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← Diverse groups reach 'first-ever consensus' on religion & US law

Diverse groups reach 'first-ever consensus' on religion & US law - Comments

glenister_m's Avatar Comment 1 by glenister_m

So this means that two groups that don't actually hold any real political or law enforcement power have made a statement about how they interpret the current law to mean? Or do they actually have any real clout?

Isn't this like arguing with a judge that you shouldn't have to pay your speeding ticket because other people were speeding too?

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 05:35:00 UTC | #431668

glenister_m's Avatar Comment 2 by glenister_m

I'm also curious how a chaplain could produce an official prayer without mentioning Christ and being respectful and tolerant of other religions. It would be a bit like 'Larry the Cable Guy's Night Before Christmas' - the politically correct version.

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 05:38:00 UTC | #431669

Reckless Monkey's Avatar Comment 3 by Reckless Monkey

Comment #450605 by beebhack

Yeah I thought the same thing. It seems to be linked to some conspiracy theory about the World Trade Centres being blown up rather than hit by planes. I'm assuming this is some sort of obscure reference to Depache Mode somehow predicting the fall of the World Trade Centre. Maybe Depache Mode are face changing Lizard Aliens in league with the Freemasons and the Jews conspiring for a one world government. also shouldn't it be 'king of right' not 'king off right'.

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 07:26:00 UTC | #431670

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 4 by Jos Gibbons

Anyway ... this publication is valuable, for precisely the reasons it cites, and it reveals that the law mostly meets my approval (not that I'm American anyway, so maybe I shouldn't be judging it, even if I do like most of it). But I think the biggest problem isn't the law itself, and the biggest problem may not be ignorance of it either; one issue this effort does not address (which is not to downgrade it) is the quite serious fact that the law is frequently not actually obeyed!

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 08:01:00 UTC | #431674

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 5 by Quetzalcoatl

Don't feed the troll, please.

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 09:07:00 UTC | #431681

MattHunX's Avatar Comment 6 by MattHunX

I'm not a law student, and maybe my interpretation is wrong, but

"#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."

How's that exactly a step in the right direction? From our point of view.


Before the backers and opponents of legislative prayer begin, respectively, to cheer or groan, they should read what else consensus item #24 has to say on the subject. Legislative prayers must be non-sectarian in nature as a later court found the prayer in the March v. Chambers to be. In that case, the legislative chaplain "removed all references to Christ." Official prayers become impermissible when government attempts "to proselytize or advance any one, or to disparage (any) other faith or belief."

Then what's the point...?

Anyone ran through the PDF? I DL-d it.

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 09:08:00 UTC | #431682

mixmastergaz's Avatar Comment 7 by mixmastergaz

(with apologies to Quetz, who is right of course, but I can't resist)

Surely "King off-right" is a regal cricketing term like "silly mid-off"...


I imagine agreeing to non-denominational prayer, and avoiding direct references to Christ in public prayer ruffled a few feathers amongst the Southern Baptists. But they have no integrity so they'll say that they agree and then go ahead and do whatever the hell they want anyway...

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 09:55:00 UTC | #431692

hungarianelephant's Avatar Comment 8 by hungarianelephant

10. Comment #450619 by MattHunX

How's that exactly a step in the right direction? From our point of view.

They're just trying to state what the law is, not what it ought to be. That may not sound like much of an advance, but you'd be amazed at how many people make up their own version and then use the weird "this is what it is therefore it is right" principle of jurisprudential philosophy to argue their position.

As to prayers in the state legislature, really, we have much bigger fish to fry than that. They can organise a cross-party rendition of the Okey-Cokey for all I care, as long as it isn't compulsory. Spending money on a chaplain is a bit much, but it's small beer compared to the other pork-barrel non-jobs that are so beloved of governments.

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 10:11:00 UTC | #431695

godsbelow's Avatar Comment 9 by godsbelow

I ran through the PDF. It's purpose, I gather, is to demonstrate where the law regarding religion and the state currently stands. It does so with reference to US Supreme Court decisions.

My question is this: if the Supreme Court has been, and currently is, composed of Justices many of whom are conservative religionists (there are currently SIX Catholics on the US Supreme Court), how can it hope to make unbiased decisions regarding separation of church and state?

Consider what Antonin Scalia, who has served since 1986, said in a speech at the University of Chicago Divinity School in 2002 (from Wikipedia):

'This is not the Old Testament, I emphasize, but St. Paul.... [T]he core of his message is that government—however you want to limit that concept—derives its moral authority from God.... Indeed, it seems to me that the more Christian a country is the less likely it is to regard the death penalty as immoral.... I attribute that to the fact that, for the believing Christian, death is no big deal. Intentionally killing an innocent person is a big deal: it is a grave sin, which causes one to lose his soul. But losing this life, in exchange for the next?... For the nonbeliever, on the other hand, to deprive a man of his life is to end his existence. What a horrible act!... The reaction of people of faith to this tendency of democracy to obscure the divine authority behind government should not be resignation to it, but the resolution to combat it as effectively as possible. We have done that in this country (and continental Europe has not) by preserving in our public life many visible reminders that—in the words of a Supreme Court opinion from the 1940s—"we are a religious people, whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being."... All this, as I say, is most un-European, and helps explain why our people are more inclined to understand, as St. Paul did, that government carries the sword as "the minister of God," to "execute wrath" upon the evildoer.'

How can any decisions this shithead makes be valid for a supposedly secular state?

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 10:14:00 UTC | #431697

MattHunX's Avatar Comment 10 by MattHunX


I'm reading be PDF right now. No.6. looks like an advancement, is it not?

No. Those who make an affirmation or take an oath promising to fulfill certain duties toward the
government may choose to do so while placing a hand on a text that is sacred to him or her (whether the
text is the Bible or something else), but this is not in any way required by the Constitution.
If an elected official chooses to place his or her hand on a book while taking an oath or making an
affirmation, the official may select a religious or nonreligious book. If the official wishes to use a religious
book, the official may select whatever scripture is sacred to him or her, whether that scripture is the Bible,
the Torah, the Quran, the Bhagavad-Gita or something else.
An officeholder may choose to add the words “so help me God” at the end of this oath or affirmation.
Adding these words to the oath or affirmation, however, is not and could not be required by government.

It was always required to place your hand on the Bible was it not? Or until recently?


That's unbelievable! And he's still office!?

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 10:16:00 UTC | #431698

Chris Roberts's Avatar Comment 11 by Chris Roberts

Link on the same page - the 10 sexiest atheists.

For me, much more interesting than the article in question

edit - Depeche mode - Nostradamus - lol

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 10:39:00 UTC | #431707

MattHunX's Avatar Comment 12 by MattHunX

Angelina Jolie!?

Give me a break! Has-been.

I don't have any problems with the rest. Who votes on these lists!? People are so infatuated with Hollywood stars. It's pathetic. Then again it is the USA.

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 10:42:00 UTC | #431710

Logicel's Avatar Comment 13 by Logicel

godsbelow, thanks for the Scalia quote. I am assuming that Scalia is not consistent enough in his thinking to recognize the following:

In America, since many think this present life is not that important and that predominate religious beliefs teaches that if they ask, they will be forgiven by their god for their digressions, that could be the reason why violent crime begets more violence--the violent crimes are the ones which are much more prevalent in America than Europe that 'demands' the death penalty (which is a kind of violence in itself).

The American religious focus sets up a moral hazard in the sense that criminals will be bailed out by the big sky daddy.

I remember a devout Catholic (went to Mass every Sunday, sitting next to his mother, listening attentively to the sermon), who had sexually abused two of his nieces when challenged as to the fact that he has committed mortal sins and will go to hell, replied tersely, "I will ask forgiveness just before I die."

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 12:00:00 UTC | #431724

Rosbif's Avatar Comment 14 by Rosbif

Comment from MattHunX:

"the official may select a religious or nonreligious book"

Oh I want to get sworn in for something so I can use TGSOE.

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 12:48:00 UTC | #431731

crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 15 by crookedshoes

is it "king off right" or is it "king of fright"???
Anyway, why wasn't I consulted on any of this "consensus"?

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 13:27:00 UTC | #431738

MattHunX's Avatar Comment 16 by MattHunX


I saw that one coming! :)

If nothing else it would be an act of endorsement of science and everyone like RD and all who can be connected to it.

And it would steer up quite a bit of shit amongst sheep.

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 13:33:00 UTC | #431741

KRKBAB's Avatar Comment 17 by KRKBAB

18. Comment #450668 by Rosbif - I would use "The God Delusion". Could you imagine the look on a judges face when you whipped out that book? Although, I'm sure a lot of judges are atheists, so you might even get a little respect from some judges.

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 13:34:00 UTC | #431742

Squigit's Avatar Comment 18 by Squigit

14. Comment #450635 by MattHunX

That's unbelievable! And he's still office!?

Supreme Court judges are appointed for life, not elected for a term by the citizens.

#24 is plain wrong, despite Supreme Court precedent: any prayer is automatically sectarian, it takes on the sect of the official offering the prayer. To really be non-sectarian, a government-endorsed prayer session has to have someone from each of the sects/religions of each person present.
But what about non-believers? (I haven't read the whole thing, so I apologize if there is something in there that doesn't discriminate against us.)

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 13:35:00 UTC | #431743

MattHunX's Avatar Comment 19 by MattHunX


Oh, Right! Thanks! I should have remembered that after having classes about American History and Civilization...was 2 years ago :)

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 13:59:00 UTC | #431745

godsbelow's Avatar Comment 20 by godsbelow

Logicel - I reckon you're on to something there. The idea that a person can be forgiven by an invisible third party for any crime at any time seems more like an incentive do wrong than a discourgagement. It's much easier to ask Jesus' or 'God's' forgiveness than it is to ask forgiveness of an actual person whom you have wronged.

Comment #450680 by Squigit:
'Supreme Court judges are appointed for life, not elected for a term by the citizens.'

Unfortunately, these judges are nominated by the president and confirmed by the senate. No doubt, since both senate and president are elected by the people, the appointment of Supreme Court judges is seen as reflecting the will of the people.

I wonder whether this is the best way to protect a secular constitution. It goes without saying that when both president and senate are religious and conservative, appointments will obviously reflect that religiosity and conservatism. You end up with people like Scalia who claim that 'government carries the sword as "the minister of God," to "execute wrath" upon the evildoer.'


Thu, 14 Jan 2010 14:04:00 UTC | #431746

TIKI AL's Avatar Comment 21 by TIKI AL

Taxpayer dollars for a chaplame is wrong.

"People are so infatuated with Hollywood stars. It's pathetic. Then again it is the USA."
...I "Avatar" in your general direction.

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 14:24:00 UTC | #431749

Squigit's Avatar Comment 22 by Squigit

20. Comment #450684 by godsbelow

Unfortunately, these judges are nominated by the president and confirmed by the senate. No doubt, since both senate and president are elected by the people, the appointment of Supreme Court judges is seen as reflecting the will of the people.

That would be true if the appointments lasted only as long as the president who nominated them.

#19 MattHunX: No problem. :)

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 14:27:00 UTC | #431750

Opisthokont's Avatar Comment 23 by Opisthokont

This sort of document makes me seethe. The fact that "In God We Trust" has been used in the past by the US Government, to the point of being "interwoven... into the fabric of our civil polity", does not mean that it is concordant with the 1st Amendment. Same thing for chaplains and prayers at government meetings. Just because something is a tradition does not mean that it is right (look at, for example, female genital mutilation, arranged marriages, "honour" killings, and so on).

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 14:42:00 UTC | #431752

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 24 by Dr. Strangegod

This is an important document and an important step in the process of making the freedom of and from religion square with the majority of my compatriots. It is important to know exactly where the line is currently drawn if we want to redraw portions of it, which I do.

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 14:50:00 UTC | #431754

root2squared's Avatar Comment 25 by root2squared

It's only because religion is such a big thing that we don't realize that an explicit declaration of separation of state and religion is as silly as an explicit declaration of separation of state and astrology.

Religion is just a special case of belief. Freedom from and of religion should just be covered under freedom of belief, and the separation should just be covered under "not letting unverified personal beliefs play a role in public life" AKA "don't be stupid".

Religion should not even be mentioned, just like astrology is not mentioned. They are equivalent from the point of view of law.

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 15:25:00 UTC | #431758

Steven Mading's Avatar Comment 26 by Steven Mading

This document seems to frequently confuse "what is traditional practice" with "what is legal". A long history of doing a particular thing is NOT evidence of it being legal. It is possible for laws to be on the books but have a history of not being well enforced. (To give an extreme example, consider the US civil rights movement of the late 1950's and early 60's. They were fighting for, among other things, the right to be allowed to vote. And yet, according to the laws on the books, they already had the right to vote for a century. This is a good example where there was a practice (keeping blacks away from the voting booth) that was clearly illegal, and yet was still strongly traditional.

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 16:04:00 UTC | #431763

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 27 by mordacious1

Steven Mading

Indeed. That's how I read a lot of that document also. It's almost as if the ACLU was saying, "These are the things we're going to give up on".

From the article:

Charles Haynes, a senior scholar at the Freedom Forum’s First Amendment Center in Washington, said, “Based 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."

Litigation is an effective means of promoting public discourse. True, it may not always be civil, but I fear that without the Newdows of the world, discourse may disappear entirely (at least where the general public would hear it).

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 17:51:00 UTC | #431782

Ai Deng's Avatar Comment 28 by Ai Deng

I was looking over the minutes of my State's (Michigan) legislative sessions last year, and came across all of the invocations. I would say that in about 50% of them, Jesus was mentioned. About 98% were religious, and one that I read was obviously non-religious. Sometimes the congressman gives the invocation, while other times the congressman invites a religious leader from their district. I am unaware if an invitation is also an invitation to get paid in my State.

I actually wrote the ACLU (of which I am a member) about this, to get their opinion on these invocations. I never got a response out of them, which I found disappointing. Interesting to see they have come to a concensus with these other groups that the mention of Jesus constitutes a sectarian prayer.

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 18:39:00 UTC | #431793

Squigit's Avatar Comment 29 by Squigit

27. Comment #450732 by Ai Deng

Try Americans United for Separation of Church and State. They have a Facebook page with contact info. in it.

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 19:00:00 UTC | #431803

Roger Stanyard's Avatar Comment 30 by Roger Stanyard

Seems to me that there is a bigger issue here than the American-centric comments so far.

We ate the BCSE has]ve a pretty good idea what the law is when itcomes to teaching creationism in school science lessons.

However, in general, I suspect that there is a strong case within the Human Rights Act to stop fundamentalist evangelicals using state education to push their opinions on children.

As far as Iam aware, the Human Rights Act includes provisions not only for religion bbut also against the religious imposing their views on others. For example, many evangelicals believe that they have an absolute right to evangelise/proselytise - the Human Rights Act gives the individual protection against this.*

Seems to me that the Richard Dawkins Foundation might do us all a favour by establishing exactly what protection we have against religion under the Human Rights Act.

* Just recently an obvuous fundamentalist tried to preach to me through my private email box. He openly claimed that he had the right to do so (until I pointed out that I had the right to block his ludicrous emails).

Fri, 15 Jan 2010 13:34:00 UTC | #431883