Outreach & Events - Freedom From Religion Foundation
Lauryn Seering

Lauryn Seering

%250 %America/Chicago, %2014

Public Prayer

AndrewSeidelcrop[Update: The Satanists caved and returned the wafer. The judge, as is typical in property cases, ordered that the property in question not be destroyed — which made it pointless to hold the wafer. The "Black Mass" will move forward as scheduled.]

The Roman Catholic Church and Archbishop Coakley recently filed a lawsuit against a group of Satanists to recover a consecrated communion wafer. The Satanists want to desecrate the wafer in their petulant “Black Mass” scheduled for September 21 in Oklahoma. The Catholics claim that any bit of the body of Christ not in Catholic hands must have been stolen: 

Defendants do not have consent or authorization from Archbishop Coakley or the Roman Catholic Church to possess the Consecrated Host. The Consecrated Host in Defendants’ possession must have been procured from the Catholic Church by theft, fraud, wrongful taking, or other form of misappropriation. . . 

An odd claim considering the church freely gives the Eucharist to anybody who presents an open hand or open mouth. This lawsuit is odd in many ways, not least because the Church treats its superstitions as fact. More specifically, that transubstantiation actually happens: 

A host is simply a piece of bread. However, a consecrated host — including the Consecrated Host that is the subject of this action — is a host that has undergone the transubstantiation and is now the body and blood of Jesus Christ. To Catholics, the consecrated host is the most sacred, respected, and revered thing in the world. 

Perhaps Coakley was emboldened by the recent Hobby Lobby decision, but no court can accept transubstantiation as a fact. Leaving aside the rampant hypocrisy that Catholics chew, swallow, and later drop “the most sacred, respected, and revered thing in the world” into the commode. Cannibalism is certainly an odd way to show reverence for one’s god. 

The most galling part of this lawsuit is this little gem: “The actual value of the Consecrated Host is incalculable because the significance and importance of the Consecrated Host cannot be measured monetarily.” That’s right, stale bread goes from $01.09-a-piece to priceless because an old virgin in a fancy dress muttered, “hocus pocus.” (One thousand wafers only costs $18.99 on Amazon.com). Nothing else happens, there is no chemical, physical, or measureable change of any kind, but that two cent investment is now beyond price. Which reminds me, Archbishop Coakley, I have some ocean front property in Arizona for sale. . . 

The incalculable value claim is also deeply hypocritical: This same church has stolen countless childrens’ innocence. The church has shuffled rapists around, offering them new prey with each new post. Nearly 17,000 victims have been identified and $2.5 billion in settlements have been paid out. So according to the Catholic Church’s warped arithmetic, destroying a child’s life is worth about $147,000, while a holy Triscuit is priceless. 

The church finds crackers more precious than the children under its care. The church puts Archbishop Timothy Dolan in a $30 million, 15,000-square-foot mansion on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, and hides $50 million from the victims of sexual assault in Milwaukee, Dolan’s old diocese. It tells us to love those two-cent consecrated biscuits—the body of Christ—more than we love our families. Jesus said so himself: “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:37. This is the truly appalling aspect of religion, it warps love and human compassion, elevating an imaginary being over one’s own family and children. 

Desecration is not a crime under our secular laws. (FFRF successful argued this point in a Colorado case). It may be in bad taste, but, then again, maybe the old idiom is correct: “Sacred cows make the best hamburger.” If the Catholic Church wants to cry desecration in any real sense, it ought to turn its gaze inward. The world would be better off without its hypocrisy.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter of complaint Aug. 20 to contest the proposed placement of an 8-foot-high statue that includes a Christian cross in Whitewater Memorial State Park in Liberty, Ind.

Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert sent the letter to Cameron Clark, director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources in Indianapolis, on behalf of a local complainant who objects to putting religious objects on state-owned property. 

According to a story in the Richmond Palladium-Item, the park was created in 1949 to be a memorial to veterans surrounding counties. The carved wooden statue shows a soldier kneeling on one knee by the cross, with an eagle looming above.

Park Manager Scott Crossley told the newspaper said the statue's future will be decided at the state level. "They said they would rush it because it is a started project," he said.

FFRF is a nationwide state-church watchdog with more than 21,000 members, including members in Indiana and more than 4,000 active-duty service members and veterans.

"The religious significance of the Latin cross is unambiguous and indisputable," Markert wrote, adding that "an overwhelming majority of federal courts agree that the Latin cross universally represents the Christian religion, and only the Christian religion."

She cited a string of court decisions that bolster FFRF's position, including a ruling that the cross "is not a generic symbol of death."

"The inherent religious significance of the Latin cross is undeniable and is not disguisable," Markert said. "No secular purpose, no matter how sincere, will detract from the overall message that the Latin cross stands for Christianity and the overall display promotes Christianity. The display of this patently religious symbol in a city park would confer government endorsement of Christianity, a blatant violation of the Establishment Clause."

FFRF says the statue excludes the 25% of military personnel who identify as atheist or agnostic or hold no religious preference.

"We ask you to replace the statue’s cross with a secular symbol, remove the cross, or deny the statue’s placement in Whitewater Memorial Park in order to honor all veterans. We would also appreciate a prompt response from you, in writing, informing us of the action the DNR takes on this matter," Markert said.

Michael T. Simmons Elementary School in Tumwater, Wash., will no longer allow religious materials to be handed out.

Children were pulled out of class to attend a mandatory school assembly led by former NFL player Shawn Harper, who at the conclusion handed out cards to students with his picture on the front, and a promotion of Jesus on the back. The card read:

“I grew up in a religious home, but I did not know God. I suffered a potential career ending injury which put me out of the NFL for one year. It was during that year, when I thought I had lost everything, that I discovered the difference between religion and a relationship with Jesus. He found me, and I have been playing on His Team ever since. I was able to come back and finish my career in the NFL!”

FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel sent a letter on June 5 explaining why the school district needs to remedy this matter:

“Regardless of the motives of the presenters or those who invited them, allowing Mr. Harper access to your student body to hand out his cards gives the appearance that Tumwater School District endorses the card’s message.”

The district responded promptly, “The card about which you have stated concern, which looked like a traditional sports card, was made available to students by the speaker as the students were leaving the assembly hall. Not all students received a card, but many did. The card was not approved in advance by the principal. The principal has shared with me that in the future she will make sure to pre-approve any materials that are to be handed out to students in such a context.”

The district defended the assembly itself as being strictly on bullying without religious content, but said the incident would be discussed at an August training of administrators.

An elementary school in Kansas will no longer allow Gideon Society to proselytize and hand out bibles to students. FFRF was informed that on May 16, a fifth-grade teacher at USD 306 allowed representatives from Gideon’s International to speak and distribute bibles in his classroom.

Additionally, FFRF successfully complained about another teacher in the district actively led, participated and organized a See You at the Pole prayer gathering. Fliers announcing these gatherings sported the teacher’s name, and the teacher leads students in prayer at the gathering.

FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel sent a letter to the district on July 8: “Parents carefully instruct children not to accept gifts from strangers. The Gideon practice is a usurpation of parental authority. It is the duty of public school administrators to protect not only the personal conscience of students but to ensure they are safe from predatory adults while at school.”

Seidel wrote that teacher-led prayer and promotion of events such as See You at the Pole would be perceived by a reasonable observer as being stamped with the school’s approval.

On July 31, the district responded, “[The] superintendent. . . did not have any knowledge that this activity was going on. If he would have known it was occurring he would have stopped it. This confirms that USD 306 will not permit this to happen anymore.”

The letter reported that a new policy prohibiting teachers sponsoring overtly religious events will be enforced by the District.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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