Dan Barker destroys FOX Noise

Dan Barker absolutely takes down the biased questions he’s given on FOX Noise. His use of facts was a nice change of pace for that network.

Jesus Christ, Jack

In taking his break from getting his cues from FTSOS, Jack Hudson has ventured, once again, into a land he does not understand.

In recent years there has been an increasing antagonism to public displays of religious faith. Whether it concerns the those national symbols which historically refer to our inherited religious beliefs as in the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem, or whether dealing with more explicit religious expressions, as in prayers offered at public events, the opposition to such expressions has grown if not in numbers, certainly in volume.

As every person with any bit of knowledge of history knows, pledge references to God were added in 1954. They have nothing to do with any historical references (not that that would necessarily even matter), but were instead a reflection of a growing paranoia over Communism and a misunderstanding of what atheism actually is. (Pss, it’s about the moral equivalent of not collecting stamps as a hobby – and just as dangerous.) Moving beyond the crackpot claim that one can somehow “inherit” religious beliefs, it’s unclear what sort of antagonism the Star-Spangled Banner has faced in recent times. The last thing I can recall dates a couple of years back when a few people decided to come up with a Spanish rendition, enraging a bunch of Fox Noise employees rednecks.

In the recent past such conflicts usually occurred as the result of what was perceived to be the direct imposition of religious belief on unwilling participants by the state via of the Federal or state government agencies. For this reason the Establishment Clause, that portion of the 1st Amendment which is understood to prevent the government from becoming excessively entangled in religious matters, is understood to be violated when publicly funded educational institutions express in any manner religious sentiments via a state agent like a teacher or curriculum.

Wtf. No. That clause prevents the government from endorsing and/or giving preference to particular religions. Given the fact that the Supreme Court has ruled that atheism is due the same protections (and restrictions) as religion, it is a violation of the First Amendment when any religion is given favor. In other words, not only is the First Amendment not to be construed in the narrow way Jack would prefer, but it has recently been expanded in a definitive direction.

Jack then goes on to cite an instance where a senior citizen center has stopped offering public prayers before meals. The reason has to do with the partial federal funding the center receives for many of the meals it provides. It isn’t at all surprising that a number of people interpret the lack of public prayer as someone telling them to not pray at all. I mean, god damn it. That’s just stupid. No one is saying “SHUT THE FUCK UP! EVERYONE STOP PRAYING!” No. They’re saying, “We aren’t going to lead any prayer as an organization because we may be acting as too much of an extension of the federal government.” It’s unclear just how the legal situation will shake out in this instance, but the position really isn’t unreasonable. But does that stop Jack? Heck no!

…collectively the state acts mindlessly in accordance with the rules and regulations it is given, not in accordance with cultural realities, or traditions, or personal sensitivities. The state is no respecter of individuals, and it’s activities reduce every situation down to the lowest common denominator – in the case of religious liberty, this lowest denominator is always state imposed secularism.

Ah, the ol’ “We’re a Christian nation!” line of thought. It doesn’t matter. The U.S. is set up to be secular and not endorse any religion. It only imposes neutrality (something to which it does not adhere nearly enough). Now, if there was a National Day of Godlessness, it absolutely would be imposing secularism, but the fact that the government says “Pray on your own dime” does not somehow mean “SHUT THE FUCK UP! EVERYONE STOP PRAYING!”

As the state intrudes itself financially into virtually every aspect of our lives – our education, our medical needs, taking care of us in our retirement, etc – it gains the power (or claims to) to dictate to us the manner and degree of expression of our respective faiths. Whether it is limiting personal prayers shared between individuals, or, as in the example above, corporate prayers shared at a meal, the growth of government as our caretaker inevitably entails the imposition of secular restrictions on our lives.

Nope. Dead wrong, you mook. The government will not pay for you to pray. It will not pay to have others encourage you to pray. It is not an extension of your church (I mean, how could it be? It’s actually honest about wanting your money for its own personal use). Oh, and that article Jack cites? It is about a college student and professor who prayed together. Gasp! you proclaim! Why, it must have ended in the limitation of “personal prayers shared between individuals”, you declare! Why else would Jack have cited it?!

In the settlement, announced this week, the four-campus Peralta Community College District recognized the right to “non-disruptively pray on campus.” The district also agreed to remove all records of disciplinary action against the students and pay their attorneys’ fees, said Kevin Snider, a lawyer with the Pacific Justice Institute, which represented the students.

Students still won’t be allowed to lead organized prayers in class, but can pray in other campus locations “to the same extent that they may engage in any other free speech,” Snider said.

“This was a case of voluntary prayer between consenting adults,” the attorney said.

Oh, that’s right. Creationists will always lie for Jesus.

They’ve got Maine all wrong

PZ has a post about the new platform of Maine’s GOP.

We shouldn’t pick on the South all the time, so here is a tale out of the eminently Yankee state of Maine. The Maine Republican party recently met to establis their official platform, and ended up getting hijacked by the tea-baggers. Their new platform contains all kinds of nutty demands.

It’s true, the platform is pretty nutty. For instance, it calls global warming a myth (because conservatives are generally hostile towards science), it bizarrely calls for the adoption of “Austrian economics”, and it wants to see the elimination of the Department of Education, but let’s slow down. This has led to a number of comments on that post which get Maine all wrong.

While I lived in Connecticut and Massachusetts, we referred to Maine as New England’s West Virginia.

How dare someone refer to Maine like that. Everyone knows we prefer to be called the far south of the far north. Also, a number of other posts get a few important things wrong. For instance, it’s “lobstah”, not this stranger “lobster”. (I recommend getting it from a restaurant that sits in the harbor; it does a wicked job of soaking up that full ocean aroma so much bettah.)

It’s seriously obvious the Maine GOP is insane. But despite that fact, I would like to still take credit for this gem:

In pursuit of these principles we endorse and shall promote the following initiatives.

II. To Establish Justice:

b. Reassert the principle that “Freedom of Religion” does not mean “freedom from religion”.

I can only hope that my recent letter to the editor (also found here) played at least a small role in spurring the GOP to reassert their inanity. I’m sure the recent, correct ruling about the unconstitutional standing of the National Day of Prayer was the main catalyst, but either way, silliness lays at the base here. Freedom of religion is impossible without freedom from religion. To say “You’re free to practice any religion you want!…so long as you actually do practice a religion” runs counter to any notion of freedom I’ve yet to ascertain in my young life. Maybe these crazies just want to live in More’s Utopia? I don’t know.

But wait, there’s more!

VI. To Secure the Blessings of Liberty:

a. Restore a vigorous grounding in the history and precepts of liberty, freedom, and the constitution to the educational process. As Thomas Jefferson said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

Really? They want to use Thomas Jefferson? Aside from not ever having stood for anything these haphazard teabaggers want today, I think he would have recognized the irony in their next line:

i. Eliminate the Department of Education and restore schools to local control as specified in the constitution.

Teabagger motto: No ignorance – unless it’s blissful.