Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Making sense on public expression of religion

A surprisingly reasoned and thoughtful essay on religion and government:

How to Respond to Rick Perry and ‘The Response’
Paul Horwitz, a professor of law at the University of Alabama, is the author of “The Agnostic Age: Law, Religion and the Constitution.”
Tuscaloosa, Ala.
TODAY, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is scheduled to appear at Reliant Stadium in Houston for “The Response,” an all-day event of Christian-centered prayer and fasting intended, as Mr. Perry explains on the event’s Web site, to address the various crises that have “besieged” America.
Mr. Perry’s use of official resources, including a gubernatorial proclamation, to promote the prayer service has drawn criticism from civil liberties groups. He has been hinting at a run for the Republican presidential nomination, and many critics see the prayer service as an improper attempt to court the religious right. One group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, sought an injunction barring Mr. Perry from promoting the event, saying his actions “brazenly cross the line between government and religion.” Last week, a federal judge denied that request, ruling that Mr. Perry’s invitations to prayer were “requests, not commands,” and thus did not violate the First Amendment’s separation of church and state.
"Requests, not commands". In my view, that is the essence of a rational interpretation of the Establishment Clause. The Constitution prohibits an Establishment-- coercion in religion. It does not prohibit free expression of religion. It guarantees free expression, and makes no exception for people in government. The judge's decision gets it exactly right- Perry is not coercing anyone.

'But', atheists say, 'Perry's use of official resources is coercion of atheists who don't want to pay for this stuff.'

Nonsense. Religious and irreligious activities get all kinds of taxpayer financing. Firemen will put out fires in St Patrick's Cathedral and in the Center for Secular Humanism. Police protect the right of Baptists to worship in safety just as they protect the right of attendees at The Amazing Meeting to worship congregate in safety.

Public resources are used everywhere to support religious and irreligious activities. That does not constitute an Establishment of Religion, because it is does not force anyone to worship against their will or to fund one specific kind of worship to the exclusion of all others. 

Public officials can pray, hold prayer meetings, hold atheist meetings, hold agnostic meetings etc. as long as there is no coerced attendance or coerced affirmation of religious viewpoints. Richard Dawkins can speak at a public university at public expense because his irreligious views do not involve coercion.
The court was right on the law, but its decision tells only half the story. Mr. Perry’s critics have plenty of ammunition, but they’ve chosen the wrong weapon. The problem is not only that such legal maneuvers routinely fail; it’s also that they do a disservice to religious freedom and diminish meaningful public debate. There are better ways to express disagreement with religious statements made by elected officials than to use the courts to try to pre-empt them.
Precisely. 'Censorship by federal judge' is an odious tactic.
Religion plays too important a part in many people’s lives to be denied a role in the public square. To be sure, there are some things the state can’t do, like demand that schoolchildren pray each day.
I agree. But it's the "demand", not the "pray", that's the problem.
But elected officials, like other citizens, are free to have and express religious views.
The First Amendment didn't say "... Free Exercise of Religion except for Public Employees..."
And voters are entitled to support or reject public officials for all kinds of reasons, including their religious views. To hold that elected officials can’t publicly invoke their religion won’t help a country of believers, agnostics and atheists reach any kind of consensus. It will only impoverish the conversation, depriving many citizens of the ability to make, and judge, arguments that reflect their most cherished views.
Censorship does not advance public life. It merely imposes the will of one fringe sect (atheists) on everyone else.
Moreover, by trying to banish religion from the public sphere, Mr. Perry’s critics end up cutting themselves out of the debate.
Atheists are happy to cut themselves out of the debate. They always lose the debate. If they won debates, they wouldn't always be suing to silence debate.
When religion is viewed as a fundamentally private matter, the natural corollary is to think that it is inappropriate to criticize someone’s faith. Thus, when such critics lose the constitutional argument, they find themselves in the awkward position of not feeling entitled to directly criticize the religious view in question.
Atheists don't find criticizing religion "awkward".  They find it unsuccessful. That's what makes them so angry.
Politicians who invoke their faith to lure religious voters benefit from this paralysis. Consider Mitt Romney. When questioned by voters during the last presidential campaign about his Mormon faith, Mr. Romney commendably refused to disavow it. But he also refused to discuss it in any detail, claiming that would impose a religious test on his candidacy.
This double standard needs to end. If religion can’t be forbidden in our public debates, even for elected officials, neither should it be immune from public criticism.
No one said that religion should be "immune from public criticism".  Immunity of atheism from public criticism is, however, the fundamental goal of lawsuits that create a monopoly for Darwinism in public schools.
And in the case of Mr. Perry and “The Response,” there are good reasons to be critical.
Mr. Perry is free to call a meeting where only people who agree that Jesus Christ is the one true savior are welcome. Many Christian politicians understandably share that belief — but few of them commence potential presidential campaigns that way. They believe that all Americans, regardless of faith, have a role to play in making this a more perfect union. We are entitled to shun any politician who rejects that approach.
What Christian politician is saying that all Americans don't "have a role to play in making this a more perfect union." What a stupid thing to assert.
We should question the prayer service’s tone, too. Other politicians have invoked prayer in times of trouble; Abraham Lincoln was one of them. But with characteristic humility, Lincoln called for repentance, not sectarian struggle. He saw human inequality and cruelty as the real sin against God. By emphasizing creeds, not deeds, Mr. Perry encourages the very divisions that Lincoln believed lay at the root of America’s ills.
Free speech, pal.
Finally, we’re entitled to judge Mr. Perry’s association with the prayer service’s organizers. Many people, religious and otherwise, reject the views of the American Family Association, a principal organizer of the event whose vitriolic stances on issues like gay rights have led the Southern Poverty Law Center to call it a “hate group.”
The American Family Association doesn't oppose "gay rights". It affirms the rights of gays to freedom of religion, freedom of speech, right to bear arms, right to a trial by jury, etc. Those are gay rights, and straight rights, and everyone's rights.

Singling out people who practice a certain kind of sex for government-enforced privileges isn't "rights", it's interest group perks, often entailing the denial of rights to others.

The views of the American Family Association on gay rights reflect the views of most Americans. The appellation of "hate group" to the American public has long been a leftist goal.

The Southern Poverty Law Center hates the American Family Association. Does that make the Southern Policy Law Center a "hate group". Why are fringe leftist groups always immune from "hate group" labeling? Last I looked, there's a lot of hate on the left.
Mr. Perry has tried to distance himself from some of these views. But we can certainly ask why he has embraced those who hold them.
Do ask. Lets keep the conversation going.
Some people think we would be better off without religion in public life. In the long run, however, we would lose much more than we gain. Our debates may be more contentious if we allow religion in, but they will also be more committed and honest. Just as the Constitution allows Mr. Perry to stake his political future on “The Response,” it allows the rest of us to answer back.
Horowitz is of course right in most of his recommendations. The proper way to deal with differing views on religion is more public discussion, not less. The free public airing of disagreements without coercion is healthy and is protected by the Constitution. The only people who oppose free speech are those who understand that their ideology won't fare well in the free exchange of ideas.

Censorship of religious expression has no place in our society. Are you listening, atheists?


  1. Religion has no place in the 21st century. We should only ignore it, and laugh at it when people want the society to take their ridiculous superstitions seriously.

  2. Anon,
    I am not sure your aware of this, but the '21st century' is the 21st since Christ. The AD part stands for 'Year of our Lord'.
    The Calendar you use to justify your argument is actually a calendar based on religious dates. The irony of your statement is rank.

    That being said, there is ANOTHER interesting study out linking Atheism to Autism. I have noted in my own experience that mild autistic tend to get very upset at any sort of variation from what they perceive as the 'norm.' For example, I have a nephew with a mild Asperger's who flips out if he cannot get his supper by 6pm. I mean REALLY flips out.
    I wonder if that is what we see here? Maybe this gross intolerance of others faith is simply the Autistic Atheism flaring up? Highly functional pathological Atheism?

  3. "I am not sure your aware of this, but the '21st century' is the 21st since Christ. The AD part stands for 'Year of our Lord'.
    The Calendar you use to justify your argument is actually a calendar based on religious dates. The irony of your statement is rank."

    Yeah. And today is Wednesday, etymologically Woden's day. So when you're using the English names of days, you're proving Germanic polytheism.

  4. @Crus:

    [I am not sure your aware of this, but the '21st century' is the 21st since Christ. The AD part stands for 'Year of our Lord'.]

    Good observation. Atheists live in a Christian culture from which they derive nearly all of their insight and benefits. Atheist culture has produced nothing but bloodshed and totalitarianism.

    It's like the child of a billionaire who grows up to be a Marxist.

  5. A guy named "evilatheistconspiracy" calls me paranoid.

    When a member of the conspiracy calls you paranoid, isn't that... self-refuting?

  6. @anon...
    Atheism has no place in the 21st century. We should only ignore it, and laugh at it when people want the society to take their ridiculous superstitions, like Darwinian evolution and AGW (i.e. the Global Warming fraud!), seriously.

    I agree 100%!

  7. In academic circles, dates are given as CE (common era) or BCE (before common era) because it's politically incorrect and offensive to non-Christian academics to refer to before Christ and in the year of our lord.

    I mentally add common era whenever I hear a date that's not obviously very old. And in science, it's often 'years ago' as in 65 MYA.

    The Christian calendar is flawed, because the theologian who devised it got the year Jesus was born wrong and also forgot to include a year zero, so we had all theses pointless arguments about 1999 not being the last year of the last millennium (it wasn't).

    I don't think that taxpayers' money ought to be going to support either religion or atheism. I went to the world atheist meeting in Melbourne in 2010, and the organizers complained that it didn't get any money from either the state or federal governments, despite a similar meeting in the same city run by churches receiving money from the state government just a few months earlier. I'm going to the same meeting in 2012, and this time it is getting some money.

    I would have been entirely happy if it didn't get any money again too, if church conferences also weren't supported with taxpayers' money. Although state governments in Australia are often corrupt, giving tens of millions of dollars each year to attract Grand Prix races no one wants.


    Asperger individuals being prone to atheism? I've heard of believing Asperger individuals so it's not invariant. Humans are pattern detecting, agency seeking primates, prone to see spirits in natural phenomena, such as lightning and thunder, unless there's knowledge of a natural explanation to replace it. Individuals with Asperger syndrome tend to take everything at face value, and not to see other people's hidden motivations to their actions and not to see agency in natural phenomena.

    I'm not certain whether you can lump Asperger syndrome together with autism. Autism is a nasty condition, causing considerable distress. I suspect that Asperger syndrome is actually quite common, on a continuum of human traits, but towards one end of a bell curve. Some see gods in rocks and at the other extreme people with Asperger syndrome with their feet firmly planted on the ground just see rocks.


    What about the Christian martyrs killed by other Christians, as in the Protestant martyrs killed at the behest of the Catholic Queen Mary? Christians killed by politicians in the 20th century (CE) weren't killed because they were Christian. They were killed because they were politically annoying. It's just confirmation bias to note the Christians who were killed as a result of political persecution. You also have to consider the agnostics, atheists and adherents of other religions killed by politicians. Trotsky who perhaps might have made Russian communism more humane and who had to flea and was eventually murdered on the order of Stalin wasn't a Christian.

  8. @bach:

    [What about the Christian martyrs killed by other Christians...]

    Lots of killing, by all sides. But in the 20th century Christians were the wankers, atheists the professionals. No one has ever killed on the scale that atheists have.

    [Trotsky who perhaps might have made Russian communism more humane and who had to flea and was eventually murdered on the order of Stalin wasn't a Christian.]

    Yea. Trotsky was a sweetheart. ( The only things that prevent a communist from killing people by the busload is 1) Lack of power 2) Death.

    Trotsky's legacy is enhanced by both.

    He was a scum-sucking thug.

  9. Michael,

    It's good to see that you, with your high Christian sense of morality, aren't afraid of using obscenities ...

    That Trotsky was a scum-sucking thug is your opinion. You can't judge people of past times by the standards of today. Were US Grant and Sherman war criminals or American civil war heroes?

    If Trotsky had power instead of Stalin, then it's probable that the state induced famines of the '30s would not have happened, and that the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939 also wouldn't have happened either, so WWII also wouldn't have happened either, with all its grief.

    Trotsky was largely an idealist and a pragmatist, starting off as a social democrat. He kept on Czarist officers in the Red Army formed initially to fight the Germans, whereas Stalin had Communist generals killed because of paranoid delusion in the '30s making it easier for Hitler to have his initial success in 1941 in his Russian invasion.

    You certainly have a rigid mind. Nothing is nuanced with you. Everything is either white or black. No one is allowed to be human, consisting of a mixture of good, bad and indifferent features.

    The German magazine 'der Spiegel' had an article last weekend regarding the current Pope. The conclusion of the article was that the Pope has been a disaster for German Catholicism, causing a precipitous drop in church attendance amongst German Catholics. Whether the current Pope is going to be good or bad can only be judged in retrospect though.

    I take it you're still planning your article on Pope Pius XII?

  10. Bach,
    CE? BCE? Get real.
    Common to whom? Why? Before WHAT?
    Get real. What an idiotic and Orwellian lump of trotsky (local name for dog-stools).
    We all know what the calendar is about. I've no time for such pathetic pc rubbish.
    Not sure how you see any of the points you made regarding Autism as relevant, even if taken at face value. So what?
    According a study there is simply a statistically high correlation of atheism in highly functional...special folks. The term used by the researchers that include the various disabilities was 'Autism'.
    No surprise to me.
    I have met a lot of 'Rain Man' types in these convos.

  11. @bach:

    [It's good to see that you, with your high Christian sense of morality, aren't afraid of using obscenities ...]

    I'm an army veteran and a Christian. It's a constant struggle.

    [If Trotsky had power instead of Stalin, then it's probable that the state induced famines of the '30s would not have happened...]

    Yada...yada. "If only the communist I like hadn't been rubbed out by the communist I don't like, things would have been great..."

    They're all thugs.

    [I take it you're still planning your article on Pope Pius XII?]

    Yea. I'm in the middle of preparation for an ACGME site visit, so fascinating new posts are on hold. There are of course a month's worth of fascinating old posts in queue, so don't touch that dial...

  12. "Humans are pattern detecting, agency seeking primates..."

    They are people.
    That is the element you atheists never see on your goddam chart: The Human element.
    You sound like a blind dude trying deny colors exist.

  13. Anonymous,


    Humans are pattern detecting, agency seeking people, who are also primates. Does that satisfy you? The creationist Linnaeus put humans firmly into the group of primates. His classification recognized the great chain of being, with humans at the apex of creation, at the top of life in the primates (meaning 'first').


    I hope your store of old blogs are fascinating. They are, only because they illustrate a fascinating mode of thinking.


    How many atheist conventions have you visited? Common means common to all. The Jerusalem Post uses common years, without AD (because they don't recognize 'our lord') or CE.

    I know you don't have any time for reason. Autism is a nasty condition to have. Asperger is just a variant of normal, with a higher incidence amongst the 'nerds' and 'geeks'. It's just a variant, in the same way that the mouth frothing ranting commenters often populating this blog are a variant of normal.

  14. So you see, it's called CE instead of AD so as not to offend, see, but otherwise, the number systems are exactly the same because, uhhh, say, why are they exactly the same?

    Shouldn't CE be measured starting in 1859?

  15. Matteo,

    It's just a convention. You have to number from some point. The Christians probably got it wrong anyway, because their numbering system should have started in 4 BCE.

    It's too difficult to change calendars with many histories already written. The conversion from the Julian to the Gregorian calendars showed that. Britain, in being one of the laggards in adopting the Gregorian calendar, demonstrated the problems in having a nonuniform calendar, with William of Orange arriving in England in 1688 before he left Holland. In contemporary records, Washington was born the year before his currently accepted year of birth (the British before 1752, and therefrom also the American colonies, started the new year in March).

    Americans correct pre-Gregorian dates to the Gregorian date. The British correct the year, but not the day or month. So, the Great Fire of London of 1666 started on September 2, 1666, a Sunday, although actually in the Gregorian calendar, September 2, 1666 was actually a Thursday.

  16. "No one has ever killed on the scale that atheists have."
    Atheism and communism are two different, unrelated things. You are nuts.

  17. Spot on, Matteo!

    It is a convention all right.
    A convention of apostates and assholes.
    Ingrates that hide behind Christianity's shield and hamstring the culture at every turn. This little date debate clearly shows the WILL to undermine the simplest aspects of our society. In order for WHAT, Bach?
    No time for reason? Does it suddenly exist again, this 'reason'? Since when did your monism allow for anything so non material and nuanced as reason?
    Unreasonable is making up new-speak names for working systems. They are not being pretentious and revisionist.
    I have no time for such bullshit, but reason I can make a minute for - even twisted reasoning.
    Bach, you're not a Jew or Muslim using our Calendar so we can understand you.
    They adapt, you use their adaptation for revisionism.
    As a regular visitor to Israel and a long time friend of it's people, I can say the Jews have an excuse - when using our calendar - to use a different word. The VERY same Jews (I actually know quite a few, being a 'foaming' theist) have their OWN calendar (the official one of Israel) and think it ironic/scary we 'water down' our own culture so as not to offend the irreligious. Also, you may wish to note that when SPEAKING in a CLASS Israeli instructors refer to our calendar as the 'Christian Era' and "Before the Christian Era" - hence CE and BCE.
    They KNOW who's calendar it is. They use their ow. That simple.The JPost transliteration of for such a term is aimed at their English audience, primarily in the USA - hence the PC bullshit.
    This, they explain to me, is why Europe is being over run by Muslims. They see this kind of timid display as an invite to aggression. They're right.
    Never mind, Bach. Soon enough you super secular superstars (must be said with lisp) will get a new system. Should be about the year 1500 by then, though...still 60 or 70 years of Christian oppression left for you, I am afraid.
    At this rate, your kids will have to take the Shahada without you. Unless your friends in China get their wish. Then they will take a number.
    Maybe you don't have kids? Maybe that's why you don't give a damn?

    If I got my way, they MAY be exposed to some Christian saying a prayer (ooh!), or morality (CM - common morality?), but otherwise allowed to follow any belief system, even your own stupid monism.

  18. Anon the brave, wrote:
    "Atheism and communism are two different, unrelated things."

    Not all Atheists are communists, but all modern doctrinal communism is Atheist.
    The doctor is not referring to collectivism or some written work, but to Communism as it exists in political reality. Atheist does not equal communist, but Communist does equal Atheist.
    So communist crimes against humanity are thus justified using a subjective ATHEIST morality.
    End justify the means etc.

    "You are nuts"
    No, we are posters on a blog. Nuts are large seeds, usually from a tree or bush and usually roasted and salted.
    But I take it you mean the Doctor is insane. Funny way to judge a man's soundness of mind, Anon - how he sees communists.

  19. Protip: "atheism" means "not believing in gods". Nothing more. It has nothing to do with communism or anything else.

  20. @anon:

    [Protip: "atheism" means "not believing in gods". Nothing more. It has nothing to do with communism or anything else.]

    'Christianity means believing in Christ-- nothing else'

    'Islam means submission-- nothing else'

    What crap. Atheism, Christianity, Islam, etc are worldviews with profound implications for philosophy, ethics, science, politics, and civilization.

    Your evasion of the glaringly obvious real world results of atheism is understandable. Funny, actually.

  21. @anon:

    Oh, and

    'Communism' is just sharing stuff.

  22. Oh, and

    'Communism' is just sharing stuff.

    And the theory of evolution by natural selection is just "survivors survive". At least according to fools.