Beyond Belief: If Lawmakers Get Their Wish, Islamic Flags and Prayer Banners Will Be a Fixture of Ohio Schools

This eye-popping story is from today’s Columbus Dispatch. I can’t wait for the response from FOX News, Rush Limbaugh, and the fine folks at freerepublic.com.

An Islamic flag and a Muslim prayer banner could be hung prominently in public schools if two state representatives persuade fellow lawmakers to pass the Ohio Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Rep. Tim Derickson, a Republican from Oxford and one of the co-sponsors, called the bill introduced yesterday “a preventive attempt” to block further encroachment on expression of religious freedom. He cited examples such as prohibition of prayer in schools and public places, zoning issues for churches, and public expression of religious faith, such as wearing a Star of David or displaying reverent scenes from the Qur’an.

Asked if the law, had it been in effect, would have affected recent cases where Ohio schools were forced to remove images celebrating Islam, Rep. Bill Patmon, D-Cleveland, said, “You would have a better opportunity of keeping [those pictures] up.”

OK, I did make a few strategic changes to the newspaper’s actual words (and, for good measure, added a little something to the photo).

Here’s the original (real) story:

A portrait of Jesus and prayer could return to public schools if two state representatives persuade fellow lawmakers to pass the Ohio Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Rep. Tim Derickson, a Republican from Oxford and one of the co-sponsors, called the bill introduced yesterday “a preventive attempt” to block further encroachment on expression of religious freedom. He cited examples such as prohibition of prayer in schools and public places, zoning issues for churches, and public expression of religious faith, such as wearing crosses and displaying Nativity scenes.

Asked if the law, had it been in effect, would have affected recent cases where Ohio schools were forced to remove pictures of Jesus, Rep. Bill Patmon, D-Cleveland, said, “You would have a better opportunity of keeping Jesus up.”

I sincerely doubt that anyone in favor of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act would be remotely OK with the hypothetical outcome of my altered text. If that is so, it’s clear that the bill is not really about establishing religious freedom, but about forcing Christian privilege upon everyone. Again.

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • Richard Thomas

    Looks like it’s time to give the Satanic Temple a call!

  • A3Kr0n

    I can’t imagine anyone back in 1776 thinking church and state should be separate considering how many people today have no idea what that means, especially lawmakers. The insight those men had back then was amazing.

    • Artor

      Back in 1776, Cromwell and the Puritans were not far away in history. Many of the Colonies were established specifically to escape religious theocracies, and others were made to establish them. The founders had plenty of experience on the matter to see the value of a church-state separation.

      • Stev84

        The Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies were theocracies. Very strict and brutal ones. There were other colonies that were business ventures, but the Pilgrims and Puritans (there is a difference and they fought each other), came to America to be oppressors themselves. They had all the religious freedom they could want in the Netherlands, but they couldn’t stand that that there were other people around them who influenced their children.

        Rhode Island is the first example of a colony established for religion freedom. By people who fled from the Puritans. That part of American history is rarely taught though. Pennsylvania too by the Quakers, who were especially hated by the Puritans.

        • Artor

          Yup. Pretty much what I said, but thanks for filling in the details.

    • Nemo

      Regarding the Founders, there was a diverse mix of faiths. Patrick Henry would be, today, a very conservative Christian. Patrick Henry, however, was an Antifederalist who really had nothing to do with the Constitution. Jefferson, by contrast, was a deist. He respected some of the teachings of the Jesus character, but he didn’t think Jesus was supernatural.

    • UWIR

      Did you mean to say “should not”? Not that that would make sense, either.

    • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

      The concern at the time of the First Amendment was the Calvinists, which are roughly their version of the Evangelicals.

      If you preach at people – dozens of years ago, or hundreds of years ago, or thousands of years ago – you will annoy a lot of people.

      The people annoyed will probably not be the rabble, but the ones who think for themselves – some might even be revolutionaries.

      They disagreed on many things, but valued the ability to disagree without being locked up for espousing a minority position.

      .

  • http://iamchristianiamanatheist.blogspot.kr/ iamanatheistandthisiswhy

    Again this shows the hypocrisy of the religious. They want their god and only their god shown. They should just flood schools with every possible religious symbol, just to show younger people how dumb religion actually is.

    • bearclover

      Yes, including the recent news about the Satanists who want equal representation.

      • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

        Bring on the Satanists.

        Let is show how evil these Christians are keeping Satan out of our schools.

        Satan has a place of prominence in the Bible, so why exclude him from the schools?

        Are these Christians trying to only pick and choose from the Bible?

        What horrible hypocrites!

        ;-)

  • SeekerLancer

    It’s funny how a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” seems to do the exact opposite.

  • jimlouvier

    There is no prohibition of prayer in schools. Students and teachers are free to pray to themselves all they want. The school and teachers just can’t suggest, sponsor, or lead it. To these people, not being able to force others to abide by their delusions means they are being prevented from practicing it themselves.

  • talkingsnake

    That was actually really effective the way you changed that article, then did the reveal at the bottom. Well played!

  • usclat

    In this age of our Homo sapiens species, I can’t believe that we still must contend with these myths and their believers. I know evolution is a strenuous process but how is it that so many of our species have not evolved “cerebrally”? God(s)? Really? Shit.

    • meekinheritance

      Because they eschew birth control.

      • randomfactor

        They make eschewable birth control these days?

        • talkingsnake

          Yes but you should stay away from it.

  • Rain

    He cited examples such as prohibition of prayer in schools and public places,

    Nobody knows what the hell he means by that. Otherwise known as “equivocation” (or “weasel words” if you are coming from wikipedia.) So if he gets called on it, he has plausible deniability. And if he doesn’t get called on it, then the constituents can think the sky is falling and jump up on the crosses or whatever.

    • Richard Thomas

      Ugh. Can they please jump up on the crosses already?

      • Rain

        Okay but they are fluffy pillow crosses. Posturepedic Fluffy Crosses®.

        • Deus Otiosus

          I give you… The Lay-Z-Savior.

  • Richard Thomas

    I’m posting a link to this story on the FB page of my local Fox affiliate. Let’s see how far it goes, hmm?

  • corhen

    sadly i guessed that was the question

    Would have loved a politician with the gumption to do it though

  • Sam Mdws

    What really offends me is that these professional legislators suck at their job. Do they not know that separation of church and state is a FEDERAL Constitutional right, and mere state statutes can’t do anything to change that. The Constitution is like a heavy weight boxer holding off at arms length a state law like a flailing midget. This isn’t about ideology, it’s about pragmatism.

    • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

      And the Christian majority is like a heavyweight boxer and atheists are like midgets, but talented midgets doing more than flailing.

      .

      • Guest

        The Christian majority is more like a deep pocketed mob boss that pays off the refs (judges) to rule in favor of the illegal state laws.

  • UWIR

    I understand how you think that your point is more effective if you wait for the end for the reveal, but it is a rather deceptive tactic, and one that is employed rather frequently on this blog.

    • Pitabred

      Deception? That’s silly. It’s a counterexample. If it was deception, it’d be on Fox News.

    • Armanatar

      It’s no more deceptive than any piece of satire, and arguably much less so. It is literally impossible to read the (rather short, so no excuses) article and believe that Terry’s version is the true sequence of events. It illustrates the point effectively, and if you are deceived for the minute or two it takes to get to the big reveal, that is a harmless necessity intended to put the boot on the other shoe and expose the inherent hypocrisy in such a law being billed as protecting religious freedom.

    • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

      The reason it is used is that so few Christians seem to realize that this is the way religious equality works.

      Much of what is written here is for atheists and religious people.

      If Christians would understand this simple concept, then it would not need to be addressed over and over and over and . . . .

      But I repeat myself – Oh, yeah – that is the point.

      .

  • Paul Zimmerle

    You neglect to mention that this law promotes activities which are explicitly against the Federal Constitution. It can’t last.

    • Derrik Pates

      Like that would stop them from wasting taxpayers’ time and money on it.

    • Opinionated Catholic

      You know looking at the article I thought perhaps it was going into areas that were problematic too. However when I look at the actual text of the law I am not seeing some of the things mentioned or alluded to in the article http://www.ccvaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Ohio-Religious-Freedom-Restoration-Act1.pdf

      • alconnolly

        I read the bill. It would be close to fine if instead of “religious freedom
        restoration act” it would just say “freedom to abide by conscience act”
        and instead of “acting from sincerely held religious belief” it said
        “acting from the dictates of ones conscience” or something like that.
        Then a court would not have to weigh in on what is religious, what is
        sincerely held belief etc. Any time a court must weigh in on that issue
        it must “establish religion” in order to include and exclude certain
        beliefs under the definition. Even then it still seems that it is a catchall “laws don’t apply to me” law that requires courts enter peoples individual conscience. The upside is that it would help if one is charged with crimes for civil disobedience.

  • Opinionated Catholic

    It is a pretty good bill . I suspect it might be tweaked a tad . Here is the text version of the actual wording http://www.ccvaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Ohio-Religious-Freedom-Restoration-Act1.pdf

    There is no doubt some people that want rights and are not too thrilled too those rights extend to others. We see this for instance as Free Speech issues and its offenders are conservative , liberals , democrats Republicans believers and non believers. That certaintly does not make all actions rpomoting Free Speech and related items ” suspect ” .

  • GusSnarp

    That picture is perfect. It really makes plain how wrong that Jesus painting hanging there was, and how hollow the excuses for it were.

  • Fallulah

    They just don’t get it.


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