Diverse groups reach 'first-ever consensus' on religion & US law
By HUGH KRAMER - LA ATHEISM EXAMINER
Added: Thu, 14 Jan 2010 00:00:00 UTC
When you hear about members of groups like the conservative American Center for Law and Justice or the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission meeting with the ACLU or the First Freedom Center, you're unlikely to think it's because they agree on anything... but that's what just happened. On January 12, representatives of these groups and others held a press conference at the Brookings Institute in Washington DC to announce the signing of a document entitled RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION IN AMERICAN PUBLIC LIFE: A Joint Statement of Current Law.
It's a consensus agreement on how the law affects individual, business and governmental expressions of religion. It's not a wish list, because many of the signers have very different ideas of what the law should be; it's merely a joint recognition of what the law currently is. The need for such a statement is important to the signers though, because there is so much confusion about the law in public discussions.
âThere has been an incredibly brain-dead discussion about religious expression in American public life in so many contexts," said signer Melissa Rogers, director of the Wake Forest center and former general counsel for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, "and part of that brain-dead nature of the conversation is that there are so many false claimsâ about what the law actually says about the protections for, and limits upon, individual, group and governmental expressions of religious faith."
The signers hope the document will not only clear up some of the public confusion about current law, but aid in the debate over what the law should be in the future. Referring to earlier consensus statements on religious expression in schools, Charles Haynes, a senior scholar at the Freedom Forumâs First Amendment Center in Washington, said, âBased on the track record of these past agreements, I am convinced that this new joint statement, covering a wide range of issues, can and will play a significant role in preventing litigation and promoting civil public discourse.â
In the works since 2005, the new document covers a lot more territory than earlier ones and there are numerous things in it for each group to love... or hate. Take consensus item #24, May legislative bodies hire chaplains and open legislative sessions with official prayers? The answer is "yes". The signers acknowledge that such practices have an "unambiguous and unbroken history" going back 200 years that the Supreme Court (March v. Chambers) concluded has become part of the fabric of our society and that the draftsmen of the Constitution did not see as a threat to the Establishment Clause.
Chris Chambers and Petroc Sumner -... Comments
Science has an uneasy relationship with journalism, so what can be done by both sides to improve coverage
Will Self - BBC News Magazine 100 Comments
We chase "fast culture" at our peril - unusual words and difficult art are good for us, says Will Self.
Annie Murphy Paul - New York Times 26 Comments
New support for the value of fiction is arriving from an unexpected quarter: neuroscience.
Nick Cohen - The Spectator 40 Comments
If you turn on the news tonight and hear of a bomber slaughtering civilians anywhere from Nigeria to the London Underground, I can reassure you of one point: the bombers will not be readers of Richard Dawkins.
Amol Rajan - The Independent 39 Comments
Their assault illustrates the extent to which defenders of religion still dominate our press, the brutal retaliation exacted on clever opponents of faith and the incorrigible stupidity of Sayeeda Warsi's claim about "militant secularism" last week.
Richard Dawkins - RichardDawkins.net 341 Comments
I can’t help wondering at the quality of journalism which sees a scoop in attacking a man for what his five-greats grandfather did.
MORE BY HUGH KRAMER
Hugh Kramer - Examiner.com Comments
200,000 pledge to vote for Jesus in 2012