Senate Resolution 85 in Wisconsin

Object to biased resolution condemning only Christian persecution

GbxRJrkCStatement by Annie Laurie Gaylor '
Co-President
Freedom From Religion Foundation

Among the dumber pieces of theocratic legislation being entertained by the Wisconsin Legislature (and that’s saying something), is Senate Joint Resolution 85, “relating to the persecution of Christians on a worldwide scale.”

Warning for readers outside Wisconsin: This resolution may be coming to a state legislature near you. Such pandering political moves typically are orchestrated. A quick Google search reveals a nearly identical resolution, HR 341, passed the Pennsylvania House on March 12.

The Wisconsin resolution begins, “Whereas, it has been known that throughout history Christians have faced countless amounts of persecution for their beliefs, resulting in the loss of life and destruction of property . . .” The resolution ends:

Whereas, it is critical that government bodies such as ourselves express our disapproval towards the worldwide persecution of religious groups belonging to the Christian Faith; and

Whereas, the world continues to see Christians persecuted by other religious groups and nation-states to this day; this is a problem that negatively impacts millions of Christian people every day; and this persecution is not a myth, but is a stunning reality; now

Resolved by the senate, the assembly concurring, That the members of the legislature condemn the acts of persecution against Christianity and encourage others to do the same.

An excellent letter to the editor by Paula Dent addressing many of those assertions was published March 17 in the Wisconsin State Journal. 

Thursday's letter "Worldwide evidence of Christian persecution" is accurate. Reports from media outlets indicate this is happening mainly in Muslim countries. But Christians aren't the only ones who can play the persecution card. The record shows atheists, agnostics and skeptics are targeted globally.

According to the International Humanist and Ethical Union and their "Freedom of Thought 2012" report, "In at least seven U.S. states, constitutional provisions are in place that bar atheists from public office, and one state, Arkansas, has a law that bans an atheist from testifying as a witness at trial." Despite First Amendment rights, a social climate exists "in which atheists and the non-religious are made to feel like lesser Americans."

The 2013 Freethought Report from IHEU lists Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Malaysia, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Mauritania, Maldives, Sudan, Somalia and United Arab Emirates as countries where espousing atheism can result in capital punishment for perceived offenders.

The report further states "riots, murders and other crimes against non-Muslims are common in Islamic countries, particularly against Christians."

The work to improve and safeguard human rights may never end.

It goes without saying that this proposed resolution inappropriately favors Christianity over other religions and religion over nonreligion. Persecution of anyone over matters of conscience, particularly by theocratic governments allied with religion, is always abhorrent. It is also abhorrent for legislators to single out for condemnation only persecution of Christians and to ignore persecution of other religions and particularly of atheists and those who dissent from dominant religions.

Surely, a government body that condemns Christian persecution might also recognize that 13 countries designating atheism as a capital crime is also “a stunning reality.”

The Russian Orthodox Church has recently reveled in persecuting Pussy Riot, a feminist punk band for blasphemy and “religious hooliganism” for protesting theocratic ties between President Vladimir Putin and the church. Christian Uganda has just passed another religiously motivated hate law endangering the lives and livelihood of gays. The Indonesian government in February released an atheist after 30 months in prison. His crime? Saying on Facebook: “There is no God.”

There is persecution of Christians by Muslims in some Islamist nations, just as there is persecution of Muslims by Christians in some other Christian-based nations. One recent horrifying example occurred Feb. 28, when a mob of a hundred Christians chased down, attacked and brutally murdered Deputy Mayor Saleh Dido in the Central African Republic just for being a Muslim minority. LINK

The Wisconsin state senators are steadfastly silent over such inhumanity.

What is also conspicuously missing from the resolution is any reference to upholding secular government and promoting the secular values of the U.S. Constitution. Keeping religion out of government is the best protection against religious persecution. As Thomas Paine wrote in “The Rights of Man,” “Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all law-religions, or religions established by law.”

FFRF’s bumper sticker says it best: “Protect the First Amendment. It protects you.” 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

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