How the Right Spins Church/State Issues

I‘m always interested in the way the Christian right frames the controversies over church and state matters. They’ve long employed several loaded phrases that could mean very different things, knowing that their audience will read them in a way that maximizes their fear (and thus keeps them sending in money). Mat Staver uses one of those phrases and adds in a new and utterly ridiculous term. But first, like Gordon Klingenschmitt, he pretends Liberty Counsel is the group that won the case:

Liberty Counsel has been actively engaged in protecting the rights of Americans to pray in public forums. Monday, the fruits of our labor paid off in a big way.

But Liberty Counsel did not represent the town of Greece in the case. In fact, one of their competitors did, the Alliance Defending Freedom. They did file an amicus brief in the case, as did dozens of other groups, but it wasn’t cited in the ruling. So no, the fruits of their labor did not pay. The fruits of the ADF’s labor paid off. But hey, when you’re competing for the dollars of the faithful, you have to obfuscate a little.

Today, to the consternation of anti-Christian segregationists, historical revisionists and Church-state separatists, prayer in the public square remains protected in the United States of America thanks to patriots like you and five Supreme Court Justices.

There’s that slippery phrase they’ve been using for decades: “in the public square.” It’s a very deliberate and disingenuous choice of words. Religious expression “in the public square” has never been challenged and remains entirely protected. Religious groups hold prayer rallies and marches in town squares, courthouse grounds, state capital grounds, the National Mall in Washington and and on Capitol Hill every single day and no one attempts to deny them that right.

When they use that phrase, what they really mean is prayer at official government events where there is a more-or-less captive audience. But they know that their followers will hear it and think that someone is trying to ban all public expressions of religion, which is a rather blatant lie. So they lie with clever wording rather than coming out and saying it. It’s a classic sales technique and they use it quite well.

But I’m really fascinated by the phrase Staver uses that I’m sure has been focus-group tested and will become a new talking point: “anti-Christian segregationists.” What does this or any other church/state case have to do with segregation? Absolutely nothing, of course. But segregation is a bad thing (never mind that Staver’s former boss, Jerry Falwell, was an ardent segregationist) and segregationists are viewed as bad, so they throw it in there to poison the well.

This is another well-worn tactic of the Christian right, to take the language of the left and flip it around. If you want to stop the bullying of gay kids in schools, then you’re trying to bully Christians. If you want to stop Christians from discriminating against gay people, you’re discriminating against Christians. Like the above examples, this is highly dishonest, but these people have never had any problem being dishonest in the service of their theocratic agenda.

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  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    YOU ANTICHRISTIAN SEGREGATIONISTS ARE JUST MAD THAT LIBERTY COUNCILS WORK HELPED WIN THE CASE KEEPING PRAYER IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE!!!

  • John Pieret

    “anti-Christian segregationists.”

    So, when they throw their next hissy-fit over a a Hindu or a Muslim saying a prayer at the opening of Congress, will they admit to being “anti-Hindi segregationists” or “anti-Muslim segregationists”?

    Naw, I didn’t think so.

  • Trebuchet

    Today, to the consternation of anti-Christian segregationists, historical revisionists and Church-state separatists, prayer in the public square remains protected in the United States of America thanks to patriots like you and five Supreme Court Justices Black-Robed Tyrants.

    Fixed that for him.

  • Synfandel

    Careful, there, Ed. By pointing out his dishonesty and hypocrisy, you’re persecuting Mat Staver.

  • eric

    what they really mean is prayer at official government events where there is a more-or-less captive audience

    Maybe in the next case we need to push the ‘captive audience’ angle. If a school board meeting is the “official mechanism” that I, Joe Public, am supposed to use to air a grieveance or propose some policy, then it would seem unconstitutional to require me to even sit through someone else’s prayer to use that mechanism. I’m going through a government process; that process cannot constitutionally have “step 2, sit quietly while government official thanks God” in it.

  • escuerd

    Sometimes they’re “victims” of their own success. E.g. when school officials start to think that they actually are required to prevent kids from praying in school rather than simply prevented from having the school endorse it. Then again, such incidents just reinforce the lie in the first place.

  • anubisprime

    Funny how the Supreme court is regarded as anti-christ when they rule on discrimination against teh ghey…but god’s own when they seem to give the sunbeams a constitutional pressy!