Baxter Bulletin letter to the editor #1: Stephen J. Lemmons.

Today there was a deluge of letters to the editor of my hometown newspaper about the nativity scene that were left marinating in a vat of stupid as fuck before they were sent in.  We’re going to go through all of them today.  Pack a lunch.  I plan to drink a beer in between each one, so hopefully we’ll be having some real fun by the last one.

Our first offering comes from Stephen J. Lemmons:

From Stephen J. Lemmons,Mountain Home:

Please consider this letter a formal complaint against the group Appignani Humanist Legal Center. Their requested action (complaint) offends my wife and I and thus violates our First Amendment rights as expressed by the founding fathers of our great nation in the First Amendment to the Constitution. Further, it is requested that the Mountain Home governing body continue to place the Christmas nativity scene, or creche, on the courthouse lawn as it has done for approximately 15 years.
The issue has been litigated a number of times at all levels of the legal system. The one unchanging fact is that the current definition of “separation of church and state” is not what was envisioned by out founding fathers and allows one extremely small minority group — 170,000 members, approximately — to dictate how the rest of us are to behave. I have yet to see this group or any other group file any complaints against displays by other religious groups of any kind. Considering this fact, it would appear that the Appignani Humanist Legal Center is trying to discriminate against one specific religion — Christians — and this is definitely illegal and unconstitutional. When is someone or group going to pursue litigation against the Appignani Humanist Legal Center for discrimination?

If you will read the First Amendment, it at no time utilizes the statement “separation of church and state.” It does state that the government may make no law respecting the establishment of religion. The display of the nativity scene in no way violates this statement as it does not establish a specific religion. It only show that an individual or group is Christian, nor does it force anyone to become a Christian. To do this would, indeed, violate the First Amendment. If you are offended by the nativity scene, look the other way. No one is forcing you to look at it or to convert to Christianity.
Bottom line: If it wasn’t for Christ we would not have Christmas.

It seems the age-old Christian practice of pretending to know things you don’t extends beyond the bible and science and careens straight into law.

Please consider this letter a formal complaint against the group Appignani Humanist Legal Center.

Yes, when I want to file a formal complaint the last place I send it is to the people I wish to complain to.  For instance, if I want to complain about a restaurant in Los Angelos, I find the best way to draw their attention to my complaint is to send a letter to the editor of a small town newspaper in Arkansas.  Brilliant.

Their requested action (complaint) offends my wife and I and thus violates our First Amendment rights as expressed by the founding fathers of our great nation in the First Amendment to the Constitution.

You know, I’ve read the Constitution several times and the First Amendment several more.  I missed the part where it protects people from being offended.  It’s almost like Stephen-the-Offended doesn’t have any idea what he’s talking about.  Yeah, he calls America a “great nation”, but it’s apparently not great enough to move him to read its founding document.  But making up things he wishes was in there?  That’s patriotic as hell.

Further, it is requested that the Mountain Home governing body continue to place the Christmas nativity scene, or creche, on the courthouse lawn as it has done for approximately 15 years.

That the county got away with breaking the law for 15 years is not a good reason to allow it to continue breaking the law.  Are we to believe that if this were the first year the nativity had gone up and someone complained that Stephen (and every dipshit making this argument) would say “well, it hasn’t been going on in the past, so I guess we can abide by the Constitution now”?  Of course they wouldn’t, so using the longevity argument as though it would change anything is pretty disingenuous.

The issue has been litigated a number of times at all levels of the legal system. The one unchanging fact is that the current definition of “separation of church and state” is not what was envisioned by out founding fathers…

It has been litigated at all levels…and your side has lost continuously, often deploying the same argument you just made, Stephen.  For why that argument has failed in court, follow me to one of the first sections of the Constitution: Article 3, Section 1 (I’ll quote it since Stephen likely hasn’t read it):

“The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.

The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority….”

This specifically gives the Supreme Court the authority to interpret the Constitution under their judicial power over the law. If you take the baby step to admit the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, you are forced to accept that the Supreme Court has the right to rule on its interpretation. The interpretation of the court has consistently been that the establishment clause means there is separation of church and state.

There is realistically no denying that the Supreme Court has the authority to make that call, so that’s the way it is. Of course the theocrats (like Stephen) will say the SCOTUS made the wrong call, but no reasonable person is really going to accept the judgment of “truck stop lawyers” over decades of decisions by people whose lives are spent entrenched in the study of constitutional law and whose decisions are based on decades of established precedents. If the Separation clause is illegal, the federal judiciary must have been mistaken all these years, and still is.

They are the referees who have the authority to make the call, and they have clearly made the call for separation. Entertaining as the theocrat’s arguments against the Separation clause may be, they are scarcely new. By now they’ve failed to convince generation after generation of American judges. Why do you think that is?

Because of judicial bias or activist judges? Those are the reactionary buzz words of the day, aren’t they? Yet, there is no question that the overwhelming majority of church/state separation cases in what has undoubtedly and unarguably been a nation of Judeo-Christian background have nevertheless come down on the side separation. Let’s face it: until recently the population has been around 90% Judeo-Christian.  That is the background of every single Supreme Court Justice ever, and clearly and consistently “separation” has been the winner. They haven’t done this because of their religious beliefs, but in spite of them.

You may kick and scream and insist that this country’s 100% Judeo-Christian Justices have, for decades, pushed a subversive “agenda” of separation, but that idea is absolutely ludicrous. Do you even hear what you are suggesting? Does that make any kind of sense?

What you think the Constitution means, or what you think the founders intended, does not matter. You can whine all you want that atheists and the courts don’t get it; it is nothing but sour grapes on your part. The legal precedents are well established. That bell is rung, and you can’t unring it.

…and allows one extremely small minority group — 170,000 members, approximately — to dictate how the rest of us are to behave.

Yes, stupid laws dictating how people must behave.

Rights are not subject to the will of the majority.  If equality could be suspended because the majority wished it, it would make no sense to call it a right (and would make the use of the word “inalienable” in the Declaration of Independence very strange indeed).  If the majority of Christians wanted to stone non-believers to death, guess what, the Constitution still applies.

I have yet to see this group or any other group file any complaints against displays by other religious groups of any kind.

That’s because other religious groups don’t seem to be convinced that it’s their exclusive right to put up religious propaganda on government property.  That’s like saying you don’t see doctors treating women with prostate trouble.  Well no shit.  It’s not that doctors don’t give a shit about prostate problems, it’s that women don’t have prostate trouble.  Likewise, you don’t see atheists saying other religious groups are breaking the law by using federal land to promote their religion (to the exclusion of all other religions) because other religious groups aren’t doing it.

It’s like a bully on a kindergarten playground complaining that little Timmy isn’t getting detention for punching another kid.  The solution isn’t for the teacher to punish the innocent, it’s for the bully to quit breaking the fucking rules.

Considering this fact, it would appear that the Appignani Humanist Legal Center is trying to discriminate against one specific religion — Christians — and this is definitely illegal and unconstitutional.

Yeah, just like the police are discriminating against people who steal by only arresting people who actually steal.  Dumbass.

When is someone or group going to pursue litigation against the Appignani Humanist Legal Center for discrimination?

Insisting Christians abide by the Constitution (just like everybody else) is not discrimination.  How fevered must a person’s mind be to say that because the government isn’t allowed to give their particular religion better treatment that they’re being discriminated against?  Jesus fucking Christ.  Why don’t you contact a lawyer and ask about being the plaintiff in that lawsuit, Stephen?  Or hell, you know the law so well, just represent yourself.

Be sure to add an extra charge for offending you and your wife.

If you will read the First Amendment, it at no time utilizes the statement “separation of church and state.”

Holy shit!  We have a legal scholar on our hands.

The phrase “separation of church and state” is used as a shorthand description for what the constitution calls for.  You might as well say the word “monogamy” isn’t in the bible, so the framework and concept of monogamy isn’t in there.  As I wrote above, the people designated by the Constitution as the ones with the power to make the call of what the First Amendment says have made it.

Saying the Constitution does not support the separation of church and state because it lacks those precise words is a type of grasping at air known as Constitutional literalism. For those reaching for it, it is the last gasp rationalization, the final excuse to have their antiquated (and unconstitutional) religious and moral nonsense forced into public institutions and the culture at large. It has virtually no relevance to actual jurisprudence, and even the tiniest amount of thought towards how a society would actually function by interpreting the constitution literally reveals it to be not just staggeringly impractical for any complex society with complex differences of opinion, but just transparently silly. Literalism is a concept of intellectual interest only.  It has virtually no practical relevance to the actual law or meaning of the Constitution.  But Stephen doesn’t know that because he’s regurgitating shit he’s been fed by people who are not legal experts instead of taking the time to learn about the subject.

As far as the phrase in the 1st amendment goes (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”) the SCOTUS (the ones with the authority to make the call) realizes the only way to achieve both of these is to keep the government neutral through separation of church and state. Hypothetically, if the government was to be comprised of a Muslim majority, it is the separation of church and state that would protect the Christian’s rights, no matter how much the majority disliked it. With Christians in the driver’s seat, it’s what protects the rest of us from them.

Thus, it is entirely appropriate to speak of the “constitutional principle of church-state separation” since that phrase summarizes what the First Amendment’s religion clause does: it separates church and state.

Trite arguments like Constitutional literalism are a pipe dream for those who hope that people will believe their constitutional knowledge, wisdom, and interpretation is better than decades of jurisprudence and Supreme Court justices. Hell, it’s probable that most of them actually believe, despite having never read the Constitution, that they actually do know better than the legal experts. It’s rather a pity that ignorance is inversely proportional to overconfidence in this way.

What it boils down to is this: those with the power to make the call have made it, repeatedly, and they know far more about it than you. If you’re selling anything else, surely the only people buying are those with equally little knowledge.

It does state that the government may make no law respecting the establishment of religion. The display of the nativity scene in no way violates this statement as it does not establish a specific religion.

If the government gives preferential treatment to one religion (like, say, giving Christianity space on government land and telling the atheists to take a hike) then that is exactly what has happened (and how the courts have ruled on it almost universally).  Perhaps the problem with all of those cases wasn’t that Stephen’s argument sucks and is laughed off by legal experts, but that the losers in all those trials simply lacked Stephen J. Lemmons’ spectacular legal expertise.  This time for sure, Stephen.  Keep the faith, slugger.

If you are offended by the nativity scene, look the other way.

We’re not offended by the nativity.  We’re offended by government officials breaking the law and giving preferential treatment to one religious group.

No one is forcing you to look at it or to convert to Christianity.

No one ever said that was the problem.

Bottom line: If it wasn’t for Christ we would not have Christmas.

We’d still have Winter Solstice.  Let’s put that banner up.

And what hogwash: even if Jesus were a completely made up figure we’d still have Christmas because Christians would insist.  But take Christianity out of the equation and we’d still have gift giving, good will toward man (even gay men), holiday music, and all the things that make life wonderful during the holidays.  We just wouldn’t have a collection of stories of god drowning every human and a place where most people will be tortured for all of eternity – and we also wouldn’t have people who hear of both of those and rejoice.

Alright, irretrievable idiot number one out of the way.  Gonna go get Michaelyn from work, crack open a beer, and move on to irretrievable idiot number two.

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.


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