Condemned to Repeat it?
Today, I woke, sat down to my first cup of coffee and found a headline that gave me the sensation of a lead weight in my stomach.
North Carolina May Declare Official State Religion Under New BillRepublican North Carolina state legislators have proposed allowing an official state religion in a measure that would declare the state exempt from the Constitution and court rulings.
The bill, filed Monday by two GOP lawmakers from Rowan County and backed by nine other Republicans, says each state “is sovereign” and courts cannot block a state “from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.” The legislation was filed in response to a lawsuit to stop county commissioners in Rowan County from opening meetings with a Christian prayer, wral.com reported.
The religion bill comes as some Republican-led states seek to separate themselves from the federal government, primarily on the issues of guns and Obamacare. This includes a proposal in Mississippi to establish a state board with the power to nullify federal laws.
The North Carolina bill’s main sponsors, state Reps. Carl Ford (R-China Grove) and Harry Warren (R-Salisbury), could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, The Salisbury Post reported. Co-sponsors include House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes (R-Hickory). Another is state Rep. Larry Pittman (R-Concord), who in February introduced a state constitutional amendment that would allow for carrying concealed weapons to fight federal “tyranny.”
The bill says the First Amendment only applies to the federal government and does not stop state governments, local governments and school districts from adopting measures that defy the Constitution. The legislation also says that the Tenth Amendment, which says powers not reserved for the federal government belong to the states, prohibits court rulings that would seek to apply the First Amendment to state and local officials.
SECTION 1. The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.SECTION 2. The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.The North Carolina state constitution disqualifies those who do not believe in God from public office. The provision has been unenforcible since the 1961 Supreme Court decision in Torcaso v. Watkins, which prohibited such bans. (from Huffington Post)
Remember how many times I’ve said we were headed toward a theocracy, thanks to the right wing tea party folks? It has begun.
Also yesterday, I noticed how many news stories there were about people who have softened their views on gay marriage. We have more support for that than ever, recently. Even a few (gasp) Republicans have changed their tune. While this is a very encouraging sign, we still have a formidable cadre of fundamentalists out there in positions of power, and they will continue to undermine everything that makes America great. My first thought when I saw the above-mentioned article, was that this was another example of the fallout created by gay marriage advocation. The repressed, ignorant, bible-thumping Soldiers of GAWD are at least a little frightened. Frightened that this might actually be a government “OF the People BY the people and FOR the people.” Not “of God, by God and for god” by god.
In Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, he said, “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” The first amendment to the Bill of Rights states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” Which is exactly what they are trying to do. Make a law respecting the establishment of religion.
Yes, many of our Founding Fathers believed in God, but they were of many different beliefs, and some were agnostic, and some had no affiliation, but it’s important to recognize that their concept of God was quite different than the concept being touted in the mainstream fundamentalist declarations. Just like the Republican party of antiquity is hardly recognizable within the modern-day Republican party. It’s crucial, then, to understand context and intent, and not just spout off things like “yeah, the constitution said we get freedom of religion.” Freedom to believe what you wish, yes. But that freedom does not extend to cramming your personal beliefs down the throats of others. And whether you understand it or not, America is a secular government predicated on the need to escape the religious rule of England. Just read about Henry the VIII and you’ll have a firm grasp of the dangers of zealotry and theocracy.
How would everyone feel if a state FORCED its citizens to honor ONE PARTICULAR RELIGION and its tenets WHETHER THEY BELIEVED IN IT OR NOT? I can just see the wood being piled up now–the wood that goes around that pole, where they tie up the “heretics” for a BURNING.
George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Let us be ever mindful that now is the time to remember our history, and avoid a dangerous complacency.
This issue is also comparable to the story I posted about yesterday (GOP chairwoman Everhart, who warned that straights would start having gay marriages). I hope it’s the Fundies’ last-ditch effort to keep a foothold, and of course, I hope it fails. It has to. It’s amazing to me that they don’t see that this is exactly why America was founded…to escape this sort of theocratic control. Did they not pay attention in history class? If they want a theocracy, let them go buy some island somewhere and create their own country. We cannot let them TAKE OVER this secular government…I find this sort of legislation TREASONOUS.
Only yesterday, I posted a link to one of my newly published essay booklets…I’ve been giving them away–the downloads are free for these on Smashwords, (And hopefully Kindle will price match them too; currently Amazon/Kindle offers now selection for authors to list anything for free. We have to charge at least .99).
Anyway, in the post of this booklet from yesterday, there is an essay that addresses this very subject. I share it here:
Separation of Church & State
(excerpt from Unreasonable Ideas : The Etymology of Ignorance)
(c)Kelli Jae Baeli
“Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith…we need believing people.”
~ Adolf Hitler, Excerpted from a speech made on April 26, 1933
John Locke, an English philosopher of the 17th century, wrote about a “Social Contract” theory, in which individual conscience was left to the individual, and should never be given over to governments. This developed popularity and was eventually referred to as separation of church and state.
The phrase, “separation of church and state” stems from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson in 1802, addressed to the Danbury Baptists:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
In the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli, Article 11 states, “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…” It can’t be much clearer than that.
Jefferson also said,
The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods or no gods. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg (Jefferson, Notes).
Modern-day fundamentalists are trying to return to the Dark Ages, by infiltrating the government, forcing prayer in schools, the teaching of Intelligent Design and Creation “science” and by changing the secular government to a religious one. Fundamentalist and evangelistic adherents are more and more commonly expressing a mindset that all liberals, progressives, atheists, homosexuals and others they deem undesirables, should be carted off to an island prison somewhere in the middle of the ocean. This, because the secularists and queers among us are “trying to take over” the government.
Frank Schaeffer, New York Times best-selling author and contributor to the Huffington Post, receives hate-mail all the time from the religious right. This particular one was from a priest.
Frank, I just read that you are supporting the pro-abortionist Barach [sic] Hussein Obama…Now you support a man who is the dream come true of everything ANTI-Christian. Are you no longer Christian?? I was stunned…Please respond, How could you post on the Huffington Post, the most anti-Christian, anti-traditional site?? These people HATE everything Christianity stands for!
Father G. (Shaeffer).
Don’t you love how the hateful, racist diatribe, baiting with the emphasis on the president’s middle name, ends with “In Christ”? This should be a clue. Being in Christ means being hateful and disingenuous.
The fatal error here, is that the government was created as secular, and it’s the Extreme Right that is seeking a takeover. It’s time for the general public to recognize this, and stop allowing the fanatics to redefine everything to their liking.
Still think the religious zealots aren’t trying to take over our government?
“We have enough votes to run the country. And when the people say, ‘We’ve had enough,’ we are going to take over.” ~ Pat Robertson, speech given to the April, 1980 “Washington for Jesus” rally, quoted from Robert Boston, The Most Dangerous Man in America, p. 29
Nobody has the right to worship on this planet any other God than Jehovah. And therefore the state does not have the responsibility to defend anybody’s pseudo-right to worship an idol.” ~Rev. Joseph Morecraft, Chalcedon Presbyterian Church, “Biblical Role of Civil Government” speech given 8/31/93 at Biblical Worldview and Christian Education Conference.
“This is God’s world, not Satan’s. Christians are the lawful heirs, not non-Christians.” ~Gary North, Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), p. 102.
“We need a legal strategy which protects the rights of those of us who hold Christian convictions which will afford us the opportunity to contend once again for the mind of this culture.” ~Keith A. Fournier, ACLJ brochure “Religious Cleansing.”
“If Christian people work together, they can succeed during this decade in winning back control of the institutions that have been taken from them over the past 70 years. Expect confrontations that will be not only unpleasant but at times physically bloody…This decade will not be for the faint of heart, but the resolute. Institutions will be plunged into wrenching change. We will be living through one of the most tumultuous periods of human history. When it is over, I am convinced God’s people will emerge victorious.” ~Pat Robertson, Pat Robertson’s Perspective Oct-Nov 1992.
“America is under the judgment of God. And if we are ever going to rebuild this country, it must be under God’s law. Our goal must be simple: We must have a Christian nation built on God’s law, on the Ten Commandments. No apologies.” ~Randall Terry, Operation Rescue, address to “Cities of Refuge” campaign, Willoughby Hills, OH, July, 1993.
“We at the Christian Coalition are raising an army who cares. We are training people to be effective—to be elected to school boards, to city councils, to state legislatures, and to key positions in political parties…By the end of this decade, if we work and give and organize and train, THE CHRISTIAN COALITION WILL BE THE MOST POWERFUL POLITICAL ORGANIZATION IN AMERICA. ~ Pat Robertson, in a fundraising letter, July 4, 1991.
Perhaps if they dislike this government and its secular nature so much, they ought to remove themselves to that very island. That way, they could set up the kind of government that doesn’t offend their extremist sensibilities and they can flagellate themselves into oblivion, while the rest of us can get on with our lives. Those free lives guaranteed to us by those Founding Fathers in their original documents.
A time machine is needed, so that we can send the zealots back to the 16th century, where they will be allowed to do those things.
Clearly, the Founding Fathers intended for religion to remain separate from government. Separation of church and State was included because they wanted to avoid the persecutions in England by those of religious bent. The United States Constitution is also clear about this matter, yet there are myriad examples of its violation.
As a society, we actually entertain the idea of having creationism taught as fact in our schools.
In Alabama, biology textbooks carry a warning that says that evolution is “a controversial theory some scientists present as a scientific explanation for the origin of living things…No one was present when life first appeared on Earth. Therefore, any statement about life’s origins should be considered as theory, not fact.”  In Alabama, it seems, if you wake up to snow on the ground, but no one saw it snowing, then you may only propose a “theory” as to the origin of the snow (Carroll).
When we vote, we often have to go to a church to do so. When we go to ballgames, we must listen to some local pastor say a prayer; when we enter the halls of government buildings, we must pass by marble displays of the biblical Ten Commandments; when our tax dollars go to the upkeep of faith-based schools; when we celebrate a National Day of Prayer; when we pay for something with money that has “In God We Trust” stamped on it; when our children recite the Pledge of Allegiance, to include “One nation, under God”; and when the newly elected President of the United States is inaugurated, and has to place his hand on a Bible to take his oath of office. All these things are examples of the lack of church and state separation.
The proper place for the study of religious beliefs is in a church or temple, at home, or in a course on comparative religions, but not in a biology class. There is no place in our world for an ideology that seeks to close minds, force obedience, and return the world to a paradise that never was. Students should learn that the universe can be confronted and understood, that ideas and authority should be questioned, that an open mind is a good thing. Education does not exist to confirm people’s superstitions, and children do not learn to think when they are fed only dogma” (Berra).
James Madison was the primary author of the Bill of Rights, and in it, he also reiterated the importance of separation of church and state. Jefferson echoed this sentiment in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.
Though these words exist as underpinning to our dealings with religion and service, it is near impossible for a person of no faith to get elected.
In the 2008 elections, Republican candidate for North Carolina senate, Elizabeth Dole, ran an “attack ad” which labeled her opponent, Kay Hagan “godless.” At the end of the ad, a woman’s voice is heard saying “There is no god.” This was an underhanded way to implicate Hagen as an unworthy candidate, even though the recording was not of Hagen. Dole has since been sued by Hagen for liable and defamation, and Hagen felt the need to run her own ad professing her Christianity. Dole, incidentally, lost the race.
This is another example of how religion permeates our society, even in the realm of politics. I fail to see the correlation between lack of religion and an inability to serve honorably, but most Americans don’t seem to agree. The reason seems to be that “godless” people are somehow less trustworthy, less moral, less ethical and less capable of serving in an office that seeks to represent the common good.
There are many historical figures who recognize this misrepresentation, and agree. One of them said,
“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President—should he be Catholic—how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him.”
This, from one of our nation’s most beloved public servants, John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States of America. And he was, as is common knowledge, a practicing Catholic.
Susan Jacoby, a respected atheist, secularist, bestselling author and director of the Center for Inquiry, New York, has said,
…people who belong to no Church make up the fastest-growing segment of the American population. In the 1980s, no more than 8 per cent refused to identify a religious affiliation. This year, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that the ranks of the unchurched had doubled. Highly educated Americans are most likely to fall within a group ranging from atheists to those describing their religion as “nothing in particular.”
There is a powerful correlation between fundamentalism and lack of education. According to Pew, 45 per cent of Americans with no education beyond high school adhere to biblical literalism, while only 29 per cent with some university education—and 19 per cent of university graduates—share that old-time faith. Republicans have tapped into the fundamentalist resentment of educated, sceptical elites to form the party’s right-wing Christian base (Religion Remains).
The motto of the American people, “In God We Trust,” was not adopted as the national slogan until 1956, though most Americans seem to think it was minted on the first coin after the Declaration of Independence was signed. Indeed, the majority in society seem to respond to God very much like the subjects in the Emperor’s New Clothes. They don’t dare question their ruler, though it is blatantly obvious he is behaving scandalously and is a ridiculous excuse for a leader.
I hope to one day be called to testify in a court of law, because when they say “Raise your right hand…do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” I will say, “not so help me, God, no.”
I will enjoy the tittering and mumbling moving through the spectators. The judge will lean over and say, “Why not, Ms. Baeli?”
And I will say, “I believe in the separation of church and state. This court is state. That Bible is church. Furthermore, I’m an atheist. But I’ll be happy to swear on the value of my own ethics.”
 *author of the forthcoming Patience With God: Faith For People Who Don’t Like Religion (Or Atheism) and also of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back.
For more quotes like these, refer to Supernatural Hypocrisy: The Cognitive Dissonance of a God Cosmology (Volume 4, Cosmology of the Dark Side).
 Also, please note that they do not apply this argument to their own statements about how life began, and what happened all that time ago. Hypocrites.
Diana, thank you do much for your erudite comments. Would that the majority felt as you do. I will now have to educate myself by reading The Ham Funeral. I’m sure my partner, Kate (A Kiwi and author) will know of Patrick White. I salute you.
Jae – the quote from Hitler is eye-opening. What exactly did he believe in aside from his own pre-eminence and the extermination of Jews, gays, gypsies and anyone else that didn’t have a silly moustache?
It’s hard to believe that the separation of church and state has become so deranged in recent years; I hope you’re right that it might be a last ditch attempt at relevance by the right-wing Fundies (great term btw) but if so, they’re being very energetic about it.
When I became an Australian citizen I had a double quandary about the state and religion. I am a (small r) republican in that I don’t believe in a state headed by a hereditary monarch (QE2 in this instance) and I was required to swear allegiance to her on a Bible – something else I don’t believe in (as the truth and the only truth, that is).
I mentioned this to someone before the ceremony and was told I could bring a book that was “sacred” to me. I think they were imagining a Koran or something like that. I interpreted it more liberally and brought with me a copy of Patrick White’s play The Ham Funeral.
Patrick White was a great Australian playwright and man of letters, also a gay man and a staunch republican. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature and was one of my heroes (he liked me too and called me “my tall girl” – which was pretty good).
Anyway, I swore allegiance to the Queen and Australia with The Ham Funeral in my hand figuring that it cancelled out the bits I didn’t really agree with. And so far have lived happily ever after.