an image of Clifford. Again, were it a verse from the Quran would you practice the same tolerance as you demand of the atheists?

    Now I think your story of the inmate who tries to use religious protection as an atheist is important, but not for the reasons you put forth. The hostile environment in which non-believers cannot claim freedom of religion (which to the atheist is freedom "from" religion), they are subject to discrimination with no legal protection. So in order to have one's un-belief protected, one must try to classify it as some form of belief, as bilious as that is.

    Those were the interesting parts. I'm not going to bother refuting your tired arguments that atheists somehow "believe" by insisting on not believing, or that we somehow "worship" science and have to change our minds whenever new science comes along. I just don't have the energy to combat this kind of willful ignorance.

    Anyway, yes it violates the establishment clause, yes its presence counts as an endorsement of the judeo-christian god by the school and thereby implicitly encouraging faith in god by its presence, and yes it violates everybody's civil rights.

    MLC

    ReplyDelete
  5. You seem to be confused about what atheism is - along with whatever judge made that ruling in 2005. Atheism is not a dogma - it is a rejection of theist dogmas.

    The removal of a theistic symbol is not the same as placing an atheistic symbol - it just removes one dogma and replaces it with no dogma. It's silly to suggest that any place that doesn't have a theistic symbol is actually an atheistic symbol.

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Anonymous:
    How is hanging a banner like disrupting the class schedule every week for two hours and demanding that teachers do extra work to accommodate you? How is a raven like a writing desk? The comparison you give betrays the offense you say that you do not take.

    If the school hangs a banner with a Christian prayer, the intellectually honest argument would be: Then what if a Jewish student wants to hang a Star of David? What if a Muslim student wants to hang a poster with quotes by Muhammed?

    The answer to that argument is simple: let them. They are not hurting anyone, nor are they even inconveniencing anyone in exercising their freedoms of expression and religion. If you think that a prayer banner and a major class disruption and instructor inconvenience are equitable, then it is obvious that the idea of a simple prayer banner offends you far more than you are willing to admit.

    I addressed the Constitutional issues in my previous response - this is a state's rights issue, pure and simple.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. State's Rights... Who's used that argument before? Haha, sorry couldn't resist. I'll give myself timeout now for reducto-ad-confederacy.

      MLC

      Delete
  7. @Anonymous:
    One further response: In a public school, would I oppose a quote from the Quran? No. Free exercise of religion.

    The Founders wrote the First Amendment as reactionaries. They were less than three generations from living in a nation that demanded the adhere to the teachings and rules of the Church of England on pain of fine or other punishment. They wrote the First Amendment to prevent exactly that from happening here. They did not write it because they were afraid that their great-great-great-great grandchildren would be forced to endure the inconvenience of seeing something they disagreed with in the course of earning an education.

    The First Amendment guarantees the freedom OF religion. It is a gross misapplication to enforce it as the guarantee of freedom FROM religion.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Why do christians continually use the word "offensive" when asking about the legality of the banner? I don't find the banner "offensive" in the least...I find it illegal, and, according to the judge in the case, I am not alone.

    So, exactly why do you insist on conflating "offensive" and "illegal"? Must something be "offensive" to be illegal? Conversely, must something illegal be "offensive"?

    Kenbo

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm not equating offensive and illegal. I'm simultaneously questioning the legality of demanding that it be removed and questioning the reason for demanding removal if, on its face, it is not offensive.

    From the court transcript on this case:
    "She testified at her deposition that she was upset when she realized that there was a Christian prayer displayed in her school, and she experienced feelings of exclusion and ostracism."

    To me that sounds like she brought the lawsuit primarily because she was offended, not because she felt that it was illegal. The fact that the judge sided with her is just a bonus for her. Whether or not precedent exists, the Constitutional grounds for such precedent are questionable at best.

    ReplyDelete
  10. The idea that the Establishment clause only prevents the establishment of a national religion (i.e. the non-preferentialist position) is historically indefensible.

    Both Madison and Jefferson left clear historical records demonstrating that their purpose was to prevent the government favouring believers over nonbelievers. Madison opposed government aid to religion, even when distributed to all religions equally. Jefferson wrote “it does me no injury if my neighbour believes in 20 gods or none”, and also refused to issue proclamations of thanksgiving during his presidency. Very importantly, the House and Senate rejected earlier First Amendment drafts which were less clear on government neutrality.

    The need for government neutrality is clearly seen when the Cranbourne case is reviewed, as the prayer mural obviously had a corrupting effect on the schools. To pt it bluntly, the heavily Christian schoolboard acted like a group of horses asses. The judge’s decision recounted many instances when Jessica Ahlquist was booed, threatened and told she was going to heel while at an official school event! In contrast, the judge’s decision praised Ms. Ahlquist as an articulate, courageous young woman.

    This recurring obnoxious Christian behaviour is a recurring theme in cases such as Kitzmiller, Fowler and Ahlquist cases. Preventing such behaviour is the main reason why schools shouldn’t endorse Christian displays.

    ReplyDelete
  11. All of this would be a little less, well, STUPID, if the banner in question had been hung on a whim sometime last week. That banner was given to the school by the class of 1963, written by an alumnus of that year, and had been hanging in the school for 49 years.
    Ahlquist was booed AFTER she demanded that it be taken down, most likely because her fellow students (though they should have been nicer about it) were offended by the fact that she thought her personal beliefs were a good enough reason to throw out nearly 50 years of school tradition.
    The judge may have called her articulate and courageous, but if you read the stories and the depositions, she comes off like a two-year-old who just figured out that if she screams loud enough someone will give her what she wants just to make her shut up.

    ReplyDelete
  12. It doesn’t matter how long the banner had been hanging for, it is just as illegal now as it was in 1969.

    The level of hate and cowardice displayed by the Christians at Cranbourne School was appalling. As the judge’s decision describes, at official meetings Ms. Ahlquist faced taunting and threats. After she made the logical and truthful point that the banner was illegal and should be taken down, the atmosphere turned “rowdy and belligerent”. Subsequent speakers asked that she be charged with a hate crime. Numerous speakers looked directly at her (instead of the committee they were supposed to be addressing) and said that she would go to hell. Keep in mind that the target of all this hatred was a five feet tall, 16 year old girl!

    Typical examples of the Christian love her townspeople showed her on Facebook were:

    Ryan Simoneau: “ I want to punch the girl in the face”
    Cracked Lens: “I can’t wait to hear about you getting curb-stomped, you fucking worthless cunt”

    Sadly, these are typical examples of what one finds when they scratch the surface of a Christian community. In contrast, the atheist community has displayed a much higher level of maturity and kindness, and have collected over $7000 for her college tuition.

    Your response has shown you to be as deeply unpleasant as Simoneau and Cracked Lens. It is never reasonable to boo someone for stating his or her position (although their puerile hatred went much further than booing). As for the ridiculous charge of likening her to a screaming two year-old girl, remember that she was proven in a court of law to be right! All of the Christian haters didn’t have a legal leg to stand on.

    If you can look at the behavior ob both sides, and still think that Ms. Ahlquist was the immature one, then there is something deeply wrong with you as a human being.

    ReplyDelete
  13. If you notice, I made allowances for the behavior on both sides being immature and ill-advised. Careful with the personal insults though, as they betray your own lack of leg to stand on.

    ReplyDelete
  14. You are incorrect on so very many things. I will only address the Constitutionality of the judge's decision. A decision which you should read, as it appears you have not.

    Let's focus on what no one can deny is in the constitution. Article 3, Section 1 says:
    "The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.
    The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority...."

    This specifically gives the Supreme Court the authority to interpret the Constitution under their judicial power over the law. If you take the baby step to admit the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, you are forced to accept that the Supreme Court has the right to rule on its interpretation. The interpretation of the court has been consistently that the establishment clause means there is separation of church and state. There is realistically no denying that the Supreme Court has the authority to make that call, so that's the way it is. Of course the theocrats will say the SCOTUS made the wrong call, but no reasonable person is really going to accept the judgment of "truck stop lawyers" over decades of decisions by people whose lives are spent marinating in and studying constitutional law and whose decisions are based on decades of established precedents. If the Separation clause is illegal, the federal judiciary must have been mistaken all these years, and still is.

    They are the referees who have the authority to make the call, and they have clearly made the call for separation. Entertaining as the theocrat's arguments against the Separation clause may be, they are scarcely new. By now they’ve failed to convince generation after generation of American judges.

    Constitutional literalism--which is exactyly what you are attempting here-- is the last gasp rationalization for those who reach for it merely as an excuse to have their antiquated and unconstitutional religious and moral nonsense forced into public institutions and the culture at large. It has virtually no relevance to actual jurisprudence, and even the tiniest amount of thought towards how a society would actually function by interpreting the constitution literally reveals it to be not just staggeringly impractical for any complex society with complex differences of opinion, but just transparently silly.

    The jurisprudence and precedent on the establishment clause in relation to school prayers is fairly clear, despite relentless pressure from the religious right to change it. Literalism is a concept of intellectual interest only and has virtually no practical relevance to the actual law or meaning of the constitution.

    You must take the whole phrase into consideration: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;". To only quote the first part is to take out of context and to skew the meaning. The SCOTUS---remember, the ones with the authority to make the call--realize the ONLY way to achieve BOTH of these is to keep the government neutral through separation of church and state.

    Thus, it is entirely appropriate to speak of the "constitutional principle of church-state separation" since that phrase summarizes what the First Amendment's religion clauses do-they separate church and state.

    "When the government puts its imprimatur on a particular religion it conveys a message of exclusion to all those who do not adhere to the favored beliefs. A government cannot be premised on the belief that all persons are created equal when it asserts that God prefers some." Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun in the Lee v. Weisman ruling, 1992

    ReplyDelete
  15. You got it the wrong way around. I don't say "a)there is no God and b)even if there was one, there is no way to scientifically prove that he exists and the Bible is, in fact, his word."

    I say: there has been no evidence presented to me which is compelling and rigorous enough to convince me that any deity exists. Therefore I think that there is almost certainly no deity out there. This position will change if evidence is presented showing otherwise: this isn't a bad thing, it's a good thing.

    I don't consider atheism to be my religion (except from a legal perspective, for my own protection) because it's not a religion; it is a single statement about a religious claim.
    Religions claim "There is a god," I respond "Without evidence, I cannot believe this claim." There is nothing else to it.

    My country has an established religion, which hopefully will change within the next fifty years or so. Regardless of your particular faith you should consider yourself lucky, perhaps even 'blesséd,' to live in a country which legally states that everyone, regardless of their perspectives and convictions, deserves equal treatment. I don't agree with all of the U.S. Constitution, but the First Amendment is a great legal landmark.

    A side effect of this is that equal treatment has to be enforced, even if it disagrees with the majority. Jessica Ahlquist wasn't the first person to object to the prayer, she was just the first person with the courage and decency to stand up for the law. You disagree significantly with the highest justices in your land over the interpretation of the First Amendment.

    ReplyDelete
  16. So many atheists and liberals completely misunderstand the establishment clause. They stop at the first half and forget the second. They ignore the context and practices of the very men who wrote the clause both before and after the clause was written. They covered the national buildings in religious Christian scriptures, advocated the Bible to be taught in class, prayed before all of their meetings an held services in the Capital buildings. Seems like their understanding of that clause was different. Clyde was different

    ReplyDelete
  17. Well, I couldn't resist one more. You said, "What is so offensive about the presence of a prayer banner that means nothing to you if you claim to be an atheist?"

    The short answer is that no one who participates in their government--of which schools are a part--should be forced to be exposed to the religious preferences of anyone. Whenever any religion receives preference through having only their prayers posted in the halls of government, it sends a message of exclusion to those who are not of that faith. It is a way of saying, "Mommy likes ME better", and this is one of the reasons Christians insist on this preference being shown, and can't understand why anyone would mind. The main thing I find so offensive about the presence of a prayer banner is the disrespect for the established law of the land...and that offends me mightily.

    Note: If you think the law of the land got it wrong, then do what responsible adults do: work through the system to change it. Don't expect respect when you violate it.

    Let me explain it in the words of Supreme Court justices over the years.

    "When the power, prestige, and financial support of government is placed behind a particular religious belief, the indirect coercive pressure upon religious minorities to conform to the prevailing officially approved religion is plain." Justice Hugo Black, for the majority, Engel v. Vitale

    "The preservation of the community from division conflicts, of government from irreconcilable pressures by religious groups, of religion from censorship and coercion however subtly exercised, requires strict confinement of the state to instruction other than religious, leaving to the individual's church and home, indoctrination in the faith of his choice." Justice Felix Frankfurter, U. S. Supreme Court

    "The great American principle of eternal separation"--Elihu Root's phrase bears repetition--is one of the vital reliances of our Constitutional system for assuring unities among our people stronger than our diversities. It is the Court's duty to enforce this principle in its full integrity. We renew our conviction that "we have staked the very existence of our country on the faith that complete separation between the state and religion is best for the state and best for religion." (Justice Felix Frankfurter, U. S. Supreme Court

    "It is neither sacrilegious nor antireligious to say that each separate government in this country should stay out of the business of writing or sanctioning official prayers and leave that purely religious function to the people themselves and to those the people choose to look to for religious guidance." Justice Hugo Black

    "Finally, we cannot accept that the concept of neutrality, which does not permit a State to require a religious exercise even with the consent of the majority of those affected, collides with the majority's right to free exercise of religion. While the Free Exercise Clause clearly prohibits the use of state action to deny the rights of free exercise to anyone, it has never meant that a majority could use the machinery of the State to practice its beliefs..."Justice Tom C. Clark

    "The place of religion in our society is an exalted one, achieved through a long tradition of reliance on the home, the church and the inviolable citadel of the individual heart and mind. We have come to recognize through bitter experience that it is not within the power of government to invade that citadel, whether its purpose or effect be to aid or to oppose, to advance or retard. In the relationship between man and religion, the state is firmly committed to a position of neutrality." Justice Tom C. Clark, majority opinion, U. S. Supreme Court

    "Government cannot endorse beliefs of one group without sending a clear message to non-adherents that they are outsiders." Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

    ReplyDelete
  18. Interesting point that hasn’t really been addressed yet: Did you know that "separation of church and state" is NOT in the Constitution. You see, the secular left and often atheists never actually quote the 1st Amendment, they just use the term "separation of church and state" comment, hoping people are not educated enough in the Constitution to support their points, won't go into the background of the founding father's actions and decisions, or are too afraid to say anything. I am none of those.

    The first line of the Amendment reads "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF." To go further, the Establishment Clause says that Congress many not establish a national religion; because the Framers did not want an official State Church like the Church of England. The second clause guarantees the free exercise of religion. Interesting how the secular left or atheists never want to quote the clause. You see, true conservatives very much believe in freedom. I believe that people should have the freedom "of religion" AND most definitely the freedom “from religion” if that's what they want and let's be honest . . . . that's what they have. No one is REQUIRED to go to church, pray, say the Pledge of Allegiance, use US currency which states 'In God We Trust', look at or acknowledge a banner, join a prayer group or any other such thing. People have that right. My problem is the fact that that's apparently not good enough for folks such as many atheists and those on the secular left. They attempt to take away my freedom to exercise my religion. Not only do they not want to pray, they want to keep everyone from praying. No prayer in school? Are you kidding me? If a child, or group of children want to VOLUNTARILY get together for prayer - they have that Constitutional right! The Pledge of Allegiance? We have the RIGHT to say it in school . . . or to NOT say it in school.

    The phrase "separation of church and state" is actually something that came from a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to a Baptist church - NOT from the Constitution. I'll go ahead and quote the portion that it came from in fact so you can see the context: "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State." You see?

    Did you know that Jefferson endorsed the use of federal funds to build churches and to support Christian missionaries working among the “Indians”? You see, the wall Jefferson was speaking of was supposed to be between the national and state governments on matters pertaining to religion . . not between the church and ALL civil government. The wall's primary function? To delineate the constitutional jurisdictions of the national and state governments on religious concerns, such as setting aside days in the public calendar for prayer, fasting, and thanksgiving.

    The funniest thing about this whole "separation of church and state" issue to me is when atheists end up protesting or filing lawsuits over something they say doesn't exist in the first place? Really - protesting something that they say doesn’t exist. Makes me want to get a group together with signs and start chanting “We’re NOT gonna protest!!” Atheists want to keep me from praying to a God who they say doesn't exist, or hang signs acknowledging God exists - so how can I be doing something wrong?

    By the way . . . there is a person actually named Cracked Lens?

    ReplyDelete
  19. David....the phrase "freedom of religion" doesn't appear in the Constitution either. Would you use the same specious semantic game to argue against the concept and the framework for it being there? Both phrases are commonly used shorthand descriptions for what the constitution calls for. You might as say the word "monogamy" isn't in the bible, so the framework and concept of monogamy isn't in there.
    As I pointed out earlier,Article 3 gives the SCOTUS the authority to make the call on separation,and they have made it.It is a pipe dream for you to hope that people will believe your constitutional knowledge, wisdom, and interpretation is better than decades of jurisprudence and Supreme Court justices. If that it what you are selling, surely the only people buying are those with equally little knowledge.

    ReplyDelete
  20. You need a FULL response to this. It's here: http://www.atheismresource.com/2012/jacob-scribner-responds-to-the-hate-being-dished-out-at-jessica-ahlquist

    ReplyDelete
  21. Anonymous Science FanJanuary 16, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    You say, "The atheist must take a new leap of faith every time science advances. Why? Because science is not the study of facts or ideas that have been proven. No leap of faith required. I expect advances in knowledge. I expect errors will slip through and expect that errors will be corrected. That's what science is, a process of finding out things.

    As evidence accumulates, some things become really unlikely to be disproven: gravity, for example.

    The possibility exists that everything we know about science could change at any time.Everything? Surely you exaggerate.

    The atheist has to either be prepared to change with the science, or have faith that it never will. What's so bloody hard about realizing that with new technology and new evaluations, details will change? It's like a fractal figure, where you can zoom in tighter and tighter and see new stuff.

    I've seen many revisions in immunology over the years, but the core idea: we have an immune system and it protects us and sometimes screws up and attacks us by mistake has not changed.

    ReplyDelete
  22. John - the phrase "freedom of religion" does not appear. That is true. It says "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion and the free exercise thereof." The phrase "free exercise thereof," if not referencing "freedom of religion," references what exactly? Semantics have nothing to do with it.

    And your Biblical argument - though I commend you for stepping outside your comfort zone - well, the framework for monogamy in the Bible is sketchy at best. Throughout the better part of history, polygamy is not only practiced, but does not seem to be condemned.

    The Constitution is far less cloudy when it comes to clarifying the fact that the Founders wanted to be absolutely certain that the people would be free to exercise their own religious preferences.

    What no one seems to be addressing is the fact that the very men who wrote the Constitution also advocated teaching the Bible in schools, opening Congressional sessions with prayer, and hanging scripture references in government buildings. If their intent was, as you say, to prevent anyone from feeling left out because another religion was getting preferential treatment, then this would not be the case. Whether or not more recent court rulings reflect the original intent is the real question, and if you put the words of the Constitution in the mouths of the men who wrote it, recent court rulings have basically flown the finger at the Founding Fathers in the name of political correctness.

    ReplyDelete
  23. You say "What no one seems to be addressing is the fact that the very men who wrote the Constitution also advocated teaching the Bible in schools, opening Congressional sessions with prayer, and hanging scripture references in government buildings. If their intent was, as you say, to prevent anyone from feeling left out because another religion was getting preferential treatment, then this would not be the case."

    Our founders were brilliant men. They did not approach the establishment of this nation lightly. Had they intended to establish a Christian nation, it would be abysmally negligent of them not to include that in the United States Constitution. It would be more than negligent — it would be absurd.

    They had no such intention.

    What an insult to our founding fathers! After months of argument, deliberation, and crafting the Constitution, the document that created this alleged "Christian nation", they accidentally forgot to mention God, Jesus, Yahweh, Jehovah, or anything else AT ALL Christian?!?

    That is a pretty major OOPS!!, isn't it? "Oh, Gee, we founded a Christian nation but somehow didn't put anything about Christianity into the document that formed the nation. How ever could we have made this oversight?"

    That concept is beyond ludicrous.

    The ONLY references to religion in the Constitution specify that there shall be no religious test for office (What?!? They don't have to be Christians?!? But, but,but, they opened congressional sessions with a prayer!)and specifies no particular religion; it simply bars the government from enforcing or prohibiting the practice of any religion.

    Some people are so desperate to see this nation be Christian that they are more than willing to distort the truth. The truth is that Christianity is never once referenced in the text of the Constitution. There is absolutely nothing in it that explicitly or implicitly suggests that our government has a religious foundation. The secular nature of our government is made clear on the very first line of our Constitution: 'We the PEOPLE of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, etc.'. The PEOPLE formed this government. No god came down from Mt. Olympus. No divine decree from Jesus. No pillar of fire appeared to lead our Founding Fathers to the Promised Land. This nation was founded on the consent of the governed.

    ReplyDelete
  24. "....if you put the words of the Constitution in the mouths of the men who wrote it, recent court rulings have basically flown the finger at the Founding Fathers in the name of political correctness."

    Ya think?
    "
    "Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?" President James Madison, Father of the Constitution

    James Madison, considered to be the Father of the Constitution, said in an 1819 letter, "[T]he number, the industry and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total SEPARATION of the church and state."

    Thomas Paine, from The Age of Reason:
    "Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon that the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and for my own part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel."

    The Tripoli Treaty of 1797 between the US and the Barbary States, unanimously approved by the US Senate on June 10, 1797, specifically states that the US is NOT a Christian nation. At that time, the US government was still dominated by those who are referred to today as the "Founding Fathers". ARTICLE 11:

    As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion...

    "Nothwithstanding the general progress made within the two last centuries in favour of this branch of liberty, & the full establishment of it, in some parts of our Country, there remains in others a strong bias towards the old error, that without some sort of alliance or coalition between Gov' & Religion neither can be duly supported: Such indeed is the tendency to such a coalition, and such its corrupting influence on both the parties, that the danger cannot be too carefully guarded agst.. And in a Gov' of opinion, like ours, the only effectual guard must be found in the soundness and stability of the general opinion on the subject. Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Gov will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together;" James Madison

    "The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses." John Adams

    ReplyDelete
  25. " . . . Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind." John Adams

    "During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.' James Madison

    "As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion…has received various corrupting Changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his Divinity; tho’ it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the Truth with less trouble."
    Benjamin Franklin, about a month before his death

    Ethan Allen, the man who lead the capture of Fort Ticonderoga which helped inspire the War of Independence, once wrote
    "That Jesus Christ was not God is evidence from his own words."
    He also also wrote that he was
    "....denominated a Deist, the reality of which I never disputed, being conscious that I am no Christian."

    look at what Jefferson wrote in his Autobiography in regard to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom:
    "Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting “Jesus Christ,” so that it would read “A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination."

    ReplyDelete
  26. Yes, I think. And here's why: the Founders did indeed call for a separation between the church and the state - Thomas Jefferson even referred to that separation as a wall. And yet he allowed for prayer in Congressional sessions. How do you explain this?

    Simple: the separation was between the state and the church, not the state and religion. The Founders intended that the organization of the church and the organization of the state not be entangled, because they had seen in England what that kind of entanglement does to the people. They did not intend that the people - or even the government - exist in an environment devoid of the presence - or even the influence - of religion. If they had, besides leaving the name of Jesus out of the Constitution, they would likely have stopped the practice of prayer in Congress, removed the Bible from any potential school curriculum, and demanded that the words "In God We Trust" never appear on American currency. They never would have begun the practice of each President swearing in on the Bible. And it's highly unlikely that later Presidents - Abraham Lincoln (http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/bixby.htm), Franklin Delano Roosevelt (http://www.historyplace.com/speeches/fdr-prayer.htm)and Ronald Reagan ("If we ever forget that we are a nation under God then we shall become a nation gone under) come to mind - would have so often invoked the name of the Christian God and His will in public speeches, for fear of being thrown from office for violating the establishment clause. It is only the court and and the people whose understanding only reaches as far as their tolerance that "understand" the Establishment Clause in the way that you claim it was written.

    ReplyDelete
  27. "removed the Bible from any potential school curriculum"...ummmm, the schools were under control of the states at that time, so, NO, they would not have done that. This changed with the 14th amendment which extended federal civil rights protections to the states

    "demanded that the words "In God We Trust" never appear on American currency". Since this wasn't even a consideration until the 1860's, you are suggesting they would have had a chrystal ball and envision every possible future weirdness that might come up in the non-foreseeable future. This is patently absurd.

    "They never would have begun the practice of each President swearing in on the Bible". And, indeed, they did not. Google is your friend. You need a visit with your friend. If that is what the founders wanted, they would have worded it that way in the Constitution instead of:
    The wording is specified in Article Two, Section One, Clause Eight:

    "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

    However, I am glad you opened the door to "each president", for I shall take the oportunity to provide quotes to show you how many of them clearly understood the separation that you claim is "muddied". More on that soon.

    "It is only the court and and the people whose understanding only reaches as far as their tolerance that "understand" the Establishment Clause in the way that you claim it was written." Let's see how many of the presidents felt about separation...I believe I can show many, if not most, understand the Establishment clause exactly as I and the courts do.

    Again....isn't it the courts who have the authority to make the call? I mean, you can hold your breath until you turn blue, pout, whine, and kick your heels all you want, but don't they have the constitutional authority to make the call under Article 3? And, hasn't that call clearly been made?

    ReplyDelete
  28. "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State." President Thomas Jefferson (it really doesn't get any more clear cut than this: the ESTABLISHMENT CLAUSE builds a wall of SEPARATION)

    John F. Kennedy September 12, 1960, address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association:
    "I believe in an America where the SEPARATION of church and state is absolute..." (great speech..you should google it and read the whole thing)

    (Historian Craig Nelson:) "When Alexander Hamilton was asked why the U.S. Constitution made no mention of God, he said the country did not require 'foreign aid'..."

    President John Adams, " Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses."

    President James Madison ("Father of the Constitution" and principal author of the First Amendment):"Strongly guarded . . . is the SEPARATION between religion and government in the Constitution of the United States. . . ."

    President Andrew Jackson:
    "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 nowadays enjoys in this country in its complete SEPARATION from the political concerns of the General Government."

    President James Polk:
    "Thank God, under our Constitution there was NO CONNECTION between Church and State, and that in my action as President of the United States I recognized no distinction of creeds in my appointments to office." (I think this quote shows how Lincoln, Roosevelt,and others can address god while still recognizing separation).

    President Ulysses S. Grant:
    "Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church and the private school supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and state forever SEPARATE."

    President Rutherford B. Hayes:
    "We all agree that neither the Government nor political parties ought to interfere with religious sects. It is equally true that religious sects ought not to interfere with the Government or with political parties. We believe that the cause of good government and the cause of religion suffer by all such interference."

    President Theodore Roosevelt:
    "I hold that in this country there must be complete SEVERENCE of Church and State; that public moneys shall not be used for the purpose of advancing any particular creed; and therefore that the public schools shall be nonsectarian and no public moneys appropriated for sectarian schools."

    President Warren G. Harding:
    "There is NO RELATIONSHIP here between Church and State. Religious liberty has its unalterable place, along with civil and human liberty, in the very foundation of the Republic. I hold it [religious intolerance] to be a menace to the very liberties which we boast and cherish."

    President Harry Truman:
    "Here we now have the freedom of all religions, and I hope that never again will we have a repetition of religious bigotry, as we have had in certain periods of our own history. There is no room for that kind of foolishness here."

    ReplyDelete
  29. I find it amazing how cultural and historical context can be demanded, and then completely ignored. It was brought up how the strength of the wording was insufficient in the first drafts, so the Founders re-wrote the thing. So then we are expected to believe that, after spending that much time getting the wording exact, it was only after 100 years that the *true* interpretation of the text became evident. But since context was brought up, let's examine that:
    America was mainly founded by people seeking to escape the compulsory membership in the Church of England. Further, this situation showed the danger of having the same person as the Head of Government and the Head of the National Church. Moreso, worse than simply being fined or black-listed for failure to be a member of the Church of England was the practice in the Middle East of simply killing infidels. Convert or die. The Historical context of the Bill of Rights strongly suggests, given the exact wording itself, that the intent was to avoid establishing a government run religion, which is the first step in many of the bad things the Founders were witnessing around the world.
    Keeping historical context in mind, we look to the literal wording of the amendment. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion". Originally, this amendment only applied to (shocker) *Congress*. At the time of its crafting, many states still effectively had state sponsored Churches. I find it hard to believe that if Jefferson, Madison, et al had wanted this to specifically apply to every state, they would not have said so given the environment at the time. It strains credulity to assume they would look at their contemporary climate and not take steps to assure it was universally understood exactly *who* the amendment applied to.
    "shall make *no law*" which means that Congress could not use the weight of *the Law* (their enumerated power) in order to influence one religion over another. Last I checked, many of the schools being sued were not under Congressional, Federal or State, mandate to enforce many of the issues in question, be it *voluntary* prayer before starting the day or a meal, or a prayer banner. As such, many of the arguments do not even bear up to this test of compulsion, i.e. there is *no law* in force that specifically mandates these things be implemented.
    Lastly, "establishment of religion" refers to, wait for it, *establishment* of religion. Acknowledging that people *believe* in a religion is not *establishing* that as a national (government mandated) religion. Given a generic prayer (God bless etc etc, help us to work well etc etc.) a full ONE THIRD of the ENTIRE WORLD sees this as applying to their own faith. And that's just the Catholics and Muslims. If you also count Jews, Protestants, Hindus, Taoists and a few other religions who ascribe to the notion that "one follows ones own path" (thereby acknowledging that "God" is that person's path towards englightenment), the number goes even higher. And that's not taking into account that the U.S. in general has a higher percentage of people who believe in "A Diety" than most of the World. Establishment of a religion indeed. More like a recognition of what motivates the average person in regards to living life and doing well. Had students been forced to recite the prayer on the banner, there would be a literal Constitutional issue. But without a specific *law* that *mandates* the banner's existence, I would say the courts have once again bamboozled the public into buying their particular brand of re-interpretation instead of doing their job of simply interpreting the text (and historical context) of the Constitution.

    ReplyDelete
  30. President Lyndon B. Johnson:
    "I believe in the American tradition of SEPARATION of church and state which is expressed in the First Amendment to the Constitution. By my office – and by personal conviction – I am sworn to uphold that tradition."

    George Washington:
    "Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause. Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by the difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and
    ought most to be depreciated."

    Millard Fillmore
    "I am tolerant of all creeds. Yet if any sect suffered itself to be used for political objects I would meet it by political opposition. In my view church and state should be SEPARATE, not only in form, but fact. Religion and politics should not be mingled."

    James A. Garfield"
    "Whatever help the nation can justly afford should be generously given to aid the States in supporting common schools; but it would be unjust to our people and dangerous to our institutions to apply any portion of the revenues of the nation or of the States to the support of sectarian schools. The SEPARATION of Church and State in everything relating to taxation should be absolute."

    Jimmy Carter
    "Last year I was on Pat Robertson's show, and we discussed our basic Christian faith - for instance, separation of church and state. It's contrary to my beliefs to try to exalt Christianity as having some sort of preferential status in the United States. That violates the Constitution."

    Warren G. Harding
    "In the experiences of a year of the Presidency, there has come to me no other such unwelcome impression as the manifest religious intolerance which exists among many of our citizens. I hold it to be a menace to the very liberties we boast and cherish."

    Gerald R. Ford
    "It is difficult for me to see how religious exercises can be a requirement in public schools, given our Constitutional requirement of SEPARATION of church and state."

    Jimmy Carter
    "We believe in SEPARATION of church and state, that there should be no unwarranted influence on the church or religion by the state, and vice versa."

    Jimmy Carter
    "I'm a Southern Baptist, and I have always believed in a total separation of church and state. And I think the interjection of religion into politics is not good for this country...."

    I know I put Carter in three times, but he was just so spot on in his understanding. The Establishment clause establishing separation isn't cloudy at all.

    ReplyDelete
  31. "They never would have begun the PRACTICE of each President swearing in on the Bible." (emphasis mine)
    She never claimed they *mandated* swearing in on the Bible. They began the practice of doing so, along with opening Congress in prayer. These rituals have lasted the duration of the Union. Do you expect me to believe that any author of the amendment could, in good conscience, continue this practice if the *complete* severance of religion and government were their goal? That strains belief.
    As I pointed out above, the *historically contextual* concern was that the government would not simply acknowledge religion, but, this is an important distinction, *would attempt to wield the power of The Church*.
    And here's a bit of historical trivia: on January 3, 1802, just days after his famous "Danbury letter", President Jefferson attended a church service held in the House of Representatives itself. He attended such services throughout his Presidency. He also granted the use of executive office buildings to various denominations to hold church services. Hanging a prayer banner in a school *PALES* in comparison to actually *holding a religious service* in the House of Representatives. And this is only one example. Throughout all these comments, I have yet to see anyone address opening Congress in prayer or swearing in on the Bible, which was done by the authors of the amendment themselves.
    Further, no one has satisfactorily explained why, after settling on the last "strongest" draft of the amendment, it very specifically mentioned Congress, the making of *laws* (i.e. legal *compulsion), and *establishment* of religion, which is a very specific idea.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Y'all just can't get past the fact--not conjecture, argument, or speculation, but fact--that the SCOTUS has the authority to make the call and has made the call. What you think the constitution means, or what you think the founders intended does not matter. You can whine all you want that atheists and the courts don't get it. It is nothing but sour grapes on your part. The legal precedents are well established, that bell is rung, and you can't unring it.

    People who aren't well educated or very bright will believe you know more about applicable legal historical context than generations of Supreme Court justices...and it doesn't matter a whit.

    You can continue whizzing away education dollars on frivolous court cases destined to be lost.

    However, you theocrats have lost. I suggest you do what the precious prayer banner you are squealing about said to do: be good sports and accept your losses with a smile.

    Jim...as to "I find it hard to believe that if Jefferson, Madison, et al had wanted this to specifically apply to every state, they would not have said so given the environment at the time." Whatever their intentions were, the 14th amendment makes it apply to every state.
    She said, "Since the public schools are overseen by the state, this should be a state's rights issue under the 10th Amendment rather than an establishment issue under the first."
    You both ignore the 14th amendment which says, "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Pay particular attention to the last part of that sentence...the part about "equal protection".
    As much as it would bolster your case to do, you do not get to pick through the Constitution and its amendments like the buffet at the Golden Corral, picking out what appeals to you and ignoring the rest.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Generations of Supreme Court Justices?
    You mean like William Rehnquist? You do realize that there are Justices today who disagree with several of the past rulings.
    I find it telling that you so easily dismiss the Founder's intent. This falls under one of those "re-interpreting" as opposed to simply "interpreting" cases. It completely ignores the fact that some Justices, and some entire courts, have pushed agendas, and done so successfully. Sometimes, good, sometimes bad. As humans, it is very difficult to *not* have an agenda. Just like the way most atheists commentors continually ignore the *intent* and *actions* of the Founding Fathers and must cling to bad law. There is such a thing as bad law, though the majority of your arguments ignore this notion. There is also such a thing as Judicial inertia, which is extremely relevant to the idea of bad law. As you said, you can't unring the bell. That doesn't mean you *keep ringing* the bell. I don't consider court cases to be wasted if they can keep the path open to getting the issue in front of a Court that actually wants to address the Constitution as written and intended.
    The 14th amendment doesn't apply because NO LAW WAS MADE. No "rights" are being infringed upon because there is no "right" to freedom *from* religion. There is no coercion, there is no *establishment* of religion. How is it "equal protection" when schools are continually forced to bow to the whims of the minority? Classes, that is the students therein, can agree to have a prayer at commemoration, with no involvement from the school, and it can still be shot done by a single person. How is *that* not sour grapes and further, how is that equal protection for every other student involved?
    And as to "ignoring the rest", bold words for someone whose entire case hinges on ignoring 100 years of contextual history, intent, and written word. I again reiterate the fact that it took a hundred years, that is, once everyone involved was *dead*, to re-interpret the Constitution into such a bastardized standard. I will not smile and accept loss when it comes only because people changed the rules mid-game.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Several of you have referred at length and ad nauseam to the fact that the Supreme Court has the final say on such matters. Why is that? Because since 1803, Marbury v. Madison has set the precedent for judicial review. There are just a few small problems with that, which will explain why I and a few others continue to refer instead to the Founders and to the actual wording of the Constitution:

    1)Marbury v. Madison was decided AFTER the Bill of Rights was written, and the original language of the Constitution does not give the Supreme Court the obligation or the authority of judicial review.

    2)Marbury v. Madison is an example of the "bad law" Jim was talking about earlier. In his decision, Chief Justice Marshall basically usurped the authority for judicial review. He did so by claiming that, given the case at hand,the Supreme Court did not have jurisdiction in the matter. However, the case was against James Madison (who was the Vice President at the time, and thus a "public minister" as stated in Article III, Section II), which means that the Supreme Court had unquestionable jurisdiction.
    The brilliance of Marshall's plan was that he was able to make a grab for power (which he gained in judicial review) while refusing to rule on a case that was likely to upset Jefferson (the President) and could have resulted in a move by Jefferson to impeach him. The fact that it now stands as precedent and that most people actually believe that "judicial review" is a power granted to the Supreme Court by the Constitution does not change the fact that it is a power that the Founders never intended them to have.

    3)Since every following decision that cites judicial review is predicated on bad law and a lack of Constitutional grounds, no Supreme Court ruling that attempts to reinterpret or redefine the First Amendment should ever have been allowed to stand. The fact that such rulings have been made is a bastardization of the judiciary that was outlined in the Constitution.

    So basically your argument is this: The Supreme Court says that hanging a prayer banner in school is unConstitutional. The Supreme Court gained the power to make that ruling from the precedent of judicial review.

    But in order to get the power to make that ruling, the Supreme Court, instead of relying on the Constitution as they should have, simply declared that they had such power. They claimed the power by fiat, and you claim that their win by fiat makes yours possible.

    ReplyDelete
  35. "You do realize that there are Justices today who disagree with several of the past rulings. " Of course. However, there obviously haven't been anywhere enough of them to overturn established law in this matter, have there? I also understand that there are biologists today who disagree with evolution....less thatn 5 out of every thousand, but there is no denying there are "some". Any reasonable person would realize those few are likely so indoctrinated in their religion that they, like every proselytizing Christian I have ever crossed paths with, think it is a virtue that "No amount of evidence can change my faith!" I am sure there have been justices like Scalia who are going to twist their constitutional reasonings to reflect their ideology, but apparently the overwhelming majority of them in what has undoubtedly and unarguably been a nation of Judeo-Christian background have STILL come down on the side separation. Let's face it...until recently the population has been around 90% Judeo-Christian, that is the back ground of every single Supreme Court Justice EVER, and clearly and consistently "separation" has been the winner. They haven't done this BECAUSE of their religious beliefs, but in spite of them.

    "It completely ignores the fact that some Justices, and some entire courts, have pushed agendas, and done so successfully." That this country's 100% Judeo-Christian Justices have for decades pushed a subversive "agenda" of separation is absolutely ludicrous. Do you even hear what you are suggesting? Does that make any kind of sense?

    "As humans, it is very difficult to *not* have an agenda." See above paragraph.

    "Just like the way most atheists commentors continually ignore the *intent* and *actions* of the Founding Fathers and must cling to bad law." Our ideas of intent differ and are arguable. The "actions" of them was to craft a secular document creating the country and the law of the land. That is unarguable. As to "bad law".....although that is arguable, I'm not going to argue it. I'm not going to argue it because we are a country of laws. Good, bad, or indifferent, when individuals start picking and choosing which laws they will not follow because they deem them to be "bad", then we are well on the road to anarchy. Responsible citizens work through the system to change the laws instead of violating them as was done in the Cranston case.

    "I don't consider court cases to be wasted if they can keep the path open to getting the issue in front of a Court that actually wants to address the Constitution as written and intended." This eupehemism for wasting education dollars, supporting law breakers, and using schoolchildren's education as pawns in your theocratic culture war disgusts me.

    "No "rights" are being infringed upon because there is no "right" to freedom *from* religion." That's odd. The man with the authority to make that call said differently.

    "How is it "equal protection" when schools are continually forced to bow to the whims of the minority?" Theocrats cannot be made to understand that minority or majority don't matter when it comes to "rights". Jessica has a right to not be forced by the state to be subject to your religion. The majority has no right to force their religion onto her. The majority has no right to make a minority feel of less state approval due to religion. Only a member of the majority would not understand that. Minorities understand rights very well.

    ReplyDelete
  36. If she feels that a banner hanging in the hallway makes her "subject" to a particular religion, then she truly has more problems than this one court case could ever fix.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Ginny, even though judicial review is not explicitly stated, it is inferred ( I've already talked about literalism) and, as Jim keeps yelling for, look at the intent and historicity.

    "At several other points in the debates at the Constitutional Convention, delegates made comments indicating their belief that under the Constitution, federal judges would have the power of judicial review. For example, George Mason said that federal judges "could declare an unconstitutional law void."[15] James Madison said: "A law violating a constitution established by the people themselves, would be considered by the Judges as null & void."[16]

    In all, fifteen delegates from nine states made comments regarding the power of the federal courts to review the constitutionality of laws. All but two of them supported the idea that the federal courts would have the power of judicial review.[17] Some delegates to the Constitutional Convention did not speak about judicial review during the Convention, but did speak about it before or after the Convention. Including these additional comments by Convention delegates, scholars have found that twenty-five or twenty-six of the Convention delegates made comments indicating support for judicial review, while three to six delegates opposed judicial review.[18] One review of the debates and voting records of the convention counted as many as forty delegates who supported judicial review, with four or five opposed.[19]

    In their comments relating to judicial review, the framers indicated that the power of judges to declare laws unconstitutional was part of the system of separation of powers. The framers stated that the courts' power to declare laws unconstitutional would provide a check on the legislature, protecting against excessive exercise of legislative power.[20][21]
    [edit] The state ratification debates

    Judicial review was discussed in at least seven of the thirteen state ratifying conventions, and was mentioned by almost two dozen delegates. In each of these conventions, delegates asserted that the proposed Constitution would allow the courts to exercise judicial review. There is no record of any delegate to a state ratifying convention who indicated that the federal courts would not have the power of judicial review."
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judicial_review_in_the_United_States#Statements_by_the_framers_of_the_Constitution_regarding_judicial_review

    ReplyDelete
  38. I'm not seeing amongst your quotes the power to change the Constitution or what it says. I am only seeing the "inferred" power to strike down unConstitutional laws. Nearly every ruling involving the First Amendment has not dealt with any new law. As such, the power to strike down unConstitutional law is irrelevant. So taking it on faith that they would leave such a vitally important idea up to inference, it doesn't change the fact that they still over-stepped their bounds by essentially changing what the Constitution said as opposed to simply striking down a specific *law* that was unConstitutional.
    As to "yelling" about intent, Ginny and I have been basing our intent on the actions and actual specific Constitutional words. You are basing intent on discussion and then "inference" of words where there are no specific enumerations. Maybe they did indeed take it on faith that inference was strong enough to grant Judicial review, but considering how carefully they specifically enumerated other powers, I find it compellingly strange. As a result, the debate over judicial review did *not* ultimately end in specific enumeration. In fact, such a thing was proposed in an earlier plan, and rejected. The Virginia plan allowed for much greater power by the Judiciary, but for whatever reasons, the powerful wording regarding the Judiciary was *not* carried over.
    Further, you are still ignoring the fact that these same gentlemen felt it quite acceptable to hold church services in government buildings. I would like to know how this tradition, as well as prayer before Congress and swearing in on the Bible were allowed by the very people who wrote the First Amendment if it actually means what you are "inferring" it to mean.
    ""No "rights" are being infringed upon because there is no "right" to freedom *from* religion." That's odd. The man with the authority to make that call said differently."
    Which man with authority? There was absolutely no law being written to take away anyone's rights. As your lengthy post pointed out, judicial review involved striking down unConstitutional law, not creating their own new laws. I would also point out that freedom *of* religion is what specifically appears in the amendment. I have no guess as to how someone would infer freedom *from* religion.
    "Jessica has a right to not be forced by the state to be subject to your religion."
    SHE ISN'T SUBJECT TO MY RELIGION. I don't know how much more clear this can be. There was no law forcing her to believe, or to pray, or to recognize, or to pay dues, or to appear in church. The amendment specifically speaks of Congressional laws. That condition hasn't been met. Accepting on faith the Constitutionality of judicial review, the Supreme Court has the authority to strike down unConstitutional law. *That* condition has not been met because, once again, there is absolutely no law involved! At no point was local, state, or Federal government involved in mandating *anything* relating to religion. So to reiterate Ginny's comment:
    "If she feels that a banner hanging in the hallway makes her "subject" to a particular religion, then she truly has more problems than this one court case could ever fix."

    ReplyDelete
  39. Ginny

    That is awfully easy for you to say since it is your preferred religion.

    "If she feels that a banner hanging in the hallway makes her "subject" to a particular religion, then she truly has more problems than this one court case could ever fix."

    I guess you can say the same thing about the judge, who also feels that way. I guess you can say the same thing for decades of established constitutional law and judges who apparently feel that way. I guess any time anyone doesn't like being surrounded by your religion in state buildings of their own government, "they have more problems than this one court case could ever fix."

    I guess if they aren't forced to listen and to participate in the prayers of your religion in order to attend public schools, "they have more problems than this one court case could ever fix."

    In short, I guess the real problem is that if they don't believe like you insist that they do--your way---"they have more problems than this one court case could ever fix."

    If you have so little respect for the rule of law, then you "have more problems than this one court case could ever fix."

    I don't know how to tell you this (and realize you don't care as it is your preferred religion), Ginny, but most Christians have no idea of the 24/7 drumbeat to which most non-Christians are subjected. You may have no sympathy for them when they decide, "I don't have to put up with this when I deal with my school or my government, and I'm not going to". That is your privilege, and I recognize it. However, that school does not have the privilege to break the law, and people should recognize that.

    Here is the deal: any of those Christians who are bullying her, harassing her, threatening her, ostracizing her, and otherwise displaying the much ballyhooed love and tolerance of their religion can take that banner and copies of it and put it in there home, their locker, their car, on their T-shirts, in their front yard, in their back yard, have it pulled through the sky in an airplane, have it tatooed on their body....they can do whatever they want with it as long as they keep it out of the government. But, that isn't good enough for them.....and you. They insist on having it in a place where it is illegal and she has to read it in order to attend a state sponsored public school which everyone's tax dollars pay for.

    And don't start with "It's the Christian's tax dollars too!" Yes, it is....and no one is making them read anything anti-religion, or any other one religion.

    You have no sympathy for her? I have no sympathy for you.

    ReplyDelete
  40. I do have respect for the law. My respect for the law is what keeps me from advocating vigilante justice in the case of "doctors" who make it their business to end life rather than promote it. Oh, and my tax dollars pay for that too.

    The Christians who were mean and nasty to Jessica Ahlquist were indeed out of line. I said that several times.

    As for "no one making anyone read anything that is anti-religion" - are you kidding me? What about the history books that ignore all references to the judeo-christian ethics that the Founders used to frame the republic? What about the science books that purport theory as fact and do not allow for any other possibilities? What about the cities and states that allow Muslim prayer in schools and even build special wash basins and designate Muslim prayer rooms at taxpayer expense?

    Every American is going to be forced to pay taxes that will at some point pay for something that they disagree with on a fundamental or religious level. I understand this, and while I don't like it, I comply with it.

    ReplyDelete
  41. "As for "no one making anyone read anything that is anti-religion" - are you kidding me? What about the history books that ignore all references to the judeo-christian ethics that the Founders used to frame the republic?"

    Ginny, you are equating non-mention with making someone read something. It isn't the same thing. If there is a banner that says, "There is no god. Jesus is a bum." then I would agree with you that there is a problem. But, if there is no banner AT ALL...just silent neutrality, then no one is making anyone read anything.

    If a history book says "There is no God. Jesus was bum", then I would agree with you there is a problem. But, if the history book mentions neither god nor jesus, then you can't say the book is forcing someone to read anything negative about god or Jesus.

    Providing a bland page or a non-mention is just plain not making someone read about religion, and I am puzzled that you can somehow think that it is.

    As to "ignore all references to the judeo-christian ethics that the Founders used to frame the republic?" You will have to provide me with a list of those specific exclusively Judeo-Christian ethics that the Founders used to frame the republic. It certainly wasn't the ten commandments, unless I missed the Constitutional article that addresses Thou shalt have only one god, no graven images, and not work on the Sabbath.

    "What about the science books that purport theory as fact and do not allow for any other possibilities? " Ginny, you need to look up the scientific definition of "theory". In science, as opposed to the vernacular, "theory" is stronger than fact as it is made up of facts (see Theory of Gravity or Germ Theory). I'm not saying you are stupid--indeed, I very much appreciate that we have been able to discourse on a civil level--but your question is based on scientific ignorance, because you do not even understand the scientific definition of theory. If you would like, I will gladly supply a thorough definition for you. Let me know.

    I have no doubt you are talking about evolution. To be clear, I don't have a problem with teaching creationism in philosophy or comparative religion classes, along with OTHER philosophies and religions. Of course, I do not support teaching it by itself and as true, which is what a lot of Christians want. Can't do that, as it would be a violation of the separation of church and state.

    We should not teach creationism in science classes because it (and its evil alter ego, intelligent design) are not science. Teaching creationism in science classes would give creationism a scientific legitimacy which it does not deserve. Do not think for a moment that those calling for it to be taught in that manner are not fully aware of this and, indeed, that is exactly what they want to achieve. Teaching creationism misrepresents its status in the scientific community, causes students to doubt its validity without scientific justification, and presents students with a religious alternative to evolution masquerading as a scientific theory.

    continued

    ReplyDelete
  42. From the judge's opinion in Kitzmiller vs. Dover:
    "We find that intelligent design fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that intelligent design is science. They are: (1) intelligent design violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to intelligent design, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980s; and (3) intelligent design's negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community. It is additionally important to note that intelligent design has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the subject of testing and research.

    Science is neither a popularity contest nor a democracy, and you do not teach "not science" in science classes.

    There is another reason why you do not teach creationism in science classes. Creationism is religion. We have a Constitutional separation of church and state.
    As to creationism being religion based, established court case after established court case has determined unequivocally that creationism--and its evil twin intelligent design---are religous doctrine. One of the more recent court cases to illustrate this is Kitzmiller vs. Dover, wherein the judge's opinion said:
    "We do not question that many of the leading advocates of intelligent design have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that intelligent design should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom."

    You might note the judge in this case was appointed by George W. Bush.

    Creationism, as religious doctrine, must legally be relegated to the church and to the home for instruction. Public school science classes are not the place for religious indoctrination.

    ReplyDelete
  43. "If she feels that a banner hanging in the hallway makes her "subject" to a particular religion, then she truly has more problems than this one court case could ever fix."

    So what? Even if I were to grant she has "more problems than this one court case could ever fix", what possible connection does that have to the banner being there illegally? Are you saying, "She has problems so that makes it desirable or acceptable for somebody else to break the law"? What kind of sense does that make? How about your next door neighbor is a creep, so it makes it desirable adn acceptable for you to be a serial killer? Makes as much sense. Or, are you just venting on a defenseless 16 year old girl who hasn't been harassed, bullied, ostrasized, and threatened enough to suit you?

    Not quite done with this one yet. It isn't only her--again, it appears you didn't even bother to read the judge's decision so that you could understand the reasoning and legal basis behind it. Of course, if you have already decided his reasoning MUST be wrong so "Why bother?", that would explain it. You have no interest in established jurisprudence, which you should understand stands on prior decisions. You can't have a nation of laws where the interpretation changes from day to day, and that is exactly what you are demanding.

    Had you actually read the case transcript, you would have found that at the school board meetings the Reverend Dr. Donald Anderson, Executive Minister of the Rhode
    Island State Council of Churches, and Rabbi Amy Levin of Temple
    Torat Yisrael in Cranston, Vice President of the Rhode Island
    Board of Rabbis, both expressed the point of view that
    the Prayer Mural should be altered or removed.

    The judge found "Like the student in Lee v. Weisman, she is a captive
    audience. Beyond that, Plaintiff has stated that the presence of
    a Christian prayer on the wall of her school has made her feel
    ostracized and out of place. She has also stated that she
    doesn’t find the text of the Prayer to be offensive. The Court
    fails to find these statements inconsistent. It is possible to
    object to the presence of the Prayer Mural without having to find
    its goals of academic achievement and good sportsmanship
    offensive. ."

    The judge also found, "While Plaintiff recalls feeling ostracized
    and alone, the constitutionality of the Prayer Mural turns not on
    Plaintiff’s feelings, but rather on the Court’s assessment of how
    a reasonable and objective observer, fully aware of the
    background and circumstances, would view the Prayer Mural and the
    conduct of the School Committee.
    At that meeting, the SchoolCommittee endorsed the position of those who believe that it is acceptable to use Christian prayer to instill values in public
    schoolchildren; a decision that clearly placed the ‘nonadherents’
    outside of the political community.
    What to most believers may seem nothing more than a reasonable request that the
    nonbeliever respect their religious practices, in a school context may appear to
    the nonbeliever or dissenter to be an attempt to employ the machinery of the State to enforce a religious orthodoxy."

    You say she has problems? The judge said, "Plaintiff is clearly an articulate and courageous young woman, who took a brave stand, particularly in light of the
    hostile response she has received from her community." Of course, he was supposed to be impartial, and you obviously aren't even close.

    ReplyDelete
  44. There was a recent court case in Australia, where a woman sexually sued for harassment when a mostly male workplace refused to take down pornography.

    The thing that amazes me if that the complaints of the Cranston Christians almost exactly mirror that of the pro-porn guys. Quotes from guys who felt that they had the right to put up pornography:

    "The majority here were happy with it. Why should we be put out by one person?"
    "She di'n't have to look at it if she didn't want to."
    "She's a troublemaker with a lot of issues"
    "If she didn't like it, she should have gone elsewhere!"
    "We shouldn't give her kind special treatment"

    Hell hath no outraged bleating like a bigoted group having their privileges taken away.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Oh, Mark, I laughed so hard I almost soiled myself because the "She's a troublemaker with a lot of issues" so perfectly matched Ginny's comment "If she feels that a banner hanging in the hallway makes her "subject" to a particular religion, then she truly has more problems than this one court case could ever fix."

    Ginny:
    Oops....there is so much ground to cover--I wanted to go back to your original post and address some things, but probably won't get there--I missed this one: "What about the cities and states that allow Muslim prayer in schools and even build special wash basins and designate Muslim prayer rooms at taxpayer expense?"

    I wasn't aware of this. This question probably should be brought to trial, and I suspect that it will be.

    I notice that the wash basins and prayer rooms seem to be almost or wholly at colleges, which, though taxpayer supported, do have more leeway than public primary schools. The flip side of that question would be "What about the states and cities that have chapels on campuses?" I know my university had a state supported chapel, and I really didn't have a problem with it.

    So, I haven't the knowledge of specific instances nor have I considered it enough to fairly comment on your question. I will share a couple of early thoughts because I don't want you to think I am ignoring your question. There are two things happening in your question: the second is the providing of religious accommodation in the form of basins and specially designated prayer rooms, and I don't think I approve of that.
    The first is "allow Muslim prayer in schools", and I favor that as much as allowing Christian or other prayer in schools, which is a constitutional right. Please do not confuse that with officially sanctioned prayer or prayer led by state officials: that is a different animal. However, currently,as long as it doesn't disrupt classes and doesn't involve state officials, Christians are welcome to pray in school until their heads fall off and I do believe that opportunity should be equally extended to Muslims.

    Even the ACLU agrees with what I think you are saying,:
    "If you start carving out time in the school day that you would not do but for the need to let students pray, then it begins to look like what you're trying to do is to assist religion," says David Blair-Loy, legal director for the ACLU in San Diego (speaking about special prayer times set aside for Muslims).

    ReplyDelete
  46. Hold everything - there was a recent case in Australia on a completely different subject? Then I guess we should just rescind the Constitution and go with that.

    What none of you seem be getting through your heads: no law was established forcing the school to hang the banner, therefore the Constitution was not violated. The fact that a judge ordered the banner removed was, in fact, a violation of the Constitution because it infringed the "free exercise" of religion of those who put it up.

    Whether or not you agree with that, whether or not the Supreme Court agrees with that, is not up for debate. The only real question is whether you violate the rights of more people by leaving it up or taking it down.

    If you read the Federalist papers, the Founders were afraid of three things: tyranny of the one (a king), tyranny of the few (oligarchy), and tyranny of the many (mob rule). To avoid those things they worded the Constitution VERY carefully. You yourself made mention of the fact that the First Amendment had many drafts prior to the final one. Given how carefully the entire document was worded, if "judicial review" was so fundamental an issue, why do you think it was never enumerated? The fact that it was never enumerated brings the Tenth Amendment into play, leaving that particular power out of the hands of the Federal Government - until Justice Marshall grabbed it, that is.

    That being said, at one point does the right of one person outweigh the rights of many? I submit that we are talking about different rights. Jessica Ahlquist demands that her right to avoid religion (one that is NOT explicitly in the Constitution) supersedes the rights of her classmates to exercise theirs. The two rights are not even similar unless Ahlquist admits that atheism is, in fact, her religion - in which case it is still her demanding that her right outweighs the rights of all others.

    An example that is better than an Australian sexual harassment case:
    If the majority of people in America were for gay marriage, would it be fair if one person or a small group of people who opposed it were successful at keeping it illegal? What if the minority opposition felt that just viewing gay couples and knowing that it was legal for them to be together was an affront to heterosexual couples everywhere? What if they couldn't escape viewing married gay couples on the street, in the workplace, etc? Are you then saying that Constitutionally the gay couples seeking the right to be married should be forced to concede those rights for fear of offending the minority?

    You want the minority to have a voice - as long as it is your voice. I want to have a voice, lest my voice become the minority.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Let me help you to understand the word "theory", so you will understand why your earlier question was based on basic scientific ignorance. Put simply, you confuse the technical scientific meaning with the non-technical non-scientific meaning.

    From dictionary.com:
    1.
    a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena: Einstein's theory of relativity. Synonyms: principle, law, doctrine.
    2.
    a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact. Synonyms: idea, notion hypothesis, postulate.

    In short, one is taken as scientific fact, principle, or law. The other is taken as guess, conjecture, or speculation.

    You don't get to use them interchangeably.

    In science, "theory" has the first definition. In the vernacular, and as applied generously to creationism and ID, "theory" has the second definition. Side note: theocrats say "Teach the controversy!" However, there is no SCIENTIFIC controversy, only a religious one.

    Of course evolution is a theory (as well as a fact!). Scientific theories are carefully built on hypothesis, testing, observation, and coming to a conclusion best fitting the facts. They also get reviewed by peers*, many times over. Theories are explanations of facts, and it takes longer than a morning cup of coffee to produce one. Intelligent Design can't be tested, so it's not even a hypothesis.

    The word theory has a number of distinct meanings in different fields of knowledge, depending on their methodologies and the context of discussion.
    1) In science, a theory is a mathematical or logical explanation, or a testable model of the manner of interaction of a set of natural phenomena, capable of predicting future occurrences or observations of the same kind, and capable of being tested through experiment or otherwise falsified through empirical observation. It follows from this that for scientists "theory" and "fact" do not necessarily stand in opposition. For example, it is a fact that an apple dropped on earth has been observed to fall towards the center of the planet, and the theories commonly used to describe and explain this behaviour are Newton's theory of universal gravitation (see also gravitation), and general relativity.

    So, the creationists are confusing the above with the following, in their magnanimous ignorance:
    2) In common usage, the word theory is often used to signify a conjecture, an opinion, or a speculation.

    Well evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts don't go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's in this century, but apples didn't suspend themselves in midair, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from ape-like ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be discovered.

    I hope that explains why they "dare" to teach science in science classes. If you have some SCIENTIFIC theory they are not teaching in science classes, trot it out and we can discuss it.
    *ID and creationism have zero peer reviewed articles in mainstream scientific journals according Michael Behe, a prime proponent of ID, in the Kitzmiller v Dover trial

    ReplyDelete
  48. "Hold everything - there was a recent case in Australia on a completely different subject?" Ummmmm.....I thought to some extent the subject involved a majority forcing their preferences onto a captive audience. The SUBJECT is essentially the same (without the constitutional church/state legalities), the CIRCUMSTANCES are different. I don't think Mark was saying they are legally one and the same, but that they are generally comparable as far as the privileged majority forcing their preferences onto an essentially helpless minority.....and equally wrong. I think he is pointing out that the these arguments of those for the hanging banner apply equally well to defending hanging the pornography...and that you would be in there defending the right of the guys to force the woman to look at the pornography.

    You ask "Given how carefully the entire document was worded, if "judicial review" was so fundamental an issue, why do you think it was never enumerated?" My answer, "Because it was discussed and was so blatantly obvious to such an overwhelming majority of the framers that they felt it didn't need to be." My question to you: "If the Court did not and does not have the power of constitutional judicial review, why was it not stopped and corrected at the time of Marbury v. Madison or at any other point since that time?" Corollary: "If the court does not have the authority to judge constitutionality of laws, then who does?" I mean, it couldn't be Congress, for to imagine them declaring a law they had just passed to be unconstitutional is bizarre in the extreme. To assume that Congress, subject to the whims of electioneering and pandering to voters, would always without exception pass laws that do not violate the constitution is fantasy. So, the need for review is undeniable. I ask you: if not the SCOTUS that the framers discussed, exactly who did the framers intend to make that review? Remember,a revision committee was proposed and voted down as unnecessary because they already had the court in place.

    ReplyDelete
  49. "The only real question is whether you violate the rights of more people by leaving it up or taking it down. "

    You just cannot grasp that "more people" has nothing to do with "rights".

    "no law was established forcing the school to hang the banner" You might as well say "no law was established specifically preventing someone from shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater. Laws apply to classes of actions as well as to specific actions.

    There was a law established--the Establishment clause--prohibiting the mingling of church and state. Inknow you don't agree with that decision, but it stands despite your opinion. That law is affirmed in decades of court cases. The school broke that law. In this case, the only legal question is if they broke that established law. This case was not about reviewing the law prohibiting the mingling of church and state--that has been long estabished. This case was about whether the school broke that law.

    You keep wanting to turn this into a case of this trial putting the Establishment clause on trial. It wasn't about that. The Establishment clause has been through the fires of trial before and has emerged clearly as "Separation". This trial wasn't about that. That bell is rung. This trial was about whether the school broke the extisting established law.

    "The only real question is whether you violate the rights of more people by leaving it up or taking it down." The majority does not have an existing "right" to mingle church with state. You can argue until your head falls off that they should have, that the SCOTUS never had the right of judicial review, that you know more than they do, etc., etc., but the indisputable fact is established law is absolutely clear that the majority has no right to mingle church and state. Existing established law is the rule we must play by or there is utter chaos.

    I don't agree with every SCOTUS decision, but I respect their decisions because I certainly recognize that somebody has to be in a position of final authority. For over 200 years that has been the SCOTUS. I recognize that without following established precedent there would inevitably be chaos. I recognize that if individuals pick and choose which existing laws they get to violate we will have anarchy.

    A wise man sat in the audience and cracked a joke.
    Everybody laughed.
    A moment later, he cracked the joke again.
    Fewer people laughed.
    He kept telling the joke until no one laughed.
    Then he smiled and said,
    You can't laugh at the same joke again and again...
    but why do you keep crying over the same thing again and again?

    ReplyDelete
  50. "That being said, at one point does the right of one person outweigh the rights of many?"

    It doesn't. And no one said it did.

    "I submit that we are talking about different rights. Jessica Ahlquist demands that her right to avoid religion (one that is NOT explicitly in the Constitution) supersedes the rights of her classmates to exercise theirs."
    Not only does Jessica demand that, but the judge and established jurisprudence agree she has that right. The rights of her classmates to exercise their religion stop when exercising that religion mingles it with the state. Although they do have a right to exercise their religion, they have no right to mingle it with the state. Established jurisprudence is that the state be neutral in regard to religion and that no one has a "right" mingle their religion with the state.

    her right does not outweigh their right because you are talking about a right they do not have: the right to mingle their religion with the state.

    "The two rights are not even similar unless Ahlquist admits that atheism is, in fact, her religion - in which case it is still her demanding that her right outweighs the rights of all others." NO. She could be a Hindu and have a right to not be forced by the state to read Christian prayers (solely) as she goes about her legitimate business with the state. Although atheism is not a religion, the court in a very narrow legal sense has deemed that it is for purposes of Establishment clause protection. Exactly how they came to do that is a very interesting read and I recommend you read through it.

    "If the majority of people in America were for gay marriage, would it be fair if one person or a small group of people who opposed it were successful at keeping it illegal?" IF there were a RIGHT to not have gay marriage, then....yes, it would be fair. (Surprised?) There is no such right. Again, the whims of the majority have nothing to do with rights."

    "What if the minority opposition felt that just viewing gay couples and knowing that it was legal for them to be together was an affront to heterosexual couples everywhere?" You don't have a right to not be offended. "What if the minority opposition felt that just viewing heterosexual couples and knowing that it was legal for them to be together was an affront to homosexual couples everywhere?" Put like that, it isn't even a question to you, is it?

    "What if they couldn't escape viewing married gay couples on the street, in the workplace, etc?"....."What if they couldn't escape viewing married heterosexual couples on the street, in the workplace, etc?" So...what if?

    "Are you then saying that Constitutionally the gay couples seeking the right to be married should be forced to concede those rights for fear of offending the minority?" Not at all. I'm also not saying if heterosexuals were in the minority that they should concede the right of marriage for fear of offending the minority. This gets into a rather lengthy discussion, but if you want to go there to where how state benefits that accrue to one group of citizens have to accrue to all groups under equal protection, say the word and off we will go.

    "You want the minority to have a voice - as long as it is your voice. I want to have a voice, lest my voice become the minority." I disagree. I realize you wan to use the government as a proselytizing and enforcement arm for your religion so that you don't become the minority. All I ask for in regard to religion is neutrality from the state. I don't ask for a banner that says "No God". You demand a banner that says there is. You do no want neutrality, you want preference. Outside of the state you can have as loud a voice as you want, and that is all I ask for us.

    ReplyDelete
  51. I don't want the government to speak for me. In fact, if you read posts other than this one, my personal preference is to have the government get the hell out of just about everything. I think that the department of education is one of the first things that needs to go - in its entirety. That would solve your problem - having the state "insert" religion by placing it in schools - and mine - having the state tell your children that the government knows better than parents what is and is not proper to learn, eat and do.

    I have just one final question: Why have you consistently refused to address the issue that Jim and I both brought up? Namely: if the Founders were so dead set on ensuring that religion and state were NEVER to be intermingled, why did they consistently hold religious services in the capitol building? And why, since 1789, have they used taxpayer dollars to pay a Christian minister to open Congressional sessions with Christian prayer? There is even a dedicated Congressional Prayer Room in the Capitol building where weekly rosary prayer services are still held. (Wednesdays at 11am, if you'd like to attend.)

    You say a wise man says that you can't tell the same joke over and over and still get people to laugh. Well, a wise man once told me that if you argue with an idiot he will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience. It's clear that we have both ignored good advice.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Well, we did manage civil discourse until you stooped to calling me an idiot. The final defense of the beaten is ad hominem attack.
    You lose.
    Thank you for the opportunity to expose your ignorance, poor logic, and revisionist history. There was never much hope that facts would influence you, but, hopefully,there was someone reading this to whom facts,evidence, and logic do matter.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Actually, the first move of the beaten is to refuse to address a salient point - which you continue to do. I have plenty of "defense" in reserve - I'm simply waiting for you to address those points before I bother moving forward. Your failure to answer those in conjunction with your insistence on declaring a win by fiat will also be taken into consideration by those who value facts, evidence, and logic.

    Incidentally, I ignored the obvious digs at my intellect - being that it is obviously inferior to yours based on nothing more substantial than my continued disagreement with you. I also ignored the pedagogical way in which you attempted to educate me on the meanings of words that I have no difficulty in understanding. You can call someone an idiot without saying the word idiot, and you have been doing that since the very first comment you posted.

    ReplyDelete
  54. For those of you just joining, let me explain. No, is too much, let me sum up.

    Jim: How do you address the fact that the Founding Fathers instituted religious rituals in Government? They began Congressional sessions with prayer and held Christian services inside the Capitol building.

    John: But this long list of Presidents all said things about why religion and government should be kept separate.

    Jim: That's an interesting point. How do you address the fact that the Founding Fathers instituted religious rituals in Government? They began Congressional sessions with prayer and held Christian services inside the Capitol building.

    John: You ignore the fact that sometimes conservative courts push agendas as well.

    Jim/Ginny: That is true as all humans have agendas. It's difficult not to. Considering your own agenda, how do you address the fact that the Founding Fathers instituted religious rituals in Government? They began Congressional sessions with prayer and held Christian services inside the Capitol building.

    John: Let me provide you with the dictionary definition of the word theory, since you are obviously not as well educated as I am.

    Ginny: That's very fascinating. Keeping that in mind, how do you address the fact that the Founding Fathers instituted religious rituals in Government? They began Congressional sessions with prayer and held Christian services inside the Capitol building.

    John: If you keep telling the same joke over and over again, people will stop thinking it's funny.

    Ginny: If you argue with idiots they'll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience. In spite of that, I'll ask this question: How do you address the fact that the Founding Fathers instituted religious rituals in Government? They began Congressional sessions with prayer and held Christian services inside the Capitol building.

    John: You called me an idiot. You're mean. I am teh win. Oh, and your logic sucks.

    Ginny: Speaking of logic, how do you address the fact that the Founding Fathers instituted religious rituals in Government? They began Congressional sessions with prayer and held Christian services inside the Capitol building.

    ReplyDelete
  55. I’m going to break my reply into two parts, one for Jim Kruta and one for Ginny Kruta, because they each seem to misunderstand separate components of the debate.

    For Jim Kruta:

    You seem to view the fact that founding fathers instituted religious rituals in Government as indicating that they wanted a religious government. This is not true. Many of the founding father prayed, because most of the men at the time were Protestant Christians. Not all were; Thomas Jefferson, for example, did not believe Jesus was divine. But this prayer in the Capital building was a personal practice that was separate from their professional role in constructing a government.

    Also, if someone prayed is no indicator as to wether one supported or opposed a wall of separation between church and state. Many of those who built the wall were Christians, who nevertheless saw that preventing the government from supporting any religion over another was to support liberty.

    So wether the founding fathers had religious rituals is irrelevant. You are confusing personal practice with the meaning of constitutional amendments.

    The intended meaning of the First Amendment is clear when one studies the earlier drafts of the first Amendment. Rejected drafts included:

    “Congress shall not make any law, infringing the rights of conscience or establishing any religious sect or Society”
    or
    “Congress shall make no law establishing any particular denomination of religion in preference to another, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, nor shall the rights of conscience be infringed”
    or
    “Congress shall make no law establishing one religious sect or society in preference to others”

    Any of these would have been more than adequate for preventing the establishment of a national religion. They were voted down because that was not the purpose of the First Amendment. What was ultimately ratified was an Amendment that forbids even “respecting” an establishment of religion, showing that the purpose was to prevent government from supporting any one religion over others.

    ReplyDelete
  56. For Gina;

    You’ve made many comments suggesting that the rights of the school to see the banner need to be weighed against the rights of those who didn’t want to see it. This is a false dichotomy. The banner violated the religious rights of even the Christians that put it up, by creating a divisive system where people were separated into two groups: bullies or victims. Any right-minded person would wish to be in neither group.

    It was this fundamental truth that Jefferson appreciated when he stated, “What has been the effect of [religious] coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.”

    The disgusting behaviour of the Christians at Cranston is the strongest proof of the need for a broad interpretation of the First Amendment (and no, the behaviour of Ms. Ahlquist does not even remotely resemble the Christian hate displayed.)

    So you can appreciate how the First Amendment protects you from becoming a Christian Authoritarian, consider the Stanford Prison experiment. In 1971, 24 young college men were recruited to act in a mock prison. 12 men were randomly assigned to be guards and 12 were randomly assigned to be prisoners. It was planned to run for six months, but had to be stopped after only 6 days because the “guards” took on sadistic and abusing characteristics, and the “prisoners” took on passive and fatalistic characteristics. The lead psychologist wrote a book about it called “The Lucifer Effect: Why good People do Bad Things”

    The similarities between Cranston High School and the Stanford Prison experiment are stark, and both followed the same five-step narrative:

    1 – Legitimacy
    A value system is established by an authority that people are expected to adhere to.
    2- Division.
    The system is used to divide a community. In the prison experiment, the division was between guards and prisoners. In the Cranston school, it was between Christians and non-Christians.
    3- Intimidation
    When a person complains over the unfairness of the division, authorities then use fear to silence. Prison guards used physical and psychological abuse. The school authorities used threats of burning in hell, prosecution and name-calling to intimidate Ms. Ahlquist
    4- Isolation.
    Guards used “divide-and-conquer” tactics to make prisoners distrust each other. People who have singled Ahlquist out for their venom include the mayor, Representative Palumbo and the school board. All of these people are abusing their office to single out and victimize a young girl, and divide her from her community. Even small businesses have ostracised her.
    5- Retribution
    When a prisoner was identified as a “ringleader”, the guards made effects to break that person. Since winning the court case, threats against Ahlquist and her family have been made, and her address has been published on the Internet. She has since needed police protection.

    At the end of the day, the good Christians at Cranston have been revealed as moral scum, undeserving of any respect. That is what always happens when a religious group is given preferential treatment by the government.

    When you go to bed, Gina, you should give thanks to the First Amendment for protecting you from the Lucifer Effect.

    ReplyDelete
  57. On your response to Jim's post: organized prayer as part of the Congressional session and paid for by the taxpayer is no different in terms of establishment than hanging an innocuous banner on the wall of a school or posting the Ten Commandments in the Supreme Court. All represent taxpayer-funded preference of one religion over another, and one to assume that the Founding Fathers would institute one or two such actions while being adamantly opposed to all others is beyond ludicrous.

    On your response to my post: who is Gina?

    ReplyDelete
  58. Madison certainly spoke out against it. He said "Is the appointment of Chaplains to the two Houses of Congress consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom? In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative." and
    "I observe with particular pleasure the view you have taken of the immunity of Religion from civil jurisdiction, in every case where it does not trespass on private rights or the public peace. This has always been a favorite principle with me; and it was not with my approbation, that the deviation from it took place in Cong. when they appointed Chaplains, to be paid from the Natl Treasury. It would have been a much better proof to their Constituents of their pious feeling if the members had contributed for the purpose, a pittance from their own pockets. As the precedent is not likely to be rescinded, the best that can now be done, may be to apply to the Constitution the maxim of the law, de minimis non curat."

    This means: The law does not concern itself with trifles; - a principle of law, that even if a technical violation of a law appears to exist according to the letter of the law, if the effect is too small to be of consequence, the violation of the law will not be considered as a sufficient cause of action, whether in civil or criminal proceedings.

    In short, it is IN FACT a violation,it was recognized as such at that time by the Father of the Constitution, but the effect of it was so minimal that it would be ignored due to bigger fish to fry in getting our country going. If only he had been able to foresee what the theocrats would try to use it for today.

    JAMES MADISON: The establishment of the chaplainship to Congress is a palpable violation of equal rights, as well as of Constitutional principles....Rather than let this step beyond the landmarks of power have the effect of a legitimate precedent, it will be better to apply to it the legal aphorism de minimis non curat lex: or to class it cum "maculis quas aut incuria fudit, aut humana parum cavit natura (with faults which human nature either has scattered around through negligence or has guarded against too little].."

    Did you catch that? "RATHER THAN LET THIS STEP BEYOND THE LANDMARKS OF POWER HAVE THE EFFECT OF A LEGITIMATE PRECEDENT"....just regard it as human negligence or something guarded against too little.

    ReplyDelete
  59. As regards jim's "summary:

    My reply "John: But this long list of Presidents all said things about why religion and government should be kept separate."
    was in response to
    Ginny: And it's highly unlikely that later Presidents - Abraham Lincoln (http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/bixby.htm), Franklin Delano Roosevelt (http://www.historyplace.com/speeches/fdr-prayer.htm)and Ronald Reagan ("If we ever forget that we are a nation under God then we shall become a nation gone under) come to mind - would have so often invoked the name of the Christian God and His will in public speeches, for fear of being thrown from office for violating the establishment clause. It is only the court and and the people whose understanding only reaches as far as their tolerance that "understand" the Establishment Clause in the way that you claim it was written.

    My reply John:Jan 17, 2012 02:55 PM You ignore the fact that sometimes conservative courts push agendas as well. "
    was in response to
    jimJan 17, 2012 01:16 PM:It completely ignores the fact that some Justices, and some entire courts, have pushed agendas, and done so successfully. Sometimes, good, sometimes bad.

    My reply "John: Let me provide you with the dictionary definition of the word theory, since you are obviously not as well educated as I am." I DID NOT SAY THAT. THIS IS JUST ANOTHER LIE BY JIM.
    What I did say was Jan 18, 2012 05:44 AM:Let me help you to understand the word "theory", so you will understand why your earlier question was based on basic scientific ignorance. Put simply, you confuse the technical scientific meaning with the non-technical non-scientific meaning.
    It was a response to Ginny Jan 17, 2012 04:47 PM:What about the science books that purport theory as fact and do not allow for any other possibilities?
    NOTE: I also said "I'm not saying you are stupid--indeed, I very much appreciate that we have been able to discourse on a civil level--but your question is based on scientific ignorance"Jan 17, 2012 05:49 PM

    My reply John: If you keep telling the same joke over and over again, people will stop thinking it's funny. was one small segment of a three separate part post--one right after another--on Jan 18, 2012 07:01 AM in response to
    Ginny Jan 18, 2012 05:14 AM which DID NOT CONTAIN THE PHRASE jIM SAID IT DID, TO WHIT: "In spite of that, I'll ask this question: How do you address the fact that the Founding Fathers instituted religious rituals in Government? They began Congressional sessions with prayer and held Christian services inside the Capitol building."

    ReplyDelete
  60. In short, he took replies out of context and juxtaposed them with things they were not a response to our stuff that he just made up out of thin air.
    He thought I was gone and took the opportunity to make up lies.
    As I said before, name calling is the last call of the defeated. However, misrepresentation and lies rank right up there.
    It smells particularly bad when the ones claiming the moral Christian high ground shame it in this fashion.
    Have a nice life. I'm gone for sure this time, so feel free to make up more lies without being exposed.

    ReplyDelete
  61. A few parting words: First, you explained scientific theory to me in an extremely condescending fashion. And I was most definitely not speaking in ignorance of what "theory" means in scientific circles. I realize that, because it is made up of facts, it holds more weight. By assuming that I must not understand the word to use it in such a fashion, you display your own ignorance rather than mine. I have a problem with theory (yes, even scientific theory) being presented as indisputable fact. Why? Not because I want schools to include creation or intelligent design (I don't care whether they do or do not) but because I believe that presenting it in that way encourages students NOT to challenge it. It effectively cuts science off at the knees by removing the inspiration for students to attempt to further understand that which (most scientists would admit) is not fully understood. My issue is solely with presenting theory as fact, not with presenting theory in the absence of other theories.

    I'm not sure why I'm bothering to explain this to you. I'm not sure why you bothered with your last response either. I mean, if you already won, the only possibility would be your need to throw out a few more thinly veiled insults - which would lead those reading to believe that by your own explanation you had been defeated.

    ReplyDelete
  62. “All represent taxpayer-funded preference of one religion over another, and one to assume that the Founding Fathers would institute one or two such actions while being adamantly opposed to all others is beyond ludicrous.”

    Some points to consider:

    • The tradition to open Continental Congress with prayer predates the Constitution, and was perfectly legal when it first began.
    • Some representatives (e.g. John Jay and John Rutledge) opposed it from the beginning. It was certainly not instituted by all the Founding Fathers.
    • None of the sessions of the Constitutional Convention were opened with a prayer.
    • Although the tradition of Congress opening with prayer continued after the Constitution was ratified, attendance was entirely optional.
    • In 1792 the Congressional Chaplain , Rev. Ashbel Green, complained that upwards of 2/3’s of members of Congress were absent during prayer, and attributed this to the prevalence of freethinking
    • President Dwight of Yale, said in 1813 that the Congressional Chaplaincy was not being treated with respect by members of congress.
    • James Madison, who helped plan the Chaplaincy system in 1789, stated in his Detached Memoranda that the fact that chaplains were paid by “the nation” violated the principle of establishment forbidden by the Bill of Rights.

    Basically, the First amendment was intended to build a wall between church and state, but that wall wasn’t built overnight by ratifying a bill. Indeed, 223 years later Jefferson and Maddison’s wall is still being constructed one brick at a time.

    Congressional chaplains should not be seen as indicative of the plans the Founding Fathers had for the country, but rather how difficult it is to stop a bureaucratic tradition once it’s started.

    Congress has enacted many unconstitutional traditions and laws that have taken decades or even centuries to struck down by SCOTUS. The ereality is that until 1940’s, SCOTUS had little opportunity to address the meaning of the Establishment clause, because they have to wait for cases to be brought before it.

    Also, you seem to be deliberately ignoring the mountains of evidence showing that the Founding Fathers wished for the First Amendment to ensure strict government neutrality on all religious issues. John Eberhard has done an excellent job of presenting you with the history of the First Amendment, and you should be grateful to him for saving you hours of research time.

    Some of the evidence you refuse to examine:
    • Quotations from Madison and Jefferson regarding the intentions of the Establishment clause.
    • Drafts of the First Amendment that were rejected for not being separatist enough.
    • The context of a 7-year effort to secure religious freedom in Virginia, which created a religious freedom bill used as the model for the First Amendment. This bill secured equal rights for believers and nonbelievers.

    ReplyDelete
  63. Hey, John Eberhard, are you humanity's best hope in the case of a zombie apocalypse? If so, I'm a fan of your work.

    ReplyDelete
  64. Hey, Mark....."humanity's best hope in the case of a zombie apocalypse" is my son. Glad to hear you're a fan.

    ReplyDelete