Thursday, May 19, 2011

Christians: The ACLU is not your friend

When I read this beyond-the-pale story yesterday*, which (yet again) exposes the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for the anti-Christian organization that it is, I remembered a conversation I had a while back with an atheist reader of the Bubble, MaiZeke.

MaiZeke made the following claim:
The ACLU fights for the rights of Christians, Muslims, and the non-religious to practice their religious beliefs (or lack of religious beliefs in the case of the non-religious).
I took issue with the statement, and MaiZeke responded with links to a few cases or letters of Christians being defended by the ACLU.

I subsequently contacted family friend Alan Sears, who happens to be the head of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). The ADF and its attorneys boldly take on the ACLU every day, and are intimately familiar with the organization's history, philosophy and tactics. In addition to running ADF, Alan literally co-wrote the book on the ACLU's attacks on our nation's Judeo-Christian roots, The ACLU vs. America:

The ACLU vs. America: Exposing the Agenda to Redefine Moral Values

I told Alan of my exchange with MaiZeke and sent him her link. He promptly responded with the following:

The ACLU has a long history of providing token defense to Christians in carefully selected cases in order to advance its radical agenda. ACLU founder Roger Baldwin laid out this strategy in 1934 when he said, “If I aid the reactionaries {i.e. Christians and conservatives} to get free speech now and then, if I go outside the class struggle to fight against censorship, it is only because those liberties help to create a more hospitable atmosphere for working class liberties.”

The bottom line: The ACLU generally only defends Christians when it serves their greater agenda, and often the cases they take on are “easy” ones that will not set any lasting legal precedent that will benefit Christians. However, there are numerous examples where the ACLU has been on the forefront of silencing, or attempting to silence, Christians.

In 2006, Jeremy Gunn, the ACLU’s “Director of Religion and Belief,” said that military chaplains who share their faith with soldiers, “should find another career.”

In 2003, the ACLU of Iowa tried to intimidate the small Iowa town of Tipton, to stop its yearly tradition of a nativity scene on a courthouse lawn. In the letter, the ACLU “kindly” agreed to assist the city on how it could “choose a constitutionally appropriate way to celebrate the Solstice Season.”

The ACLU has waged a systematic “war on the cross”, demanding that cross memorials to fallen military veterans -- such as Mt. Soledad in San Diego and the Mojave Desert Cross -- be taken down.

The ACLU has time and time again filed lawsuits against Christians who are simply trying to live out their faith:

In New Jersey, the ACLU is backing same-sex couples in a civil rights complaint against the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association of the United Methodist Church -- in order to force the ministry to open up its worship pavilion for same-sex “civil union” ceremonies in direct opposition to the association’s stated beliefs. 

In Kentucky, the ACLU took on a Baptist adoption ministry that works with the commonwealth to place children in loving two-parent homes, and backed a former ministry employee who had "come out” as a lesbian. The Baptist ministry's offense? Requiring its employees to adhere to Baptist beliefs regarding human sexuality. In its lawsuit, which has been unsuccessful thus far, the ACLU has tried to force the adoption ministry to either compromise its core beliefs or lose the funding it has received from the government to assist with adoptions.

It was the ACLU, in a friend-of-the-court Supreme Court brief filed in Everson v. Board of Education (1947) that came up with the distortion that the words “separation of church and state” appear in the U.S. Constitution. (They don’t.) Associate Justice Hugo Black picked up that phrase in the minority opinion, and the ACLU was off and running ever since, to use what the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit has called a “non-Constitutional construct” to engage in a war of fear, intimidation, and disinformation meant to bully public officials into silencing any religious expression in the public square – and in particular Christian religious expression. As a result, the ACLU participated in case after case at the United States Supreme Court that eventually outlawed school prayer, moments of silence, and eventually non-sectarian prayers by ministers and rabbis before public high school graduation ceremonies.

When school officials in Louisiana allowed a prayer before an awards banquet, the then-head of the ACLU of Louisiana compared praying Christians to Islamic terrorists, and demanded they be put in jail so they could be “removed from society.”

With regard to peaceful pro-life advocates at abortion clinics, the ACLU has not only attempted to strip them of the constitutionally-protected right to free speech, but some ACLU members have advocated using RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) laws – which were intended to financially cripple organized crime by tripling court awards – to bankrupt those who simply want exercise their freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

The ACLU’s assaults on Christianity in the public square go on and on, and are too countless to post in a forum such as this. One thing does become clear: The ACLU is the number one religious censor in America today.

One need only go back to the news article linked in my first line to have firm evidence of that.

The ACLU is a friend of Christians? You know what they say: "With friends like these, who needs enemies?"

Christians, don't be fooled.

*Unfortunate resolution to the story, here.


  1. It's always amazed me how people took the phrase "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" to mean "everything remotely related to the government needs to be atheistic." Prohibiting prayer in classrooms, for example, seems awfully like "prohibiting the free exercise thereof." I can understand people protesting a school requiring public participation in a specific prayer (I think even religious people would agree that the words of a prayer are just words unless the person saying them means them, and therefore forcing someone to "pray" is practically pointless), but that's a far cry from protesting all varieties of prayer.

  2. Ugh. The ACLU makes me sick to my stomach... It is so ironic that our country was founded by people fleeing religious persecution, and yet the ACLU is using the courts to persecute freedom of Christian expression!

    The American general public has swallowed the separation of church and state position, hook, line, and sinker...

    My aunt is Methodist, and she is very involved in her church. Recently, in a leadership meeting, they were proposing that an American flag be flown on the church property honoring a fallen servicemen who had been a member of the church.

    I was so disappointed to learn that my aunt had led the charge to turn down the motion. Her reasoning was all about separation of church and state. :(

    It's almost like this idea has become so ingrained in Americans that it is a knee jerk reaction that abandons all logic.

  3. The principle of separation of church and state is derived from the Constitution (1) establishing a secular government on the power of the people (not a deity), (2) saying nothing to connect that government to god(s) or religion, (3) saying nothing to give that government power over matters of god(s) or religion, and (4), indeed, saying nothing substantive about god(s) or religion at all except in a provision precluding any religious test for public office and the First Amendment provisions constraining the government from undertaking to establish religion or prohibit individuals from freely exercising their religions. That the phrase does not appear in the text of the Constitution assumes much importance, it seems, only to those who may have once labored under the misimpression it was there and, upon learning they were mistaken, reckon they’ve discovered a smoking gun solving a Constitutional mystery. To those familiar with the Constitution, the absence of the metaphor commonly used to name one of its principles is no more consequential than the absence of other phrases (e.g., Bill of Rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, fair trial, religious liberty) used to describe other undoubted Constitutional principles.

    Some try to pass off the Supreme Court’s decision in Everson v. Board of Education as simply a misreading of Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists–as if that is the only basis of the Court’s decision. Instructive as that letter is, it played but a small part in the Court’s decision. It is laughable, by the way, to pass off that decision as the doing of the ACLU and Justice Black; the Court was unanimous in reading the Constitution to separate church and state. Perhaps even more than Jefferson, James Madison influenced the Court’s view. Madison, who had a central role in drafting the Constitution and the First Amendment, confirmed that he understood them to “[s]trongly guard[] . . . the separation between Religion and Government.” Madison, Detached Memoranda (~1820). He made plain, too, that they guarded against more than just laws creating state sponsored churches or imposing a state religion. Mindful that even as new principles are proclaimed, old habits die hard and citizens and politicians could tend to entangle government and religion (e.g., “the appointment of chaplains to the two houses of Congress” and “for the army and navy” and “[r]eligious proclamations by the Executive recommending thanksgivings and fasts”), he considered the question whether these actions were “consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom” and responded: “In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the United States forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion.”

    It is important to distinguish between the "public sphere" and "government" and between "individual" and "government" speech about religion. The principle of separation of church and state does not purge religion from the public sphere--far from it. Indeed, the First Amendment's "free exercise" clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views--publicly as well as privately. The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties, they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment's constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please.

    Wake Forest University recently published a short, objective Q&A primer on the current law of separation of church and state–as applied by the courts rather than as caricatured in the blogosphere. I commend it to you.

  4. Doug, I am not a lawyer myself, so help with simple concepts. I do believe that we have a secular government, but that we are a Judeo-Christian nation (our laws, philosophies, etc., based on the ideals of western civilization). Would you agree?

    What do you think of the fact that the words "In God We Trust" is engraved in big letters in the marble wall in the House Rotunda, above the Speaker of the House? Was that a mistake, or is that in keeping with the principles you cite, above?

    Of course, I would never say that "In God We Trust" is anything akin to the establishment of religion. Would you?


  5. Y'know, I find it funny when judicial activists hark back to the Constitutional Fathers when it serves their interests. Otherwise, they're "just a bunch of rich white men who owned black people, killed Native Americans and repressed women" when they don't serve the activist agenda, and "dead men make no laws".

  6. If I understand your first point correctly, yes, I agree. The distinction is between government and society (or nation). The Constitution establishes a secular government (meaning basically it is founded on the power of the people and not god(s)) and keeps that government separate for the most part from religion. It is in that sense that Christianity is not an inherent aspect of the government itself.

    That said, as our society (or nation) has been and remains largely Christian (in its several variations), our republican government naturally has adopted laws largely reflecting Christian values and views. In that sense, Christianity may be characterized as influential or deeply ingrained or the like in our culture, history, and laws--even though it is not an inherent aspect of the government itself.

    I think the government's inscription of the phrase "In God we trust" on coins and currency and government buildings, as well as its addition of the words "under God" to the pledge of allegiance in 1954 and adoption of the phrase "In God we trust" as a national motto in 1956, were mistakes, which should be corrected. Under our Constitution, the government has no business proclaiming that "we trust" "In God." Some of us do, and some of us don't; each of us enjoys the freedom to make that choice; the government does not and should not purport to speak for us in this regard. Nor does the government have any business calling on its citizens to voice affirmation of a god in any circumstances, let alone in the very pledge the government prescribes for affirming allegiance to the country. The unnecessary insertion of an affirmation of a god in the pledge puts atheists and other nonbelievers in a Catch 22: Either recite the pledge with rank hypocrisy or accept exclusion from one of the basic rituals of citizenship enjoyed by all other citizens. The government has no business forcing citizens to this choice on religious grounds, and it certainly has no business assembling citizens' children in public schools and prescribing their recitation of the pledge--affirmation of a god and all--as a daily routine.

    But that's just me talking. The courts, on the other hand, have sometimes found ways to excuse such things, for instance with the explanation that they are more about acknowledging tradition than promoting religion per se. Draining the government's nominally religious statements or actions of religious meaning (or at least purporting to do so) and discounting them as non-religious ritual--sometimes dubbed "ceremonial deism"--is one way the courts have sometimes found them not to conflict with the First Amendment. Ordinary folks, though, commonly see things quite differently; when most read "In God we trust," they think the Government is actually declaring that "we" as a people actually "trust" the actual "God" they believe in. If they truly understood it as merely a ritualistic phrase devoid of religious meaning, they would hardly get as exercised as they do about proposals to drop it. As you can imagine, those more interested in championing their religion than the constitutional principle of separation of church and state sometimes seek to exploit and expand such "exceptions" even if it requires they fake interest only in tradition.

  7. great post! interesting comments......hmmmm

  8. I would be hugely uncomfortable if my school were to force me to sit though a prayer each day. I am glad for that change. If you would like to pray, do it on your own time, I would not be able to stop you, nor would I want to stop you. But respect needs to go both way.

    I agree with you with the laws. Some did come from religion. Like how many of Pennsylvania's laws still reflect Quaker values. But I am pretty sure I am not about to go out killing people, just because I am an atheist. These laws could have been created by non-believers also.

    I do know that some abortion protesters are peaceful, but some are not. I think that the group was probably trying to protect against the ones who use mean tactics, and who basically verbally abuse women.

  9. I also wanted to commet on the article you linked, Leila. Having gone to public school all my life, I think it's a fair compromise to remove the prayers and Christian music from the ceremony.

    However threatening legal action over a few religious symbols is ridiculous. If the symbols were in the school itself, I would understand, but this is a third party venue!

    Are athiests really so uncomfortable with their own beliefs that being in the mere presence of religious icons is offensive and inappropriate?

    I feel like this would be akin to a school district or other government entity hosting a fundraiser at a museum or library and then having legal action taken against them for there being a painting of the Madonna and Child in the museum or a copy of the Bible displayed at the library...

    I just dont understand why the mere presence of these religious items in a third party venue is so offensive?

  10. Amen, Megan. Asking the Venue, on the other hand, to cover up the cross, is highly offensive to Christians on a universal level and I believe the ACLU knows this.

  11. Leila, that lawsuit is nonsense.

    Separation of church and state is to keep the state out of the church, not the other way around.

    This is not a secular country nor is our government a secular government. It is a free country and our government protects our freedom.

    Freedom is a Christian idea. "We hold these Truths..."

  12. Chelsea,

    It amazes me that people would equate the minority of the pro-life movement with its fringe extremists.

    I do know that some abortion protesters are peaceful, but some are not. I think that the group was probably trying to protect against the ones who use mean tactics, and who basically verbally abuse women.

    You said some and some, as if the Pro-Life movement is actually divided in some way resembling an equality between abusive protesters and peaceful ones. Not the case. MOST pro-life protesters are peaceful, and loving, and compassionate. Some are not. This is not a case of some and some.

  13. The First amendment talks about our federal legislature. It does not talk about public speach by federal officials being restricted in order to make atheists feel more comfortable.

    Also, consider the times, the leader of the Church of England was the Monarch of England as well. The roles joined under one head. I find it hard to believe that the founders were trying to eradicate all references to God and religion by the Federal Government. It seems they were merely trying to prevent a single-state religion that would usurp and oppress other religions. You know, kind of similar to what happened under Elizabeth I?

  14. Leila @ May 19, 2011 10:12 PM says "What do you think of the fact that the words "In God We Trust" is engraved in big letters in the marble wall in the House Rotunda..."

    I have no doubt Doug is perfectly capable of posting a fine response to this. I'd like to see it myself. However--

    Another significant and conspicuous architectural decoration in the House and in many other government buildings is a bundle of rods bound by straps with an axe. It's called a fasces, whence our word Fascist. Mussolini's government used it. Can you conclude from this that the US government is Fascist?

  15. Anon, please give yourself a name.

    Doug did answer: He said it was a "mistake." I will address that answer when I have more time.

    Your question is wrongheaded, because I never said the government was based on religion. When did I say that? I certainly can see, with my plain ole eyes (have you ever walked the monuments or read any of the works of the Founders?) that God and government were never seen as mutually exclusive.

    I'm with Ru:

    It's always amazed me how people took the phrase "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" to mean "everything remotely related to the government needs to be atheistic."

    Help me understand how one become the other?

  16. Giuseppe - I think your statement is the main point:

    It seems they were merely trying to prevent a single-state religion that would usurp and oppress other religions.

    By promoting the christian god and requiring students to say it, or participate in prayer, and all of the things you are complaining against here, that is in effecting establishing a religion by the government. Otherwise, all of those mottoes should say "In God or Allah or Budda or Zeus we trust".

    There is a difference between atheist and secular. Atheist means that I don't personally believe in any gods, none of them. Secular simply means that something is not religious in nature. A person can be religious but still be in favor of a secular institution, such as school. An example of this would be a religious Muslim who is in favor of sending their children to a secular school. Their children get their religion from home, not from the public, government-funded school that their children are going to. In this example, it is important that the religious Muslim can be comfortable sending her child to a secular school so that the child doesn't come home saying that their class was praying to a god that their family doesn't believe in.

  17. Doug:

    All those government officials talking of God, and the monuments with God references etched in marble, all those are "mistakes" which slipped by the Founders somehow? They intended a complete break between government affairs and positions and God speak, right? Why do you suppose Washington missed that point of the government he helped to found and which he led? Can you tell me what he was thinking, here:


    (Remember, the simpler you can keep your comments, the better. My brain is in need of perfect clarity and short(ish) statements of truth. Thanks so much!)

  18. Maybe I can phase it more clearly this way: The Founders of our nation and the writers of the Establishment Clause did not see any discrepancy or contradiction between the Establishment Clause and the free discussion of God within the halls of government (even ON the walls of government) and in their speeches and daily lives in government.

    If they don't see a problem (please read Washington's declaration carefully!), then where did this "problem" suddenly come from? How is it that the Founders never saw a discrepancy, but you (and other leftists, including those appointed to a court) now do?

    I truly don't get it.

  19. Separation of church and state is to keep the state out of the church, not the other way around.

    Dr. Stacy, exactly!!

    And you are right, "We hold these Truths to be self-evident…" That is full-on natural law speak! Yee-haw!

    Will the atheist here admit that natural law undergirds the founding of this nation?

    By the way, it is (Jewish) Michael Medved who always says "we are a Christian nation with the secular government" … but I like the way you put it: We are a free country and our government protects our freedom.

  20. Chelsea -

    Are you aware of the pro-abortion activists who have committed violence (threatened and actual) against pro-lifers? Two examples are Harlan James Drake and Theodore Shulman.

    Let me tell you about another incident. I prayed at our local abortion clinic this spring as part of 40 Days for Life. One day, when I arrived, there was another pro-lifer there who was upset. Apparently, someone had thrown a full can of Coke at her from a moving vehicle. Thankfully, it hadn't hit her, but she as well as the pamphlets and brochures she was carrying got sprayed by the soda. She was a small, elderly woman and could have gotten badly hurt if the can had hit her.

    As I was praying, I also witnessed two men screaming "Abort your babies!" as they drove by. I think that's harassing to the women going into the clinic as well as harassing to the protesters. Isn't it supposed to be a "choice"?

    So, given my experience, pro-lifers who protest abortion need just as much protection as pro-"choice" people allegedly do, yet I haven't seen the ACLU leap to the defense of pro-lifers. Why do you think that is?

  21. JoAnna, thanks for that! My husband and kids pray twice a year with the bishop in front of Planned Parenthood. The are peacefully praying the rosary. They have been flipped off more times than they can count, screamed at by drivers, etc. Thankfully, they also have many supporters who honk and give the thumbs up.

    Chelsea, PLEASE look at this evidence of pro-abortion violence (since the pro-abort mainstream media will NEVER report it), and tell me what you think:

    Do you think you've gotten some wrong information about the abortion issue, and who it is that is being violent?


  22. You are right, I did not mean to suggest that most pro-lifers are violent. Their is probably a higher rate of violent non religious people then their are very religious violent people. Since the very religious people try and remember someone is watching them (or however the right way to say that is).

    The person praying that you were talking about? If I had met the person the threw the can, they would have gotten an earful from me. Remember, just like most pro-lifers, the pro-choice are not violent either.

    But also, why did you jump to my last paragraph? What about prayer in school. I am sure if I stood up in the classroom, and talked each morning about how the idea of their being a god is ridiculous (I do not think this, but lets say I did) and said it like the whole class agreed, wouldn't that make you feel uncomfortable.

    It would also create a major separation I think. I know that sometimes with my hugely religious friends, the idea of god can create problems/uncomfortableness. And by having prayer in school, is a controversial idea that is just not worth it since most would never change their minds.

    By having god/religious topics out of the equation, I feel that we could get along better. Just the fact that I am a bit conservative among very liberal friends can result in me getting hard stares and loud arguments (once, when I said I did not believe bankruptcy was proper cause for an abortion, that argument actually had to be stopped by my teacher)

  23. Chelsea, school prayer is a whole issue that I haven't much studied. I went to public school and we had a "moment of silence" which was dumb, in my teen opinion. I would not fight for prayer in schools, but my thoughts on it go two different ways: First, if we have prayers in the House and Senate, I don't see why prayers in school are so outrageous an idea. However, my understanding is that public school prayer (and public schools in general) were born out of an anti-Catholic sentiment in the nation. But I'd have to have someone else confirm my vague memory on that.

    I would love to see school vouchers so that every parent could put their child in the school of their choosing. Seems fair to me. The National Education Association and public education these days.... don't get me started.... (But it's not "neutral" on the issue of God or religion.)

    As for the rest of what you are saying: The idea that the goal in society is that no one gets "offended" and "everyone gets along" is not and has never been the goal of our nation! That is a made up thing by leftists (who actually do NOT want to 'tolerate' those who disagree with their dogma).

    I could not object more strenuously to the idea that we make policy or shape education around the idea that no one (except conservatives, of course) should be "offended." What are we, a nation of spineless wimps? Can't anyone take a negative feeling, or a challeng to their beliefs?

    We are soft.

    No wonder this nation is taking a nosedive.

  24. Chelsea, do you think the goal of education should be truth (education used to be about seeking and finding what is true), or should it be about making sure no one is offended and everyone feels good?

    I'm seriously asking, because that philosophy of making everyone feel good is actually affecting (and distorting) history curricula and other curricula in our schools, and we have a huge problem in education, that schools have become a big social engineering experiment driven by the Left and the Left's agenda.

  25. Maizeke

    Respecting the Christian God over other and opposing ideas about the deity is not the same things as making the President the hierarchical leader of an organized religion. Making the King/Queen head of an organized religion is what England did. That's what they wanted to avoid.

  26. Chelsea,

    There are many things I don't agree with that get taught in secular schools. This is why my wife and I will homeschool our son and any future children we have. I'd rather be the one to educate my children about sex. I'd rather be the one to teach them about civic responsibility (which schools do a pretty poor job of).

    Homeschooling's not just for winning spelling bees.

    Also, taking God completely out of school and treating it as if he doesn't exist? How is that not aligning education with atheism? The vast majority of people believe in God. Historically, the majority of philosophers and scientists believed in some form of God. Atheists are in the minority. I think God can be proved through the use of inference, and inductive reasoning. You don't, who's right?

    While I don't think that because the majority believes something that makes it true, I do think that if you're in the minority, both historically and presently, there are some things you just have to accept. You might think believing in God is for the sake of warm and fuzzies, or that it is irrational, but then you are disagreeing with the majority of the human race. Why should the majority be forced to ignore something that most believe is a reality just to make a very small minority comfortable?

  27. Leila, I'm interested - do you think the church should excommunicate "catholic" politicians who do not support the church's stance?

    Also, do you think atheists should be able to hold office?

  28. MaiZeke, most "Catholic" politicians have already excommunicated themselves. I think what you're asking is should the Church formally recognize those excommunications and/or direct parishes to deny the Eucharist to said politicians.

    Do you know what excommunication is, as well as its purpose, by the way? Most people seem to think it's "kicking someone out" of the Church, and that's not what it is at all.

  29. Catholic polticians are excommunicated latae sententiae when they, let's say, vote for the continuation of abortion. The Church does not need to publicly excommunicate them. A priest witnessing and knowing those public acts that stand contrary to the Truth and Catholic moral teaching committed by that Catholic politician may refuse them communion. While public sins don't require a public confession, it would be appropriate when one's public sins have caused scandal that there should be a public exposition of that person's repentence and realignment with Church teaching.

    It is the Bishop or their parish Pastor's concern to privately counsel the politician in the hopes of their repentence and realignment with Catholic teaching.

  30. Atheists can hold office all they want, and I'm sure Miss Leila would say the same thing. What's the point of this question?

  31. MaiZeke, I don't get the point of the question, either. I have absolutely no problem with atheists being able to hold office. If they are elected by their constituants, why would I ever have a problem with it?

    Do you know of a Catholic movement which is attempting to bar atheists from office?

    I know of lots of atheist movements attempting to silence Catholics, push them to violate their consciences or else lose their jobs, and even fine and jail them for the "hate crime" of speaking their faith.

    JoAnna and Giuseppe addessed the excommunication question, and I agree with them and echo JoAnna's question to you.


  32. UGH, my downstairs computer has no spell check thingie and so I do things like publish "constituants"!! Forgive???

  33. I hope she will address what Giuseppe said here:


    Respecting the Christian God over other and opposing ideas about the deity is not the same things as making the President the hierarchical leader of an organized religion. Making the King/Queen head of an organized religion is what England did. That's what they wanted to avoid.

    Also, another way to think about excommunication: It is a severe mercy, it is a way of motivating a person back to the fullness of his faith. It is a kindness (and a duty of the Church) to attempt to help someone on their path to salvation. How unfeeling and wrongheaded it would be to see your brother about to run his car into a tree, and not redirect him or call out to "stop!"

  34. I have never had god as part of my education. I have never felt a hole because of it. No one has ever wanted it, or requested it at my school. Very few go to church, or make god as part of their day to day life.

    And also, I do not know where you live, but here, most people are not sure about god. Or do not believe in god at all. There is no majority.

    Why on earth is god necessary in school. Why is there a need. I am completely confused as to why there needs to be prayer, or any religion at all. Pray on your own.

    And of course the education system should be based on truth. But firstly, it should be everyone's truth. Look up the definition of truth and fact. I remember in class, a fact is something everyone can agree with, and a opinion is what can be different.

    The system is not at all about feeling good. I was not comfortable with my teacher using the word mulatto like is is acceptable (I am biracial) and my Jewish friend was upset to the point of tears during the Holocaust unit. Neither of us thought hat it should be taken out, and it never will be. Because we understand it, since it is based on truths that everyone agrees with.

  35. Chelsea, your community and school may be a part of what I call the liberal bubble:

    It's not little, but it is a minority. The fact that the liberal bubble is firmly in control of the mainstream media, the arts, Hollywood, much of the government, pretty much all of academia, and a huge chunk of the judiciary, it seems as if leftism is simply conventional wisdom. But it's what we conservatives call the "liberal elite". Sort of out of touch with regular Americans.

    I pray that you find yourself a college which has some diversity of thought. A community that doesn't believe in or care to know about God is a very rare (new?) phenomenon. Your community sounds very limited, in the sense that everyone thinks alike. And yet I bet they talk a lot about the need for "diversity".

    As for facts and opinion: Many lefists and secularists on this blog has commented that there is no objective truth, and one did admit that for her, truth = opinion! Also, we have Michelle and Peter who do not understand that there is a difference between men and women, or mothers and fathers (things that everyone used to understand as facts).

    We are in a weird world where truth is relative, and leftists believe we all make up our own "meaning" and that we can all have different "truths".

    If you are talking hard sciences, yes, maybe leftists can still admit to "truth" and we can agree on that. But in history, philosophy, the basics of theology, sociology, anthropology, the idea of a "truth" is anathema to a leftist. So, in those disciplines, teachers are not looking for truth, goodness, and beauty (the aim of a classical education), but are discussing everything through the lens of race, class and gender (and victim/oppressor models).

    This might help clarify:

    My question to you: Is your high school education based on the classical model of "truth, goodness and beauty" (the basis of western civilization), or on the lefist model of "race, class and gender"?

    Thanks, Chelsea!

  36. My school is Quaker. So it is closer to the "SPICES" (Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Stewardship).

    Are you denying that women, blacks, and the working class have been oppressed?

    You seem to say that those whom have mostly liberal beliefs are not regular, but ahem, even you say that many laws are more liberal, including our democratic president, so there are enough to vote those whom are liberal in office. A new study just came out saying that 53% believed in gay marriage. And even you can vouch that there are plenty of people getting abortions in the south.
    If the "regular" American is conservative, where are they. And how have we gotten so much power if the "regular" American is conservative. I even know people from the south, they were all liberal.

  37. Chelsea, do you find it strange that a Quaker school speaks nothing of God? Who are the Quakers?

    Also, I didn't say they weren't "normal" but leftists are a small minority in this nation, with much power.

    As to why the nation elected Obama: I am pretty sure that if the nation knew that Obama was the most left-voting Senator in the Senate (to the left of Ted Kennedy) they would not have voted him in to office. That being said, there are a couple of factors:

    1) Most Americans, across the board, are not particularly political. I know conservative voters (relatives) who were not fully aware till after the election that Obama is pro-"choice." They just don't follow politics and policy. I heard it once said that most of the populace will vote for the candidate who seems the "happiest". In the case of Obama, not only did he seem "happier" and more appealing that way, but he also was young and black, and stood for something historic and hopeful (meaning, electing our first black president. That part was the ONLY part of the election results that I liked.)

    Will they vote for him again, knowing what they know now? Please, no. I sure think he's got a huge reelection battle in 2012. Maybe this time people will be paying closer attention?

    Do I think that women and blacks and the working class have oppressed? Of course!! Do I think, in America, that they are still be oppressed? No, I do not! And I am a woman. I am not being oppressed. If you are being taught that you are currently being oppressed, then your school certainly does fall under the liberal "race, class and gender" paradigm.

    Don't you think we should talk of the transcendent things which unite us (truth, goodness, beauty) instead of divide us (race, class, gender)?

    Have you ever heard of a classical curriculum?

    I'm not trying to knock your school (I know nothing of it), but if you are not exposed to anything other than oppression models and leftist models, then I am saying you need to become more diverse. You are very open minded from what I know of you (willingly read Abby Johnson's book), but it doesn't sound like the people around you are diverse in thought, or open-minded. I hope you will choose a college which has diversity of thought, and does not simply parrot the leftist agenda.

    I think you are bright. I think you want to be challenged.

  38. Whoops, I am way too rushed... No second bullet point above, but I hope you got the point that in my opinion Obama was voted in because 1) the majority of folks just aren't political, don't follow the policies of candidates, and vote for the "happy" guy, and 2) it was an historic vote, as the first black president. Oh, how I wish it had been a black conservative! I would have campaigned my heart out for him/her!

  39. Chelsea, how many conservatives have you met in you life, or in your community?

  40. I do not think that it is odd that my school has little talk of god, the Quaker spices are the base of the religion (to me) and "God" is not one of them.

    I have not heard of the classical curriculum, but I am assuming that it has more to do with values?? If so, I think that parents would find that not educational enough, meaning, they would rather we learned about the civil right movements then how to be nice. But I really do not know what it is, what is it?

    You are right, I think that too many people just listen to what is around them. But I believe that happens everywhere. Including Arizona, would you agree?

    Around here, I know very few conservatives. And typically, hearing someone is pro-life/anti-gay marriage is surprising. I think I know maybe 15, maybe. People around where I live tend to stay quiet if they are conservative.

    You think that Obama was voted because he is "happy", that is the first time I have heard of that in my life.

  41. It's extremely upsetting to read Leila's hasty assumptions about your school and community Chelsea. It's even more upsetting to read her complete misunderstandings about sociology and anthropology. Newsflash Leila! anthropology studies human beings! that's very inclusive. the various branches within the discipline consider the similarities and differences that have shaped and continue to shape our experiences on earth. Maybe you should just stick to conversations you know something about-like how Jesus rose from his tomb?

    As an educator, I am also upset about the accusations that those of us who pay attention to the very real division lines across society are somehow fixated on the dichotomy of "oppressor" versus "oppressed" Why? Because I actually DO research that involves TALKING and INTERVIEWING people-things that Leila and her crew don't do-they watch Fox news, listen to the conservative diatribe in their communities and church and fall hook, line and sinker into a crazy idea that there is a leftist minority in the country trying to run away with a wild agenda. Oh and that no one who is liberal could possibly be a normal person. Those of you who read this trash and believe it cause the worst kind of divisions in this country but you'll never see it that way-gay people still shouldn't be expressive in their homoerotic love, government should control reproduction health care but not big companies that want to pollute the world.

    Now you'll have to excuse me, I have lectures to prepare, grants to write and oh yeah, some articles to publish.


  42. Chelsea, I will have to answer your points a little later (and anyone is free to chime in while I'm gone, of course), but quickly I will answer Gwen, who seems very unhappy with me and my "uneducated" self. I won't throw out my own credentials, since I currently have no grants to write, articles to publish, etc. (do you mind if I use the term "liberal elite", Miss Gwen?). By the way, as an atheist, your hard work will mean nothing when you are worm meat, correct? We will be equals then.

    Anyway, Miss Gwen, while I am not busy "TALKING" and "INTERVIEWING" human beings, I am busy RAISING many of them. Talk about fun anthropological research! I can tell you in my "research" raising humans, I have found that the fallen human nature is more than happy to sit in a comfortable house and home (or country or culture) and claim victimhood. Thankfully, in this home, the inclination to wallow in victim status and blame oppressors for all ills is not tolerated. But if we were the type of parents who did teach our children that they are victims (of "the man", of the male patriarchy (in the case of our daughters) or corporate raiders (in the case of those making minimum wage), they would be more than ready to soak it all up and scream for redress!

    But, what do I know about human nature. I'm the one who says that groups of humans won't set up an elaborate hoax and then be willing to die, torturously, one by one, for it. Crazy me. What do I know about human beings?

    One last question Gwen: Are you, as a woman, oppressed?


  43. Another question, Gwen: What do you know (and think) of classical education?

  44. Miss Gwen, when I come back from an event tonight, I really have something to say to you that I think is important. I don't have time to write it now, but please keep checking back here, if you would. Thank you.

  45. @Chelsea, I didn't really have much to say during this discussion, until you chimed in about going to a Quaker school! My friend took up the Quakers' beliefs in high school, even refusing to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance...

    ...she then went to a Quaker college, where she became an atheist. Like many colleges and universities which were founded on religious principles, they abandoned their foundations.

    The Society of Friends (Quakers) was founded on the belief that you can directly experience Christ without the mediation of priests or sacraments. Of course, some sects have now come closer to being Universalists, but I am surprised they didn't teach you their origins, even if they have changed since then. "SPICES" might be the base of the religion as you perceive it through your school now, but historically and factually that is not the case.

  46. I'd just like to stick my head back in and pointing out that there are more options than complete banning of religion in schools and the requirement of religious observance in schools. I don't know what I would have done without my high school choir director's spiritual guidance during those tough times that every adolescent experiences (for me it was supporting not-always-appreciative friends recovering from alcoholism, sexual abuse, and forced abortion, respectively), but I also know every single word she said to me was, as the ACLU would see it, completely illegal. I've quietly prayed with friends while on school campus, another supposedly illegal thing. There is middle ground which every reasonable person could accept. It is only the overly-pushy on both sides (yes, on the serious pro-prayer side we have people obsessed with forcing ritual on those who are determined to find no meaning in it) who can't seem to understand how to work out a way to respect others' beliefs.

    And just as a note, that same choir director had the school choir perform at a teacher's funeral (she passed away from cancer), which just so happened to be held at the local Presbyterian church. No one was silly enough to complain about the fact that we would be performing religious hymns in a house of worship, even the devout atheists. And now somewhere someone is writing up a lawsuit...

  47. Leila,
    Being a public school teacher at the secondary level, I would love to see a return to classical education. I am constantly amazed at the lack of knowledge my students have - and the failure of allusion in many written works due to that lack of knowledge. I teach Biology (my degree) but I can teach English, mathematics, and Russian also (and have done so). They should know Latin, classical literature, Aesop's fables, Aristotle, Socrates, Aquinas, etc. - all that would help them in understanding etymology, defending an issue, developing character, and being logical in their approach to science. So, I do the best I can, with the students I am given and try to develop a passion and desire for learning so they will move on to bigger and better things.

    We recite the pledge in our school on a daily basis and we have a moment of silence (so I can pray daily for the strength to deal with whatever comes my way! or whatever needs one student may have) and I wouldn't go back to teaching in the private school for anything. These students need me. They don't always have parents who parent them - they sometimes get into the "wrong" crowds, they need someone to tell them that they can "be", I help them figure out college plans, I tutor them in whatever subject they need, they learn that they aren't "stupid", and that somebody cares. And even the kids who don't believe in God will come to me after school and ask me to pray for their grandmother/uncle/parent who has just been diagnosed with cancer....

    And, I even have amazing moments like the other day after school, while studying for a comparative anatomy lab practical, when a young man was going over the two week old fetal sheep that we had removed from the uterus and he looked up at me and said, "Isn't it amazing how well-formed this little sheep is at only two weeks development? I mean, this is definitely a sheep, the little pigs are definitely pigs, these aren't just a mass of cells - I don't know if I'm pro-choice or pro-life but do the pro-lifers ever show this to pro-choicers?" I wanted to hug him - I just told him that I didn't think the pro-choicers would be that impressed by that fact but he should mention it some time. I also reminded him that I can't say where I stand in a class so I wouldn't be able to have that discussion. He just shrugged and said, "You can't do what you do without being pro-life, Mrs. H. ". :)

  48. Time for a brief, humorous interlude...

    My campus, which is a satellite site of a major, well-known, public university, had its graduation yesterday. Music was played prior to the start of the ceremony as family and friends gathered and took their seats.

    At one point, a familiar melody caught my attention. No, it couldn't was. An instrumental version of the Ave Maria. I looked at the volunteer I was sitting with and asked, "Is that the Ave Maria?!" She said, "I was just thinking the same thing!"

    I don't know if this would have flown in the major city in which the university is based, but I don't think anyone here in Podunk complained.

    -CINO in a lefty state

  49. Chelsea,

    Interesting how polls that have an incredibly small sampling, usually less than 2,000 polled, show in favor of gay marriage.

    Yet when it goes to the ballot box, the reality flips. For example, Proposition 8 in CA.

    13,743,177 people voted on Proposition 8 in CA. That's a lot. 52.24% in favor of Prop 8, and 47.76% against. 2.48% were invalid votes.

    The people speak.

  50. @ Chelsea

    I have not heard of the classical curriculum, but I am assuming that it has more to do with values?? If so, I think that parents would find that not educational enough,

    A Liberal Arts is commonly recognized as, or at least very similar to what many call a "classical education."

    It isn't about being nice, it's about be able to think critically.

    Here's one article about the benefits of having a liberal arrts background.

    Another one.

    And another one.

    A liberal arts background isn't just about ethics, it is also about critical thinking. it is about logic and being able to dwell on what's important in the grand scheme of things, or what's important immediately for your job, and figure out the solution.

    By the way, studying about the civil rights movement is best couched in a study of ethics and human nature. Two areas of study very much part of a classical education.

  51. The source I was using was Gallup:

    The most interesting part being how 70% ages 18-35 years old supported gay marrige.

  52. Here's the url tha was supposed to be linked with "and another one."

  53. Here's a link to a gallup poll of 8,000 Americans. Conservaties comprise 42%, and Liberals 20%.

  54. The sample pool for the poll Chelsea's referring to was only 1,018 individuals.

  55. eliz, thank you! I know I shouldn't be shocked when liberal religions' schools go all atheist on us, but wow. No mention of God as the foundation of a Quaker education? It's baffling.

    Ru and klh57, those are wonderful stories. klh57, you are such a gift to your students. I will pray for your continued healing and helping presence in their lives. God knows kids today need it so badly.

    CINO, that is a great story!! I love that my kids' public charter middle school/high school is able to play the classics of western civilization at its concerts, even religious songs (which make up the classics!!). It's such a blessing for a secular school, and it's not illegal (take that, ACLU). They also read Aquinas, Augustine, The Bible, and of course Socrates, Aristotle, Dante, and the rest of the classics of western civ. All as literature, not as "theology". It is an awesome public charter school. Praise God that the true liberal arts are not dead (and maybe making a rebound?)!

  56. Both polls and voting results are huge victims of sample bias. For instance, voting results only reflect the views of people who vote, and people are more likely to vote if their polling place is familiar to them. This is a huge issue in my county because my voting district had the polling place moved from a church in the center of a lower socioeconomic neighborhood to a hotel on the other side of the district that's nowhere near a bus stop because some of the upper-middle-class portion of the district was uncomfortable going to the church (because of the neighborhood, not because it was a church). However, this left the people in the lower socioeconomic group, the vast majority of which have no car or driver's license, unable to get to the polls. It's a similar thing for opinion polls; the Gallup poll and most other modern polls are taken by calling random phone numbers, both land-line and cell, and asking people to take a survey. Obviously this has a bias towards people who have phones, particularly people who have multiple phones. It also has a bias towards people who feel strongly on a subject (and thus are more likely to regale people about their opinions).

    Larger point here: you can't accept any statistic (which is essentially what polls and voting results are) as a 100% true representation of what people think. If you sample different groups, you're probably going to get different answers. Take this from a statistics major.

  57. Chelsea, regarding a classical education (which Giuseppe did a great job explaining), here is a short video of the (free, public, charter) school some of my older kids go to, which provides a classical education:

    In a Where's Waldo moment, I am actually in the background of the video at one point, ha ha. My daughter is also in another shot.

    Here is another short video:

    There are now several of these schools in our city, all with long waiting lists. Of course, the liberal teachers' unions hate these schools, and they aren't fully funded by the state like the regular schools. We have to find our own buildings (we've been operating in a church preschool for years!), and make up the thousands of dollars per pupil shortfall, compared to what the other "regular" public schools get. The schools, instead of focussing on race, class and gender (oh, and cataclysmic climate change hysteria), focus on the motto: Truth, Goodness, Beauty. Which are timeless, transcendent ideas, and which unite all people, not divide them.

    Classical education is what all our children deserve. These days, most will never get it, either in high school or in college, and it's a shame. But you have to wonder why the leftist education establishment hates them so much…

  58. Ru, that's so interesting, thank you!

    I love that our state has early balloting and we are all starting to mail in our ballots. I don't think I've gone to my polling place to vote in ten years. That may be a good option.

  59. Hi Gwen. I have to say this to you. You seem so angry at me when you comment. Using all caps, insulting my intelligence, personal attacks. I have not done that to you, and in fact, I think you have been treated with respect on this blog for a very long time. I have told you many times that I like you.

    I guess you think I am somehow dissing your profession, and so you are lashing out? You take it very personally. And yet, my religion and God and my cherished beliefs are attacked by folks quite often on this blog, and yet I do not lash out in anger. I have only (sort of) banned two people in all this time, and one was frightening people with his bizarre posts and threatening my blog, and the other was using the F-word like punctuation (in reference to the Church and priests, of course).

    But I basically let everyone speak freely. You have no censors and you have free access to state your beliefs to me and my readers. I never refuse to answer a question posed to me (although folks may have to ask twice, as sometimes I can’t keep up).

    Why are you so angry?

    What is wrong with hearing a challenge to your left-wing ideas? If you can defend them, please do. I never run away from a challenge to my faith. I welcome it and I welcome the free exchange of ideas here. You seem to be so upset that I even have ideas, and you certainly are not happy about them being expressed publicly. I don’t get that. I thought liberals are supposed to like “diversity”. At least in theory you are supposed to welcome diversity of thought, right?

    If you could, please tell me why you are so angry? What exactly (about what I said to Chelsea) made you incensed?

    I am left with no idea what was “extremely upsetting” and what “trash” I am spewing. Please, please, be specific. You threw out a lot of emotion at me, but not much in the way of dialogue. Nothing I can chew on and respond to.

    Please, help me out. Why are you so angry, and what specifically are you angry about?

  60. Chelsea,

    Let me clarify re: "people voted for Obama because he was happy."

    I am sure that the community you live in voted for Obama because he is extremely liberal. The most liberal president (by far) that this nation has ever seen. Your community probably did see him as the perfect candidate, policy and ideology-wise. So I am sure the folks you know did not vote for him because he seemed happier than McCain.

    But for those Americans in the "mushy middle", who do not follow policy and politics, they tend to go with the candidate who makes them "feel" better. Who seems confidently happy, who seems like he can restore their "hope". It's about feelings, it's about personality, it's about excitement in a new, young candidate (especially an historic one).

    Here's another example. Before you and I were born, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy had a presidential candidates' debate.

    The people who heard the debate on the radio said that Nixon won.
    The people who saw the debate on TV thought Kennedy won.

    Why? Because Nixon looked HORRIBLE on TV. He was sweating, nervous, not handsome. Kennedy, well, he was young and fresh and handsome and smiled with confidence! Made for a great TV image. But on radio, when people could only hear their voices, analyze their policies not their looks and demeanor, Nixon came out ahead.

    I personally like neither Nixon or Kennedy, so that is not my point.

    My point is, feelings and personality and yes, an image of a happy, smiling young candidate, gave the "charismatic" Obama a huge edge. Thanks to the mushy middle.

    That's what I meant.

  61. Awesome, Leila. My mom's husband is a card-carrying member.

    Hey, I haven't been able to post lately. I hope this goes through.

    Love and prayers. Please pray for us!


  62. The media and Oprah also had a lot to do with getting Obama elected. CNN was Obama's cheer squad during the campaign. It is interesting to go back in time and watch Media Malpractice, a documentary about the campaign, and to see clips of the press being COMPLETELY biased and unapologetically so. They even went on record and said things like, "OF COURSE President Obama is a Christian! OF COURSE he is!" (Direct quote from Campbell Brown) and "When he talks I get a shiver down my leg" (or something along that nature---disturbing, to say the least, to be coming from the people who were supposed to be presenting the news).

  63. Manda, you are absolutely right that the mainstream media was in the tank for Obama in an obscene way. It was sickening to watch, really.

  64. Just want to chime in and say that I know Quakers and they all profess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

    I went to public schools my whole life, and God was always respected there. Many of the songs we sang in choir were about God (Adoramus Te Christe and the Hallelujah Chorus come to mind), and nobody ever complained. We often talked about our beliefs in class (one of my teachers was anti-Catholic and let us know it) and had great discussions. Belief in God was assumed. And I'm not speaking about 50 years ago or anything, I'm only 22 years old. ;)

    I don't know, I guess I was very lucky with my public school experience! Sorry if this comment is pointless-just wanted to give my two cents!

  65. God Alone Suffices, thank you! Not pointless at all… very hopeful! I had always thought that Quakers were prayerful Christian people, so I am glad to hear that you know some! And, I am sooooo happy to hear about your public school experience! It's very comforting. :)

  66. While I'm very impressed by the robustness of the classes in the videos you linked to, and the level of intellectual engagement that they clearly require of young minds, I am troubled by the way that you seem to feel that seeking essential human understandings in ancient literature is somehow incompatible with understanding their cultural context.

    I study classics and find the ramifications of conceptions of race, class and gender compatible with the study of ancient languages, literatures and philosophies. Properly applied, ideas of race, class and gender can help us to understand the cultural context in which ancient authors wrote, helping us therefore to understand the meaning and resonances of their ideas. For example, the study of non-elite proverbs and sayings in ancient Greece and Rome reveal a radically different attitude to homoeroticism to the more permissive conceptions of the elite literature often studied by classicists. Given your own views on how truth and human nature might relate to the issue of homosexuality, surely that is an interesting insight?

    In my own understanding, the study of gender has moved me from an atheist who believed Christianity to be an unfeeling monolith of misogyny to an agnostic investigating its claims, after my studies made me realise that much of what I perceived as misogyny was actually a reflection of the cultural ideas of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, and that behind those, many Christian doctrines expressed quite radical ideas about class and gender. From your perspective, would that mean that the study of class and gender has actually moved me closer to truth?

    I apologise for veering so far from the original topic of the post, but your comments on classical education intrigued me, and I hope I haven't sounded too accusing - I'm simply trying to understand ideas very far from my own and welcome any elucidation! :)

    Cheers, H.

  67. Hello, H!

    Since I myself am not classically educated (unfortunately), I am referring your question to someone who actually has the knowledge to answer. Thank you for patience!


  68. In the meantime, H, I will say this: If the reason you moved from atheism to agnosticism is because you think that God actually is fine with homosexual activity, then I would not necessarily say that you have moved closer to the Truth. The Catholic Church has the same doctrinal/moral understanding that she did in the first two centuries.

    Correct me if I am misunderstanding.


  69. I am a Quaker, and yes, many do believe in God. Many use Quaker meeting as time for prayer. I was talking about my school separately though, where there are students all all faiths. My school tries to teach values, something everyone can use.

  70. Chelsea, I am confused. I know you have said you are a Quaker, and you have also said you are an atheist. Isn't that a contradiction? What are the beliefs of Quakers? If they believe in God, how can you be a Quaker if you do not believe in God?

    Also, we had a good conversation once about values vs. virtues. You say that your school teaches values that we all can use. What are those values, specifically? Or, do they teach the virtues?

    What I specifically wish to know: When you class was loudly shouting that bankruptcy is a great reason to abort a child, and could not be convinced otherwise, did the teacher teach the children that materialism does not trump human life? Or that we are to use thngs and love people, not love things and use people? Or that love of money is the root of all evil? Or that we never put money above human beings?

    What are the values she/he imparted to the class after that emotional pro-abortion, pro-materialism outburst?


  71. Leila,

    Those were two separate points, actually - as a teenager, I had attempted to read the Bible and, after a few forays into the Old Testament and the New Testament letters, was disgusted by what I thought was the overt misogyny of the religion. Now that I have a better understanding of how people in the Roman Empire talked and thought about women, I'm able to see how Christianity radically reoriented classical ideas about women and gave them the possibility of new worth and dignity, which has made me more open to its possibilities by removing one of my previous intellectual barriers, though I am still very much in a process of intellectual exploration with regards to religion at this point.

    My views on homosexuality, while positive, I'm afraid, haven't really been part of that train of thought as yet - I was just trying to think of an example you might find interesting and relevant, as from perusing your blog, I noticed that it was an issue that you'd talked about before.

    Hope that clarifies things for you slightly!


  72. H, oh, thank you! I see now! I do appreciate the clarification. Yes, I agree with you.

    I think my issues with the "race, class, gender" paradigm is that the left does not look at those issues as something that happened in the past (which is fine to consider and discuss, of course!), but they insist (in the classroom, with impressionable students) that this very day in America, we have oppressed classes and oppressors. As a woman, I am supposed to be aware of my own oppression today until the great patriarchy is totally crushed.

    That is the paradigm used, and I reject it utterly. Now, can we look and see where peoples around the world, in other cultures, have been systematically oppressed? And even in the past in our nation? Yes! Let's look at it. And then let's be very clear how those wrongs were remedied (when they were). For example, let's look at how and why slavery ended, or who led the civil rights movement, etc. And like you said, how Christianity "radically reoriented classical ideas about women and gave them the possibility of new worth and dignity". I love that line!

    I would love to hear any feminists on this board speak to that, by the way.

    Thanks so much again for the clarification!

  73. We did presentations of the pros and cons of abortion. In Quakerism class, we were taught the Quaker "SPICES".

  74. Chelsea, was the loud argument before or after the presentations? And what were the presentations on the pro-life side? You don't have to answer all these question, obviously, but I am just curious. I wonder what the final value was that you were taught in that instance. And how the SPICES were applied to the unborn child and the decision to abort in favor of money considerations.

    I don't fully understand "SPICES" outside of the context of God, either.

    If you could just specifically answer: Quakers believe in God (it's a Christian religion). But you say you are an atheist. And a Quaker, I think. But how can you be a Quaker (a Christian) and yet an atheist?


  75. Okay, I am finally starting to understand. A friend sent me this:

    It seems that Quakers can identify as Christians, non-Christians and even atheists. And, they do not baptize with the Trinitarian formula, so they are not technically Christians, according to the Catholic Church.

    That clears a lot up for me, and I hope for others, too.

  76. The final values, was that we decided. The pro-life side included the regular arguments also, minus any religious stuff. I thought that both sides were well presented, and fair.

    And also, please don't think badly of my school. My classmates are not cruel, they were not angry, it was just a discussion. A discussion on a controversial topic, so people can get very opinionated. Plus, they were saying it was justifiable cause, not that everyone who declare's bankruptcy should go out and get an abortion.

  77. Chelsea, no worries. I don't think your classmates are doing anything other than trying their best with what they know and have been taught. If I were a student in that class, in your very liberal community, I am sure I would be right there arguing for the right to abort my child. My view is, they haven't really been exposed to anyone who really believes or has taught them anything else. I could be wrong, but that is how you have described it I think. But I can't judge them, as most of the Catholics on this blog have at one point been pro-"choice" and some have abortions in their past, sadly.

    I don't understand your first sentence though. What was the value that was taught that day?

    Thanks! You are a good sport on a tough blog for a young secularist. I appreciate you hanging in there with us!

  78. Leila,

    The history of how the founders applied the Constitution with respect to religion and government is sufficiently complex to largely preclude simplistic black and white characterizations (and, it seems, short comments by me). For instance, while Washington offered Thanksgiving proclamations as you note, seemingly seeing no problem in that, Jefferson refrained from issuing any such proclamations for the very reason he thought the Constitution precluded it. Madison would have preferred not to issue any such proclamations, but upon being requested by Congress to do so, reluctantly issued one, though taking pains to word it so as merely to encourage those so inclined to celebrate the day. He later almost sheepishly acknowledged that had been a mistake.

    During his presidency, Madison also vetoed two bills, neither of which would form a national religion, on the ground that they were contrary to the establishment clause. While some in Congress expressed surprise that the Constitution prohibited Congress from incorporating a church in the town of Alexandria in the District of Columbia or granting land to a church in the Mississippi Territory, Congress upheld both vetoes. He pocket vetoed a third bill that would have exempted from import duties plates to print Bibles. Separation of church and state is hardly a recent invention of lefty judges.

    In his Detached Memoranda, Madison also discussed what to make of some government actions concerning religion such as appointing chaplains for the houses of Congress and the army and navy or by issuing proclamations recommending thanksgiving. Ever practical, he answered not with a demand these actions inconsistent with the Constitution be undone, but rather with an explanation to circumscribe their ill effect: “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 [i.e., the law does not concern itself with trifles]: or to class it cum maculis quas aut incuria fudit, aut humana parum cavit natura [i.e., faults proceeding either from negligence or from the imperfection of our nature].” It appears he thought that because too many people might be upset by reversing these actions, it would be politically difficult and perhaps infeasible to do so in order to adhere to the constitutional principle, and thus he proposed giving these particular missteps a pass, while at the same time assuring they are not regarded as legitimate precedent of what the Constitution means, so they do not influence future actions.

    We look to the courts to resolve just such issues of law. In its jurisprudence, the Supreme Court has, in effect, followed Madison’s advice, though not his suggested legal theories. The Court has confirmed the basic constitutional principle of separation of church and state, while also giving a pass to some governmental statements or actions about religion as ceremonial deism or some such. As the Wake Forest paper serves to show, notwithstanding sometimes lofty rhetoric by courts and commentators about an impenetrable wall of separation, as maintained by the courts, that wall is low and leaky enough to allow various connections between government and religion. Indeed, the exceptions and nuances recognized by the courts can confuse laymen and lawyers alike, occasionally prompting some to question the principle itself, since decisions in various cases may seem contradictory (e.g., depending on the circumstances, sometimes government display of the 10 commandments is okay and sometimes not).

  79. Doug, thank you! That is very interesting. I'm guessing there were those Founders on the other side of the issue, too.

    I wonder if Jefferson or Madison would agree with the ACLU's actions today. I think they would be shocked, for example, at the recent lawsuit that I linked on the first line of the post, and also at the hostility toward and legal intimidation of Christians in general. It really has gone into the absurd, don't you think?

    Quick question, as I am too tired to look it up: Didn't the states originally establish official churches, even as the federal gov't was prohibited from doing so?

    Also, do you personally agree that the Establishment Clause was intended to protect religion from gov't, and not the other way around?

  80. The ACLU is not so bad. They had Christian roots. Many of the lawyers in the ACLU are Christians and Jews.

    There is no war with the ACLU. The ACLU was involved, even with the civil rights movement, and supported Martin Luther King.

    They have done much good in the past.

  81. Democat, I'm confused. I just gave a list of evidence to the contrary. Can you address that? Can you show me specifically why the lawsuits they bring consistently aim to silence Christians?

    No doubt the Christians and Jews who work for the ACLU are not faithful Catholics who follow the teachings of the Church, nor are they pro-life conservative evangelicals, nor are they Orthodox Jews. I'm pretty sure that any Christians who work for the ACLU have worldviews that are indistinguishable from secularists.

    I would love if you could give me more information about your claims.

    Thanks for joining the discussion!

  82. Yes. At the time of the founding, most states had established religions as reflected in their constitutions. The First Amendment constrains only the federal government. Adoption of the First Amendment reflected, at the federal level, a "disestablishment" political movement then sweeping the country. That political movement succeeded in disestablishing all state religions by the mid-1830s. (Side note: A political reaction to that movement gave us the term "antidisestablishmentarianism," which amused some of us as kids.) It is worth noting, as well, that this disestablishment movement largely coincided with another movement, the Great Awakening. The people of the time saw separation of church and state as a boon, not a burden, to religion.

    This sentiment was recorded by a famous observer of the American experiment: "On my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention. . . . I questioned the members of all the different sects. . . . I found that they differed upon matters of detail alone, and that they all attributed the peaceful dominion of religion in their country mainly to the separation of church and state. I do not hesitate to affirm that during my stay in America, I did not meet a single individual, of the clergy or the laity, who was not of the same opinion on this point." Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835).

    No. The primary purpose of the First Amendment religion clauses is neither to protect religion nor government from one another, but rather to protect individuals' religious freedom. The free-exercise clause does this directly by constraining the government from prohibiting individuals from freely exercising their religions. The establishment clause does this indirectly by constraining government from promoting or otherwise taking steps to establish any religion, thus assuring that individuals are free to exercise their religions without fearing the government will favor the religions of others and thus disfavor theirs.

    Some who nonetheless would like to use government to promote their religion have argued that the First Amendment works only in one direction--to protect religion from government, but not the other way around. This, they suppose, would leave them free to insinuate their religion into government and thereby effectively establish it as the nation's religion. To the extent that the First Amendment prevents that, it can be said to at least have the effect of protecting government from religion. Indeed, the notion of a one directional wall is self-contradictory: If any church is free to so influence and control government and thereby achieve a favored or established status, all individuals are at risk of their religions falling into disfavor with government and facing discriminatory treatment. One of the primary aims of the First Amendment is to prevent just that.

  83. Thanks, that is actually very helpful and interesting!

    I do have to take issue with that last paragraph, though. I don't know of any Christian who is looking to "insinuate" his religion into gov't. I can think of many, however, who would like to have the gov't stop purging every vestige of our Judeo-Christian heritage from our public sphere. The sheer numbers of references to God and our Judeo-Christian heritage on our monuments, in our government buildings, in our documents, on our coins, etc., seems to illustrate that the gov't was quite comfortable embracing and beseeching God, but not establishing a "Church of America" or any other sect in a denominational sense, as England had. That was the beauty of the way this nation was founded.

    I think anyone can see that the purgation of all vestiges of our patrimony and foundations is not what the Establishment Clause was aiming at. Not by a longshot!

    When de Tocqueville was observing America, he was not looking at an America in which a school or government entity could not rent out a church because the presence of a cross on a rented church would be considered an establishment of the Christian religion by the government! That is so utterly absurd as to be laughable. But I'm not laughing. Because that is what the ACLU claims, as if such absurdity has anything to do with the intent of the Establishment Clause (which speaks of no "wall" by the way).

    The satisfied citizens to whom de Tocqueville spoke would not have been so satisfied it the ACLU were up to such antics in their day. The ACLU is working daily to see the "religious aspect of the country" disappear into the shadows. There is no more "peaceful dominion" between the churches and the ACLU's allies in the government (i.e., the secular left), and today's clergy and laity are not "of the same opinion" on this point anymore. Because the "separation" has turned into an attempted obliteration of religion in the square, to the point where the religious are fighting back. The religious in de Tocqueville's day were not less religious than we are now, nor were they less up for the fight; they were simply not persecuted for their beliefs!

    The change since then has been marked, the hostility to religion has become quite open, and the absurdity of it should be obvious to all.

    I guess I'm curious: Do you, personally, think the cordial relationship between government and religion still exists today as it did at the time of de Tocqueville's visit?

    Thanks for hanging in there with me...

  84. The ACLU has helped the civil rights movement, and has many Christians and Jews as a part of it. If the organization is monolithic, then this means that Christians and Jews are the enemy of Christians. Is this what Catholics believe?

    If each case is closely examined, then it may be discovered that the motivation is not religious but rather a political motivation.

    For this case:

    "In New Jersey, the ACLU is backing same-sex couples in a civil rights complaint against the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association of the United Methodist Church -- in order to force the ministry to open up its worship pavilion for same-sex “civil union” ceremonies in direct opposition to the association’s stated beliefs."

    Gay couples would not want to be married by a minister unless they are religious. If they are not Christian there are many options available to these couple. This appears to be a struggle between two Christian groups with different views on homosexuality.

    I do not know why organizations choose the work that they do all the time. The language of Alan Sears seems very hostile. He sounds very angry and he wants to have a fight. I do not want fights. I want to get along. There are no names to the cases, so is no way to check if the cases are as he says.

  85. For the Methodists, please consult:

    Many Methodists, who are Christians, would favor the ACLU position.

    How does this make sense to you?

  86. Democat, there is a "culture war" going on, whether you want everyone to get along or not. Pope John Paul II called it a spiritual battle between the Culture of Life (what Jesus and the Church proclaims) and the Culture of Death (the movement which supports abortion, homosexual rights, cloning, experimenting on human embryos, euthanasia movements).

    For more on that, please read the following:

    On some issues there can be no compromise. As to the Methodists or any other group which promotes a position contrary to unbroken Christian tradition and the Bible's clear teaching, it is a sad fact that many Protestant churches have moved further and further away from the Truths they once taught (and which Christ taught). As they adopt the Planned Parenthood position and move away from the Christian position, they will lose their relevance. The Catholic Church, under the protection of the Holy Spirit (which Jesus promised His Church), has never and will never change her teachings on faith and morals. More on that here:

    Alan Sears is serious about what he does because this assault on religious freedom is serious. There is great honor in fighting for the truth, but no one said it would be easy, or that it would make one popular. You think he sounds angry, but I think he sounds dedicated and courageous. You might want to read his book and see just how bad the assault on Christians (and traditional American values) really is.

    One last question: Do you think people should always get along no matter what? Or should there be times when we speak up and fight for what we believe?

    Also, do you think there is an objective truth? Or do you think everyone decides "truth" for himself?

    Thanks, I appreciate the dialogue!

  87. PS: True tolerance is loving the sinner even as we refuse to accept the sin as "okay". This is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

    #2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

    We must never treat anyone with disrespect, or think of anyone as "less than" ourselves. In fact, we are all sinners and in need of God's great mercy. But we also cannot, in the name of misguided compassion, say that sin is okay, because we don't want people to feel bad.

    I hope that makes sense.

  88. Do you think that ACLU is friendly to some Christians but not others?

    Some things are true. Some things are worth dying for.

    Equal adoption rights for gays is worth fighting for. Maybe to die.

    Most people are too serious and angry and want to fight about anything. Most times, I want to be friends.

    What is the culture war?

  89. Wikipedia says that "The culture war (or culture wars) in American usage is a metaphor used to claim that political conflict is based on sets of conflicting cultural values."

    Is this what you mean by the culture war? Who would dispute that this exists?

  90. Doug here again. Somehow I can't get the other nonanonymous profiles to work.

    You are right to observe that much has changed since de Tocqueville toured the country--much in many, many different respects, so again simple comparisons are problematic. Among those changes: Economic, technological, and environmental complexities have expanded. So too has government regulation of those aspects of our lives. The demographic makeup of the population has changed. The mix of social and religious views, of course, has changed as well.

    Under our Constitution, one constant among all this change should be that the government remains largely neutral in religious matters by leaving individuals free to exercise their religions and by refraining from taking steps toward establishment of any religion. Our government has more or less adhered to this principle over the years, but, imperfect as human institutions tend to be, has slipped here and there along the way.

    Some uncomfortable with the current state of affairs may long for "return" to what (they believe) things were like in the good old days. Others (e.g. perhaps the ACLU) may strive to not only maintain the separation of government and religion going forward, but also to correct some of the government's past missteps. To those who like past government actions favoring this or that religion, such efforts may seem designed to achieve not government neutrality, but rather hostility, toward religion.

    It must be acknowledged that, notwithstanding all the historical change, Christianity in its several and various forms remains by far the dominant religious influence in our society. I am sure that Christians have faced instances of unfairness, mistaken application of the principle of separation of church and state, and the like. But persecution? When I hear a member of that dominant religion express feelings of persecution and such, the image of a privileged child comes to mind--one who, faced with the prospect of treatment comparable to that experienced by others, howls in pained anguish at the injustice of it all and pines for the good old days. As an atheist, I know how it feels to hold views not shared and even reviled by many in our society. You may understand then how alarming it is to hear members of the dominant religious group speak of their sense of persecution. History often reveals dominant groups working themselves into a lather about perceived wrongs against them before they lash out to "restore" matters as they see fit.

  91. Somehow freedom "of" religion got twisted into freedom "from" religion.

  92. Anonymous,

    This commonly expressed argument about prepositions leads no where. Freedom "of" religion encompasses each individual's freedom "to" exercise his or her religion and freedom "from" government established religion. There, all prepositions are fairly represented. Happy?


  93. Doug, you don't think that being forced to act against one's conscience or else have to leave one's profession is "persecution"? What about being fined or jailed for "hate speech" for speaking freely about the Christian faith? Do you consider any of that "persecution"? Or forcing one to act against one's conscience, proscribing speech, fining and/or jailing just "ending discrimination" in your eyes?

    Are you, as an atheist, being threatened with "hate speech" laws for saying what your believe? Are you being told you "shouldn't work in an Emergency Room" because you are an atheist? Are you being told by the government that you must cooperate in something you consider to be murder, or else lose your livelihood?

    Just curious what persecution means to you.

  94. Whoops, *Or is forcing one to act against one's conscience, proscribing speech, fining and/or jailing just "ending discrimination" in your eyes?

  95. Democat, you said:

    Do you think that ACLU is friendly to some Christians but not others?

    I think the ACLU is probably quite pleasing to many left-leaning, pro-abort, pro-gay mainline Protestants. But you can no longer really distinguish between, say, the United Church of Christ and Planned Parenthood's philosophy. The Christians on the left have become increasingly secular and I can no longer distinguish them from secularists in many respects. A guy like Barry Lynn cracks me up, because here is a "minister" who lives and crusades like any ole atheist. I would say he has much more in common with an atheist than with me or the Catholic Church.

    Some things are true. Some things are worth dying for.

    We agree.

    Equal adoption rights for gays is worth fighting for. Maybe to die.

    I hold the opposite view. I think the truth and meaning of human sexuality, which is how human life is transmitted, so it's of utmost importance, is worth fighting for. I would not kill for it, but as a Christian, I would (please God) be willing to die for my Faith if it ever came to that.

    Most people are too serious and angry and want to fight about anything. Most times, I want to be friends.

    I only want to fight sin. My own sin, primarily. Sin is our only real enemy, not each other. If someone wants to promote sin in our nation, and try to normalize it, I will stand and fight it. With words and prayers. It's a battle of ideas and of of "values". I believe in the traditional virtues. I want virtue to win every time. Truth, goodness, beauty. Those are things that are transcendent, and worth the fight. There is a battle for the hearts and souls of men. I hope to win hearts and souls for Christ. I am happy to be your friend either way. I despise sin, but I have nothing against you.

    What is the culture war?

    The battle for the heart and soul of America. The Battle between the Culture of Life and the Culture of Death. It's real, and we have to pick a side:

    In matters of importance to the nation, the ACLU is on one side of the culture war, and orthodox Christianity is on the other.

  96. This commonly expressed argument about prepositions leads no where. Freedom "of" religion encompasses each individual's freedom "to" exercise his or her religion and freedom "from" government established religion.

    But Doug, it's just so bizarre that religion is under attack more than ever from the left and the ACLU, and yet I have never seen anyone, ever try to force an "establishment" of a state religion. Not ever. I don't even see a movement on the horizon that would seek to do so. That is why it is just the oddest thing that the attacks against Christian expression and God in the public square has heated up. Bizarre.

    I don't think you ever said what you think about that lawsuit I linked to at the top of the post? Do you agree with what I said here:

    "When de Tocqueville was observing America, he was not looking at an America in which a school or government entity could not rent out a church because the presence of a cross on a rented church would be considered an establishment of the Christian religion by the government! That is so utterly absurd as to be laughable. "

    You were the one who brought up de Tocqueville's experience as an example, but then you admit that things are not the same as then. So, do you think today's world requires the prohibition of holding a graduation in a rented church because that would somehow mean that the government is establishing a religion? Surely you can see the absurdity of such a thing.

    Do you really think that there is a movement among Christians to formally establish Christianity as the state religion, such as the Church of England? I mean, really??

    C'mon. You know better. You are a smart man.

  97. Leila,

    I understand how one might feel persecuted if the government requires or prohibits something one thinks conflicts with one’s faith. (For instance, I understand that some think that the government discriminates against them and their religion when it precludes them from discriminating (as the government would characterize it) against gays.) This issue is hardly unique to Christians.

    The courts have occasionally confronted issues concerning whether and, if so, when the government may require people to do things contrary to their faith (though the issue more commonly arises in this nation, I think, with respect to faiths other than Christianity). They have generally ruled that the government cannot enact laws specifically aimed at a particular religion (that would violate the First Amendment), but can enact laws generally applicable to everyone or at least broad classes of people (e.g, laws concerning traffic, pollution, taxes, contracts, fraud, negligence, crimes, discrimination, employment, and on and on) and can require everyone, including those who may object on religious grounds, to abide by them. Were it otherwise and anyone could opt out of laws with the excuse that their religion requires or allows it, the government could hardly operate. While the government has this power, it may (and sometimes does) choose to relieve individuals of this bind by including conscientious objector provisions or the like in the law.

    You object that you’ve never seen anyone try to force an establishment of a state religion like the Church of England. While the First Amendment undoubtedly was intended to preclude the government from establishing a state religion, that was hardly the limit of its intended scope. The first Congress debated and rejected just such a narrow provision (“no religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed”) and ultimately chose the more broadly phrased prohibition now found in the Amendment. In keeping with the Amendment’s terms and legislative history and other evidence, e.g., Madison’s statements, the courts have wisely interpreted it to restrict the government from taking steps that could establish religion de facto as well as de jure. Were the Amendment interpreted merely to preclude government from enacting a statute formally establishing a state church, the intent of the Amendment could easily be circumvented by government doing all sorts of things to promote this or that religion–stopping just short of cutting a ribbon to open its new church.

    You are right to observe I have not opined on the New Jersey case. I have been more interested in discussing and defending the principle of separation of church and state, rather than whether and how it may apply in this particular situation (which would require me to study the facts). The Wake Forest paper does a good job of discussing how the principle plays out in various circumstances. Reasonable people, moreover, may differ on how the principle should be applied in particular situations, but the principle is hardly to be doubted. Moreover, it is a good, sound principle that should be nurtured and defended, not attacked.


  98. Is the ACLU the enemy of some Christians, but not others? You seem to have answered this as a yes, but that the Christians who are not enemies of the ACLU are those Christians who have more in common with atheists than real Christians? Are these not real Christians? Are they simply inconsistent, in your opinion?

    For everything else you say, it sounds like you wish to be my friend, and I wish to be your friend.

    If we are friends, then there is no war with us. I do not go to war with my friends. We are on the same side, and this is the side of life.

    If we are enemies, then I am very sad. What is the use of politesse? You say you will not kill. Neither will I.

    Shall we reason together, one friend to another? Please, let us be friends.

  99. Doug, clearly you come down on one side of the issue. Many, many Americans (including jurists, elected officials and other interested parties) come down firmly on the other side. It is good for you to put your side out there, and I certainly hope the Christians on my blog take a good hard look. I also encourage them to read more about the work of the ADF and its challenges to the ACLU's out-of-control, anti-Christian agenda.

    Democat, "real" Christianity is defined by what was revealed by Christ and handed down through the Apostles and their successors. "Real" Christianity never condoned abortion, gay rights or other such issues. I am glad to hear you are on the side of life: Clearly that means you are against any violence to the child in the womb, and would never condone mercy killings, correct?

    I adore reasoning together. I have no problem disagreeing with my friends. If you present an idea that I believe to be disordered, harmful and wrong-headed, I will debate you on its merits. But if you are looking for me to compromise on truth, I won't be doing that any time soon. :)


  100. I abhor violence anywhere.

    Euthanasie is for life. To kill a dog because the dog can only suffer is for the life of the dog. It is a paradox, but the dog cannot live, only exist, and respect for life requires such things not to exist. To exist in only suffering is wrong.

    I seek no compromise except where it is possible. I seek friendship. We can be friends and get along and work together, but we can also disagree. We are not at war, right?

  101. Dogs are not human. I do not equate the lives of dogs with humans. It is moral to put a dog down. It is not moral to put a human down.

    Euthanizing a human being is called murder. We do not have the right to murder human beings. Human life is sacred.

    When it comes to issues where no compromise is possible, then we are in a culture war. Obviously, we use no bullets. But we use the ballot box, and our ideas. We fight for our values. Someone's values are always enshrined into law and society. You want yours, I want mine. We work hard to get hearts and minds on our side, no?


  102. Oh! With a human! Yes, it is more complicated.

    If a man wishes death and is always in great pain, we should try to console him and we should argue life, but how shall be stop him?

    If a good friend wanted death, and could not end his own life, and if I could not convince him to live, I would end his life. But this is painful.

    If you and I disagree, I am a vegetarian, and you eat meat, here there is no compromise. But are we not still friends? And there is no war between friends.

    We vote for a different president. I am not at war with those who do not vote for Sarkozy.

    Is the culture war simply that some people vote for Liberals and others for Socialists? Who can deny it?

    But can we not use the word war?

  103. I am guessing English is not your first language. :) "Culture war" is a pretty standard phrase, and I don't have a problem with it. It is a battle, after all. For Christians, the battle is a spiritual one. But it's a real battle. And for Christians, we see it as a battle not only for the culture, but for souls. We care for every soul and want everyone in Heaven. Sin is the enemy, but of course sin manifests in many ways, including becoming enshrined into law.

    I am a solidier for Christ.

    No matter how much my friend or loved one begged me to murder him, I never would. Then, I become a murderer. My job is to help alleviate his suffering, and to care for him. Killing isn't loving and it does not heal. I don't murder those whom I love. I help them and comfort them, and advocate for them.

  104. By the way, I admire that English is not your first language! My father is an immigrant, and English is his third language. I admire him.

  105. You fight sin, but we are not at war with each other. We are not in a culture war with each other?

    We would not do the same for our friends. Yet we both love our friends. Here we agree, right?

    Le français est ma langue maternelle.

    I write on forums here for practice. I will become better with time.

  106. This explains why sometimes I've liked the ACLU and sometimes I haven't.


    For those who are wondering about my assertion that the "happier" candidate seems to win, the above link seems to confirm it.

  108. Just from my cursory reading of the comments, I think a distinction needs to be made between inclusion of religion and endorsement of religion.

    I went to a completely secular public high school. Lots of the teachers were overtly liberal, but lots were overtly Christian, and one was about as close to openly gay as you could be. We had a moment of silence every day for maybe 2 years. My biology teacher taught evolution and wouldn't entertain any comments about intelligent design. We played excerpts from Mendelssohn's Elijah in orchestra, and I'm sure the choir sang countless religious songs as well (here's one, and another! always need to brag on my high school's a capella groups). Our health education wasn't abstinence-only (though I don't recall abortion ever being mentioned) but up until high school, sex ed was all opt-in.

    I wasn't bothered by any of it, and even though I was in my sort-of-maybe-agnostic phase through much of that time, I don't think I'd be bothered by it now. Prayers at school seems to me an unnecessary and pointless endorsement of religion, but acknowledging religion's existence and contribution (particularly to art and music and literature)? I can't see anyone having a problem with that - heck, even Richard Dawkins endorses studying the Bible for its literary merit!

  109. Michelle, all that sounds reasonable to me for a public school (although I hope evolution was taught as a working theory, not as fact? And I hope it wasn't discussed in atheistic terms, as if it disproves a god?).

    What do you think about the story I linked at the top of the post?

    I think people are way too sensitive (or are pretending to be, to push an agenda). What do you think?

  110. I don't exactly remember how evolution was taught (I wasn't quite as serious about these things even just a couple of years ago!), but I think it was treated as the best and most scientifically accepted interpretation of what we know. It definitely wasn't treated as though it disproved a god, but I don't think God was mentioned at all (except by someone trying to argue for intelligent design).

    From what I've heard, I generally like what the ACLU does, but just based on that article, this situation does seem like an overreaction. The issue of having prayers at a public high school graduation in Louisiana, though, I don't think that's an overreaction. What do you think of this one?

    In some cases, I do agree, there's some excessive sensitivity going on. But I think often people file these suits based on principle, not because they're actually really offended or trying to push an agenda. If atheists/agnostics sit back and don't protest the intrusion of religion in what is supposed to be a secular realm, then it'll be harder to keep religion out when it truly matters (like the issue with the Texas Board of Education's textbook choices). Like I said, public schools don't need to keep religion out entirely - ignoring the contributions and influences of religion would be incredibly dishonest - but they shouldn't be endorsing any religion (or atheism, for that matter).

  111. Michelle, the protest about the prayers in Louisiana seems ridiculous to me. Really, is the atheist being harmed? Really? I mean, do we really need a nation where no one is ever offended by anything? I don't get it. If I went to a public school where most of the kids were Jewish, I would not care one whit if they prayed a Hebrew prayer. Who cares? What harm would it cause me?

    It reminds me of this faux horror of people and stores wishing folks a "Merry Christmas" and a few people claiming (gasp) offense! Really? I love how Jewish commenter Michael Medved says that he is never in the least bit offended when someone wishes him a Merry Christmas. He realizes that most people are Christian and it is no big deal to him. It's like if I went to Israel and someone wished me a Happy Hanukkah. I would not be offended. What are we teaching our children when we insist that they are being "offended" at every turn?

    This student seems to be trying to "make a point" rather than get along in a "diverse" society (I thought liberals loved diversity?).

    I'm sorry, but there is a wimpiness and a victimhood in that kind of protest that is just silly and actually a bit mean-spirited.

    In a nutshell, that's what I think. :)

    Oh, and he speaks of "freedom FROM religion" and that is nowhere in the Constitution. Religion is all around us. He doesn't have to practice any religion (though I would argue that atheism is a special kind of faith), but he also can't force a "religion-free zone" bubble around him.

    Do you think someone mistakenly etched "In God We Trust" on the marble wall of the House Rotunda? If so, how did that happen, and should it be blasted off the walls?



    Here is a new news story about the ACLU and prayer at graduations. I agree that this whole thing is outrageous, and not at all what the Founders intended (obviously).

  113. No, he's not being harmed, and you're right, it is to make a point. He's at a secular school, which is not supposed to endorse any religion - like I said, if we let little things like this slide by, it'll be a lot harder to keep public schools secular when it comes to the actual education. Anyway, what good does the prayer do? What would it harm the students or school to keep the whole thing secular? Can't they just pray privately?

    This student seems to be trying to "make a point" rather than get along in a "diverse" society (I thought liberals loved diversity?).
    I think the point he's trying to make is that he does live in a diverse society - those prayers might appeal to a majority, but there are people of other beliefs, and that's what he's trying to show. It seems to me that it's the school that has no interest in getting along with (or even acknowledging) diversity - the poor kid even got death threats for speaking out.

    Do you think, then, that that bit of the Constitution implies that everyone must have a religion? I don't want to haggle over one word, but "freedom of religion" can also suggest that you are free of religion (and I'd argue that atheism isn't a faith at all). Of course, no one wants a religion-free bubble around them - that's not the point at all. It's just that religious belief should not be assumed or endorsed.

    Do you think someone mistakenly etched "In God We Trust" on the marble wall of the House Rotunda? If so, how did that happen, and should it be blasted off the walls?
    Not sure why you're asking this, but of course it wasn't a mistake, and if it's part of the architecture, removing it seems excessive. (Should the nation's motto be "In God We Trust"? I don't think so. Incidentally, "In God We Trust" only became our official motto in 1956 as a result of McCarthyism.) Words on a wall are passively sitting there, though, while prayers at school and in the House and Senate are actively endorsing a particular religion.

  114. Michelle, you don't think public schools acknowledge diversity? I sure know that they do. I think the lawsuits are just killjoys who have no sense of community and tolerance. It's ridiculous and mean-spirited. No one is preventing his atheism (which is a faith… atheism is so rare in the human condition that I believe strongly it's something contrary to our nature. It's quite a leap of faith to deny God).

    Here is a school official at another school being sued who says it well:

    A school spokesman says the group is just trying to create a political debate.

    "It is sad that someone would choose the commencement exercises of the 50th anniversary of our school district as a forum for stirring political debate that threatens to needlessly cast a shadow of controversy over the pinnacle event of the class of 2011," school board president Roland Ruiz told the paper.

    That story here:

    As for the "mistake" of the statements etched in the marble: I used the term because that's almost what atheists seem to imply. That somehow everyone understood as atheists do, that there was to be a strict and impenetrable "wall" cutting off all flow of religion to and from gov't. But that is not born out by the evidence! America's religious patrimony is literally etched in stone, on pretty much every monument and building in our capital. How can you just overlook that (and the prayers starting out the sessions of Congress) when you try to say what the Founders intended?


  115. As to the "In God We Trust" story, there is much more to it (and it goes way back) than what you say. From Wikipedia:

    In God We Trust was adopted as the official motto of the United States in 1956. It is also the motto of the U.S. state of Florida. The phrase has appeared on U.S. coins since 1864 and on paper currency since 1957.[1] Its Spanish equivalent, En Dios Confiamos, is the motto of the Central American nation of Nicaragua.[2]
    The origin of the phrase is no doubt derived from the Bible, as a plethora of psalms contain this phrase or derivations of it (Psalms 20, Psalms 56, & Psalms 62, etc.) The phrase has been incorporated in many hymns and patriotic songs. The final stanza of The Star-Spangled Banner, written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key (and later adopted as the U.S. national anthem), contains an early reference to a variation of the phrase: "...And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust'."[3]
    It was first used as a motto on coinage on the 1864 two-cent coin, followed in 1866 by the 5 cent nickel (1866–1883), quarter dollar, half dollar, silver dollar and gold dollars.[1][4] An 1865 law allowed the motto to be used on coins.[5] The use of the motto was permitted, but not required, by an 1873 law. While several laws come into play, the act of May 18, 1908,[6] is most often cited as requiring the motto (even though the cent and nickel were excluded from that law, and the nickel did not have the motto added until 1938). Since 1938, all coins have borne the motto.
    On July 11, 1954, just one year after the phrase "under God" was incorporated into the Pledge of Allegiance,[7] the U.S. Congress enacted Public Law 84-140, which required the motto on all coins and currency. The law was approved by President Eisenhower on July 30, 1956, and the motto was progressively added to paper money over a period from 1957 to 1966.[1]
    In 1956 the phrase was legally adopted as the United States' national motto by a law passed by the 84th United States Congress.(Public Law 84-851)",[8] and the United States Code at 36 U.S.C. § 302, now states: "'In God we trust' is the national motto."

    (sorry for no paragraph breaks)

  116. No, I think in general they do a wonderful job of addressing diversity. I was really fortunate to go to an incredibly diverse school (there were some courses where as a Caucasian female I was in the minority, which you really don't get very often), and I don't think anyone felt marginalized because of their race or faith. I can only hope that when/if I have kids of my own that they'll be lucky enough to go to school in as diverse and accepting of an environment as I did.

    But the schools that allow prayers aren't doing a good job of addressing diversity. They aren't acknowledging that while Christians may be the majority, there are people who will be marginalized and discriminated against when Christian prayers are sanctioned or encouraged by the school. It's not a matter of being a nitpicky killjoy - Damon Fowler got death threats. How is that accepting of diversity? No one is preventing Christians from praying privately, either. What they are trying to prevent is the endorsement of a religion in a secular realm.

    Just because "In God We Trust" is our motto, just because Congress starts out with prayers doesn't mean that's right or good for a nation that has explicitly stated in its Constitution that Congress isn't supposed to make any laws establishing a favored religion. This, from the Treaty of Tripoli, which was drafted under George Washington and signed by John Adams:
    ...the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion
    How can you overlook the clear intention to keep religion and government separate?

    (Sorry, I think I misunderstood what you meant by "mistake" - yes, I think it shouldn't have been done. We aren't a Christian nation, and even though a majority of our leaders are and have been Christian, it doesn't mean that should be imposed on a diverse, secular country.)

  117. Michelle, since you reference George Washington, I would love for you to comment on this:

    Please read it carefully. Do you think GW thought the same as you do about the "wall" of separation?

    Also, the guy got death threats by idiots (believe me, prolifers and conservatives get death threats all the time. Ask any of the mainstream conservative commenters). I do not, nor does any sane person, condone that. It is not the norm. But he did not get death threats for being an atheist. He did not get scorn for being an atheist, either. He is intensely resented and disliked for filing a lawsuit (as libs are wont to do) because he had to ruin a tradition for something that even you agree caused him no harm. What a jerk. Not a nice person. If people don't like him, he needs to deal with it. He knows full well what he is doing, and he knows that no harm comes to him when a prayer is said at graduation. Ridiculous, and most people understand that it's ridiculous.

    This idea that atheists are 'persecuted' and 'put upon' just doesn't fly with me. No one has ever forced you to come to mass with me, or forced you to pray. Conservatives have often said that the left is "feelings-driven" and everything seems to be based on your feelings, rather than thought. People get offended. Oh, well. I am offended every day. I don't sue good people because of it. Maybe that is the atheist, leftist way, But it's not my way and I don't believe lawsuits against good people is the American way. I think it's sad what we've come to, and I think you are too young to understand that people don't have to sue each other because of "offense" (get a backbone, man!). We can live together in harmony, atheists and Christians. But when atheists bring lawsuit after lawsuit just to "prove a point", then they are mean-spirited and I will not pretend they are high-minded.

    By the way, anytime there is a majority and a minority of any thought, there will be people who don't like it. Oh, well. The highest "value" of the left seems to be "equality", and if it has to be forced equality so be it. Unfortunately, forced equality (and care that no one gets their feelings hurt!), leads to loss of freedom. There are societies who force equality. I don't want to live there.

    And, you didn't really address that point that our Judeo-Christian patrimony was purposely etched on our nations' buildings and monuments by the same people and mindset that wrote the Establishment Clause. Why do you think they didn't understand the very documents they wrote?

    Also, if we are not a Judeo-Christian nation, then on what principles was our nation founded? Principles and laws don't generally come out of thin air. Help me understand where you think our laws and philosophies came from. There are many nations in the world which were not founded on Judeo-Christian values -- can you name the ones which you prefer?

  118. You never really addressed my original questions: Anyway, what good does the prayer do? What would it harm the students or school to keep the whole thing secular? Can't they just pray privately?

    I don't understand why calling someone out on discrimination is such an awful, reprehensible thing. Yes, prayer is harmless, but keeping schools free of religion is even more harmless. So what if it's a tradition? What if it was a tradition to only allow white students to speak at graduation, and the majority was fine with it - would a black person be a killjoy for wanting to keep racial discrimination out of his school? It doesn't cause him any harm not to be able to speak at graduation, so it's fine, right?

    It's not a matter of offense, and you know that. It's the simple fact that public schools are not religious. They shouldn't be endorsing any religion - that's what religious schools are for. Why is it mean-spirited to want equality in a public school?

    I think what's enshrined in law is a lot more important than the Founding Fathers' personal beliefs. Church and state are supposed to remain separate, and I'm not sure why it seems so many have trouble understanding that. Who cares if we were or weren't founded on Judeo-Christian principles? I'm far from an expert on world governments or history, so I can really only speak for the US, but if church and state are to remain separate, the principles upon which the nation was founded shouldn't matter - it's the laws that matter. Even if the Founding Fathers were all devout Christians (many weren't), so what? Does that mean we should throw that first amendment out and favor one religion over another?

  119. Who cares if we were or weren't founded on Judeo-Christian principles? I'm far from an expert on world governments or history, so I can really only speak for the US, but if church and state are to remain separate, the principles upon which the nation was founded shouldn't matter

    Michelle, this is the core of what is wrong with public education. It is unbelievable to me that someone could say this. We have not been educating our children if someone can say this. Bring back classical liberal arts education so that people understand the foundations of Western civilization. We have done a grave disservice to our youth if they can say what you have just said.

    Also, a black person being prohibited from speaking at a graduation because of his skin color? That is harmful. He is harmed. That is awful.

    No one is preventing an atheist from doing anything at graduation.

    As for the "who cares about tradition" sentiment, I refer you back to the first part of what I said in this comment. Michelle, why do you suppose it is this culture which gives you freedom, and not other cultures? Have you been taught that? I don't fault you if you haven't been taught, but do you have any idea why Western civilization is different from other civilizations and cultures?


  120. "Who cares if we were or weren't founded on Judeo-Christian principles?"

    Michelle, I've got to ask. Do you really mean this?

    Do you understand the implications of this question?

    If you don't mind, what were you taught in school about the foundations of our nation, and the significance of Western Civilization?

    Thanks, I think this may deserve it's own blog post.

    We have dropped the ball, I fear, in forming our citizens to understand why we exist as a free nation.

  121. Leila and Michelle, I was going to respond but I don't have anything to add to what Leila has said Michelle, only to encourage you to listen to her. Maybe you were not educated on our history, I wasn't, but as an adult it is up to you to correct that. It is your obligation. It's for a good reason, not to belittle you at all. History is of utmost importance to understanding the future...if you care. I think you do.

  122. Leila, could you answer my questions that I've asked twice now?
    Anyway, what good does the prayer do? What would it harm the students or school to keep the whole thing secular? Can't they just pray privately?

    I'm sorry I apparently disturb you so much, but I can't see what the Founding Fathers' religion has to do with any of this. Church and state are supposed to be separate, it's in the Constitution - I can't see what's so difficult about this. The Founding Fathers had slaves. Should we have slaves too? Should we halt all progression and confine ourselves to exactly what they said and wanted over 200 years ago?

    My history education, as you've guessed, is pretty bare-bones as a result of simply not liking history (something I know I should rectify), but from what I understand, the principles matter in that they set up the Constitution we have today. That's what we follow. If they were inspired by Judeo-Christian ideas, fine, that's wonderful. What matters are the laws themselves, though, not the personal beliefs of the Founding Fathers, and the Constitution ensures that religion doesn't meddle with the laws, and the laws don't meddle with religion. Right?

  123. Michelle, in answer to your question, I believe that our traditions are of utmost importance. To tear them down to make a political point, when no one is being harmed, is not honorable, it's just being a jerk. We have a difference of opinion, obviously.

    You don't disturb me. I feel motherly toward you (since I have a daughter your age). Sorry, I can't help myself there. :) I would say to my children the same thing I say to you. And I love them, that's why it's important to make sure they know their facts, and why they are free and others are not.

    I hope you will find out more about Western civilization. I hope you will find out more about natural law (on which our nation's laws were based) vs. positive law (which is the way the left makes laws -- a very recent thing). The slaves were emancipated using the principle of natural law, as Lincoln explicitly stated, and the Civil Rights movement also was based on natural law principles.

    I hope you will look into your own civilization, as it is of the utmost importance to your own future and that of your future children.

    Here is some info:

    I hope to post on on the difference between the natural law and positive law soon, maybe in the next couple of weeks.

    I also have a sincere hope that you will one day dive in to the writings of Chesterton (former atheist, one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th Century). He has this to say about tradition:

    “It is obvious that tradition is only democracy extended through time. It is trusting to a consensus of common human voices rather than to some isolated or arbitrary record… Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.”

    – G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, chapter 4

  124. Michelle, one last thought: America is an experiment. A great experiment, it's true, but a fragile one as well. It is an anomaly in human history. There is not guarantee it will be around in another hundred or two hundred years.

    My personal opinion is that the turn from natural law to positive law is one nail in the coffin of this great experiment. So yes, to me, it is crucial that young people understand what they have been given.

  125. I guess this comes down to a difference of opinion (once again), as I feel like that Chesterton quote is not a great way of looking at things. Sure, keep tradition when it's good - some traditions are undoubtedly for good reason - but I think we shouldn't be afraid to question tradition in the name of progress. And I guess we differ again there, because I think we should aspire to as close to an equal society as we can be, and that even if privilege seems harmless, its elimination will ultimately lead to a better society.

    With the school prayer thing, though, I don't think the prayer does any good. Sure, it might mean something to the majority, but that majority can pray privately just as effectively. It doesn't hurt anyone to keep the whole thing secular, and it also affirms the diversity of the school. What's more, parents send their kids to public schools with the expectation that they'll get an education that doesn't prefer one religion (or race or gender or socioeconomic status) over another. If an atheist student was attending a Catholic private school, then they'd definitely be being an unreasonable jerk for complaining about a prayer. But there's an expectation that public schools will strive for equality, and working to bring about that equality is, in my opinion, admirable.

    I appreciate the motherly sentiments. :) Please do post on the difference - I briefly acquainted myself with positive vs. natural law through Wikipedia, but I'm not quite sure yet where my loyalties lie.

  126. Michelle, I think you have stated your side eloquently. Of course I disagree.

    If I thought that the elimination of religious expression or thought was "progress" I would agree, but of course I think of it as regression, not progression. "Progress" and "secular society" do not go together for me. I like the America the way it has always been: A deeply religious nation (Judeo-Christian), with a non-sectarian government. It's precisely because of this heritage that atheists and those of non-Christian religions have been able to live well and live free.

    Again, it goes back to our western civilization, and why it matters.

    I will post on the positive vs. natural law, because I like learning about it, too. I had no idea about this stuff until the past year. I don't remember learning about it in my public school. :)



    Michelle, please check out this story. "Irreparable harm"?? Seriously? Even you admit that is full on BS, as no one is "harmed" much less "irreparably" so. Ugh! Do you see, Michelle, that this is nuts? Please tell me you do not support this malcontented family and this outrageous judge. Please tell me that you get how nuts this is. And let me tell you that if anyone told my child in a public school that he/she could not speak freely, from the heart? Wow... I would encourage my child to face fines and jail rather than submit to such tyranny.

    Outrageous. As I hope you will agree.


    Update on my last comment. Thank God that common sense has prevailed.

  129. Leila, the district court's decision appears so inexplicably outrageous to you because you see, I think, only one half of the issue it confronted. You see only the student who wants to speak freely from the heart. If that were all there is to it, the matter would be as easy as you suppose. The court, though, needed to review the actions of the school (i.e., government) and, viewing the entirety of the situation, determine whether it was promoting religion by, for instance, assembling students in a school sponsored event ("captive audience") for the purpose of having them participate in prayer or other religious ceremony.

    In the Texas case, the district court viewed the evidence and found that was what the school was doing, and issued an injunction. The appellate court, applying the same legal principles, simply found that the evidence was insufficient to show that and suggested, moreover, the matter appeared moot since the school had modified its public description of the graduation ceremony to delete references to "invocation" and "benediction."

    If you're interested in digging deeper into public school and religion issues, here's a handy starting point.

  130. Doug, what I find "inexplicably outrageous" is the fact that the kid and family were claiming "irreparable harm" by attending a graduation where a prayer may or not be said.

    Step outside the legal world for a minute and admit with me that such a claim is indeed outrageous.

    You have certainly seen outrageous suits brought before the courts before, no? I know you are very interested in the legal details, but you still have common sense, I know it.

  131. Leila, I can understand how that claim strikes you as outrageous. There's a less nefarious, more historical explanation you may find interesting (or boring). Centuries ago courts of equity developed in England as alternative forums to courts of law to resolve disputes. Courts of equity could issue injunctions ordering people to do or not do things; they generally could not award money damages to litigants, leaving that to courts of law. Courts of equity, though, would not hear a case if the litigant had an adequate remedy at law (usually money damages). In order to get an injunction, thus, the rule has long since been developed that a litigant must allege that he has no adequate remedy at law and will suffer "irreparable harm" (i.e., harm that cannot be remedied by money damages) unless some activity is enjoined.

  132. Doug, I appreciate that, I do. But you can agree that this guy's case was just an attempt to be a jerk and make a statement, correct? He and his family and his attorney know he would not be harmed in any way by hearing a prayer at graduation.

    Some lawsuits are frivolous, some are outrageous, some are ill-adivised. People with an agenda to wipe God out of the public square will throw up anything just to see what sticks. In this case, they got one sympathetic judge (judges, not politicians, will be the ruin of this nation… I don't think most people understand that). Thankfully, he was overruled.

  133. Leila, From a legal standpoint, of course, it matters little whether this guy is a jerk trying to make a statement. Your gripes about him touch on three issues. First, is he making a mountain out of a mole hill? Or, put differently, should someone give the government a pass when it engages in "little" unconstitutional acts? In his Memorial and Remonstrance, Madison urged vigilance against seemingly small infractions: "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? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?"

    Second, your interest in whether the plaintiff was truly harmed or offended brings to mind the commonly heard idea that this somehow is about people easily offended or faking offense. We’re not talking, though, about the freedom of individuals to say or do something others find offensive; we have that freedom. We’re talking about the government weighing in to promote religion. Under our Constitution, our government has no business doing that--regardless of whether anyone is offended (and regardless of how many or few favor or disfavor any particular religion or religious event). While this is primarily a constitutional point, it is one that conservatives--small government conservatives--should appreciate from a political standpoint as well. While the First Amendment thus constrains government from promoting (or opposing) religion without regard to whether anyone is offended, a court may address the issue only in a suit by someone with "standing" (sufficient personal stake in a matter) to present the court with a "case or controversy"; in order to show such standing, a litigant may allege he is offended or otherwise harmed by the government's failure to follow the law. The question whether someone has standing to sue is separate from the question whether the government has violated the Constitution.

    Third, you speak of people with an agenda to wipe God out of the public square. While the principle of separation of church and state does not purge religion from the public square, as I noted earlier, it is sometimes misunderstood or misused by some on both "sides" either to stretch it to cover situations it properly doesn't or to restrict it from covering situations it properly does. Properly applied, the principle serves to protect the freedom of all individuals to exercise their religion views, whether theism, atheism, or other, by assuring the government is neutral in such matters and leaves each person to make his or her own choices regarding religion free of government influence.

    Also, I want to congratulate you on the fine blog you have developed and the spirited, contemplative, civil discourse you encourage here. You plainly have the right touch.

  134. Doug,

    What are your thoughts on Rick Perry's call to prayer in Texas?


  135. Stacy,

    I've seen the headlines, but haven't studied the details, so can't offer much about it. (I generally focus more on discussing the general principles than the application of those principles to particular cases anyway.) That said, I think the critical question is whether Perry is acting in his individual or official capacity. While his religion naturally may inform his views in performing his official duties, he should refrain from promoting religion in his official capacity. When acting in that capacity, he effectively is the government and, accordingly, should act in keeping with the First Amendment's constraints on government promotion of religion.

    I'm reminded that some of the founders were conflicted about much the same sort of thing. For instance, while Washington offered Thanksgiving proclamations, seemingly seeing no problem in that, Jefferson refrained from issuing any such proclamations for the very reason he thought the Constitution precluded it. Madison would have preferred not to issue any such proclamations, but upon being requested by Congress to do so, reluctantly issued one, though taking pains to word it so as merely to encourage those so inclined to celebrate the day. He later almost sheepishly acknowledged that had been a mistake.

    I suspect that Perry is most interested in scoring political points with religious right voters and, with the help of clever advisors, will carefully choose his words in order to curry favor with those voters while at the same time largely (or at least arguably) stopping short of crossing an obvious constitutional line.

  136. Also, I want to congratulate you on the fine blog you have developed and the spirited, contemplative, civil discourse you encourage here. You plainly have the right touch.

    Awww, shucks! Thanks, Doug! What a sweet comment. So sweet in fact that I will let you have that last comment without rebuttal. :)


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