Friday, September 28, 2012

Indecent Proposal: Another ‘Religious Supremacy’ Amendment Surfaces In The U.S. House


It is deeply disturbing that a government body that has sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution would consider a resolution that disrespects a principle that comes straight from the First Amendment.
As part of a continuing effort to use religion as a way of excluding many Americans, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives recently proposed a resolution that “reaffirms the importance of religion in the lives of United States citizens.”

Introduced Sept. 19 by Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), the resolution includes a number of statements that are offensive to anyone who supports church-state separation or isn’t Christian.
The resolution says that Judeo-Christian heritage “has played a strong role in the development of the United States and in the lives of many of the Nation’s citizens” and that the House “rejects efforts to remove evidence of Judeo-Christian heritage and references to God from public structures and resources.”

A long list of “evidence” is also offered to support the claim that religion is important to people in the U.S.

One claim is that the “first act of Congress in 1774 was a prayer.” That is pretty meaningless because that wasn’t the U.S. Congress. Not only did that First Continental Congress meet for just a few weeks, it didn’t include representatives of all 13 colonies. America hadn’t even declared independence yet from Britain, so to say the Congress in 1774 set the precedent for the United States is just not accurate.

Another meaningless claim intended to support the resolution is that the Bible is the best-selling book of all time. So what? The Bible has been available for centuries and is sold worldwide. That doesn’t prove anything about the importance of religion to people in the United States.
A third claim made in the resolution references a 2007 study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public life that found 92 percent of U.S. citizens believe in God and 78.4 percent identified as Christian. Here, the House is basically saying, “If you don’t believe in God, get out” and “If you aren’t Christian, you should probably leave, too.”

Those who would support this resolution seemingly have no issue with excluding eight percent of the population (though really it’s 21.6 percent), so let’s put that 8 percent number in context. It may not seem like a lot of people, but that’s a little over 25 million Americans. Should the U.S. government be passing resolutions that alienate such a large number of people?
Atheist groups certainly don’t think so.

“This [resolution] only serves to divide rather than unite Americans,” said Edwina Rogers, executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, according to The Raw Story. “This resolution insinuates that because Christianity is the majority religion in the United States, the religion and its followers should be privileged by our government, but this logic is problematic – our Constitution is secular precisely to protect all Americans regardless of their religious beliefs or lack of religious beliefs.”
No one really disputes the importance of religion in American life, so what’s the point of this resolution? Clearly, some in the House not only want to send a message that non-Christians aren’t favored, but also to express their desire to fight church-state separation.

It is deeply disturbing that a government body that has sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution would consider a resolution that disrespects a principle that comes straight from the First Amendment. This isn’t about preserving “the freedom to exercise religious beliefs in the United States,” as the resolution says, because nobody is trying to stop people from expressing their beliefs.
Instead, it’s all part of an ongoing attempt by the Religious Right and its allies to force their ideas on others.

This resolution may be non-binding, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take it seriously. There are some in our government who are happy to ignore the parts of the Constitution that they simply don’t like, and they will gladly place restrictions on people who don’t think the way they do.
We must demand that Congress stop wasting its time on needless and exclusionary resolutions that serve no purpose other than to bully those who don’t agree with them. Not one member of Congress was elected to act this way, and it’s time they are reminded of that.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Like-minded Religious Group Erects New Billboard

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has placed a bold 14x48-foot billboard bulletin saying “Ban Marriage Between Church and State” in Smithville, Mo., in America’s heartland. FFRF’s bright purple billboard, adorned with a background rainbow, is hard to miss. It was placed to counter a nearby billboard message saying “1 Man, 1 Woman, Forever,” in downtown Smithville put up by Catholic Radio. (See photo below.)

FFRF’s newest billboard slogan, affirming the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, can be found on Highway 169 one mile north of Highway 92 in Clay County.

According to Smithville’s official city website, it has a population of about 8,400, is a suburb of Kansas City, Mo., and is within commuting distance of St. Joseph, Mo. Smithville Lake is part of a 7,700-acre Army Corps of Engineers recreational lake and park that attracts about 170 bald eagles. That same city website advertises 14 churches.

FFRF launched its newest billboard slogan (adapted from one of FFRF’s popular bumper stickers) at the request of Matt Gaines, a member of FFRF and resident of rural Smithville.

Gaines said he feels the Catholic-sponsored sign is offensive to gay couples — and even to anyone who has gone through a divorce:

"To denigrate other people's relationships or the decisions they have had to make with their outdated religious dogmas is simply shameful," said Gaines.

Said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor: “The only organized opposition to marriage equality comes from the Religious Right. Mormon, Roman Catholic and fundamentalist Protestant churches and organizations have spent hundreds of millions to amend state constitutions to ban gay marriage in the name of Christianity. Religious dogma must be kept out of our secular laws.”

Gaylor thanked Matt Gaines, not only for helping to locate the billboard, but for donating toward the costs. FFRF places billboards where local members request them and help make it possible.

FFRF is a 501(c)(3) educational charity with more than 18,500 nonreligious members nationwide, including more than 270 in Missouri. FFRF began a national billboard campaign in the fall of 2007, and has since placed hundreds of secular slogans on billboards in more than half the states. FFRF functions as a state/church watchdog, ending many constitutional violations through legal work and litigation.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

Murky Math: Why Ralph Reed’s Latest Political Claims Don’t Add Up

Murky Math: Why Ralph Reed’s Latest Political Claims Don’t Add Up

Sep 24, 2012 by Rob Boston in Wall of Separation

Ralph Reed has a history of exaggerating what his groups will do or even what they are capable of doing.

My wife and I are fans of the Sunday New York Times, and yesterday as we were enjoying the paper over a leisurely breakfast, she nudged me to make note of a story on the front page. I looked and was a little taken aback. Glaring up at me was a photo of an old Americans United nemesis – Ralph Reed. The headline read, “An Evangelical Is Back From Exile, Lifting Romney.”

Some of you may recall Reed from his days as a political operative for TV preacher Pat Robertson. In the early 1990s he was something of a wunderkind, and journalists never failed to mention how someone with such a boyish appearance could run a hardball political operation.

Reed led Robertson’s Christian Coalition for several years and then departed to start a political consulting firm near Atlanta. He worked on both George W. Bush campaigns, assisted other candidates and did some lobbying. All the while, Reed had his eye on public office himself.

It didn’t quite work out. Reed ran for lieutenant governor of Georgia in 2006, probably figuring it would be his first rung on the political ladder. The voters had other ideas. Reed’s campaign came crashing down in spectacular flames after his ties to disgraced casino lobbyist Jack Abramoff became an issue. Reed was supposed to win the Republican primary in a cakewalk. He ended up losing by 12 points.

Reed tried his hand at writing a political thriller. It flopped. So Reed returned to his roots and launched a new Religious Right group called the Faith & Freedom Coalition. Reed’s political resurrection was the focus of the Times story.

When he ran the Christian Coalition, Reed had a history of exaggerating his influence. (The less charitable might say he told big, fat lies.) It seems he’s up to his old tricks. The Times reported that Reed has compiled the “largest-ever database of reliably conservative religious voters.” He told the newspaper that his organization will call 17.1 million registered voters in 15 key states and that two million people will receive personal visits.

Of special interest to me was Reed’s claim that the Faith & Freedom Coalition will distribute 25 million voter guides in 117,000 churches. Yeah, I’ve heard that one before.

The Times dutifully reported all of this. Yet a little simple arithmetic shows that it’s almost certainly not true. According to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, there are estimated to be 350,000 religious congregations in the United States, many of which would have nothing with Reed’s group.

A large number of Christian churches are affiliated with mainline Protestant denominations. Reed’s group has no headway with these churches. They disagree with his agenda. Catholic and Orthodox churches account for about 24,000 congregations. The Catholic bishops decided years ago to keep voter guides issued by advocacy groups out of the pews.

Obviously most Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, etc. congregations are not going to help Reed out. That leaves him with evangelical congregations. To be sure, there are many of them in America, but even here Reed would encounter difficulties.

All signs indicate that evangelicals are getting weary of the constant political drumbeat. Polls show that most Americans – especially younger churchgoers – attend services for spiritual reasons, not to hear political rants.

But let’s say by some miracle there were 117,000 churches friendly to Reed’s group. The amount of work required to coordinate with them would be staggering – not to mention extremely expensive. One would have to spend years laying the groundwork, yet Reed’s Coalition, until recently, had an annual budget of less than $1 million.

Publicly available documents show that the budget for Reed’s group jumped from $743,015 in 2009 to about $5.5 million in 2010. Reed claims he’ll spend $10-12 million this year. Obviously some well-heeled right-wing fat cats are pouring money into the effort. Reed will clearly connect with some voters and churches, but he’s not going to reach 33 percent of entire American religious community.

I’m also suspicious of the claim that the Coalition will contact 17 million voters. Reed may have access to some high-tech toys, but that number is more than 10 percent of all who voted in 2008. Again, meaningful contact with that many people – as opposed to just sending them a spam e-mail – would cost a lot of money.

And, as strange as this may sound, $10 million isn’t much in a modern political campaign. Analysts say the total cost of this campaign for both parties could top $3 billion. (Sheldon Anderson, a casino magnate, donated $10 million to a Romney Super-PAC in one day.)

None of this means that the Religious Right isn’t a powerful political force or that it doesn’t have influence. Several groups are urging pastors to jump into partisan politics by endorsing or opposing candidates from the pulpit. That’s one reason why Americans United recently mailed letters educating about what’s legal and what’s not concerning political activity to 60,000 houses of worship.

It is important to keep things in perspective, however. Reed has a history of exaggerating what his groups will do or even what they are capable of doing. Rather than just write down and print his claims, journalists should engage in some basic fact checking. If they did, they would quickly see that Reed’s numbers simply don’t add up.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

More than 1,000 pastors plan to challenge IRS by endorsing presidential candidate

clip  More than 1,000 pastors plan to openly defy the IRS by telling their congregation on October 7 to vote for a particular presidential candidate, according to Fox News.

The annual event, dubbed “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” has been organized by the conservative Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom. The pastors participating in the event plan to preach about the election, endorse a candidate, and send video of their sermon to the IRS.

“The purpose is to make sure that the pastor — and not the IRS — decides what is said from the pulpit,” Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for the group, told “It is a head-on constitutional challenge.”

More at:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Don’t Force New York City Public Schools To Subsidize Religion, Americans United Urges Federal Appeals Court

Church-State Watchdog Group Says Constitution Does Not Require Government To Let Churches Hold Worship Services In Schools

Sep 17, 2012

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has asked a federal appeals court to find that government has the right to deny religious institutions access to public schools for worship services.

In a friend-of-the-court brief, Americans United urged the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold a New York City Board of Education policy that prohibits churches from conducting religious worship services in public schools.

“When churches hold Sunday services in public schools for years and years without paying rent, it sends a message to students and the public that government favors religion,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Public schools should serve the public interest, not a private sectarian purpose.”

Last year, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Bronx Household of Faith could no longer use a New York City public school to hold worship services, upholding a city policy. The congregation of about 50 had been using a public school, rent free, for almost 10 years.

The U.S. Supreme Court later declined to hear the dispute, so the church took its case to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, arguing that its right to free exercise of religion was being abridged. In June, the district court sided with the church, holding that it was being unfairly targeted since other groups are allowed to use public schools for after-school or weekend activities.

Americans United disagrees with the district court’s finding, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts have repeatedly held that governments may deny to religious institutions subsidies that are available to non-religious organizations.

The First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, AU asserts, does not give religious groups a claim to government subsidies.

In the case of Locke v. Davey, for example, the Supreme Court upheld a state law that prohibited the use of state scholarships by those seeking a theology degree.

The New York City board’s policy is similar to the one at issue in Locke because it imposes no more than a minor burden on religious practice, accommodates religious groups by allowing school facilities to be used for religious activities that fall short of a worship service and is motivated by the important government interest of not subsidizing or promoting religious institutions.

The Americans United brief in Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York was authored by AU Associate Legal Director Alex J. Luchenitser, in consultation with AU Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan and with assistance from former AU Steven Gey Fellow Natalie Shapero and current Steven Gey Fellow Randall Maas.*

(*Maas is a 2012 law school graduate; not admitted to any bar.)

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.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Already God-Soaked Presidential Campaign About To Get Another Dose Of That Old-Time Religion

Religious Right’s ‘Values Voter Summit’ Attempts To Push ‘Culture War’ Issues To The Front And Center, Says Americans United

Sep 13, 2012

Americans weary of the amount of “God talk” in the presidential campaign had better brace themselves. We may be about to hear a lot more, warns Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

This weekend, Religious Right activists from across the country are gathering in Washington, D.C., to attend the annual “Values Voter Summit” sponsored by the Family Research Council (FRC) and allied groups. The confab is an effort to put the focus on social issues during a time when most voters say the economy is their number one concern.

“The last time I checked, God was not on the November ballot,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “But if the Religious Right has its way, the Almighty will overshadow unemployment, health care and the budget deficit as the campaign enters the home stretch.

“I get really tired,” said Lynn, “of hearing how much candidates love God, instead of their concrete plans for how they are going to get the country back on the right track.”

Lynn, a minister and lawyer who has monitored religion and politics for over 20 years, noted that the campaign has already featured a high degree of religious rhetoric.

GOP standard-bearer Mitt Romney has vowed to keep God in his heart and on American coins, and Barack Obama had to scramble to insert a reference to God in the Democratic platform after being attacked for the omission by TV preacher Pat Robertson’s “news” operation.

In addition, Religious Right groups are pressuring pastors nationwide to politicize their pulpits by endorsing Romney and/or attacking President Barack Obama.

The misplaced focus on religion, Americans United maintains, is a distraction from the issues most Americans care about and a threat to church-state separation.

“Religious Right obsessions over banning all abortions, restricting the rights of gays and teaching religion in public schools are not shared by most Americans,” said Lynn. “Yet these organizations have enough power and money to force their agenda onto the national stage.”

Lynn, who has attended every Values Voter Summit (and many Christian Coalition “Road to Victory” Conferences before that), noted that top leaders of the Republican Party often speak at these gatherings.

This year, attendees will hear from GOP vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, several Republican senators and members of Congress, among others – despite the Summit’s sponsorship by organizations identified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“Candidates have knelt at the altar of the Religious Right much too often,” Lynn observed. “The American people do not want religion brought into partisan politics or politics brought into the sanctuary. Poll after poll reaffirms that point. I’d like to hear candidates make a profession of faith in the Constitution and church-state separation.”

The Summit is sponsored primarily by the FRC. This year’s co-sponsors include American Family Association Action, American Values, the Heritage Foundation, Liberty University and Liberty Counsel.

AU’s Lynn is available to offer media commentary about the Summit and the role of the Religious Right in campaign 2012.

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.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Separation of church and state discussed at gathering of OKC clergy

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Repor

By Andrew W. Griffin
Red Dirt Report, editor

Posted: September 13, 2012
clip  OKLAHOMA CITY – During a small interfaith gathering of local clergy (and at least one atheist) and other interested folks at Ingrid’s Kitchen Thursday morning, the focus was on the importance of the separation of church and state.

The Rev. Steven C. Baines, the assistant field director for religious outreach for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told the group, over a light breakfast, about being raised in the Baptist faith (he is now with the Disciples of Christ) in his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina and how they believed three things: 1. Autonomy of the Church; 2. Priesthood of believers; 3. And the separation of church and state.

That third one, Baines said, was driven home as he was growing up. However, these days that separation seems to be entering a gray area as more far-right church leaders challenge the law by endorsing and opposing candidates from the pulpit or in church bulletins.   continued at:

Monday, September 10, 2012

Not God’s Army: The Front Lines of the Fight Against Proselytizing in the U.S. Military

Not God’s Army: The Front Lines of the Fight Against Proselytizing in the U.S. Military

Moderator's note: The following article is posted only for informational purposes.

Airmen and soldiers take a moment to pray": U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Campbell


September 9, 2012

Not God’s Army: The Front Lines of the Fight Against Proselytizing in the U.S. Military
A conversation with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s Mikey Weinstein

By Candace Chellew-Hodge

Candace Chellew-Hodge is the founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians and currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C. She is also the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008)

Since this interview took place RD has learned that one member of the armed forces, having been the object of persistent harassment from a military superior in their direct chain of command for their religious affiliation, has attempted suicide. In the coming weeks, this MRFF client faces an official military proceeding. Due to the sensitive nature of the situation all identifying information has been omitted. –Eds.

Last month, right before his retirement, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Norton Schwartz issued new rules regarding proselytizing among the troops. The document instructs commanders to “avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion.”

Although the new order is backed up by military law, Mikey Weinstein, founder of and force behind the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), remains skeptical:

It was a transparent and likely guilt-ridden concession by Schwartz, yet it was both too little and too late. With Schwartz’s butt-covering, last second, ‘midnight drive-by’ delivery of AFI 1-1, we have no alternative left but to look to the new USAF Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, to show the all-too-rare backbone once required of all top leaders within the U.S. Military.

Weinstein, whose work with the MRFF was nominated this year for the Nobel Peace Prize, has been fighting for religious freedom within the military since 2005, when his son Curtis, an Air Force Academy cadet, confided to his father that he’d been struggling. As Weinstein recounts in his most recent book, Curtis told his father: “I’m going to beat the shit out of the next guy who calls me a ‘fucking Jew.’ I’m going to beat the shit out of the next guy who accuses me, or our people, of killing Christ.”

Continued at:

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Freedom has Responsibilities

National AU Staffer will Make Two Appearances in OKC

National AU Staffer will Make Two Appearances in OKC

Rev. Steven Baines

(OKLAHOMA CITY)  Steven Baines of the national office of Americans United for Separation of Church and State in Washington, DC, will be making two speaking appearances in Oklahoma City on Thursday, September 13.   Both events are free and open to the public.  and

Rev. Steven Baines is Assistant Field Director/Religious Outreach Director at Americans United for the Separation of Church and State where he is responsible for the organization's national engagement with and mobilization of people of faith. Before coming to Americans United, he served as Director of Interfaith Outreach at both the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and People For the American Way. He has also served as Executive Director for Equal Partners in Faith, a national interfaith organization committed to fighting racism, sexism and homophobia.   More information about Rev. Baines can be found here:

Rev. Baines will visit with interfaith clergy from 9 to 10:30am at Ingrid's Kitchen located  3701 North Youngs, 2 blocks west of Pennsylvania on NW 36th Street.  The public is invited.

The second event will be Thursday evening for the Oklahoma City chapter's annual membership meeting and mixer.  This begins at 7:00 to 9:00pm on the roof top of Coffee Slingers in downtown OKC.  Light refreshments and wine will be served.

You can meet and mingle with Rev. Baines as he shares his knowledge of religion and politics in the United States.

Coffee Slingers is located at 1015 N. Broadway in downtown OKC.

More information can be had from Jim Nimmo, communication chair, 405-eight-four-three-3651 or
james.nimmo at .


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

2012 Annual Meeting/Mixer -- All Interested People Invited

Americans United for Separation of Church & State

Annual Meeting Oklahoma City

Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012, 7pm to 9pm

Rooftop at Coffee Slingers Cafe

Wine & Light Refreshments

­Downtown Oklahoma City @ 1015 N. Broadway

Special Guest: Steven Baines from AU National Office

More information: Jim Nimmo, 405-eight-four-three-3651

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Question from Madame Justice

Divorce Church & State

The Founding Fathers Versus The Christian Right: Quotes In Support Of The Separation Of Church And State

clip  The separation of church and state is one of the cornerstones of America’s foundation. Conservative Christian fundamentalists have sought to crush this cornerstone in the hopes of establishing Christianity as the state religion, an action that would threaten the rest of the foundation that makes up the Constitution. These conservatives contend that the Founding Fathers dreamed of making America a Christian state at the expense of those who practice other religions or none at all. So on this occasion of our nation’s founding, here are 30 quotes from the Founding Fathers. Perhaps your first thoughts of the ‘founding fathers’ are the first four Presidents and maybe Benjamin Franklin, but there were many other Founding Fathers. Many were signers of the Constitution and The Declaration of Independence. They were lawyers, judges, soldiers, merchants, farmers, and some were even clergy. And the great majority of them signed the Constitution knowing that matters of government and matters of religion would be separate.


clip  These are hardly the words of men who allegedly believed that America should be a Christian nation governed by the bible as conservatives constantly claim. On the contrary, the great majority of the Founders believed strongly in separation of church and state. So on Independence Day, keep in mind that this country has survived for over two centuries under the principle of separation and it is only now when conservatives are attempting to destroy that very cornerstone that we find America becoming ever more divided and more politically charged than ever before. If this right-wing faction has their way, America as we knew it will cease to exist and the freedoms we have enjoyed because of the Constitution will erode. The Founding Fathers had a vision of this nation and trusted that the people would protect that vision and improve upon it. Now is not the time to fail them. Because the day the people fail, so does America.