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Tag: separation of church and state

Ostentatious Public Displays Of Prayer Promote Tribalism, Not Christianity

Just one week after declaring pregnancy a sacrament, the Supreme Court announced a bold ruling in favor of performative Christianity. Never mind this tiresome business about no establishment of religion, the very holy Republican majority in their priestly robes have liberated the nation’s public school football coaches to get on with the serious business of saving souls.

Can I get an amen?

The court ruled in favor of a coach in Bremerton, Washington who had lost his lawsuit against the school board that let him go after he refused to stop holding post-game prayer meetings with his players at the 50 yard-line after high school football games. The justices held that Coach Joseph Kennedy’s showboating for Jesus was exactly like “a Christian aide…praying quietly over her lunch in the cafeteria.”

As near as I can determine, the author of the decision, Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch, never attended a public school: a total academic hothouse flower. In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor whose life experience is considerably broader, took the rare step of attaching photos from the evidentiary record by way of demonstrating that what Gorsuch characterized as private devotional moments were, in fact, public spectacles.

She added that athletic coaches have considerable influence over their young charges: “Students look up to their teachers and coaches as role models and seek their approval,” she wrote.

“Students also depend on this approval for tangible benefits. Players recognize that gaining the coach’s approval may pay dividends small and large, from extra playing time to a stronger letter of recommendation to additional support in college athletic recruiting.”

If the coach holds a prayer session, what sophomore quarterback will feel free not to drop to his knees? And if he’s a Jew, a Muslim or a Hindu? As Jay Michaelson put it in The Daily Beast, such devotionals tend to be about “as official as a fire drill.”

Remember, this is a public school, not a private religious academy.

Here’s how a Republican-appointed justice at the Ninth Circuit described the evidence in rejecting the coach’s appeal: Coach Kennedy “prayed out loud in the middle of the football field” at game’s end, “surrounded by players, members of the opposing team, parents, a local politician and members of the news media with television cameras recording the event, all of whom had been advised of Kennedy’s intended actions through the local news and social media.”

Starting with the coach’s own Facebook page. In short, he staged a religious publicity stunt at a public high school where students are supposed to be free from government-sponsored proselytizing.

Here’s what Coach Kennedy’s Lord and Savior said about theatrical displays of religiosity in Matthew 5: 5-6: “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and at street-corners that they may be seen by men… But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father…and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

No matter. Nothing more excites a certain kind of zealot more than ignoring the plain meaning of what they otherwise affirm as divinely-inspired scripture. Also, some pious exegete can no doubt be found who will construe the meaning of “your room” as “football stadium.”

Blessed are the linebackers, for they shall stand strong.

For the rest of us, the clear message of this dreary little episode is that in the United States Supreme Court, it’s not about facts and evidence. It’s about who’s got the votes. It’s as rigged as the College of Cardinals. If Justice Gorsuch describes a come-to-Jesus pep rally at a homecoming game as a quiet devotional, and if five of his like-minded colleagues agree, then ecclesiastical ceremonies can commence all across the country.

And no doubt they will, particularly in red states and rural communities where religious minorities already know their place. Because it’s only partly about religion to begin with. Mostly it’s about tribal identity: who belongs, who’s in charge, who’s a Real American, and who is merely tolerated. There is no chance—zero—that this Supreme Court would have ruled in favor of a religious minority.

And if you don’t like it, Pilgrim, well tough.

Christian nationalism is what it’s called, a perversion of both patriotism and faith. How you can tell is that Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), the second-dumbest person in the U.S. Congress, is all excited about it.

As reported in the Denver Post, Boebert told a Colorado religious gathering “the church is supposed to direct the government. The government is not supposed to direct the church. That is not how our Founding Fathers intended it.”

She spoke of her disgust with “this separation of church and state junk that’s not in the Constitution. It was in a stinking letter,”

The stinking letter, of course, was written by Thomas Jefferson.

The Religious Right’s Bible Curriculum: Reading, Writing, And Religion

Reprinted with permission from DCReport.

The Trump administration has proposed a 12 percent cut in Department of Education spending under its yearly budget. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is busily eliminating programs to help public schools and promoting private education efforts under the motto of choice.

Yet somehow, magically, there is support for the growth of teaching Christian Bible classes in public schools.

Once again, we have an out-and-out statement about what is important in this administration—not school shootings, not affirmative efforts to improve public education, not help with student debt or even the pursuit of growing sexual assault on school campuses.

Counseling Today magazine argues, for example, that it has become necessary to lobby seriously to keep federal money for school mental health. The Trump administration’s federal budget proposal cut $8.5 billion from the Department of Education, including the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program. That program supported, among other things, mental health, school security and safety, community engagement—the kind of programs that would address the issues we hear after every school shooting.

Instead, Washington Post religion writer Julie Zauzmer detailed the movement of church Bible classes from churches into public schools. She took us to Kentucky, where a new state law—one of several pending in other states —is encouraging public high schools to teach the Bible, not as part of a survey of religions, but as Bible study.

Through a legislative effort called Project Blitz, activists on the religious right, have drafted a law that encourages Bible classes in public schools and persuaded at least 10 state legislatures to introduce versions of it this year. Georgia and Arkansas recently passed bills that are awaiting their governors’ signatures. Among the powerful fans of these public-school Bible classes is Trump. “Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible,” Trump tweeted in January. “Starting to make a turn back? Great!”

According to the Post, proponents of Bible instruction, including Chuck Stetson, who publishes a textbook that he says is in use in more than 600 public schools across the nation, are enthusiastic. “We’re not too far away from a tipping point. Instead of having to find a reason to teach the Bible in public schools academically, as part of a good education, you’re going to have to find a reason not to do it,” Stetson said. “When the president of the United States gives us a shout-out, that’s pretty crazy…. It’s got the momentum now.”

On the other side, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a nonpartisan advocacy group organizing opposition to the state laws, coordinated a statement signed by numerous religious groups that oppose Project Blitz’s efforts.

In 1963, the Supreme Court ruled that school-led Bible reading is an unconstitutional religious practice. But the court noted that teaching the Bible was allowed: “Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.”

Both those in favor of Bible classes and against see the Bible as a key component of a well-rounded education, particularly if part of history classes. Sometimes schools have offered “released time” rules that let students use part of their school day attending church-taught classes. But that is not what is called for in the state bills supported by Project Blitz, an effort of the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, which describes its purpose as protecting “the free exercise of traditional Judeo-Christian religious values and beliefs in the public square.”

The model for many states is Kentucky, where state standards for elective Bible education became the law in 2017. The American Civil Liberties Union swiftly responded, issuing a letter that said it would closely monitor all school districts in the state. The organization flagged four school districts in Kentucky, warning that the materials used to teach the Bible in those schools suggested they were violating the Constitution and might lead to a future ACLU lawsuit. Two of the four districts have since stopped offering a Bible class, saying student interest was low. In the other two, rural counties, dominated by evangelical Christians, teachers lead prayers over the loudspeaker.

The content of these classes has clashed with conclusions reached elsewhere in science classes, say, concerning evolution or even information about other religions.

DeVos has made clear that she supports moving public school support to parochial schools. It would seem that several states just want to merge the two.

IMAGE: Bible photo by Vicki’s Pics via Flickr

This Week In Crazy: Glenn Beck Has Had Enough, And The Rest Of The Worst Of The Right

Welcome to “This Week In Crazy,” The National Memo’s weekly update on the wildest attacks, conspiracy theories, and other loony behavior from the increasingly unhinged right wing. Starting with number five:

5. Louie Gohmert

Noted Constitutional scholar Louie Gohmert checks in at number five, for his illuminating theory on the separation — or lack thereof — between church and state.

Speaking in a WorldNetDaily-sponsored video, Gohmert attempted to explain that because Thomas Jefferson once attended services at National Statuary Hall (where the House of Representatives once met), he clearly didn’t mean all that stuff he said about the “wall of separation.”

“It was to be a one-way wall, where the state would not dictate to the church,” Gohmert claimed that Jefferson had intended. “But the church would certainly play a role in the state.”

“So, that’s a little different idea than a lot of people have about separation of church and state now,” he added. “Including some of our esteemed Supreme Court, who are not quite as familiar with our history as they probably should be.”

Of course, Gohmert’s history lesson doesn’t account for Jefferson’s complicated relationship with religion, or for Article Six of the Constitution (which states that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States”).

Perhaps John F. Kennedy’s famous 1960 speech to the Baptist ministers in Houston could explain that to Gohmert — but we wouldn’t want him to get nauseous.

H/t: Raw Story

4. Allen West

Former congressman and genuine crazy person Allen West checks in at number four, for winning the Fox News race to blame the Fort Hood shooting on President Obama.

During a Tuesday night appearance on Hannity, Colonel West explained that the tragedy could have been prevented — if only Obama had been tougher on Vladimir Putin!


“We have a civilian leaderhsip that does not want to recognize that the enemy exists,” West explained. “You look at what is happening in the Crimea when the president says that Vladimir Putin is operating from a position of weakness. So if you don’t want to admit that there’s evil, if you don’t want to admit that there’s an enemy, then you don’t have the right type of security protocols in place.”

And if anyone knows about the right type of security protocols, it’s the guy who needs a Post-It note to remind him that his computer password is “allenwest.”
3. Gordon Klingenschmitt And The El Paso County GOP

Thursday was a pretty standard day for Gordon Klingenschmitt, who used his “Pray in Jesus’ Name” program to remind his viewers that gay people are evil.

“I’m not saying — let me be clear about this — that gay couples always abuse children. Of course not,” Klingenschmitt began. He probably should’ve stopped there.

“Even if a child is not physically abused,” he continued, “what’s the next worst thing you can do to a child? It’s to take away their mother.”

“In the case of homosexual couples who get ‘married,’ so to speak,” he added, “and then they adopt children, even if they never physically harm those children, they are taking away that child’s right to a mother, or maybe they’re taking away that child’s right to a father. And that, in my opinion, is also abusive.”

Klingenschmitt’s sentiment, while perfectly horrible, is relatively bland coming from a man who once warned that militant gays will kick you out of your house to have sex in it.

Indeed, the real crazies this week were the delegates at the El Paso County Republican Assembly. Klingenschmitt, who is running for the state House in Colorado, won 71 percent (!) of their votes on Saturday, cementing him as the frontrunner for the seat in the state’s conservative 15th district. He is expected to face Dave Williams in a primary election.
2. Pat Robertson

It was a busy week for televangelist Pat Robertson, who returns to the list at number two.

On Monday, Robertson was joined by Jack Abramoff-linked Rabbi Daniel Lapin for a discussion of why Jews are so good at making money.

“What is it about Jewish people that make them prosper financially? You almost never find Jews tinkering with their cars on the weekends or mowing their lawns,” Robertson said while introducing his guest.

He later suggested that Jews are just too busy “polishing diamonds, not fixing cars.”

On Tuesday, Robertson’s show featured a segment from Christian Broadcast Network reporter Daniel Hurd, who compared Sweden’s social democracy to the Soviet Union and North Korea (without all the mass killings).

And finally, on Thursday, Robertson warned that credit cards are Satanic.

“We’re going into some strange world, ladies and gentlemen,” Robertson declared. “The pros — the people who are in charge — find that paying cash is an annoyance, and they want everything on your cards. And they want it all by computer.”

“I hate to tell you, but it’s coming. Because it is a control thing. And Satan wants to control the lives of all the world,” he continued. “He wants to be God, he wants to be worshipped as God. And he wants to have control over everybody, and that’s how it will be done. It’s a shame…can’t buy, can’t sell without the Mark of the Beast.”

So before you spend your next paycheck at the Christian Broadcast Network’s well-stocked online store, remember: Satan is watching.
1. Glenn Beck

Plenty of Republicans are upset about the Affordable Care Act cracking 7 million enrollments this week, but none were more disturbed than this week’s “winner,” Glenn Beck.

Beck was set off by President Obama’s triumphant speech lauding the law’s successful open enrollment period.

“This guy, you put him in a military uniform, I’m not kidding you, you put him on a balcony in a military uniform, this guy is a full-fledged dictator,” Beck raged.

After criticizing the “rat bastards” in the media for allowing Obama to get away with his outrageous lies, and repeatedly calling the president a “sociopath,” Beck really snapped.

“I’m not going to pay attention to these people anymore,” he later declared. “I’m not going to waste my life. I’m going to do what I was born to do.”

“All men were created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!” Beck shouted near the end of his rant. “I have a right to pursue my happiness! I have a right to do what I was born to do!”

“My state of mind is great,” Beck said calmly at the end of his rant. “Because I’ve had enough.”

Trust us, Glenn: So have we.

Check out previous editions of This Week In Crazy here. Think we missed something? Let us know in the comments!