A Couple Victories for the Church/State Separation Crowd

Some good news on the church/state separation front: Soddy-Daisy High School in Tennessee will stop broadcasting Christian prayers during football games and graduation ceremonies.

You would think the administrators and school board members would know better than to break the law, but when you hear their responses to the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s legal victory, you can see the type of people you’re dealing with

Hamilton County Board of Education member Rhonda Thurman, who represents Soddy-Daisy, said the prayers were part of the school’s tradition, and that anyone who didn’t want to hear could “put their fingers in their ears.

“Everybody is offended by something,” she said. “I’m offended by a lot of those little girls running around with their thong panties showing, but I can’t make that go away.”

I’m offended by ignorant school board members who think it’s their job to force religion onto the students. But I can’t make Thurman go away either.

Sandhya Bathija of Americans United for Separation of Church and State offers this response to Thurman:

Claiming that students can just “put their fingers in their ears” doesn’t change the fact that the school is unfairly and unconstitutionally favoring one particular religion. Students of all faiths and none should feel welcome at school. They should not feel like outcasts because school officials forget that it’s their duty is to remain neutral on the topic of religion. Parents should determine what faith their children practice, not school officials.

There are some court cases where the “right” thing to do isn’t always obvious.

This isn’t one of those times.

Congratulations to FFRF for another victory.

Meanwhile, can someone tell this guy the rules? He thinks a Christian flag at a local war memorial should remain there despite the city council deciding otherwise. (Idolatry, anyone?)

“I won’t let it fall,” [Ray] Martini said. “I have already told the city, before you can take it down, I’ll tie myself to it and you can cut me down first.”

The identity of the resident who complained about the flag, a veteran of the Afghanistan war, has not been made public. But the state chapter of the ACLU has no problem with the vigil.

“We were concerned when the city was sponsoring the Christian flag, but we don’t have any concern with veterans groups displaying the flag,” legal director Katy Parker said. “We think it’s great the city is offering citizens a chance to express their opinions.”

You have to wonder what these people want… do they want the flag on their personal tombstone? Because they can have that. Do they think anyone plans on desecrating it? Not that it would matter, but that’s not the plan.

This is a kind of Christian extremism — assuming that government neutrality on religion is somehow anti-Christian.

  • Sue D. Nymme

    They always paint it as though the people who are objecting are claiming to be “offended”. It has nothing to do with being personally offended. It has to do with government officials pushing a religious viewpoint on children.

  • Rabid

    Parents should determine what faith their children practice, not school officials.

    Or… perhaps they could decide for themselves?

    Hahahahahahahahaha…

    No, you’re right. What a LUDICROUS IDEA. We can’t be letting people run around having their own ideas and stuff.

  • Jeff

    You would think the administrators and school board members would know better than to break the law

    They’re in Tennessee, Hemant. Firstly, they’d have to know how to read.

  • http://alabamatheist.blogspot.com/ Tim D.

    This is a kind of Christian extremism — assuming that government neutrality on religion is somehow anti-Christian.

    Unfortunately, that goes for non-legal situations as well; one of my co-workers (of 3 years) recently had it revealed to them that I was “a Atheist,” and now she (and several other co-workers) get “offended” any time it’s even *mentioned* by my other co-workers that I don’t believe in gods (she also got “offended” when she found out I was reading atheist literature in my free time, instead of The Bible[TM]….because apparently nobody is allowed to read anything besides the Bible, ever). I haven’t said two words about it since it came out, but still I get a ton of passive-aggressive conversion BS. It’s like she just can’t accept the fact that I do not believe her religion; like she’s never met anyone before who didn’t, and she literally has no idea how to deal with it. And somehow now I’m considered “anti-religious.”

    Sad, really.

  • Ben

    Parents should determine what faith their children practice, not school officials.

    Uhh, how about “everybody should determine what faith they practice, not school officials, not their parents, not anybody”.

    Oh, right, parental indoctrination = good. Government indoctrination = bad.

  • Sue

    Meanwhile, in my own back yard:
    Prayer always on Sycamore City Council’s agenda
    http://www.daily-chronicle.com/articles/2010/10/20/79526563/index.xml

    There are several remarkable statements in the article, such as:

    “I’m not saying that it is legal, I just don’t see there is a … law that prohibits it,” he said. (from the county state’s attorney)

    Mundy said the separation of church and state issue is “just clearly not applicable here,” adding that religion is tied to the country’s heritage and foundation. (Mundy is the mayor)

    Deacon Charles Ridulph with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has provided the invocation at a number of Sycamore City Council meetings. He said even non-Christians “acknowledge the power of prayer.”

    Sigh.

    (This is Sycamore, Illinois, in the far western suburbs of Chicago)

  • nankay

    “This is a kind of Christian extremism — assuming that government neutrality on religion is somehow anti-Christian”

    Actually this attitude comes from the Bible/Jesus.

    Matthew 12:30 “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.

    Sigh.

  • John Small Berries

    On the other hand, nankay, the Bible also explicitly says:

    “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” (Matthew 6:5-6)

    It’s hilarious to me that the Christians are getting offended at the thought that they might not be able to violate their own religion’s teachings, and that the “freethinker” position adheres more closely to those teachings.

  • Danny Wuvs Kittens

    Parental indoctrination is evolutionary. I understand some of you believe in a “hands off” approach to parenting, letting the child explore the world on their own and not influencing their decisions at all, except perhaps in what you deem to be extreme situations.

    I do not feel the same way. While I don’t have children at the moment, if one of mine got involved in religion, I wouldn’t punish them or make them go to atheist seminars or read atheist books, but I would goddamn sure ask them about their beliefs and try my hardest to deconvert them.

    It makes me sad to see religious people. It makes me sad that so much of their time, effort, suffering, money, and their most precious resource of all, their life, is dedicated to something which does not exist. I do not want anyone to come to this path, but I’ll be damned if I allow anyone close to me to come to it.

    I know that some Christians feel kind of the same way, and I would raise hell if a parent’s right to indoctrinate their children was challenged by the government.

    The young people will decide on their own, eventually. My parents are fundamentalists, and yet, in our modern age of information, I was able to see the fallacy of those beliefs and get rid of them. I think we should fight religion with information for adults and teenagers. Isn’t that how most of the people here de-converted? A book, a video, a comment, a blog post, whatever?

  • mikespeir

    There’s a direct connection between not praying and “little girls running around with their thong panties showing,” don’t you know.

  • muggle

    nankay, why should we give a flying fig what the buybull says? I understand you’re trying to explain their reasoning and not defending your own point of view but there’s absolutely no reason we’ve got to say, well, okay, then. My mother used to rant that she loved blacks (not really, she loved the mammie image from the movies and certain syrups) until she lived amongst them in the projects. Have you any idea how frustrating it was to try and explain to her that blacks aren’t all good and aren’t all bad but just people like us? Trust me, it was a wasted effort but definitely no reason for her stupidity to be catered to.

    Tim, watch your back and be careful. I had a situation like that at work one time and the Christians really got nutty. Pictures of Jesus all hung towards my desk, a sign in the hallway to the ladies’ room that this is either one nation under god or leave it. And times that one coworker by 20, some of which were even worse (loud voiced comments like people without god’s protection better watch themselves if they shortcut through the parking garage as I often did). I don’t know your atmosphere but be careful. I hope it’s just the one that’s such an ass.

    Tim’s point is true though. Not just legal situations (though harrassment is a legal issue) but social and work situations. I know many Christians who are happy to live and let live because they are as proud of our church-state separation as I am but there are others who act as if you’ve personally attack them if you as much as quietly say, “I don’t believe in God” to some tripe that they brought up.

    It really isn’t any wonder that so many nonbelievers stay quiet and closeted. Of course, the fact that they feel they have to is because of the violent reaction not doing so often entails and that reaction does stem from the with us or against us mentality. If you’re not godly, you’re automatically of the devil even if you don’t believe in the devil.

  • Danny Wuvs Kittens

    “Unfortunately, that goes for non-legal situations as well; one of my co-workers (of 3 years) recently had it revealed to them that I was “a Atheist,” and now she (and several other co-workers) get “offended” any time it’s even *mentioned* by my other co-workers that I don’t believe in gods (she also got “offended” when she found out I was reading atheist literature in my free time, instead of The Bible[TM]….because apparently nobody is allowed to read anything besides the Bible, ever). I haven’t said two words about it since it came out, but still I get a ton of passive-aggressive conversion BS. It’s like she just can’t accept the fact that I do not believe her religion; like she’s never met anyone before who didn’t, and she literally has no idea how to deal with it. And somehow now I’m considered “anti-religious.”

    Sad, really.”

    That sucks. I would write her a letter, or email her, or just go up to her in person if you’d rather. Passive aggressiveness in the workplace is never good; they’ll start sabotaging you for sure and they’ll talk about you to everybody else and then that will make other people passive aggressive, and you’ll eventually lose your job. She might not even know what an atheist is, seriously. Richard Wade’s done some good posts on quelling theist discrimination with family members, and this can help with workplace discrimination as well.

    Just make sure and tell her
    -You’re an atheist, include a dictionary definition and explain that you simply don’t believe in God

    -You are not immoral or evil. List some of the morals you have, and explain that you’ve done nothing to her, and she is just doing X, Y and Z because of what you are, not what you’ve done.

    -list the things shes done to you that you know, and the things that you think she’s done to you(and make it clear that you just think she’s doing it).

    -Explain that you don’t want to fight with her, either face to face or behind each other’s backs. Explain that you only have one difference that she dislikes; that you don’t believe in God. Try to be as kind as possible throughout the entire email, and don’t challenge her faith(Don’t say “my morality comes from logic, not some god”).

    If you do this in an email, and she responds angrily, then you’ve got a paper trail you can take higher up(especially if she doesn’t deny the claims). If she apologizes, accept it, and ask if anybody else is resentful to you because you don’t believe in God(the people she’s gossiped to, she’ll either reveal their names, calm them down, or you can just handle the next person who starts treating you poorly).

    Good luck. I know this seems shitty to have to do, but at least you’ll be educating some people, and maybe you can take some discrimination off the next guy.

  • muggle

    Damned straight, Danny. Agree with you 100% down the line.

    In fact, one of the reasons I argue against condemning people for raising their children in their church is because I had to fight so hard to raise mine without church. I always had to defend that position socially. And, yeah, guess what the number one accusation was? Yep, that I was brainwashing her by not indoctrinating her. No, brainwashing her by not brainwashing her doesn’t make sense to me either. But that’s what I got a lot.

    My grandson has recently taken a liking to The Who’s “I’m Free”. My daughter asked me to list songs for retirement so she could do a mix for the car instead of just always playing her own music in the car. I included this song in it. Grandson loved it and periodically breaks out with a burst of “I’m free” and asked to see the You-Tube.

    No way we’d let him watch Tommy since he’s only seven but the clip of the song from Tommy’s okay and he loves it and is amused at the scenes of Tommy swimming through the pool then running through various different scenarios. Like kids do, keeps asking to have the video replayed. He had five minutes to spare after getting ready for school this morning and asked for it then asked, “Is he free of the water?”

    I said, “No, he’s free of religion.” (Song has these two lines that I love: “freedom tastes of reality” and “no one had the guts to leave the temple.”) “Like Grammy and Mommy,” then I smiled at him and said, “And, hopefully, you but that’s up to you.”

    If that’s brainwashing, so be it. I call that dialogue and honestly answering my grandson. I do hope he grows up to be free of religion and will do everything in my power to see that he does. The only way I screwed up is in not including Daddy because his father is also Atheist.

    Frankly, if it’s ever termed child abuse to take your kid to church or teach them about god, how can it not be also illegal to tell them there is no god? And how can either position not interfere not only with freedom of religion but also free speech? If parents are squelched from sharing their ideas with their children, that’s not freedom, that’s oppression.

    Of course, they should be interfered with if it rises to physical or sexual abuse such as we’ve seen so much of lately with exorcisms, letting kids die because of not seeking medical care, justifying beating your kids biblically and the cults (sects) that practice polygamy and forcing girls into “marriage” at early ages. But just sharing faith, short of physical abuse, while it’s horrible and I did hate the hellfire scare tactics when I was a kid, no. It would curtail too many freedoms.

  • Hazor

    “Everybody is offended by something,” she said. “I’m offended by a lot of those little girls running around with their thong panties showing, but I can’t make that go away.”

    Is this happening in the school? She could make that go away by pushing for a dress code. That’s not unconstitutional.

    It’s really not just about offending people, it’s also a matter of what is legal.

  • http://www.meaningwithoutgodproject.blogspot.com Jeffrey A. Myers

    I’m always struck by the fact that Christians feel so beset on all sides despite the fact that they are in the absolute majority and control virtually every level of the political process.

    Is their vanuted Faith so weak that it cannot survive without constant reinforcement and mollycoddling? It’s pathetic.

  • nankay

    I’m not defending their stance at all! I was just pointing out where (possibly) the idea of if you are not actively pro-Christian you are AGAINST them.

  • Edmond

    What the hell is a “Christian” flag?

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    What the hell is a “Christian” flag?

    It’s this. They even made up a pledge to go with it.

  • Robert W.

    I really do like it when atheists quote Matthew 6:6 for the idea that praying in private is somehow the only way Christians are supposed to pray.

    The verse is not about that at all. It is about Jesus teaching people not to be hypocritical and used the example of people praying in public so that people will see them pray and not in sincere prayer.

    Jesus was not opposed to public prayer (Matthew 18) and the early church clearly got together to pray in public and together. (Acts 1:14, 2:42, 6:4, 12:5, 16:3).

    So please just quit saying that this verse supports your position that there should never be public prayer.

  • Richard Wade

    Tim,
    I strongly suggest that you document everything you’re experiencing at work.
    Keep a detailed history of this. Write down every remark, with names and dates, the setting and the names of any witnesses. Copy every email, and save every piece of paper pertaining to this stuff. Keep it all in a separate file at home, not at work. Copy it to a CD or flash drive and keep it separate from your computer.

    Why should you do all this?

    Because while right now you’re showing remarkable patience and forbearance, it’s very likely going to get worse. Your patience and forbearance will not be honored by them. They will simply get more comfortable with higher levels of harassment. Eventually it will reach your threshold and you’ll want to fight back, and you’ll have ammunition.

    If you think that you can take it, well perhaps you can, but you won’t be the only person who has to face that crap at your workplace. Once these bigots get into the habit with you, they’ll feel just fine about doing it to anybody else who doesn’t fit their narrow criteria. It will become part of the workplace culture there. While you may be patient and tough, you’ll be allowing it to grow and harm others who may not have your fortitude.

  • Richard Wade

    Robert W,

    So please just quit saying that this verse supports your position that there should never be public prayer.

    I don’t hear anyone saying that “there should never be public prayer.” Praying in public is not the same as using a public institution to promote prayer. If you want to pray on the street corner, hey, knock yourself out. Just don’t broadcast your prayer on the loudspeakers at a public school. I’m sure you can understand the difference.


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