Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Oklahoma Baptist Minister Leads the Charge for Separation

AU Activist pointing to the word "holy" on Oklahoma monument to a particular religious viewpoint 
on public property

Monumental Lifting on Public Property

Preaching The Gospel Of Separation: Baptist Minister Challenges Ten Commandments Display On Okla. Capitol Grounds

Church-state separation is something everyone can get behind regardless of what they do or do not believe about theology.

An ongoing battle over a government-sponsored Ten Commandments monument in Oklahoma features an interesting twist: A Baptist minister is leading the charge to have it removed.

This fight stretches back to 2009, when Oklahoma lawmakers authorized a Decalogue monument that would be displayed on the grounds of the capitol building in Oklahoma City. The project, which was financed by the family of state Rep. Mike Ritze (R-Broken Arrow), cost about $10,000 and was erected in November 2012.

It was not without a few snafus. The six-foot granite monument originally read “Bless the Sabbeth (sic) and keep it holy” and “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidseruent (sic).”
Spelling errors aside, the Decalogue display is a clear violation of church-state separation. So last week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma and the ACLU National filed a lawsuit on behalf of multiple plaintiffs. I’m pleased to say that among them are Dr. Bruce Prescott, a Southern Baptist minister and former member of Americans United’s Board of Trustees, as well as Jim Huff, who led AU’s Oklahoma Chapter for many years. (He’s also a deacon and a Sunday School teacher at his Baptist church.)
The lawsuit is pretty straightforward: the display should be removed because the state is favoring a Judeo-Christian perspective over all others.

“We must ensure that Oklahoma welcomes people of all faiths and those of no faith at all,” Brady Henderson, ACLU of Oklahoma legal director said in a statement. “Our suit asks the court to enforce a simple and fundamental rule that the government does not get to use its vast power and influence to tell you what you should believe.”

Some people in Oklahoma just can’t understand why a Baptist minister would take such a stand. They criticized Prescott, who serves as executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, after he wrote about the case on his personal blog.

“You are a disgrace!” one man wrote. Another added, “You disgust me.”

Prescott is handling the attacks with good grace. Tulsa Urban Weekly reported that in a 2012 letter to the ACLU, Prescott outlined his objection to the sectarian display at the seat of government. He said he sees the monument during his frequent visits to the capitol grounds through his role as leader of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists and his activities with other groups.

In that letter, he called the monument “an affront to every person who affirms that the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment prohibits the government from establishing religion,” adding that “I am opposed to erecting Ten Commandments monuments on public property and particularly on the grounds of the state Capitol where people of different faiths and of no faith go to exercise their rights as citizens.”

Prescott also said this particular fight hits home for him because his “spiritual ancestors,” Baptists, helped pass the First Amendment so as “to ensure that every citizen had ‘liberty of conscience,’ i.e., the freedom to worship or not worship....That is why they were adamant in denying support for the Constitution until it separated church and state and protected the equal rights of citizenship for all religious minorities....”

So as you can see, church-state separation is something everyone can get behind regardless of what they do or do not believe about theology.
We hope the federal courts join the bandwagon.
[ Poster's note:  This case is filed in Oklahoma County Court, case number CV-2013-1768  ]

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Week Off?: New Religious Right-Inspired Event Promotes Bad History


‘Celebrate Freedom Week’ is more than it seems on the surface. It’s really the brainchild of Rick Green, a former Texas state representative with strong ties to discredited writer David Barton.
Kansas schoolchildren will take part in “Celebrate Freedom Week” next month thanks to a recently-passed bill intended, its authors say, to celebrate the signing of the U.S. Constitution. Sounds innocuous enough—who could possibly object to a celebration of the Constitution?

But Celebrate Freedom Week is more than it seems on the surface. It’s really the brainchild of Rick Green, a former Texas state representative with strong ties to discredited writer David Barton. As Green’s website proudly declares, he successfully pushed to get the same legislation passed in Texas. It remains one of his only legislative successes.

As we reported in 2006, Green lost his seat after a mere two terms in the Texas House—shortly after being named one of the 10 worst state lawmakers by Texas Monthly. A true snake oil salesman, Green earned this dubious distinction after he filmed an infomercial in the state Capitol for vitamins that would “supercharge your brain.”

Now he’s brought his traveling legislative carnival to Kansas. Like Barton, Green peddles ‘Christian nation’ dogma disguised as history. The model legislation he proposes forbids the “censorship” of the Founding Fathers’ religious beliefs—a not- so-subtle way to slip Religious Right revisionism into public classrooms.

Green makes it clear on his website that he’s bought into Barton’s phony “history.” He’s appeared on WallBuilders Radio since 2005 and even produced a series of television episodes with Barton that lauded America’s “biblical foundations.”

Kansas Rep. John Bradford, who co-sponsored the legislation, told reporters that the goal is to encourage patriotism in schoolchildren. “I have pride and I want to instill that pride in all the kids in the neighborhood,” he said.

Patriotism is one thing; Christian nationalism is quite another. The Kansas House of Representatives passed Green’s model legislation with only one minor adjustment: Students will not be expected to recite the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence. It’s no mystery why Green’s model legislation included that requirement. That sentence includes Thomas Jefferson’s famous reference to the Creator as the source of our “inalienable rights.”

But even with this adjustment there’s cause for concern. Micheline Burger of the Mainstream Coalition called the bill “unconstitutional” and pointed to Green’s ties to David Barton as evidence. She’s absolutely correct to be concerned.

This bill isn’t the only attempt to push religion in Kansas schools. The Wichita Eagle reported that conservative lawmakers are also advancing bills that would force teachers to include perspectives on global warming and other scientific subjects that would contradict prevailing scientific views. Legislators are also trying to block Common Core standards on reading and math, calling it an “unfunded mandate.”

That’s right. In Kansas, mandated standards on reading and math are unacceptable, but mandated instruction in David Barton’s warped version of American history is welcomed with open arms.

Green and his supporters in Kansas don’t really want to celebrate our Constitution. This legislation is intended to mandate the indoctrination of American schoolchildren—to tell them that, contrary to what their textbooks might say, the Founding Fathers always intended for government to advance Christianity.

That’s a direct violation of the same Constitution Green claims to love so much. At Americans United, we routinely oppose fundamentalist attempts to insert religion into public classrooms, whether the topic is biology or American history. Students should learn facts, not dogma, when they’re at school.

Green, Barton and the Kansas representatives responsible for passing this legislation could do with a lesson on the Constitution themselves.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Obama administration backs prayer at local government meetings

Obama administration backs prayer at local government meetings

Members of the Greece, N.Y., town council pray before a recent meeting.
The prayers are the focus of a U.S. Supreme Court fight.
  (Heather Ainsworth / Bloomberg / July 22, 2013)

In a potentially far-reaching case on separation of church and state, the Obama administration and Republican lawmakers tell the Supreme Court they support easing limits on prayers at meetings.

By David G. Savage

August 8, 2013,

WASHINGTON The Obama administration and congressional Republicans have found something to agree on: Town councils should be allowed to open their meetings with a Christian prayer.

Lawyers for the administration and two groups of lawmakers from the House and Senate, nearly all Republicans, separately made that argument in briefs to the Supreme Court this week. The high court should relax the constitutional limits on religious invocations at government meetings, they argued. ...

MORE Los Angeles Times

Here is a good link to contact any state's elected officials.  Calling a public library will also help you get the numbers and postal numbers.  Use the local offices, postal and telephone, for the Congress people as the mail and phone calls will get more individual attention at the local level than in DC.  You can also find other states's officials.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Is Oklahoma City Going to Cash Out to a Church?

Here is the latest news concerning a potential give-away of tax money to a church for a public service. The church, Putnam City Baptist Church, should it get the contract, wants to close the facility on Wednesdays and Sundays for its OWN activities.

In effect, for the payment of full-time tax money, the church wants to control public access to a so-called public facility.
The link above includes video links to recent city council public comments from citizens.

For those who live in Oklahoma City, its environs, or who want to throw in their two-cents here is contact information for the
Oklahoma City city council.

First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ...

Oklahoma Constitution   Public Money or Property - Use for Sectarian Purposes
No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.

Here is my article for those readers not familiar with the proposed give-away thinly disguised as a prize from Mayor Mick Cornett who is running for a third term as mayor of Oklahoma City.

And here is a link to public comment videos from  recent OKC city council meetings.

An article from the Oklahoma Gazette--

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Don't Add Prayer Inscription To World War Two Memorial

Americans United, Allies Ask U.S. Senate Subcommittee Not To Add Prayer Inscription To World War Two Memorial
Legislation that would require a prayer to be added to the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., shows a lack of respect for the diversity of belief among veterans, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and its allies told a U.S. Senate subcommittee.In a letter sent yesterday to Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the chair and ranking member respectively of the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks, the groups said that memorials are intended to unify and adding a prayer would be divisive.

Read the rest of this press release at »

Employers Playing Doctor Private Health Decisions

For-Profit Firm Doesn’t Have Religious Freedom Right To Deny Workers Access To Contraceptives, Americans United Tells Court

A Michigan-based company that produces organic foods does not have a religious liberty right to deny its employees access to birth control, Americans United for Separation of Church and State has advised a federal appeals court.
Americans United and allied organizations yesterday filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a case involving Eden Foods, headquartered in Clinton, Mich. The company’s owners are demanding an exemption from a regulation issued under the Affordable Care Act that requires most secular employers to include contraception in employee health-insurance plans.

Read the rest of this press release at »


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