- Government Unconstitutionally Forced Idaho Inmate To Participate In Religion, Americans United Tells Court
- Religion and suicide – a patchy global picture
- Poll: Tea Partiers aren’t libertarian but Religious Right
- The Date: 10/6/10 Atheist Cartoon
- Baptist leader denounces pulpit politics
- More churches openly violate IRS rules for tax exemption
- CFI Announces Video Contest Winners
- Americans United Urges Texas State School Board To Reject Resolution On ‘Pro-Islamic/Anti-Christian’ Bias
- Army Must Cancel Evangelistic Event At Fort Bragg, Says Americans United
- God Bless America to honor the troops??!!
Posted: 06 Oct 2010 06:41 PM PDT
Government may not force Americans to participate in religious indoctrination and courts must not interpret the Constitution in ways that allow such coercion, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
In a friend-of-the-court brief filed today, Americans United told a federal appeals court that an
Janene Cowles was given the choice of participating in a “discipleship/recovery” program at the Boise Rescue Mission or continuing to serve a one-year sentence in the Ada County Jail on a drug conviction. Cowles enrolled in the program, but was kicked out — and returned to jail — when she failed to convert to Christianity.
“This is just plain wrong,”said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “When the courts and religious groups join forces to indoctrinate Americans in a particular faith, they have gone too far. The Constitution does not allow this kind of government-assisted religious coercion.”
Cowles and the Intermountain Fair Housing Council sued the mission for religious discrimination. But a
In its brief with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Americans United said the district court was wrong. The Free Exercise Clause does not generally exempt religious groups from neutral, generally applicable laws such as the Fair Housing Act.
Furthermore, when religious groups work closely with the government in a “symbiotic relationship,” AU continued, they cannot claim exemption from laws and constitutional safeguards that protect Americans from coerced religion.
“By [the mission’s] own admission,” AU asserted, “the Discipleship Program depends heavily upon the State for participants and, in return, provides the State with a free residential program. Accordingly, [the mission] functions as a state actor – and must comply with constitutional guarantees – at least insofar as it houses court-mandated attendees.”
The Americans United brief in Intermountain Fair Housing Council v. Boise Rescue Mission Ministries was written by AU Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan and
Posted: 06 Oct 2010 04:48 PM PDT
The previous post took a look at suicides in
In each country, people who have attempted suicide are brought into the study and given a questionnaire to fill out. Another group of people, randomly chosen, are given the same questionnaire. That allows the team to compare religious affiliation, involvement in organised religion, and individual religiosity in suicide attempters and the general population.
When they looked at the data, and adjusted them for a host of factors known to affect suicide risk (age, gender, marital status, employment, and education), a complex picture emerged.
These are very large differences. In
Part of it might be differences in the predominant religion. The protective effect of religion seems to be higher in monotheistic countries, and it’s particularly high in the most fervently monotheistic country,
But that doesn’t explain
They point out that earlier studies have shown that religious homogeneity is linked to lower suicide rates, and they suggest that the reverse might well be happening in South Africa.
In fact, this also could explain why, in
So once again we’ve got a study showing the double-edged nature of religion. For those inside the group, it provides support and comfort. But once fractures appear, religion just seems to turn up the heat!
Sisask, M., Varnik, A., Kolves, K., Bertolote, J., Bolhari, J., Botega, N., Fleischmann, A., Vijayakumar, L., & Wasserman, D. (2010). Is Religiosity a Protective Factor Against Attempted Suicide: A Cross-Cultural Case-Control Study Archives of Suicide Research, 14 (1), 44-55 DOI: 10.1080/13811110903479052
Posted: 06 Oct 2010 02:06 PM PDT
Since its inception, we’ve heard many times that the Tea Party is not just about being “Taxed Enough Already”, but about liberty, freedom, and the
The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) conducts its American Values Survey (AVS) every two years. This public opinion survey, conducted as Americans gear up for the national election season, surveys American attitudes on religion, values, and politics.
The results from self-identified Tea Partiers reinforced much of the common wisdom about the Tea Party. Compared to the general
§ 81% identify as Christian; of these, 57% consider themselves part of the Christian Conservative movement.
§ Of all Tea Partiers, 47% identify as part of the Christian Conservative movement.
§ 63% believe abortion should be illegal in all, or nearly all, cases.
§ 82% oppose gay/lesbian marriage.
§ 76% are Republican partisans, with 48% identifying with and 28% leaning toward the Republican party.
Tea Partiers presently comprise 11% of the American population — half the numbers of the Christian Conservative movement, and there is significant overlap between the two. Does this mean they can be safely ignored?
We can infer from these results and from the candidates chosen for support that the Religious Right is influencing, if not wholly steering, the Tea Party. However, only slightly less than half of the Tea Party rank-and-file identify as Christian Conservatives.
Through the Tea Party, the Christian Conservative movement gains for its chosen candidates the support of about 6% of the population (just over half of the Tea Party’s 11% of the population) that they may not have otherwise had. 6% is more than enough to swing many races. Further, Tea Partiers are motivated to vote in this election, while Democrats in particular are not. It is reasonable to expect a higher voter turnout from the Tea Party, helping lift the Religious Right’s candidates into office.
Results of the 2010 American Values Survey are based on telephone interviews conducted by Public Religion Research Institute among a national random sample of 3,013 adults (age 18 and older) between September 1 and September 14, 2010. You can read the full report and questionnaire here.
Posted: 06 Oct 2010 11:47 AM PDT
Posted: 06 Oct 2010 11:43 AM PDT
The effort to recruit pastors to endorse political candidates from the pulpit on Sept. 26 is a misguided idea and a brazen attempt to blend the worship of God with electoral politics, said a Baptist leader, constitutional scholar and church-state expert.
J. Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, said the Alliance Defense Fund’s plan to provoke investigations of these houses of worship by the Internal Revenue Service could risk the tax-exempt status of the churches. ADF lawyers would then challenge the investigations in court.
“Pulpit Freedom Sunday is entirely unnecessary. Preachers are perfectly free to interpret and apply scripture as they see fit, speak out on the great moral and ethical issues of the day, and urge good citizenship practices, such as registering to vote and voting,”
“In every church I know of, it would be like setting off a bomb shell in the sanctuary for the preacher to tell the congregants how to pull the lever in the voting booth,”
Posted: 06 Oct 2010 12:01 AM PDT
A growing number of churches are thumbing their noses at federal law and diving into the political arena . . . putting their 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status at risk.
According to the I.R.S.’s rules and regulations, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization (which includes churches) may not “influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.” It’s simply part of the deal that in order to exist without paying taxes, certain types of political action are off-limits.
It’s rare, but the I.R.S. can revoke a group’s tax-exempt status if they violate the rules and did so for the first time in 1995. In the last few years, more and more churches, however, are crossing the line on purpose.
Earlier this year, American United for Separation of Church and State (AU) asked the I.R.S. to investigate
AU has also asked the I.R.S. to investigate a South Dakota church when a pastor there endorsed a candidate for governor. Rev. H. Wayne Williams, pastor of Liberty Baptist Tabernacle in
There are groups asking for the revocation of the tax-exempt status of the Mormon Church, based largely on their push to get a constitutional amendment passed in
And, of course, the extremely nutty
It seems that many churches are openly violating the law and the I.R.S. is sitting around letting it happen. It is unclear why nothing is being done, but this can’t go on for long. The I.R.S. will have to do something at some point. Hopefully, they’ll charge a whole group of churches at the same time in order to show the serious nature of the problem.
If churches want to legally engage in politics they can easily do so. They just need to give up their tax-exempt status and pray for more money to make up the difference. If prayer works, as they assert, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Posted: 05 Oct 2010 11:04 PM PDT
The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is pleased to announce that
The Grand Prize provides Messrs. Walsh and Schmid with a cash award of $2000.
In the Cards
The entry Mr. Walsh and Mr. Schmid submitted was: ”In the Cards .”
Regarding their entry, CFI president & CEO Ronald A. Lindsay observes, “This entry, by concisely and memorably illustrating the wide diversity of views protected by our right to free speech, forcefully conveys the importance of free expression.”
In addition to the Grand Prize winner, there were two other winners. Second-place and an award of $1000 went to Reilly Donovan of
Third-place and an award of $500 went to Mia Holley of
The Campaign for Free Expression is an initiative by CFI to emphasize the critical importance of free expression. During the campaign, CFI has drawn attention to efforts to suppress free speech both in the
The winners of the video contest are being announced on International Blasphemy Rights Day, which is sponsored by CFI. Through International Blasphemy Rights Day, CFI underscores its position that religious beliefs should be subject to examination and criticism, just like any other belief.
Posted: 05 Oct 2010 08:00 PM PDT
Americans United for Separation of Church and State today urged the Texas State Board of Education to reject a resolution that criticizes publishers for allegedly promoting “pro-Islamic/anti-Christian bias” in world history textbooks.
The resolution, put forward by an ultra-conservative faction on the board, vows to reject textbooks that “offend
Advocates of civil rights and civil liberties said the measure is based on faulty and misleading analysis and is merely the latest attempt by right-wing board members to politicize public education in
“This clearly is just an attempt to add fuel to the anti-Islam rhetoric currently circulating around the country,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “The right-wing faction on the board needs to recognize that it is their duty to make the best decisions for students, not to push a political agenda.
“Once again, the
In a letter today, Americans United called on the board to shelve the resolution.
“We urge the Board to oppose this harmful resolution,” wrote Sher. “Although the purported goal of balanced treatment of religion is commendable, the resolution actually achieves the opposite result – it has the effect of disparaging Islam. The Board should focus on giving
The resolution has been placed on the agenda for the board meeting being held today and tomorrow in
Posted: 05 Oct 2010 07:55 PM PDT
An evangelistic rally jointly sponsored by
The “Rock the Fort” event at
“It’s not the Army’s job to convert Americans to Christianity,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “This event is totally unacceptable and must be canceled.
“It is particularly shocking that the military would join forces with Franklin Graham,”
“Rock the Fort” is being sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) in conjunction with
In addition to evangelizing soldiers, officials at
The Graham Web site contains a quote from Fort Bragg Chaplain Antonio McElroy who said, “I think we are trailblazing here in many ways. I don’t think there has been an outside concert of this magnitude with an organization like BGEA and our chaplains partnering with local churches to come together for one purpose – and that is to glorify God and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The Graham site also tells partnering churches, “The Rock the Fort outreach is designed to channel new believers into your church, so you can encourage them to further spiritual growth. The future of the church lies in reaching and discipling the next generation.”
On June 2, a letter from the chaplain’s office at
It is unclear how many churches received this letter, but given its evangelistic tone, it’s unlikely it was sent to any churches outside of the evangelical Christian tradition.
“The Army has no business entering into a partnership with evangelical churches to help them win new members,”
In today’s AU letter to Secretary of the Army John McHugh, Americans United Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan wrote, “The military’s participation in a religious event designed to proselytize soldiers and the community departs of the Army’s obligation to maintain ‘official religious neutrality.’
“’Rock the Fort’ is not an event designed to minister to the needs of soldiers unable to otherwise access religious services; rather, it is an event designed to proselytize soldiers and community members into the worship of Jesus Christ,” Khan continued. “The Army has, thus, overstepped the constitutional line by sponsoring the event.”
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.
Help us to keep the wall of separation strong. Donate today.
Posted: 05 Oct 2010 07:45 PM PDT
A few months ago, there was a discussion on the blog pertaining to a disturbing trend taking place at major sporting events, during which spectators are expected to stand for the singing of God Bless America. I believe then, the general consensus was that we should take our stand by not standing up for this song. I agreed with this consensus because I refuse to be bullied into participating in a clearly religious practice during a supposedly secular activity.
However, yesterday I encountered a new twist on this practice. I was attending the last regular season Rangers baseball came in
Here’s what I did. I bought a beer from a vendor just as the song started playing and I sat there and sipped my beer while everyone else around me stood. I honored the troops in my own way, by rendering them a toast. I am pretty certain I was the only person sitting down in section 30 of Rangers ballpark while God Bless America was played and I wouldn’t be surprised if I was the only person in the ballpark who remained sitting (this is Texas, after all). Afterwards, I endured a lot of dirty looks and a very nice elderly woman, who was sitting next to me and who I’d been chatting with during the game, moved to an empty seat in order to avoid having to sit next to me for the rest of the game.
It was a great day for a baseball game and I had been enjoying myself up until that moment. It was wrong for the officials at the Rangers ball park to force the spectators into participating in a religious ritual, and it was even more wrong to think playing this song in any way honors our troops. I think the whole “honor our troops” angle is just a sneaky way to encourage blind compliance and participation and it sucks to be put into that position against my will. Plus, it was extremely uncomfortable to sit there and endure all that hostility after the song. What if there had been some nut-ball nearby who took it personally enough to say or do something to me? I was there with my elderly and disabled parents plus my fiance and his young daughter, and it could have easily turned into a situation that endangered their safety and well-being. I wouldn’t have knowingly endangered their safety for anything, but I only had a few seconds to decide if I was going to comply or not and didn’t become fully aware of the hostility being sent in my direction until it was already done.
Thoughts? Anything I could have or should have done differently? In my capacity as American Atheists vice president and military director, I’m working on a letter of complaint on American Atheists letterhead to send to the Rangers Ballpark (assuming our president and legal director concur, which I think they will) but I am interested in any other suggestions and/or comments.
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