Monday, October 11, 2010

International: Americans United Urges Appeals Court to Strike Down the National Day of Prayer

Charlie Chaplain: 10/8/10 Atheist Cartoon

Posted: 08 Oct 2010 05:00 PM PDT

Americans United Urges Appeals Court to Strike Down the National Day of Prayer

Posted: 08 Oct 2010 04:57 PM PDT

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has asked a federal appeals court to find the congressionally mandated National Day of Prayer unconstitutional.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Americans United urged the panel of judges to affirm a lower court decision that held the National Day of Prayer statute unconstitutional.

In April, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb of the Western District of Wisconsin ruled that the federal law violates the constitutional separation of church and state. The Obama administration has appealed Crabb’s decision to the 7th Circuit.

“Congress needs to get out of the prayer business,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “Prayer is an inherently religious practice, and our Constitution makes it clear that promoting it is not part of the government’s job.

“Americans are free to pray whenever they want,” Lynn continued. “It’s obvious this ‘holiday’ is not really about the freedom to worship, but rather another opportunity for certain religious groups to use government to push their narrow viewpoint on the rest of us.

“It’s time to end this misguided tradition,” Lynn added. “The district court got this right, and I’m hopeful the appeals court will, too.”

Congress created the National Day of Prayer in 1952. In 1988, after pressure from the Religious Right, it was codified as the first Thursday in May. The law directs the president to proclaim on that day that Americans “May turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.”

AU’s brief argues that the NDP statute is a “plain endorsement of religion over nonreligion and of certain types of religious beliefs and practices over others.”

The brief also asserts that the statute has no secular purpose and “by its very terms it is not a commemoration or accommodation of our religious heritage but an active encouragement to engage in religious practice.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Americans Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and the Interfaith Alliance Foundation joined Americans United in filing the brief in Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Obama.

The brief was drafted by Evan M. Tager and Carl J. Summers of the law firm Mayer Brown with assistance from AU’s Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan and two attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, Daniel Mach and Heather L. Weaver.

Related articles:

1.       California Teacher Has No Right To Push Religion in the Classroom, Americans United Tells Federal Appeals Court

2.      Calif. Community College Should Not Impose Religion at Public Events, Americans United Tells Appeals Court

3.      American Humanist Association files Amicus Brief Challenging National Day of Prayer

American Humanist Association files Amicus Brief Challenging National Day of Prayer

Posted: 08 Oct 2010 04:51 PM PDT

The Appignani Humanist Legal Center of the American Humanist Association (AHA) filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday, seeking an affirmation of the district court’s decision holding the National Day of Prayer Statute as an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

The brief can be found here, and was filed by The Appignani Humanist Legal Center on behalf of the American Humanist Association, the Institute for Humanist Studies, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, the Secular Student Alliance, and the Society for Humanistic Judaism.

The lawsuit was first filed in 2008 by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. In April 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the Congressionally-mandated National Day of Prayer proclamation was unconstitutional, noting that the statute that mandates the Presidential proclamation “goes beyond mere ‘acknowledgment’ of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context. In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience.”

“Our brief argues that the National Day of prayer statute and presidential National Day of Prayer proclamations violate the Constitution in two respects. First, they are an endorsement of the monotheistic religions, principally Christianity and Judaism, in violation of the First Amendment’s prohibition against government endorsements of religion,” said Bob Ritter, staff attorney of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “Second, they violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause by classifying citizens on the basis of religion and disadvantaging those not favored by the government’s preferred religion.”

In response to the National Day of Prayer, The American Humanist Association helped establish the National Day of Reason, celebrating reason and raising public awareness about the persistent threat to religious liberty posed by government intrusion into the private sphere of belief.

The brief states that “the National Day of Prayer statute and proclamations infringe upon the fundamental right of religious liberty by allowing the majority to use the machinery of the government to promote Judeo-Christian monotheistic beliefs.”

Related articles:

1.       Americans United Urges Appeals Court to Strike Down the National Day of Prayer

2.      Humanist Legal Center Files Petition for Writ of Certiorari in Newdow Case

3.      Humanists Applaud American Atheists v. Duncan Decision

Montana woman attacks “blasphemous” artwork

Posted: 07 Oct 2010 10:12 PM PDT

Kathleen Folden being arrested. Image: Reporter-Herald/Jenny Sparks

Wednesday afternoon, a Montana woman charged into a Colorado art gallery bearing a crowbar and a single purpose: To destroy someone else’s private property because she found it offensive. She succeeded in her goal.

“Hero” and “martyr” to some, over-the-road truck driver Kathleen Folden of Kalispell, Montana had doubtless seen accounts of the prints on display at the Loveland Museum/Gallery in Loveland, Colorado, declaring it pornographic and sacrilegious. She knew that a work by San Francisco artist Enrique Chagoya had brought protesters for the previous six days from the local Catholic church, St. John the Evangelist.

Donning a T-shirt proclaiming “My Saviour is tougher than nails”, Folden arrived at the gallery shortly after the Catholic protesters dispersed for the day. Wielding a crowbar, she charged into the facility, located the display case holding the controversial print, and began bashing the Plexiglas screaming “Filth! Filth! Filth!”.

Details, The Misadventures of the Romantic Cannibals. Offensive section, lower right.

Successfully breaking into the case, Folden tore off a foot-long section of the print which supposedly depicted a cartoon Jesus receiving oral sex from another man. Retreating into a corner of the gallery, muttering “How can you desecrate my Lord?”, Folden tore the section of the print into tiny pieces while awaiting the police. Upon their arrival, she lay on the floor with her arms spread, as if crucified, and waited to be arrested.

Bud Shark is the printmaker who assembled the collection of prints by Chagoya and other artists for the exhibit. In a statement released late Wednesday, Shark expressed his frustration with the protesters and the media:

“The destruction of the Enrique Chagoya “The Misadventures of the Romantic Cannibals” at the Loveland Museum Gallery today is the direct result of the inflammatory and false descriptions of the piece in the press and by those protesting it’s inclusion in our exhibition. The controversial image has been demonized as ‘pornographic,’ ‘obscene’ and ‘depicting Jesus in a sex act’ when none of this is true.

“I deplore the violence and intolerance of this act and call upon those organizing the protests against this piece to restrain their angry mob at once.”

The artist commented, “It’s certainly very scary, not just for me, but for our culture as a whole,” he said. “This affects everybody’s rights.” Chagoya added, “I’ve been getting hate mail. I don’t open it anymore. Locally, the school (Stanford University) is providing security for me. But I’ve also been getting support from many friends and artists.”

The print was valued at $3,400, and copies may be purchased from Shark’s Ink. At present, the print’s page has been removed from the printer’s website. Folden has been charged with first-degree criminal mischief, which carries a fine of $1,000 – $2,000. Her $350 bail was posted by an anonymous person.

Folden’s attorney, Cliff Stricklin, commented today, “The focus has been on Ms. Folden here today and yesterday, but I think the focus should probably be changed a little bit and we should be asking why the City of Loveland would have deliberately endorsed such a provocative, insensitive depiction and display.”

What do you think of Folden and her actions? Is she a hero? Is she a heretic, proclaiming her Savior to be “tough as nails” yet assuming she had to protect an omniscient being from nasty pictures? Is she a lunatic? Is she un-American? Or something else?

What of Strickland’s words? Should the focus be on the actions of a violent vandal, or should the victim be blamed for her actions?

Related articles:

1.       In Brief: Montana GOP Seeks to ‘Keep Homosexual Acts Illegal’, promote funding religious schools

2.      Islamic attacks on free expression intensify; arrests in Vilks arson case

3.      “Hand of God” protects woman from self-inflicted acid “attack”?



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