More negative impacts from religion

I was under the impression we were still using the constitution, but I guess that’s not the case in Alabama:

The small town of Bay Minette, Alabama is telling people convicted of small crimes to choose Jesus or choose jail.

Starting this week, the city judge will implement Operation Restore Our Community (ROC), which gives misdemeanor offenders a choice between fines and jail or a year of Sunday church services.

“Operation ROC resulted from meetings with church leaders,” Bay Minette Police Chief Mike Rowland told the Alabama Press-Register. “It was agreed by all the pastors that at the core of the crime problem was the erosion of family values and morals. We have children raising children and parents not instilling values in young people.”

This is a problem that comes from things like religious-based sexual immaturity and a general lack of education. (I know, I know. Poor education in Alabama? I’m shocked, too.) And besides that, I don’t think it’s too out there to say that most of the offenders in Alabama, even the young ones, believe in God already anyway. It’s impossible to live anywhere in America and not be inundated with Christianity. That is especially true of the south, including Bible-thumping Alabama.

Pastor Robert Gates told WRKG that the program was a win-win for everyone involved.

“You show me somebody who falls in love with Jesus, and I’ll show you a person who won’t be a problem to society,” he said.

Westboro Baptist Church, Somalia, Nigeria, George Tiller’s murderer, Catholic Church officials, Kent Hovind, Spanish Inquisitors, the Crusaders, Republicans, so on, so forth.

But you know the religious have really gone overboard when this is the case:

Think Progress’ Ian Millhiser noted that the program would even be considered illegal under conservative Justice Antonin Scalia’s view of the Constitution.

“In his dissenting opinion in Lee v. Weisman, Scalia wrote that the state may not use the ‘threat of penalty’ to ‘coerce anyone to support or participate in religion or its exercise,'” Millhiser wrote. “Telling someone — even someone convicted of a crime — that they must participate in a religious service or go to jail clearly fails Justice Scalia’s test.”

This is just going to cost Bay Minette a bunch of money in legal fees.

Alabama is generally a racist state

In 2000, 41% of Alabama voters said they wanted to keep federally nullified language in their constitution saying blacks and whites could not marry. In 2004, a narrow majority defeated an amendment that would have 1) eliminated references to Jim Crow laws and poll taxes, and 2) declared that there is a constitutional right to education. Now the Alabama legislature is attempting to once again remove that racist language:

The proposed amendment would eliminate language that calls for separate schools for black and white students and poll taxes, the latter generally viewed as instituted to keep black residents from voting.

“Even though federal laws nullify these old wordings, it remains a black eye on the state,” said Cam Ward, another Republican senator.

Some lawmakers have tried for years to rewrite the entire state constitution, which they criticize as outdated and cumbersome.

This is will be an interesting test. In 2000 there was the excuse of taxation issues that came along with declaring public education a right. It isn’t surprising that the deep south has questionable commitments to education, but that won’t be a factor when this issue likely appears on ballots in 2012. Alabama voters are going to have to give a plain up or down vote without making excuses for their deeply embedded racism.

While I suspect a number of voters there did legitimately glom onto the public education issue in 2000, I more strongly suspect that a majority of those voters really just don’t like black people. My guess is that we see another round of absurdly, blatantly, baldly racist people filling up the ballot boxes just like in 2000 – especially if the Tea Party manages to churn up a big turn-out.

Stubborn bigotry

The Supreme Court got rid of all bans on interracial marriage in 1967. Unfortunately, it took two states over 30 years each to formally get rid of the statutes they still had on the books. Both states – South Carolina and Alabama – had to go through the process of a vote because of how their constitutions work. In 1998, 38% of South Carolina voters said they did not want to remove the ban. In 2000, 41% of Alabama voters said the same thing. Those numbers were shockingly disgusting. People like to hold on to their bigotry, quite apparently.

Now the same thing is going on in Kansas:

Members of Kansas’ gay community aren’t happy as lawmakers in Topeka, KS, have decided to leave on the books laws banning homosexuality.

Laws banning gay sex have been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, but the law remains in place in Kansas.

An effort to repeal the law was killed this week, leaving gay and lesbian Kansans outraged…

The House Judiciary Committee was considering a bill to clean up Kansas’ criminal code when a pair of lawmakers, Jan Paul from Hutchinson and Lance Kinzer from Olathe, removed an amendment from the bill that would have repealed the law banning homosexual acts.

Got that? People were considering cleaning up Kansas’ ugly past, but Jan Paul and Lance Kinzer said they prefer to keep things dirty, filthy, and ugly.

“I think their motivation is pretty clear,” said Thomas Witt, chair of Kansas Equality Commission. “They don’t like gay people and they’re going to make sure in the eyes of the law we’re still considered criminals.”

"Efforts to reach Christ were unsuccessful."

Just like the regular Jesus.

Jesus Christ was called for jury duty this week in Jefferson County, but was sent home for being disruptive.

Court officials were skeptical at first when on Monday a potential juror submitted a name change form with “Jesus Christ” on it. But the 59-year-old Birmingham woman, who previously went by Dorothy Lola Killingworth, assured the presiding judge that was her name.

“It raised eyebrows, so I asked her if that were truly her name,” Circuit Court Judge Scott Vowell said. “She assured me that it was. She had her name changed in the Probate Court, and she presented her driver’s license.”

Christ was sent to Judge Clyde Jones’s courtroom for a criminal case, but was excused because she was disruptive, court officials said.

Instead of answering questions, she was asking them, a court employee in Jones’s (sic) office said.

Efforts to reach Christ were unsuccessful.

Court administrator Sandra Turner said she and others in the jury assembly room were somewhat shocked at first when the woman insisted Christ was her name. And when her name was called, several potential jurors laughed out loud.

Unlike some Jefferson County residents, Christ did not try to get out of jury duty. “She was perfectly happy to serve,” said Turner.

“Efforts to reach Christ were unsuccessful.”

Just like the regular Jesus.

Jesus Christ was called for jury duty this week in Jefferson County, but was sent home for being disruptive.

Court officials were skeptical at first when on Monday a potential juror submitted a name change form with “Jesus Christ” on it. But the 59-year-old Birmingham woman, who previously went by Dorothy Lola Killingworth, assured the presiding judge that was her name.

“It raised eyebrows, so I asked her if that were truly her name,” Circuit Court Judge Scott Vowell said. “She assured me that it was. She had her name changed in the Probate Court, and she presented her driver’s license.”

Christ was sent to Judge Clyde Jones’s courtroom for a criminal case, but was excused because she was disruptive, court officials said.

Instead of answering questions, she was asking them, a court employee in Jones’s (sic) office said.

Efforts to reach Christ were unsuccessful.

Court administrator Sandra Turner said she and others in the jury assembly room were somewhat shocked at first when the woman insisted Christ was her name. And when her name was called, several potential jurors laughed out loud.

Unlike some Jefferson County residents, Christ did not try to get out of jury duty. “She was perfectly happy to serve,” said Turner.

Good news for Maine

A recent Gallup poll “asked representative samples in 143 countries and territories whether religion was an important part of their daily lives.” The United States, despite the religiously-driven anti-science movement, does not rank as having an especially high number of individuals who say religion is an important part of their lives. For all the countries surveyed, the median response was 82%. The U.S. came in at 65%.

This does not mean the U.S. is unreligious. The interesting thing about this survey is that it is strongly correlated with poverty. In nations where poverty is higher, so is the rate of positive respondents to the poll. That is, poor people cling to their religion. It makes sense that someone who has lost hope, or at least been placed in the dismal position of being desperately poor, would turn to mysticism as a last resort. Of course, this has not helped the people of Sri Lanka or Eygpt gain much wealth. Religion simply isn’t the helpful. In fact, it isn’t really helpful at all.

So what’s rather shocking, at least statistically, about this poll is America’s amount of wealth and rate of religiosity.

Social scientists have noted that one thing that makes Americans distinctive is our high level of religiosity relative to other rich-world populations. Among 27 countries commonly seen as part of the developed world, the median proportion of those who say religion is important in their daily lives is just 38%. From this perspective, the fact two-thirds of Americans respond this way makes us look extremely devout.

Of course, the obvious point to be made is that this seems to directly contradict the issue of correlation. In fact, it does not. This is because as poverty increases by state, so does religosity. Alabama, the slack-jawed center of the South, comes in at 82% answering positively. Mississippi, the well-established cesspool of stupidity, Mr. 50 in Everything Bad, as it were, comes in a smidge higher than the worldwide median, at 85%. These two poverty-rich states are roughly equal to Iran with their rate of response.

It should be of little surprise, then, that all six states of New England fill out the top ten. In fact, the top four are, in order, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts. Tending toward less general poverty, these states also tend toward less religiosity. Of course, it’s important to also consider the more liberal, more moral, less evil leanings in this area as well. Such people – the ones concerned with reality – often have a liberal bias. Freed from the shackles of sheepdom as wrought by religion, these states have generally better standards of living and education. No big news there.