Michael Egnor: Champion of the Red Herrings

The contents of this post reflect the opinions of JT Eberhard, not the Secular Student Alliance.

Jesus Fictional Christ, could there be more red herrings in Egnor’s challenge?

There was a law established, the Establishment Clause, prohibiting the mingling of church and state. I know you don’t agree with that decision Mike, but it stands despite your opinion. That law is affirmed in decades of court cases. The school broke that law. In this case, the only relevant question is if they broke that established law.

No, NO, NO!  Nothing else whatsoever.  Virtually all of Egnor’s questions focus on shit that has no bearing whatsoever on the case.  There is only one question:  Did the mural break established law?  The man with the authority to make that decision said, “Yes, without a doubt it does.”  End of story.  All of the rest of Egnor’s questions are jerking off.

Moving on…

Do atheists have a Constitutional right not to see religious expression with which they disagree?

Implying that this case was about that.  It’s not.  It’s about the government getting intermixed with religion.  Stay focused, Mike.

Egnor is also implying that this judgment (and the laws that make it an easy judgment) somehow keeps religious people from expressing their religion.  I want to make this perfectly clear since Mike has shown himself to be very poor at reading…

 

Nobody is stopping them!

 

They can pray, they can attend whatever church they like, they can proselytize.  The list goes on.  What they cannot do is have the state endorse their religion.

As long as the state isn’t endorsing religion, people can do whatever the fuck they want.  Stop pretending like they can’t.

Egnor asks…

Is mandatory civic atheism– the court-ordered erasure of religious expression from civic life– effectively an Establishment of atheism? If not, what would constitute an Establishment of atheism? Give examples. Be specific, please.

Good god, can Egnor hear himself?

Egnor thinks taking down a prayer mural is mandatory civic atheism?  Give me a fucking break!  Is somebody giving out medals for being the most disingenuous person on the planet?  The government is not erasing religion: look at all the churches in your town!  You know what would establish atheism?  Hanging a banner in a government building that read:

Remember to do your best because there’s no god helping us.

That would establish atheism, and it’d be just as illegal as a banner saying the same with language eluding to the Christian god.  Do you think the Christians would be convinced by the argument “Can’t the religious students just look the other way?”  Of course not, and they’d be 100% right to be pissed off.

What’s more, this idea of “Just turn your head if you don’t want to see something illegal” is asinine in the extreme.  There is something fundamentally wrong with forcing a captive audience to be exposed to something that is well established as illegal. I am astonished that anyone, no matter how indoctrinated in a religion they are, could possibly fail to understand something so simple.  Or at least I used to be astonished until it started happening over and over and over and over…

Also, if “the court-ordered erasure of religious expression from civic life” has indeed occurred, then how can Egnor also state in his series of irrelevant questions (or, as Egnor calls it, a “challenge”) that “Many prayers and religious statements are displayed on National Monuments (Lincoln Memorial, Supreme Court, Jefferson Memorial, etc)”?  You can’t have it both ways, Mike.  Which way do you want it?

“What article and section of the Constitution cedes to the judiciary the authority to mandate civic atheism?”

None.  See above.  However, Egnor wants to posit that refusal to promote religion equals atheism.  It doesn’t. Neutrality does not equal promotion of anything.  Egnor has surely had this explained to him (or could’ve read it in the judge’s decision if he’d been willing to educate himself), and yet we keep getting the same insipid questions.

“When government-sponsored artists or museums display work that is insulting to Christianity (e.g. Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ or Chris Ofili’s dung-covered vulva-festooned Virgin Mary), does that violate the First Amendment’s prohibition on government entanglement with religion?”

As long as what is being shown is legal, then, no.  The prayer banner in the Ahlquist case was illegal. Christians do not have a right to not be insulted or offended. When these artworks are shown, are they promoting atheism?  Do they somehow say “There are no gods?”  Do they promote Islam?  Do they promote Zoroastrianism?  Are they being shown to the exclusion of anything religious?

“According to the second “prong” of the Lemon test, government may not act in a way that primarily advances or inhibits religion. Can you name one lawsuit filed by an atheist or an atheist organization that objects to government support of speech or artifacts that insult– i.e. that inhibit– Christianity?”

Insult does not equal inhibit.

What you are saying here is that when Christianity puts itself out into the marketplace of ideas, no one can criticize or question it like they can any other hypothesis about how the world works.  It is immune from questioning because that would inhibit it.

Tough.  It has to stand on its own just like any other hypothesis.  And it certainly isn’t the job of atheists to file lawsuits or to object to people questioning a bad idea.  Egnor’s gripe here is ludicrous.

“Are crosses and Stars of David on the graves of soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery unconstitutional? Should the courts order that they be removed? If not, why are thousands of crosses in a federal cemetery Constitutional, but a single prayer in a local school unconstitutional? Why the double standard?”

There is no double standard because crosses are not allowed to the exclusion of all other symbols.  In the Ahlquist case, or in cases involving the ten commandments in courthouses, as long as other viewpoints are represented, there would be no establishment (or endorsement) of one religion.

The Veterans Administration recognizes 38 symbols of faith that may be placed on a fallen soldiers’ tombstone at the Arlington National cemetery.  You’ve got your usual crosses, Stars of David, crescents, yin-yangs, Wiccan Pentacle, and even the model of an atom for us atheists.

Really, really, a dumb question.  Did Egnor really not know this, or couldn’t he figure it out?  If he did know it, then he’s playing a very disingenuous game.  If he didn’t, then he’s too inept to use google and I’m done wasting my time helping those who can’t help themselves.

“Where in the text does the Constitution forbid the display of a religious statement that citizens are free to ignore?”

Again, where in the text does the Constitution forbid shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater?  Where in the text does the Constitution forbid double parking?  Again, Egnor fails to be able to comprehend that laws address classes of actions as well as individual actions.  The Constitution addresses broad issues.  Laws made under the power granted in the Constitution address classes of actions under which individual actions fall.  Does the Constitution specifically address speeding? Does that mean speeding isn’t illegal, or that the government doesn’t have the right to set speed laws?

Further, the framework for that is in the Establishment Clause.  At least, the SCOTUS says it is, and they are the ones who have the legal authority to make that call.  Egnor would know all of this if he was half as interested in looking for answers as he was in asking easy questions that waste my time.

“Many prayers and religious statements are displayed on National Monuments (Lincoln Memorial, Supreme Court, Jefferson Memorial, etc)…Are they unconstitutional?”

If the Court deems them so, then, yes, they are unconstitutional.  Of course, the court could declare them to be ceremonial deism, as it has with the national motto and “under god” in the pledge.  Until such time as there is a court case challenging them, like Ahlquist v. Cranston School Board, there is no answer to that, only speculation.  No wonder Egnor asked.

And exactly what religious statement or prayer is on the Supreme Court building?  I do not think two Latin words on the Lincoln Memorial in a location where they cannot be seen does much for Egnor’s credibility, either.  Read up.

“…an institutional federal church?”

Who said anything about “an institutional federal church?”  Certainly not the Constitution.

“Does the president of the United States violate the Constitution when he says “God Bless America”?”

According to the court, no.  And they have the authority to make that call.  You see, some of us respect the rule of law, even if we don’t like it or agree with it, we still respect the Constitutional authority of the court to make the call, unlike yourself.  We also work through the system to try and effect the changes we wish to see rather than asking people to look the other way when others break the law, again, unlike yourself and unlike the mob of believers in Cranston.

Mike, I realize you want to use the government as a proselytizing and enforcement arm for your religion so that you don’t become the minority. All I ask for in regard to religion is neutrality from the state. I don’t ask for a banner that says “No God”. You demand a banner that says there is. You do not want neutrality, you want preference.

Trying to dress up your lust for governmental preference as neutrality is about as convincing (and as honest) as the Cranston people saying the prayer is not a prayer.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • John Eberhard

    “In the Ahlquist case, or in cases involving the ten commandments in courthouses, as long as other viewpoints are represented, there would be no establishment (or endorsement) of one religion.”

    I see. This would be like all of the court cases where the court decided if the Christians were going to put up the creche on government property, then the government had to allow others to put up their symbols also. Then putting up something that advanced Christianity was acceptable because it wasn’t done to the EXCLUSION of others.

    So, if Cranston had had, for instance, an Islamic prayer banner, a Hindu banner, and an atheist banner, it could probably have gotten away with the Christian banner. Because then it wouldn’t be endorsing one religion to the exclusion of all others.

    What is so hard to understand about that?

  • Michaelyn

    I applaud your patience.

  • plutosdad

    Can you name one lawsuit filed by an atheist or an atheist organization that objects to government support of speech or artifacts that insult– i.e. that inhibit– Christianity

    Plenty of actions brought by the ACLU and MRFF are to protect christians from discrimination. Usually it’s Catholics and mainline Protestants who need protection from people like Enger. It would take him about 20 seconds of research on Google to find news articles and links to actual cases. But well why let facts get in the way of a good whine and playing the victim.

    • plutosdad

      bah i spelled his name wrong. I guess i am the lazy one too :)

  • Sqrat

    Egnor thinks taking down a prayer mural is mandatory civic atheism? Give me a fucking break! Is somebody giving out medals for being the most disingenuous person on the planet? The government is not erasing religion: look at all the churches in your town! You know what would establish atheism? Hanging a banner in a government building that read:

    Remember to do your best because there’s no god helping us.

    That would establish atheism, and it’d be just as illegal as a banner saying the same with language eluding to the Christian god.

    It should be noted, however, that while the First Amendment prohibits the “establishment” of religion, it does NOT prohibit the “establishment” of atheism. If you are going to look for the part or parts of the Constitution that would prohibit the hanging of some banner reading “Remember to do your best because there’s no god helping us” in a government building, you are going to have to look elsewhere than the First Amendment.

    • sqlrob

      No, you don’t.

      SCotUS has determined atheism is a religion WRT the First Amendment.

      • Sqrat

        Were they correct? If a Christian says “Atheism is a religion!” are we obliged to agree if the Supreme Court has so ruled?

        • sqlrob

          What part of “With Respect to the First Amendment” did you not get?

          • http://whatloveteaches.blogspot.com/ Slow Learner

            IANAL, but it seems to me you don’t need to consider atheism to be a religion to rule out establishing it as the government opinion on the grounds of the language in the First Amendment – you take it from the second clause “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.
            If a Christian is aware that our hypothetical Officially Atheist federal government is judging him as superstitious for partaking of communion, he will be inhibited from freely exercising his religion. QED.

          • Sqrat

            What part of “Were they correct?” did you not get?

        • John Phillips, FCD

          Yes, in the sense that it offers the atheist the same protection as those who do follow a religion, i.e. equal treatment under the law. Though it is sad that we still need the protection of the law in the 21st Century, so in that sense you could consider it wrong, i.e. that there is still need of such protection. Of course it won’t stop the godbot trying to claim that atheism is a religion, but if we did or didn’t do things because we worried what the godbots would think, we would get little or nothing done. After all, apparently godbots think that not collecting stamps is a hobby and bald is a hair colour.

  • Sqrat

    Further, the framework for that is in the Establishment Clause. At least, the SCOTUS says it is, and they are the ones who have the legal authority to make that call.

    That is true, but we have to be careful how far we want to push this line of argument. It is one thing to say that, because a court has ruled that the banner in Cranston in unconstitutional, it must come down, and quite another to say that the court has ruled correctly. Otherwise, for example, we could not claim that “In God We Trust” and “one nation under God” are unconstitutional, the courts having ruled otherwise.

    I would contend that the case that “In God We Trust and “one nation under God” are unconstitutional is far more compelling that the case that the Cranston school banner was unconstitutional, but the courts have reached the opposite conclusion.

  • Ƶ§œš¹

    While I suspect it was probably flippantly produced, “Remember to do your best because there’s no god helping us” is such a nice phrase that I might just produce it for my own personal banner.

    • Daniel Schealler

      Indeed.

      The buck stops with us. There’s no one else to take it from us.

  • ‘Tis Himself, OM.

    Egnor is just whining because Christianity is losing a small part of its privilege.

  • Pingback: Dispelling Egnorance « The Wayward Willis

  • Passerby

    Holy Math, it’s a school of Red Herrings! Quick, catch one before it derps downstream!

  • Spencer

    JT, you seem so livid in this post that the words are practically blazing on the screen.

    The concept that neutrality does not equal affirmation of atheism is so goddamn difficult for people to get into their heads, and it’s frustrating beyond belief to try to argue with people who can’t see that. More and more, I’m realizing how completely empty and lacking in logical or rhetorical rigor most blowhards are, Egnor included.


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