Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My challenge to JT Eberhard on the Rhode Island prayer case

JT Eberhard of the Atheist Secular Student Alliance has a meandering philippic defending the Rhode Island federal judge's censorship of a school prayer mural encouraging students to be better citizens.

I ask Eberhard these questions:

In what way was Jessica Ahlquist harmed by the prayer mural? 

Is feeling "excluded and ostracized" by a prayer on a wall the reaction of a reasonable person? During the 50 years the mural was on the wall, how many other people reported experiencing the same harm? 

In what way is Ms. Ahlquist now benefitted by removing the prayer? 

Would it be of benefit to Ms. Ahlquist to learn to tolerate displays of the beliefs of others? 

Do atheists have a Constitutional right not to see religious expression with which they disagree?

If atheists don't have that right, what standing did Ahlquist have to bring the suit?

What part of the First Amendment did the prayer mural violate? Be specific.

Is the prayer mural a "law" made by Congress ("Congress shall make no law...")?  

Is the place of privilege given to free exercise of religion in the First Amendment-- which is a government document-- a violation of the Establishment clause, which according to Judge Lageuex prohibits advancement of religion by government?

Is the prayer mural an Establishment of religion, which means an official instutional federal church, like the Church of England? 

Is reading the prayer, giving assent to the prayer, or believing the prayer mandatory for students? Could a student ignore the prayer mural?

Where in the text does the Constitution forbid the display of a religious statement that citizens are free to ignore?

Can the mere display of a prayer, without compulsion of any sort, constitute an Establishment of religion-- an institutional federal church?

Many prayers and religious statements are displayed on National Monuments (Lincoln Memorial, Supreme Court, Jefferson Memorial, etc). Do these artifacts Establish a federal church? Are they unconstitutional?

If the prayer mural is an establishment of religion, which religion is it? Anglican? Baptist? Unitarian? Please be specific about the denomination. 

Is display of the Declaration of Independence-- which is more explicitly religious than the prayer mural-- unconstitutional?

Does the president of the United States violate the Constitution when he says "God Bless America"?

Are crosses and Stars of David on the graves of soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery unconstitutional? Should the courts order that they be removed? If not, why are thousands of crosses in a federal cemetery Constitutional, but a single prayer in a local school unconstitutional? Why the double standard?

Are military chaplains unconstitutional? Should soldiers be denied government-sponsored chaplains, Bibles, and religious artifacts during war? If a mere prayer mural is unconstitutional in a school, why aren't government-sponsored religious services for American soldiers in combat unconstitutional? 

Should the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech and free exercise of religion, be used to censor religious speech?

Is mandatory civic atheism-- the court-ordered erasure of religious expression from civic life-- effectively an Establishment of atheism? If not, what would constitute an Establishment of atheism? Give examples. Be specific, please. 

Can there be an atheist Establishment of religion, in which civic atheism is enforced by law? What article and section of the Constitution cedes to the judiciary the authority to mandate civic atheism?

When government-sponsored artists or museums display work that is insulting to Christianity (e.g. Andres Serrano's Piss Christ or Chris Ofili's dung-covered vulva-festooned Virgin Mary), does that violate the First Amendment's prohibition on government entanglement with religion?

According to the second "prong" of the Lemon test, government may not act in a way that primarily advances or inhibits religion. Can you name one lawsuit filed by an atheist or an atheist organization that objects to government support of speech or artifacts that insult-- i.e. that inhibit-- Christianity? 

If government support of speech or artifacts insulting to Christianity isn't unconstitutional, why is government support of speech or artifacts that approve of Christianity unconstitutional?

Can you refer me to one blog post that you've written in which you object to government support of speech or art that depicts Christianity in a derogatory fashion? Why the double standard?

I'm curious whether Eberhard's support for censorship of the prayer mural is a consequence of his personal anti-Christian bigotry, or whether his endorsement is based on careful reasoning and an impartial respect for the Constitution.

His answers should be interesting, if he answers.   


  1. Michael,

    Your third last question. Can you cite any American court case in which a Christian organization has sued any publicly funded body requesting the removal of any item insulting to Christianity?

    If not, then why should an atheist organization do the work of organizations representing, as you have noted on many occasions, the overwhelming majority of Americans, and presumably have more money to pursue legal means.

    If you can, then what did the court rule? You've previously claimed that American courts have never ordered the removal of articles insulting Christianity, which were supported by public funds. I requested you to provide some examples, which you ignored.

    1. I would suggest, as a broad example, materials being disseminated in public school systems that promote various sexual deviances as 'normal' and introduce children to sexuality in general at a very young age.

      As to the American challenges and rulings, I admit ignorance.

    2. crusadeREX: As to the American challenges and rulings, I admit ignorance.

      Well, then, your opinion isn't worth very much on this subject is it?

    3. My opinion is my opinion.
      I do not attach a 'worth' to it.
      What is yours worth?

    4. My opinion is my opinion.

      And being uninformed on this subject, as you have admitted, your opinion is worth nothing. Why should anyone pay attention to someone who says they don't know anything about the subject?

    5. Sexuality inhibits Christianity?!? "....that promote various sexual deviances as 'normal'" I don't think Christianity gets to decide what is psychologically "normal". Rex's answer is so vague that it is hard to address, but if you're talking about homosexuality, it isn't is normal, and every mainstream psychological and medical organization has recognized it as such. If you are talking about something else, be specific enough that it can be addressed.

      The idea that any religion gets to set the standard for "normal" and everyone has to bow to it or else be guilty of inhibiting that religion is just goofy. That would make the government saying it is acceptable for women to walk about with their face uncovered to be "inhibiting" Islam. The notion is absurd.

  2. Another day, another insane rant.

    The ACLU has defended Christians' rights to free exercise of religion many times: link

  3. I can affirm this much: It is not an Anglican prayer. No mention of Christ and/or no mention of the trinity.

  4. WOW Someone's got a LOT of time on his hands...

    1. Really, you think so?
      Does it take you a long time to write a 742 word blog post?
      I imagine the Doc can type faster than 30 words a lets work this out.
      Maybe 24 minutes of his day? A coffee break? An evening hobby before supper? A commute ride?
      I am sure that Mike has more than 24 minutes free each day. How he spends that time is entirely up to him.
      Seems he like to spend it THINKING and engaging with people like you.
      Is that a waste? Is 24 minutes 'a lot of time'?
      Methinks: NO.

    2. Well, assuming that he did more than just TYPE - like read Eberhard's article, get good and riled up about it, come up with talking points, type, re-read and (hopefully) edit some points he was trying to make, all over a silly school court case. So perhaps he did take more than 24 minutes.

      And for the record, yeah, court case..silly.

  5. I’ve never seen so many inane and willfully ignorant questions in one place. I presume the Dr. could be healing people and saving lives, instead he chooses to waste his time with this drivel.


  6. KW,
    So inane that you cannot answer them, but instead insult the questioner?
    Or maybe the questions are illustrating an inconsistency in the interpretation of the founding charter of the USA?
    My guess is the latter.

    1. They've been answered already, many times over. Egnor just doesn't like the answers, and has such a sophomoric understanding of the law that he probably doesn't understand the answers. Just to take one for example:

      Is the prayer mural a "law" made by Congress ("Congress shall make no law...")?

      Egnor demonstrates a complete lack of comprehension of the meaning of the reconstruction amendments, and how these amendments expanded the applicability to provisions of the U.S. Constitution to state and local government entities. When your questions miss out on a change in the structure of the Constitution that has been in effect for more than a century and a half, then they are just the wailing of a moron.

    2. Do elaborate.
      How do the reconstruction amendments apply to a school banner?

  7. The Fourteenth Amendment made the provisions of the Bill of Rights applicable to state governments (and local governments. see the Supreme Court's decision in Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad v. Chicago (1897).

    1. ...and the Bill of Rights prohibits religious expression in a public place?

    2. The Establishment clause prevents government endorsement of religion. This is established law, no matter how much Egnor may rant about it. One thing that is interesting about Egnor's rants is that he takes this language: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion and interprets this to mean that Congress shall not establish a national church.

      But I don't see "shall not establish a national church" anywhere in the Constitution. He's doing some interpretation of the text there, something he argues is not allowed, to come up with a prohibition that is nowhere in the actual text. And his interpretation is at odds with established case law, and at odds with the positions taken by people like Madison and Jefferson, who asserted that the clause meant much more than just "no national church". Which means that Egnor's interpretation is both contrary to established jurisprudence and a-historical as well. For example Cornell law school explains the meaning of the Establishment clause here.

      The short answer is that the Bill of Rights prohibits endorsement of religion by a government entity, like a public school, with no secular purpose. The school prayer clearly ran afoul of established precedent, and Egnor knows why it was ordered removed, and the questions he has trotted out are the same ones that have been answered time and again.

    3. How does this banner in a high school constitute an 'established religion'? Which religion?

    4. Secular purpose? Isn't that a contraction in terms?
      Is that term in the Bill or Constitution? I ask in all honesty.

    5. How does this banner in a high school constitute an 'established religion'? Which religion?

      Why is it that advocates for religion in these matters have to play semantic word games? You do realize that once you start doing that, you lose all credibility.

      Try this: why don't you go and actually read the Judge's opinion in the Ahlquist case? He explains his reasoning at length.

  8. If Egnor is right about his interpretation of US laws, then the tiny minority of atheists in the US is disproportionally powerful. Even though the vast majority of members of congress and federal judges are Christians, somehow the atheists have managed to force them to adopt an interpretation of the constitution against the interests of the Christians and in favor of the interests of the atheists. Atheists must be really smart and powerful.

    Either that, or Egnor doesn't understand the first thing about constitutional law. I'm leaning towards the latter theory.

    Egnor, have you considered migrating to the Netherlands? It is perfectly legal here to have as many religious murals in public schools as you like.

    1. You'd think they would just pray to their God and have it sorted:

      Matthew 18:19 ►"Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.

      But we atheists have Iron Chariots

      Judges 1:19 ►The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron.

  9. How many Christian prayers on a school wall does it take to constitute government sponsorship of religion? If one prayer doesn't, does two? Does 10? Does 50?

    How many prayers to Allah on the wall of a rural Alabama public school would be considered civic promotion of Islam, and therefore trigger a lawsuit? One? Two? 10? 50?

    Just asking...

    1. Christian? Don't you mean Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, Sunni, Shia, etc
      Christianity is a FAITH, not a religion.
      Religion is a specific set of faith based traditions, rituals, and beliefs.
      I don't see that in this banner.
      The way it is written it could even be a Jewish Prayer. No mention of Christ, the Trinity, the Pope, Crown, or Patriarch.

    2. Rex:
      "Religion is a specific set of faith based traditions, rituals, and beliefs."

      Yet you still refer to atheism as a religion.

    3. Ok, Crus - whatever you say. Christianity is not a religion. Yeah.

      I guess it was too hard a question for you to answer directly.

    4. RickK,
      Allow me to clarify my position.
      Christianity is a broad FAITH group. Not a specific religious system.
      You make a simple category error. No biggy.
      Easily corrected.
      So, perhaps the problem is that my answer was not direct enough for you.
      Here it is simplified, and without the rhetorical question.

      You ask: "How many Christian prayers on a school wall does it take to constitute government sponsorship of religion? If one prayer doesn't, does two? Does 10? Does 50? "
      My response: This prayer is not specifically Christian, never mind any specific religion within that faith. There is no references to the Trinity, Christ, or any sort of clergy or Saints.
      This banner is, perhaps, broadly Theist while borrowing some Abrahamic language ('Heavenly Father '& Amen').
      So in plain English: ANY NUMBER of these could be replicated and hung all over your country and it would not violate a law against establishing or oppressing any specific religion by the state or federal government.
      It could be hung in all sorts of public places with public support.
      That would probably not be such a bad idea.
      You know? Protest for the 99% and all?
      FORCE the censors to replicate THOUSANDS of law suites and their costs while Forcing the agenda of censorship out into the open.
      That kind of thing.
      The banners could be like this one and espouse no specific religion or even faith, just the broad sense of being that your majority feels is adequate to recognize their diverse faiths, religions, and individual choices Churches and Temples. A common ground of morality. A GOOD thing. A Godly thing.
      This simple, humble, unassuming, broadly theist banner worked for years, until a sad little girl focused her anger on it, and the lawyers swooped in like carrion birds.
      Maybe these meek words should get a second life on a much larger scale?

      'Yet you still refer to atheism as a religion.'
      No. I do not.
      I refer to it as a (un)Faith.
      Saying it is simply a 'lack of faith' is inadequate to illustrate the real implications of this idea of nothing is a cop out...just plain lazy.
      Modern Atheism is a component belief of a larger compound ideology, if you like. It is enables and facilitates certain patterns in the way people think and behave, just as a faith does.
      There are currently several popular Atheist friendly doctrines that would be better described as 'pseudo religious' or cult-like and so a closer match. I would still resist calling them religion, as it seems an unfair comparison to those ancient traditions.
      Let's face it, nature abhors a vacuum and a negative position on Cosmology creates one HELL of a vacuum.

    5. It could be hung in all sorts of public places with public support.
      That would probably not be such a bad idea.
      You know? Protest for the 99% and all?
      FORCE the censors to replicate THOUSANDS of law suites and their costs while Forcing the agenda of censorship out into the open.

      Good plan. Especially since the loser pays the legal costs of the winner. Theists would be bankrupted in no time.

    6. Ah, I see what you're saying, Crus. "Oh Heavenly Father" isn't religious. I get it.

      Then why not say "Oh Mystical Mother"? Or "Oh Heavenly Bull-headed Man"? Or "Oh Deceased Plump Chinese Guy"? Or "Oh Ancient Alien Overlord"?

      But if we put up 100 different versions, we ought to have a fair representations of the beliefs in our country. I'm all for that - plaster sayings compatible with the top 100 faiths in the U.S. in every school. That's fair. Let children see the true variety, and understand that all those different faiths are all equal.

      But I don't suppose that's what you meant. You don't object to "Oh Heavenly Father" because that fits YOUR religion.

      Geez, Crus - I never figured you for someone who would run and hide behind semantics. But I guess you'll dance around the truth with mincing little steps while wearing a tutu if it supports your argument.

    7. "Christian? Don't you mean Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, Sunni, Shia, etc
      Christianity is a FAITH, not a religion."

      I looked up Christianity in, and the first one it gave was:
      the Christian RELIGION, including the Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox churches. If Christianity isn't a religion (but Methodist,Catholic, and Baptist are), then Islam isn't a religion (but Sunni and Shia are).
      I googled major world RELIGIONS, and Christianity was one of them.

      But, if Christianity isn't a religion, then I guess US citizens don't have the freedom to follow it, nor is it protected under the First Amendment. Right? Can't have it both ways, right?
      But, that doesn't matter. What DOES matter is what RONALD R. LAGUEUX, Senior United States District Judge, has to say about it, and he undeniably sees Christianity as a religion. You can read the entire opinion at:

      "No amount of debate can make the School Prayer anything
      other than a prayer, and a Christian one at that. Its opening,
      calling upon the “Heavenly Father,” is an exclusively Christian
      formulation of a monotheistic deity, leaving out, inter alia,
      Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and atheists alike. The Prayer
      concludes with the indisputably religious closing: “Amen;” a
      Hebrew word used by Jews, Christians and Muslims to conclude
      prayers. In between, the Prayer espouses values of honesty,
      kindness, friendship and sportsmanship. While these goals are
      commendable, the reliance on God’s intervention as the way to
      achieve those goals is not consistent with a secular purpose."

  10. I'd love to see what would happen if an atheist society, or principal posted a sign or poster declaring their thoughts on god in a public school.

    How many minutes would it take for some nutcase theists to rip it up, or call in death threats? Or even file a lawsuit?

    1. where there are the 'thoughts on god' in the mural prayer we are talking about?
      The prayer says something about god? what? tell me...

    2. Domics,

      How about the first 2 lines; "Our Heavenly Father, Grant us ..."? Or the last word; "Amen"?


      Certainly it would take less than 50 years. Around the time of the Dover ID trial, a student painted a large mural illustrating the descent of man, which he presented to the school. A janitor took offence at its portrayal of evolution conflicting with his religious beliefs, so after complaining about it to the school board, he took it upon his own shoulders and burned it secretly one night.

    3. what says about god 'Our Heavenly Father, Grant us"?

      It is different from 'In God we Trust'?

    4. 'In god we trust' is still in place, isnt it?

      Isnt it?

      How many death threats from atheists have there been over it?

      Someone posted a link earlier to a snippet of facebook reactions from theists to this RI case, and the result was revealing...typical BS: 'i hope she burns in hell', 'i hope she gets beat up'...and so on.

    5. Mulder,

      That's what we expect from religious fanatics - violence.

      After all, referring back to an earlier (and frankly disgusting) post by Michael - what religion were the murderers and arsonists who carried out the atrocities on Kristallnacht? Hmm...

      Let's look it up: 54% Protestant and 40% Catholic - and only 1.5% non-believers according to the 1939 census. So the atrocities performed on Jewish people were carried out by people almost entirely raised within the warm embrace of Jesus's love.

      Let us hope Jessica doesn't fall victim to "His terrible swift sword."

      Once again, Michael stands atop his teetering mansion of cracking glass as he throws his stones.

    6. Mulder, I did a very simple question:

      what is the difference between 'Our Heavenly Father, Grant us' and ''In God we Trust'.
      If you have the answer post it.

    7. One was in a state-sanctioned public school, the other is printed on U.S. currency.

      Whats your point?

  11. @Mulder:

    [I'd love to see what would happen if an atheist society, or principal posted a sign or poster declaring their thoughts on god in a public school.]

    Are you really that stupid? Teaching schoolkids the implicit lesson that God is an extraneous hypothesis is central to the biology curriculum in every school in the country. Darwinism is taught as holy writ, and even teaching that there are weaknesses to the theory is forbidden by courts.

    There are paeans to atheism's creation myth in every biology classroom, enforced by law.

    1. Michael,

      Are you really that stupid? Only a creationist calls evolutionary biology 'Darwinism'. The weaknesses of evolutionary biology theory exist only in your very inadequate brain.

      Go ahead. Make my comment into another of your paranoiac threads.

    2. In the "evolutionary biology" is implicit or not the non existence of God and the materialism (i.e.: the soul does not exist)?

    3. Well said, Mike.
      That little detail seems to get flushed down the atheist's toilet of paralogia.

    4. Again with the name calling. What is it with you and crusadeRex?

      I dont remember ANY mention of god in biology class in high school. There was never any lesson detailing 'this is what theists believe and this is what is truth.' We learned about DNA, genes and how they are passed from generation to generation, lipids, proteins, and so on. You know, actual REAL WORLD facts. NOT theology.

      I meant exactly what i had said - a sign or poster (in clear terms) declaring atheistic points of view.

      And rex, religious belief is practically the definition of paralogia. SWOOSH to you too.

    5. 'And rex, religious belief is practically the definition of paralogia. SWOOSH to you too.'

      Atheism is not religion, remember?
      So why the CONSTANT need BY ATHEISTS to compare religion and atheism?
      Broad THEISM (faith) is what you should contrast with. Remember?
      Our faith in a God and purpose; a prime mover and a reason for it all.
      You faith in an abstraction referred to as 'science' or 'progress' AS the reason for it all, and 'stuff happened' as a form of a theory origins/cosmology.
      Religion is about how we symbolize that faith. It is about ritual and tradition. Like communion for us, or vivisection to you.
      Like when a rabbi, minister, or priest gives a sermon or mass on human exceptionalism, purpose and meaning,
      or an atheist professor, author, or hack (mis)represents fossils to argue for abg, randomness, and futility.
      That kind of thing.
      But name calling.... not sure what you mean.
      Shall I call you a name? Would that make you feel vidicated? Okay. Here goes!
      You belong to the most vacuous and banal form of pseudo philosophical 'nerd cult' that has ever burst forth from the acne of academia!
      That feel better? That fit into your graphic novel reality?
      I don't really mean it... well, not entirely - but you seem to really need the beating.

    6. Crus - the atheists on this blog are defending themselves from the relentless, hate-filled attacks posted almost daily by Michael. So when you talk about "CONSTANT need", take a moment to look at the banner at the top of the blog page and reflect on who it is that is warped by an obsessive constant need.

      As for "our faith", we don't have one. The only unifying factor I've found among atheists - whether I meet them at at a dinner with NY Skeptics, or in the book discussion group before Sunday services at one of our local churches - is a desire to find and understand the truth.

      It's that simple. I value truth. Therefore, I find no evidence of divine magic, and I find thousands of examples of things falsely attributed to divine magic - from transubstantiation during communion along the railing at the Church of St. Francis to accusations of witchcraft in Chad. Not even Michael could come up with a single definitive example of divine magic any time since the origin of the first cell. Finding no evidence for divine magic and so much against it, I don't think it is true.

      Similarly, since I don't believe divine magic is true, then I don't believe that human exceptionalism or my life's meaning are inserted through divine magic.

      Finally, even though you keep telling me that because I don't believe in divine magic, my life doesn't have meaning, I know you are wrong. I know what you say is not true, because my life does indeed have meaning. All around you people without an ounce of faith in the divine live of great meaning, great accomplishment, great charity. You cannot deny this. And I'm astonished by the twisted arrogance it requires for you to make such disparaging statements about other people's lives.

      It's that simple. I respect things that are true, and don't respect things (ideas, statements) that I don't believe are true. And when I talk to other atheists, they say the same thing: "I just never believed it was real" or "I came to realize it was just a bunch of stories."

      Faith is the ability to believe what you know to be untrue. Well, in that regard I don't respect faith at all.

      If such a worldview seems like a vacuous "graphic novel" to you, then I suggest it is you who are guilty of projection. Perhaps it is you who are incapable of seeing depth in those whose ideas you oppose.

    7. Rex: "But name calling.... not sure what you mean."
      (by Egnor): "Are you really that stupid?"

      THAT name calling.

      When someone writes an article, or blog post in this case, and responds in such a way to opinions contrary to his own, its very revealing of the inner anger and hatred of the original writer.

      And i wasnt comparing atheism with religion. Where did i do that? I said: "...if an atheist society, or principal posted a sign or poster declaring their thoughts on god in a public school."

      My point was to make the comparison to see the difference in reactions between the two types of people. So that poster stayed up for 50 years, then came down from a lawsuit (which i still dont agree with) but if it were as like i proposed, then it wouldnt last a day, with whomever taking the removal into their own pious whatever anger or violent form..

      And you still havent described how atheism is a religion. I think you guys just say that to try to get atheists pissed off or something.

    8. "So when you talk about "CONSTANT need", take a moment to look at the banner at the top of the blog ..."
      I am referring to the need of certain Atheists to compare a simple core belief to complex ideological systems. Then when the argument is turned on them and their base system is seen as lacking the intricacies of a full blown religious system, to rush and declare: Atheism is not religion!
      NO SHIT!?

      "As for "our faith", we don't have one."
      I call it a (un)Faith...and yes you do.
      You have an absolute position on this most profound issue. The only people with NO faith (ie no base BELIEF) -ether way- are agnostic.
      Let us be frank enough to admit that?

      " a desire to find and understand the truth."
      A desire you few share with the many faithful. Do you recognize that desire from/in your opposites?

      "THAT name calling."
      Ah okay. Well it seems more like goading or teasing to me. But anyway, I am not sure WHY you protest? Goose and gander.
      Don't dish it out, if you cannot take it back. Don't attempt to make everyone who believes in God look a superstitious fool if you do not want them to attempt to make you look like a shallow minded materialist.

      "So that poster stayed up for 50 years, then came down from a lawsuit (which i still dont agree with)...."
      GOOD! That's all that matters to me. Glad to hear we can agree on a common sense level.
      The lawsuit was a BAD PR move, and a BAD exercise in censorship. The religious aspect just aggravates it all in my mind.
      Perhaps I misread your original post. I thought you were comparing an Atheist with a Religious position. Apples and Oranges etc.

      "And you still havent described how atheism is a religion. I think you guys just say that to try to get atheists pissed off or something"
      I am convinced some people do exactly that, in order to force atheists away from comparing their unFaith to organized religion. Pissing them off is merely a side effect.

    9. Yes we do agree on the lawsuit thing.
      Do i support any sort of posters such as these in a public school? NO.

      But a lawsuit is just giving atheists bad publicity. We have enough of that as it is - with politicians going around saying we're not 'real citizens' (Bush Sr.) to being the most untrusted minority group in the U.S. (Oh boy, i can hear the jokes already from Pepe or whoever else...)

      This country has become lawsuit crazy over the past, what, 20-30 years?
      What the girl should have done, if she couldnt get anywhere with the principal, then demand a secular and/or atheistic poster be put up as well.

  12. On July 28, 1868, Secretary of State William Seward certified the validity of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. 76 days later, on October 12, President Andrew Johnson proclaimed a recommendation for a "Day for Public Thanksgiving". In part, it reads:

    I therefore [on account of some 10 reasons previously specified] recommend that Thursday, the 26th day of November next, be set apart and observed by all the people of the United States as a day for public praise, thanksgiving, and prayer to the Almighty Creator and Divine Ruler of the Universe, by whose ever-watchful, merciful, and gracious providence alone states and nations, no less than families and individual men, do live and move and have their being.

    I find it extremely ironic that Johnson's Thanksgiving Day proclamation followed so quickly on the heels of the Fourteenth Amendment, which would later be construed (presumably in Section 1) to forbid state and local governments from "endorsing" a religion. It seems to me that there are two mutually exclusive interpretations of the historical facts:

    Interpretation #1: Members of the federal legislative and executive branches in 1868 were in a state of extreme cognitive dissonance. On the one hand (secularist interpeters claim) legislators promulgated law to prevent religious expression or endorsement by government at any level. On the other hand (history unequivocally records) the executive systematically declined to enforce such law well into the 20th century, and both branches went so far as to unabashedly make public proclamations of a distinctly theistic character. (The phrase "live and move and have their being" is obviously borrowed from the Christian New Testament, from the apostle Paul's address to the Athenians at the Areopagus [Acts 17:28], although the doctrine President Johnson endorses is not exclusive to Christianity.)

    Interpretation #2: Many secularist members of our present-day federal government (judiciary included) and a small minority of average citizens are in a state of extreme cognitive dissonance. On the one hand are numerous, undeniable historical artifacts of federal, state, and local governments acknowledging and encouraging gratitude towards an omnipotent, benevolent deity. On the other hand is the ardent wish of the secularist minority to erase religious expression from public life, and to radically modify the fundamental relationship which has historically existed between the constitutional body politic (i.e. the citizenry), its federal government, and the God whom the majority recognizes and worships.

    I vote for interpretation #2. The Thanksgiving Day proclamation (to pick just one example among a multitude) certainly seems to be, at a minimum, an explicit endorsement of theistic religion. It caused no particular consternation at the time for the simple reason that in 1868, the generally accepted understanding of the so-called "wall of separation between church and state" meant something very different than the present-day secularist conception. It is the present-day secularists who are in a state of cognitive dissonance, not our political forerunners, from whom we inherit a generally consistent, coherent conception of "one nation under God".

  13. Its a pretty story, except for the fact that the bulk of those who have argued in favor of (and for judges, ruled in favor of) the dissociation of the government from religious entanglement have been religious themselves. Blaming "secularists" for decisions like Everson, Engel, Lee v. Weisman, Santa Fe ISD and so on is simply denying reality. For example, the people who objected to school-led prayer in Engel were Jewish organizations, not "secularists".

  14. @Anonymous:

    You seem to be assuming that all secularists are anti-religious. I make no such assumption. Some very religious people are opposed to governmental religious expression. Some religious people even appear to be opposed to any expression of religion in the public square (i.e. any exercise of non-private, non-governmental religious expression). From the Protestant Christian tradition, one prominent example comes to mind, at least with respect to one expression of religion. If memory serves, J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937) was strongly against prayer in public schools.

    In any case, you fail to address the historical facts. If the Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1 means what the secularists claim it means, how is it that highly public government expressions of religion permeate the decades following the ratification of the amendment? People in government, and the citizenry in general, were too stupid to recognize the obvious contradiction and lawlessness of such expressions? Far be it from me to deny that government, and the general public, can be myopic in the extreme: witness our last presidential election and the rotten fruits that it has borne. But I don't think myopia on the part of government or the hoi polloi is indicated in this case. As I wrote before:

    [President Johnson's Thanksgiving Day proclamation] caused no particular consternation at the time for the simple reason that in 1868, the generally accepted understanding of the so-called "wall of separation between church and state" meant something very different than the present-day secularist conception.

    Would you care to try to make the case that this proposition is false?

    1. So, your argument is that because the 14th Amendment was not subjected to a case or controversy in 1868, then how people behaved at that time is the correct manner to interpret it, and case law developed over the next several years as the Supreme Court worked out all of its implications is invalid. I assume that you contend that Plessy v. Ferguson is the only valid interpretation of the equal protection clause as well?

    2. So the understanding must have changed from the time of Andrew Jackson?

      "While I concur with the Synod in the efficacy of prayer, and in the hope that our country may be preserved from the attacks of pestilence "and that the judgments now abroad in the earth may be sanctified to the nations," I am constrained to decline the designation of any period or mode as proper for the public manifestation of this reliance. I could not do otherwise without transcending the limits prescribed by the Constitution for the President and without feeling that I might in some degree disturb the security which religion nowadays enjoys in this country in its complete separation from the political concerns of the General Government."

      Response to request from a church organization of New York, on refusing to proclaim a national day of fasting and prayer

      Madison clearly understood "wall of separation", but this is what he wrote about the hiring of chaplains, and I believe the principles he espouses may well apply to Kent D.'s question:
      "The establishment of the chaplainship to Congress is a palpable violation of equal rights, as well as of Constitutional principles....Rather than let this step beyond the landmarks of power have the effect of a legitimate precedent, it will be better to apply to it the legal aphorism de minimis non curat lex: or to class it cum "maculis quas aut incuria fudit, aut humana parum cavit natura (with faults which human nature either has scattered around through negligence or has guarded against too little].."

      Did you catch that? "RATHER THAN LET THIS STEP BEYOND THE LANDMARKS OF POWER HAVE THE EFFECT OF A LEGITIMATE PRECEDENT"....just regard it as human negligence or something guarded against too little.

  15. "In what way was Jessica Ahlquist harmed by the prayer mural?" The way she was harmed was "legally". If you had read the 40 page decision, you would know this. It is explained clearly and at length by the Judge. Actually, had you read the decision, most of your sophomoric questions would have been answered. Why didn't you bother to read it before exposing your ignorance in this manner?

    "Is feeling "excluded and ostracized" by a prayer on a wall the reaction of a reasonable person?" Yep. At least, it is the decision of an impartial court that is exactly the reaction of not only a REASONABLE person, but also an OBJECTIVE person.

    From the decision: "While Plaintiff recalls feeling ostracized
    and alone, the constitutionality of the Prayer Mural turns not on
    Plaintiff’s feelings, but rather on the Court’s assessment of how
    a reasonable and objective observer, fully aware of the
    background and circumstances, would view the Prayer Mural and the
    conduct of the School Committee."

    "During the 50 years the mural was on the wall, how many other people reported experiencing the same harm?" Some, but it doesn't matter how many. Of course, based on the vitriol, ostracism, bullying, harassment, threats of assault,rape, and death from good tolerant Christians over this, very few people would likely have the courage to protect the rule of law as Jessica did.

    From the decision: “Nor did it matter that few children had
    complained of the practice, for the measure of the seriousness of
    a breach of the Establishment Clause has never been thought to be
    the number of people who complain of it.”

    And this from the decision: "What to most believers may seem nothing more
    than a reasonable request that the
    nonbeliever respect their religious
    practices, in a school context may appear to
    the nonbeliever or dissenter to be an attempt
    to employ the machinery of the State to
    enforce a religious orthodoxy."

    This explains it very well: "Tommy P. Baer, international president of B'nai B'rith stated:"We believe in religion and we believe in the importance of prayer. What we don't believe in is government-sponsored religion expressed in public places...As a minority, we have felt the pain of being the outsider. No one -- especially school children -- should be made to feel inferior because they do not believe in the religion of the majority..."

  16. "In what way is Ms. Ahlquist now benefitted by removing the prayer?" 1) She will no longer feel ostracized from looking at it 2) she will no longer feel marginalized to second class citizenry by her own government as excluded from the preferred religion, 3)she has the comfort of knowing she has supported our Constitution and the rule of law--a benefit every American SHOULD access but which you don't. We ALL benefit when the rule of law is upheld, including Ms. Ahlquist.

    More importantly, why do you even ask this? The real question, and one you avoid assiduously, is "Did the school violate existing case law and jurisprudence?" That is what the trial was about. Nothing else. Keep your eye on the ball.

    "Would it be of benefit to Ms. Ahlquist to learn to tolerate displays of the beliefs of others?" In terms of the trial, this question is a non sequiter. However, the answer is "In terms of THIS banner, that is her decision to make." As to tolerating "displays of the beliefs of others?", we all--including Jessica--- do this all day every day. From our money, to clothing and jewelry on others, to icons and sayings on their cars, to churches on every corner, to Jehovah Witnesses trespassing on our doorsteps, to Westboro Bapist, to the church organized abortion protests, to bibles in hotel rooms....the list is literally endless. A much better question would be, "Would it be of benefit to people like you to respect the rights of citizens who do not subscribe to your preferred religion?"

    "Do atheists have a Constitutional right not to see religious expression with which they disagree?" Depending on WHERE that religious expression is and who is promoting it....yep.

    From the decision (again): "The Supreme Court has traditionally drawn a clear line
    between government conduct which might be acceptable in some
    settings and the conduct which is prohibited in public schools."

    No one claims "atheists have a Constitutional right not to see religious expression with which they disagree" in general. However, they do in specific circumstances. That is exactly what the case was about. How could you miss that? Oh, never read the decision.

    "If atheists don't have that right, what standing did Ahlquist have to bring the suit?" They do have that right in instances like this one. However, the judge addresses standing. Had you read the decision, you would have the answer to this, as well as most of the other questions. If you REALLY want answers to these sophomoric questions, why aren't you reading the actual decision of the court instead of asking them to a music major (Mr. Eberhard)? The pretty obvious answer is you don't really want answers, you are just attempting to sow the seeds of confusion.....and failing miserably, I might add.

    Well, enough time spent advising you to do the simple thing you should have done long ago: read the decision. Most of the answers you demand are there. Like the old saying says, :When all else fails, read the instructions".

  17. Domics on Jan 19, 2012 03:50 AM asked:

    "In the "evolutionary biology" is implicit or not the non existence of God and the materialism (i.e.: the soul does not exist)?"

    It is not implicit in evolutionary biology, and to even ask the question illustrates your scientific ignorance in regard to evolution. Don't take my word for it, look at the official position of the Catholic Church: "In an October 22, 1996, address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope John Paul II updated the Church's position to accept evolution of the human body:

    "In his encyclical Humani Generis (1950), my predecessor Pius XII has already affirmed that there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points.... Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than a hypothesis. In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies—which was neither planned nor sought—constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory." And
    "A five-day conference held in March 2009 by the Pontifical University in Rome, marking the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Origin of Species, generally confirmed the lack of conflict between evolutionary theory and Catholic theology, and the rejection of Intelligent Design by Catholic scholars.[37]

    The Church has deferred to scientists on matters such as the age of the earth and the authenticity of the fossil record. Papal pronouncements, along with commentaries by cardinals, have accepted the findings of scientists on the gradual appearance of life. In fact, the International Theological Commission in a July 2004 statement endorsed by Cardinal Ratzinger, then president of the Commission and head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, now Pope Benedict XVI, includes this paragraph:

    According to the widely accepted scientific account, the universe erupted 15 billion years ago in an explosion called the 'Big Bang' and has been expanding and cooling ever since. Later there gradually emerged the conditions necessary for the formation of atoms, still later the condensation of galaxies and stars, and about 10 billion years later the formation of planets. In our own solar system and on earth (formed about 4.5 billion years ago), the conditions have been favorable to the emergence of life. While there is little consensus among scientists about how the origin of this first microscopic life is to be explained, there is general agreement among them that the first organism dwelt on this planet about 3.5–4 billion years ago. Since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on earth are genetically related, it is virtually certain that all living organisms have descended from this first organism. Converging evidence from many studies in the physical and biological sciences furnishes mounting support for some theory of evolution to account for the development and diversification of life on earth, while controversy continues over the pace and mechanisms of evolution."

  18. It's as the useless book says: "Ask, and ye shall receive."