Monday, November 26, 2012

Judge Roy Moore's Odd View of the Constitution
Judge Roy Moore's Odd View of the Constitution

Judge Roy Moore, who planted a Ten Commandments monument in a courthouse and refused to obey a federal court order to remove it, has been elected again to serve as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

While half the nation has been celebrating and half of the nation has been mourning the re-election of Barack Obama, another election has barely been noticed outside Alabama.

Judge Roy Moore, who planted a 2.5-ton Ten Commandments monument in a courthouse and then refused to obey a federal court order to remove it, has been elected again to serve as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

Moore's understanding of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is polar-opposite from my own.

He thinks the Constitution establishes the "Judeo-Christian" religion. I'm convinced that the First Amendment means exactly what it says: "Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion."

Moore and I do agree on one thing. Both of us see through the smokescreen that the Supreme Court is using to ignore the implications of keeping the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance and using "In God We Trust" as our national motto.
For both Moore and myself, the word "God" means something. It refers to a real divinity.

The Supreme Court, however, contends that the word "God" does not mean anything when it is used in our civic life.

According to the Supreme Court, in American civic life the word "God" does not refer to a real divinity because the word has "lost through rote repetition any significant religious content." (See Justice Brennan's concurring opinion in Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668 1984.)

Instead, "God" is more like a mascot that we trot out to make us feel good about ourselves and our nation.

For the Supreme Court, civic references to "God" are examples of "ceremonial deism" and, therefore, do not violate the First Amendment's prohibition against establishing a religion.

Moore contends that the word "God" invokes a real deity that our nation ought to acknowledge constitutionally and establish as our national sovereign.

For Moore and many others on the Religious Right, democracy is, at best, defined theocratically – not pluralistically.

For them, people of no faith and people of other faiths are second-class citizens with fewer rights and privileges than those who acknowledge the "Judeo-Christian" God.

Like Moore, I believe that the word "God" invokes a real deity, but I don't believe God is interested in being acknowledged by constitutions.

The Father that Jesus revealed is interested in voluntary personal relationships with real persons, not coercive monarchical relations with the constructs of nation-states.

To treat God as a national "mascot" and strip his name of "meaning" is blasphemous. It directly transgresses the command to "not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain" (Exodus 20:7).

Unlike Moore, I don't believe American democracy has ever been defined "theocratically."

James Madison thought that the prohibition against religious tests to hold public office (Article VI of the U.S. Constitution) was enough to guarantee religious liberty for everyone.

Anyone who has read his Memorial and Remonstrance knows that he never intended for people of no faith and people of other faiths to be second-class citizens of this country.

Anyone who has read the Act for Establishing Religious Freedom knows that Thomas Jefferson's mind was of one accord with Madison on this matter.

You don't even have to be aware of the Baptist heritage of advocacy for separation of church and state to know that from the beginning the United States was conceived to be a "pluralistic" democracy, not a theocracy.

Bruce Prescott is executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists and president of the Norman, Okla., chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He blogs at Mainstream Baptist.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Oklahoma Erects 10 Commandments Monument With Spelling Errors

Should a lawsuit arise, the defense of the violation of the First Amendment would be farmed out to a flat-earth law firm that has a record of LOOSING these kinds of lawsuits.

clip--Ritze says the Liberty Legal Foundation -- which has led legal challe
nges to President Barack Obama's eligibility to run for president on the grounds that he was allegedly born in Kenya -- has agreed to take on the defense at no cost to the state.

Oklahoma City Chapter Participated in 2012 Peace Festival

left, John Loghry, president; right, James Nimmo, Communications Chair,
staff our OKAU table at the OKC Peace House 2012 Peace Festival

Monday, November 5, 2012

Who's Minding the IRS Enforcement of Tax Exempttions?

Religion And Politics: IRS Not Enforcing Rules On Separation Of Church And State

NEW YORK (AP) — For the past three years, the Internal Revenue Service hasn't been investigating complaints of partisan political activity by churches, leaving religious groups who make direct or thinly veiled endorsements of political candidates unchallenged.


Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which seeks strict limits on religious involvement in politics, and the Alliance Defending Freedom, which considers the regulations unconstitutional government intrusion, scour the political landscape for any potential cases. While Americans United gathers evidence it hopes will prompt an IRS investigation, the Alliance Defending Freedom jumps in to provide a defense. Neither group knows of any IRS contact with houses of worship over political activity since the 2009 federal ruling.

clip--However, attorneys who specialize in tax law for religious groups, as well as advocacy groups who monitor the cases, say they know of no IRS inquiries in the past three years into claims of partisanship by houses of worship. IRS church audits are confidential, but usually become public as the targeted religious groups fight to maintain their nonprofit status.

"The impression created is that no one is minding the store," said Melissa Rogers, a legal scholar and director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University Divinity School in North Carolina. "When there's an impression the IRS is not enforcing the restriction — that seems to embolden some to cross the line."   clip--Last month, more than 1,500 pastors, organized by the Alliance Defending Freedom, endorsed a candidate from the pulpit and then sent a record of their statement to the IRS, hoping their challenge would eventually end up in court. The Alliance has organized the event, called "Pulpit Freedom Sunday," since 2008. The IRS has never contacted a pastor involved in the protest.

complete at:

Friday, November 2, 2012

Decorated Afghanistan War Veteran Sues North Carolina Town Over Sectarian Symbols At Veterans’ Memorial

City Of King Is Exploiting The Memory Of American Soldiers To Promote Christianity, Says Americans United

Nov 2, 2012

The city of King, N.C., is violating the U.S. and North Carolina constitutions by displaying sectarian symbols at a veterans’ memorial, Americans United for Separation of Church and State told a federal court today.

In a lawsuit filed on behalf of Steven Hewett, a decorated veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Americans United asked the city to remove the Christian flag as well as a Christian statue at the memorial.

“The United States armed forces are highly diverse,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “To have a veterans’ memorial that only honors soldiers of one religion is not only a violation of the First Amendment, but also an insult to the memory of non-Christians who served their country.”

Hewett, who won the Combat Action Badge and Bronze Star during his service with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, first complained about King’s overt promotion of Christianity in July 2010. A non-Christian, he asked for the removal of the Christian flag from the city-sponsored memorial out of respect for the many non-Christian veterans who have served their country.

Hewett’s request was greeted with contempt and derision from city officials who reaffirmed their belief in Christianity as the only true faith. Community residents who learned of the controversy also besieged the council with demands that the Christian flag remain in place.

After a complaint from Americans United, the city council voted in September 2010 to remove the Christian flag, but the removal was temporary.

In November 2010, the city – following advice from the Religious Right legal group the Alliance Defending Freedom – created a “limited public forum” in which a flagpole at the veterans’ memorial was reserved for a rotating group of pre-approved flags. The city conducted a lottery and selected 52 flag applications, one for each week of the year.

The result of the lottery was that the Christian flag flew at the memorial for 47 weeks in 2011 and will have flown for 47 weeks by the end of 2012.

Americans United says in its lawsuit that this so-called public forum is a sham.

“A truly open public forum would not result in the nearly exclusive display of a Christian symbol,” Americans United Senior Litigation Counsel Gregory M. Lipper said. “In this case, the city is clearly exploiting the memory of deceased veterans in order to promote a single faith.”

Hewett is also asking for the removal of a statue erected at the memorial that depicts a soldier kneeling before a cross.

In a statement today, Hewett said, “I proudly served alongside a diverse group of soldiers with a variety of different religious beliefs. The City of King should be honoring everyone who served our country, not using their service as an excuse to promote a single religion.”

Along with Lipper, the Hewett v. City of King, NC case is being litigated by AU Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan with assistance from AU Madison Fellow Benjamin N. Hazelwood. John M. Moye of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP is serving as local counsel.

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.