Free Speech is a Civil Right: IRS and the Freedom from Religion Foundation Disagree

Free speech is a civil right bumper sticker

So … we’ve got an organization whose sole purpose is to drive religious expression from the public sphere by the use of threats of legal action and harassment.

This organization files a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service and demands that the IRS join them in their harassment of religious people by “monitoring” churches for possible violations of IRS rules. In this instance, what they were suing about was the so-called “Johnson Amendment” to the IRS code.

The Johnson Amendment is the basis for the IRS rule that preachers may not endorse candidates from the pulpit if they are to receive tax-free status. The IRS rule itself is quite specific and narrow. Neither it nor the Johnson Amendment were intended to become the dreadnought by which churches are harassed and bullied in order to keep them from speaking out on moral issues. But that is exactly what has happened.

Groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation routinely conflate the Johnson Amendment with a limitation on First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and religion, including freedom of speech in religion. They harass, bully and intimidate Christians all over the country with threats of lawsuits.  I say Christians because I am not aware of them doing this to other faiths.

It seems obvious to me that they are using the Johnson Amendment as a lever to try to destroy the moral and prophetic voice of Christianity, not only in the public sphere, but from the pulpit, as well.

The Internal Revenue Service of the United States government settled this latest lawsuit by agreeing to become the FFRF’s hammer to beat down on free speech in the pulpit. They didn’t say this in so many words. What they agreed to do was to single out groups based on whether or not they are faith (read that Christian) organizations and “monitor” what their pastors preach for possible violations of the IRS code. If that is not a deliberately chilling government surveillance for the purpose of limiting free speech, what is?

It is particularly salient that the Freedom From Religion Foundation is not just trying to stop churches from endorsing candidates for political office; it is also claiming that they violate the Johnson Amendment when they discuss legislation or political issues. Abortion is a political issue. Gay marriage is a political issue. The genocide in the Middle East is a political issue. Corporatism, the environment, divorce, pornography, sex trafficking, prostitution, taxes, jobs and most everything else in America is a political issue.

We are Americans, which means that we are political people. We have what is purported to be a government of, by and for the people, which means at its root that governmental matters belong to us to cuss, discuss, slice and dice however we choose. That should include every segment of our society, including the pulpit.

If we are also Christians, then our faith guides us in everything we do. Jesus Christ is the Lord of our lives. We try to follow the Gospels in everything. Our faith leaders have not just a right, they have a responsibility to lead us in the Gospel paths of living.

There is no line for Americans between themselves and their politics for the simple reason that our politics, and our government, are us. Our beliefs are legitimately pertinent to political debate because we are the government.

What this lawsuit by the FFRF — and other actions to censor and stifle religious discussion, opinions and activism —  amount to is an attempt to censor and silence a whole set of ideas. This lawsuit is a blatant push to silence people that the FFRF disagrees with by the use of government surveillance of selected groups, coupled with the threat of government action against those groups, and the government is going along with it. 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is using the IRS to censor speech in the pulpit. This is not an attempt to drive Christianity from the pubic square through bullying. It is a direct mis-use of government power to silence free speech among a whole class of citizens because another group of citizens does not like what they are saying.

The IRS is going to “monitor” churches to see if the clergy talks about anything more pertinent to our daily lives than, say, Isaac blessing Jacob instead of Esau, for the purpose of hauling them up before the Man. It is as simple as that.

From New American:

The Internal Revenue Service continues to extend its already vast overreach, this time by agreeing to monitor church sermons as part of an agreement the government made on July 17 with the aggressively atheistic Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Freedom Outpost reported, “The Internal Revenue Service settled a lawsuit brought by the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The 2012 lawsuit was settled after the IRS agreed to monitor what is said in houses of worship, something that is a clear violation of the First Amendment, since no law can be written by Congress to this effect.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Wisconsin, brought the suit against the IRS, asserting that the group had been ignoring complaints that churches were violating their tax-exempt statuses. According to the group’s suit, churches promote political issues, legislation, and candidates from the pulpit.

FFRF asserted, “Pulpit Freedom Sunday … has become an annual occasion for churches to violate the law with impunity. The IRS, meanwhile, admittedly was not enforcing the restrictions against churches.”

FFRF claims that the churches are acting in violation of the 1954 Johnson Amendment, which states that non-profits cannot endorse candidates.

A 2009 court ruling determined that the IRS must staff someone to monitor church politicking, but the Freedom From Religion Foundation claims that the IRS has not been adhering to the ruling.

Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom and head of the Pulpit Initiative, told LifeSiteNews that “the IRS has no business censoring what a pastor preaches from the pulpit.” Stanley states that his organization is currently “attempting to bring the era of IRS censorship and intimidation to an end by challenging the Johnson Amendment, which imposes unconstitutional restrictions on clergy speech.”

He contends that churches should not have to choose between tax-exempt status and freedom of speech. “No one would suggest a pastor give up his church’s tax-exempt status if he wants to keep his constitutional protection against illegal search and seizure or cruel and unusual punishment,” he said.

Stanley insists that not only would it be unfair for churches to have to choose between one or the other, but that “churches are automatically tax exempt out of recognition that the surest way to destroy the free exercise of religion is to begin taxing it.” “Churches are constitutionally entitled to a tax exemption and that exemption cannot be conditioned on the surrender of constitutional rights.”

In celebration of its victory with the IRS, the Freedom From Religion Foundation issued a press release wherein it outlined its win:

The IRS has now resolved the signature authority issue necessary to initiate church examinations. The IRS also has adopted procedures for reviewing, evaluating and determining whether to initiate church investigations. While the IRS retains “prosecutorial” discretion with regard to any individual case, the IRS no longer has a blanket policy or practice of non-enforcement of political activity restrictions as to churches.

The press release also acknowledges, however, that the judge in the case could not order immediate action since a moratorium has been placed on the investigations by the IRS of tax exempt groups after the 2013 scandal in which the IRS was found to have been targeting Christian and conservative groups.

Satanists Want to Put Satan Statue on Oklahoma Capitol Grounds. (Lotsa Luck)

I are not too swift, as we say in the Oklahoma hills where I was born. (Hat tip to Woody Guthrie.)

I had never heard of Baphomet. But my colleague Max Lindenman (who is not afflicted with dumb Okie-ism) immediately noticed that the proposed statue of satan which a group of satanists want to place on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol looks a lot more like Baphomet than the angel of darkness.

Me, I was still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes and trying to digest the fact that satanists really want to put a statue of satan at the Oklahoma capitol. Their reason? According to an Associated Press story that reader Marcelle Bartolo-Abella sent me, they feel it belongs next to the plaque with the Ten Commandments on it.

I actually know the reporter, Sean Murphy, who wrote the AP story, and since we’re an insular lot down Okie way, that makes me think the story is not just a reprint from The Onion. It’s amazing how often these stories about atheists/satanists and their bizarre behavior come across as a comedy routine at first.

According to Mr Murphy’s story, we’ve also got a sign out there somewhere on the prairie telling unbelievers that they are “not alone.”

I place this satan-statue-on-the-Oklahoma-capitol-grounds idea in the same intellectual box where I keep my momentos from the Freedom from Religion crowd’s Keep Saturn in Saturnalia Christmas sign (which, according to some reports was “almost” burned down, an almost crime that led to the usual denunciations of “Christian bigots” in atheist circles.) It’s just great adolescent fun to go in your face with Christians, especially when you can do it in a way that demonstrates how you are guided by “rational thought” and such.

Despite it’s onion-esq quality, I wouldn’t be surprised if the statue question ends up in court.

I have already had quite a few suggestions concerning what to do about this statue, should it be erected on the capitol grounds. My favorite comes from a Catholic Patheosi colleague and involves me, the Rosary and outraged satanists.

I keep thinking about what my constituents would do. They don’t suffer fools, my constituents. A few years ago, pro abortion people tried to get a hate-on going against me by distributing scurrilous fliers to the good people of District 89, accusing me of various things. The pro abortion people never admitted this, but I know for a fact that they got jumped out pretty good. They were accosted and called names. One lady followed them down the street, yelling at them to get out of there and go back where they came from. (And she’s pro choice!)

Okies don’t like being meddled with. It’s not so much a matter of philosophy, as it is that we think we’re capable of making up our own minds without a bunch of outsiders coming in and trying to do it for us.

I’m not so sure that a statue of satan on the capitol grounds would have a long life, even if it went up. I don’t think the legislature would let it stand. I also think the public outrage would be protracted and heartfelt. Okies are peaceable people who don’t mind you believing whatever you want. That’s your business. But getting in people’s faces in the Oklahoma hills where I was born is a high insult. It’s not too swift.

Whaddaya think? Is it Satan …

Proposed statue for Oklahoma capitol grounds. Source: Associated Press

… or Baphomet?

Source: Wikipedia, via Max Lindenman

Court Says Priests Must Pay Income Tax on the Rectory

My priest makes a salary.

It qualifies him for food stamps, medicaid and government housing.

Thanks to a lawsuit brought by our friends at the Freedom From Religion Foundation and a legislating-from-the-bench judge, the courts are now going to have to decide if priests and other clergy should pay income taxes on the privilege of living in the Church rectory. Judge Barbara Crabb issued a ruling that would require clergy of every type and denomination to have their stay in church rectories taxed as income.

That means my priest would have to pay income taxes on the rectory.

Of course, since Father’s grandiose salary qualifies him for free government housing, we could always just move him in there. It’s not too cushy, but there is an exciting mix of truly needy people, drug dealers, ex-offenders and pimps. He’ll have to learn how to sleep through the nightly gunfire and the screams and shouts from daily assaults, but he did a tour in Viet Nam before he entered the priesthood, so he’s trained for it.

Maybe Father can stop wasting his time saying mass and funerals, hearing confessions and administering our parish and turn his attention to the mission field of his new neighborhood. That will leave the parish somewhat forsaken. But it’s all about Freedom From Religion anyway, so what’s the beef?

My parish will now be free from our religion.

Nifty.

If this ruling is upheld in higher courts, I am wondering if the next move will be to make members of religious orders pay income tax for the privilege of living in their convents and monasteries. How about those military chaplains who live in base housing? This ruling doesn’t just apply to Catholics. It takes in protestant ministers, rabbis, imams, Native American shamans, and probably witches, as well.

The last time I checked, deciding who gets tax exemptions is the business of legislative bodies. Not only did this judge, who has ruled previously that the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional, set off across the uncharted seas of lawmaking by judicial fiat, she is attempting to shift the taxing powers of the elected representatives of the people to the judiciary.

There is a reason that the framers of the Constitution placed taxing power and budget matters squarely in the hands of elected representatives. The reason is simple. The people can retire their elected representatives to private life at the next election.

But we’re stuck with judges. The trouble is that a lot of judges aren’t judges anymore. They seem to view themselves as appointed monarchs who can use their position to make anyone they don’t like, in the words of Henry VIII, “shorter by a head.” Or, as in this case, they can make them shorter by a rectory.

These judges have left the bench behind and taken on judicial dictatorship. They rule according to their personal prejudices in order to make law with a rap of the gavel. This has become so widespread that it is, in itself, something of a challenge to our democracy.

One of the problems is that judges stay on the bench too long. The purpose of giving judges a life-long sinecure was to create a judiciary that was free of political pressures. It was a balance of power. The elected representatives would appoint judges and the judges themselves would not have to stand for election, but would be able to rule without the pressure to heed passing public moods.

It worked quite well until the 20th Century when the Supreme Court woke up and realized, hey, we can do anything we want.

There has been a considerable (if you will pardon the phrase) trickle down from the Supreme Court to lower courts of this understanding that the judiciary is not required to follow the laws of anyone and can, in fact, make law according to its whim, prejudices and personal vendettas. If a judge gets a hate-on going for a particular part of the populace, like, say, religious people, then you’d better get back Loretta. Those nutty, individualistic and flat-out discriminatory rulings will start popping up like popcorn in the microwave.

We’re having trouble in this country with the second-rate people we’ve got at the top. Whether it’s elected officials (of both parties), the judiciary (appointees of both parties), or the people who are running our finance, media and corporate wings, they appear to be all about changing the face of this country into something that serves their greed, prejudices and various venalities.

How should we respond to these challenges?

Pope Francis is showing us the way. We should respond with love, faithfulness to the whole Gospel of Christ and by walking the Christian walk without being afraid of our critics or changing our message to suit them.

If Father has to move to government housing, we won’t despair. We’ll just say mass there and do what we should have been doing anyway, which is to work to convert the drug dealers and pimps to follow Him, along with us.

From Huff Post:

(RNS) A federal judge has ruled that an Internal Revenue Service exemption that allows clergy to shield a portion of their salary from federal income taxes is unconstitutional.

The clergy housing exemption applies to an estimated 44,000 ministers, priests, rabbis, imams and others. If the ruling stands, some clergy members could experience an estimated 5 to 10 percent cut in take-home pay.

The suit was filed by the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation on grounds that the housing allowance violates the separation of church and state and the constitutional guarantee of equal protection. The group’s founders have said that if tax-exempt religious groups are allowed a housing subsidy, other tax-exempt groups, such as FFRF, should get one, too.

U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb on Friday (Nov. 22) ruled in their favor, saying the exemption “provides a benefit to religious persons and no one else, even though doing so is not necessary to alleviate a special burden on religious exercise.”

The case, decided in the District Court for the Western District Of Wisconsin, will likely be appealed to the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers the states of Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.

The housing allowances of pastors in Wisconsin remain unaffected after Crabb stayed the ruling until all appeals are exhausted. Crabb also ruled in 2010 that the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional; that ruling was overturned the following year.

Valedictorian Rips Up Approved Speech, Recites Lord’s Prayer, Instead

Bible and chains the evanglical fellowship of canada 121109 article We’re all going to have to start doing things like this.  it’s not a question of forcing someone else to follow our Lord Jesus. It’s whether or not we will allow others to stop us from following Him.

The story began when the American Civil Liberties Union managed to find time in their heavy schedule of advocating for abortion, polygamy, gay marriage and euthanasia to send threatening letters to every school district in South Carolina, warning them of possible lawsuits if they were caught praying in public. The illustrious Freedom From Religion Foundation cranked up their word processor up in Wisconsin and followed through with threats of their own.

The Pickens Country School District, which is in South Carolina, responded to these threats by ending all invocations at all school functions. They replaced the prayer at graduation exercises with a moment of silence.

Pickins County high school valedictorian Roy Costner IV dutifully wrote a secular valedictory speech, which was approved before the graduation exercises by school officials.

He began his valedictory remarks by starting to deliver the approved speech. But a few minutes into it, he tore the speech up and made extemporaneous remarks, praising his parents for teaching him his religious faith and concluding by reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

Vineoflife.netdescribes it this way:

“Those that we look up to, they have helped carve and mold us into the young adults that we are today,” he said. “I’m so glad that both of my parents led me to the Lord at a young age.”
“And I think most of you will understand when I say…” he continued, surprising the crowd with what came next.
“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name,” Costner declared. “Thy Kingdom come…”

As attendees realized that Costner was reciting the Lord’s Prayer, applause began to break out in the colliseum. Within seconds, the applause was accompanied by loud cheers.

“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” he continued. “For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”

The crowd again broke into cheers and applause as Costner concluded, and one faculty member sat smiling behind him.

“I think it took a lot of courage to do that,” attendee Logan Gibson told reporters. “People were supportive that he stood up for what he believed in.”

(Pickens County School District spokesman John) Eby said that the district will not be taking any action against Costner.

“The bottom line is, we’re not going to punish students for expressing their religious faiths,” he stated. “He’s a graduate now. There’s nothing we can do about it, even if we wanted to.”

I think it’s time for Christians everywhere in this country to consider doing things like this. These bullying organizations can threaten to sue individual school districts and other entities. But there are at least 180 million practicing Christians in this country who attend church on a regular basis. They can’t sue all of us.

Follow me

Mind you, I am not in any way advocating that we try to force anyone to join us. If they don’t believe, that’s their choice. If they are afraid, that’s their fear. But if you believe in Jesus and you’ve got the guts to say so, then do say so. You may get some rough treatment for saying it. But don’t be afraid of that. Anyone who reviles you for Jesus’ sake is giving you the Kingdom of Heaven. Instead of being afraid of them, you probably should thank them.

 

http://youtu.be/1nIr4zBz18E

Ohio School District Defies Freedom From Religion Foundation

It isn’t civil disobedience. It’s disobedience of bullies with a word processor.

Refuse to let them tell you what to do.

That’s all it takes to stand up to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the self-appointed United States Supreme Court in absentia who rains down threatening letters on unsuspecting government officials at laser printer speed.

Just don’t do what they tell you to do.

A case in point is the Jackson Country School District in Ohio. They’ve decided to keep a portrait of Jesus right where it is, despite receiving their personal copy of the ubiquitous FFF threat.

The Christian Post article describing this situation reads in part:

By Anugrah Kumar , Christian Post Contributor
January 12, 2013|2:55 pm

Hundreds of community members hailed a school district in Ohio for deciding to let a portrait of Jesus Christ stay at the hallway of a middle school, which was threatened with a lawsuit by Freedom From Religion Foundation.

“I’m certainly not going to run down there and take the picture down because some group from Madison, Wis. who knows nothing about the culture of our community or why the picture is even there, wants me to take it down,” Jackson County School District Superintendent Phil Howard told WKKJ.

In a Jan. 2 letter to the district, the FFRF demanded the portrait, which hangs in the Jackson Middle School building, be removed, saying it is unconstitutional government endorsement of Christianity.

Howard said the portrait – placed in 1947 by a local chapter of the Young Men’s Christian Association – is one of several displays in the school’s Hall of Honor. “We’re not violating the law and the picture is legal because it has historical significance. It hasn’t hurt anyone.”
Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/jesus-portrait-to-stay-at-ohio-school-defying-atheist-demands-88147/#XigDdUag7uk2vOat.99

HHS Mandate Loses Big in District Court

Things are looking up in a couple of areas.

One Michigan Christian who wouldn’t stop fighting won in local court against the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Two Christian colleges won in Federal Appeals Court against the HHS Mandate.

I’m sure the HHS Mandate ruling will be appealed, but the cases are slowly turning our way on this terrible mandate. Say your prayers that this trend continues all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Becket Fund article describing the HHS Mandate victory reads in part:

Federal Appeals Court Hands Victory to Religious

Colleges, Commands HHS to Act Quickly to Fix

Mandate

Image: Federal Appeals Court Hands Victory to Religious Colleges, Commands HHS to Act Quickly to Fix Mandate

 

For Immediate Release: December 18, 2012
Media Contact: Emily Hardman, 202.349.7224

Washington, D.C. — Today, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. handed Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey College a major victory in their challenges to the HHS mandate.  Last summer, two lower courts had dismissed the Colleges’ cases as premature.  Today, the appellate court reinstated those cases, and ordered the Obama Administration to report back every 60 days—starting in mid-February—until the Administration makes good on its promise to issue a new rule that protects the Colleges’ religious freedom.  The new rule must be issued by March 31, 2013.

“The D.C. Circuit has now made it clear that government promises and press conferences are not enough to protect religious freedom,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who argued the case.  “The court is not going to let the government slide by on non-binding promises to fix the problem down the road.” (Read more here.)

Just a little something to cheer your souls …

The Nativity display in Warren, Mich. after it was installed by John Satawa on Dec. 15, 2012. Credit: Thomas More Law Center.

Warren, Mich., Dec 18, 2012 / 04:01 am (CNA).- A 67-year-old tradition of placing a nativity scene on a public median in Warren, Mich. has been re-established after a four-year legal battle involving the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

“John Satawa was persistent enough to follow through,” CNA was told Dec. 17 by Richard Thompson, president of Thomas More Law Center, which represented Satawa, the crèche’s caretaker.

Satawa is “an individual citizen who was not going to disappear silently into the night, but was going to fight the decision of the road commission to maintain this tradition that had been going on since 1945,” Thompson said.

The crèche was erected again Dec. 15 by Satawa, his family and friends, and local Boy Scouts, after the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decided in his favor on Aug. 1.

While the nativity scene was being erected, Warren police controlled traffic as well-wishers gathered, carolers sang Christmas songs, a priest from nearby St. Anne’s Catholic Church blessed the display and passing motorists sounded their horns in approval.

In 2008 the Macomb County Road Commission received a letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation objecting to a private citizen placing a nativity scene on a 60-foot-wide median.

They claimed the crèche violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment, and the county immediately ordered the display removed.

Satawa had gotten permission for the crèche several times, and in 1995 the local police department finally gave him a blanket permission to erect it in the future, so that he would not feel it necessary to ask again.

On March 9, 2009, after receiving the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s letter, a highway engineer for Macomb County, Robert Hoepfner, wrote to Satawa denying him a permit to resurrect the manger scene and only citing reasons related to the establishment clause for the denial.

Satawa then sued the Macomb County Road Commission for violating his rights under the establishment and free speech clauses of the First Amendment, and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The district court found in favor of the county, but its decision was reversed by an appeals court. (Read the rest of the story here.)

It’s That Time Again: Atheist Cranks Put Up Another of Their Annual Anti-Christmas Displays

Who reads the Bible more than the President of the Southern Baptist Convention?

Atheists.

Who talks about Jesus more than the Pope?

Atheists.

Who worries constantly about the fact that somebody, somewhere, might be enjoying Christmas?

Atheists.

Who misquotes the Bible and misapplies those quotes more than Archie Bunker?

Atheists.

In their annual campaign to ruin Christmas for the rest of us, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has somehow or other persuaded the government of Wisconsin to allow them to use the Wisconsin state capitol to promote their bizarro view of the world. The post, Tis the Season: Atheists stage “alternative” Nativity scene, by Deacon Greg Kandra who blogs here at Patheos at The Deacon’s Bench describes one of the many spitballs these folks throw in this annual Grinchfest. The article reads in part:

Atheists, clearly agitated that Christians purportedly “stole” various holiday traditions from pagans, have come up with a solution: A potentially-offensive “natural nativity scene” that removes baby Jesus and replaces traditional Bible characters with some eyebrow-raising alternatives. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is behind the spectacle , which emerged this week as part of a diorama inside the Wisconsin state capitol.
The angel that typically graces the nativity is replaced with an astronaut. And the wise-men – prominent figures in the Biblical account of Jesus’ birth — are replaced with evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin, scientist Albert Einstein, anarchist Emma Goldman and author Mark Twain. The Statue of Liberty is also placed in the alternative nativity to purportedly symbolize freedom.
Rather than including Mary, whom the FFRF dismisses as “a mythical fertility figure,” the display includes Venus, the Roman goddess of love. And forget about Joseph — this depiction has Thomas Jefferson, a figure atheist groups enjoy touting for his purported church versus state views. According to the FFRF, Jefferson “would have disavowed Christian devotional scenes on state property.” (Read more here.)

My first thought on reading this is one I often have when I encounter the antics of these people: They don’t sound like adults.

My second thought is another one that I often have when dealing with them: They are obsessed with what they claim they don’t believe. I don’t know of any other group as obsessive, compulsive, negative and, finally, boring as evangelical atheists. Did I forget rude? Forgive me. I don’t know any other group of people as rude as evangelical atheists.

I don’t believe any saint in history thought about Christ and his Church as much as these people do. Based on their public utterances, they must think about Him 24/7. I would guess that when they aren’t out posting repetitive insults on Christian blogs and dreaming up equally insulting slogans to put on buses and in dioramas at Christmas, they must be perusing the Scriptures, looking for verses to take out of context and use for spears to hurl in their various attacks.

I was never a full and absolute atheist, but I did spend 17 years of my young life in an all-out anti-religion mode. I was probably more anti-God in my way than these people are. The difference is I was good at it. I didn’t spend my days obsessing over God. I didn’t read the Scriptures. I didn’t insult anybody. I just didn’t care. I left Christians alone in much the same way that I don’t now go busting into Free Thinkers’ meetings to razz at them. They’ve got a right to think what they want. And I don’t care.

You see, that’s what unbelief, or in my case, rejection, actually looks like. You don’t obsess over what you don’t believe. These people are odd. And they’re really negative and nasty in the things they say. I’ve said this before, but what they remind me of are adolescents who are searching frantically for significance. I think the reason they spend so much time driving the rest of us bonkers is because it makes them feel special and important.

All I know for sure is that Christmas 2012 is just around the corner, which makes it time for the cable networks to trot out their annual Christmas specials complete with “experts” to dismember the Nativity Story. It’s also time for the various atheist groups to file lawsuits in an attempt to suppress and oppress any ideas but theirs. Along with that they’ll treat us to ridiculous “Christmas” displays like the one in Wisconsin.

As for me, I’m just beginning Advent, which, unlike this nonsense, is a serious spiritual season. I have much to repent of, much to pray about and much to learn during this time. I don’t think I’m going to let the annual atheist attempt to ruin Christmas for everybody else distract me.

Atheists to Obama: Remove ‘So Help Me God’ From Oath of Office

President Barack Obama, official portrait

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent the following letter to President Obama two days after his re-election.

Among other things, they asked the president to remove the words “so help me God” from the presidential oath of office and to not place his hand on a Bible while taking the oath. They supported this demand with the interesting assertion that the words “so help me God” are unconstitutional since they “alienate the demographic elected officials must rely on in the coming years,” meaning, I assume, atheists.

This odd claim that it is unconstitutional to “alienate” unbelievers is only slightly more arrogant than the rest of the letter.

If you want a good summary of why Christians need to stop being so cavalier about their faith, read this letter.

November 8, 2012

President Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

Congratulations on your re-election. I write to respectfully ask you to re-examine the use of religion as a political tool in your second term as President. The November election highlights the country’s rapidly shifting demographics. The electorate’s religious affiliation is changing more quickly than any other metric, including race. In 1990, 8% of Americans were nonreligious. When you were elected in 2008, 15% of Americans identified as nonreligious. Now that number is 20%.

More strikingly, 1-in-3 Americans under 30 now identify as nonreligious. This is the demographic that, by a wide margin, elected you in 2008 and again in 2012. It is the 30-and-unders who are our greatest supporters and are the future of this country. Their votes will decide future elections. More and more they are tired of leaders injecting religion into politics.

The shifts towards marriage, sex, and race equality, and the acceptance of non-nuclear families all coincide with the secularization of America. For secular America, religious rhetoric is empty. Religious justifications for government action are hollow arguments invoking an authority that we reject. Politicians often use religion to pander to their base, but we find such rhetoric exclusionary and distasteful.

You called Nov. 5 “the last day that I will ever campaign.” This term limitation is a gift. You are not beholden to any future constituency. This term is a chance to do something that no president in recent memory has done: reach out to secular Americans. In the past, that might have been politically costly.   But this recent election shows that it will be politically costly notto reach out to secular America. We are the future. Use this second term to build a legacy by rejecting the way this country politicizes religion.

You can start on January 21. When you stand to reaffirm your oath, do so using the language of the Founders. Eliminate the religious verbiage. While you’re at it, why not place your hand on the Constitution instead of a bible? The oath, laid out in Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution, is secular (no hand on the bible, no “so help me God”): “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The “so help me God” tradition violates the Constitution in the act of promising to uphold it. The ritual alienates the demographic that elected officials must rely on in the coming years. It excludes the people that put you into office and runs against the wishes of the people that created your office. The Constitution does not mandate religious oaths; it prohibits them.

Use this term to create a legacy worthy of the Founders. Restore the presidential oath to its original form and begin the necessary process of divorcing American politics from religion.

I will never forget the lines of your first inaugural address, recognizing nonbelievers:

We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolvethat as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

 The final tribal allegiance that must dissolve is not sex, or race, or sexual orientation. It is religion.   Private citizens are free to maintain that allegiance if they choose, but it is time our government abandoned it.   Please do not passively wait for a revelation of “our common humanity.” Lead us into that new era of peace and unity by separating politics from the division religion sows.

Start small. Start by honoring the secular intent of the oath. In its altered, religious form, the oath is a symbol of the disregard this country has shown for its Constitution in the name of God. Our once silent minority will no longer remain silent as politicians trample the document we hold sacred —the Constitution. Honor the oath as you recite it on January 21 and lead us into the new era you promised four years ago.

With hope,

Andrew L. Seidel
Attorney
Freedom From Religion Foundation

Freedom From Religion Foundation Takes On Texas Cheerleaders

I just love it when militant secularists pick the wrong opponent. Anyone dumb enough to take on a group of Texas cheerleaders deserves the ensuing fight.

According to an ABC News story, a cheerleading squad at Kountze High School, near Beaumont Texas, were in the habit of holding up banners with Bible verses painted on them at football games.

Enter the Freedom From Religion Foundation of Madison Wisconsin. These folks, with their extraordinary sensitivities, were evidently so outraged at the thought of high school banners 1200 miles away that they felt compelled fire off one of their threatening phone calls to the Beaumont school superintendent.

The superintendent then forced the cheerleaders to stop holding up the banners.

Presumably, this allowed the outraged Wisconsin Freedom From Religion people to go back to sleeping at night, assured that they had stamped out the great banner threat to their goal of ending freedom of speech when they don’t like what’s being said. But they didn’t reckon with who they were dealing with. Evidently cheerleaders in Wisconsin are made of different stuff than they are in Texas. If the FFR people had asked me, I could have told them they were in for a fight.

You don’t mess with Texas.

You really don’t mess with Texas cheerleaders.

The cheerleaders are going to court. The ABC News article says in part:

Texas Cheerleaders Fight Back Over Bible Verses
Ryan Owens (“ABC News,” October 4, 2012)

Cheerleaders in a small East Texas town that worships two things — God and football — are now fighting back after the Bible verses they painted on banners to display at games were banned.

The cheerleading squad at Kountze High School, just north of Beaumont, Texas, would show their support for the team, and also display their religious beliefs, by painting Bible verses on the banners players run through before every game.

“We just wanted to encourage the boys,” one cheerleader said.

The banners apparently offended someone, though, and that unidentified person complained to an atheist group, which argued that the Bible banners amount to a public school’s advocating a particular religion, which is unconstitutional.

“This is not a Christian school and they cannot misuse their authority,” Annie-Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, said.

Ultimately, school superintendent Kevin Weldon forced the cheerleaders to stop using scripture on the banners.

That was when the squad members put down their pompoms and picked up the phone, calling attorney David Starnes, who argues that the banners are not school sponsored.

“It was student led … student initiated,” Starnes said.(Read more here.)


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