By Annie Laurie Gaylor
Freedom From Religion Foundation
How many angry Christian men does it take to debate one atheist woman? According to Sean Hannity, at least four.
I was ganged up on Hannity's July 1 show on the national Fox News network. I was told the show would focus on the Oklahoma Supreme Court's 7-2 decision the day before that declared unconstitutional the Ten Commandments monument on the State Capitol grounds.
Before agreeing to appear, I asked who else would be on and was told that state Attorney General Scott Pruitt, whom FFRF has tussled with repeatedly, would be on the segment before me. Then I would join Hannity, "Father" Jonathan Morris (Fox's favorite Catholic priest) and blowhard Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League. I asked the producer somewhat incredulously, "Do they really need three men just to counter me?"
As I sat in the darkened studio for about half an hour awaiting my turn, a voice came through my earpiece telling me I wouldn't be on right after the attorney general and the loquaciously disjointed sponsor of the Ten Commandments legislation. I was told that a woman whose name I didn't recognize would be on next. Confused, I asked who that was.
The next guest was a Mississippi county clerk who had resigned rather than provide marriage licenses to gay couples. Morris, Donohue, plus (surprise!) Todd Starnes — the notorious Fox personality who makes Hannity appear liberal — would appear with me after that, I was instructed.
I assumed they were taping the show out of order, so there the camera found me, with my head down, thinking about Ten Commandments repartee, and listening to this misguidedly bigoted woman, later to be simperingly referred to as a "dear lady" and "sweet grandmother." No one cued me that I was on. But suddenly I was, trying not to look startled, as Hannity directed a leading question to me, not about the Oklahoma case, but trying to make me say what is patently not true — that poor, "persecuted" Christian churches would be forced to host gay weddings.
If you watch the segment or read the transcript, you can tell that I was hardly allowed to complete a sentence. Hannity and his three buddies, all in the studio, interrupted me, ostensibly directing questions at me that they humorously then wouldn't let me answer. Below is a sampling of the interruptions:
MORRIS: Let me just let you talk — just answer my question. The problem here with this part of history that you don't want to be seen is that it has a religious element to it. Is that true?
GAYLOR: There is no Ten Commandments in our secular and godless Constitution. The Ten Commandments are not . . .
HANNITY: All right . . .
GAYLOR: . . . the underpinning of our civil government. They are religious in nature. And it is totally appropriate that they . . .
HANNITY: Hey, Annie . . .
GAYLOR: . . . the Oklahoma Supreme Court . . .
HANNITY: All right, Annie —
GAYLOR: . . . has ruled that they do not belong at the seat of our . . .
HANNITY: Annie . . .
GAYLOR: . . . state government in Oklahoma.
Trying to get a word in edgewise at one point, I sought to interject a comment. Donohue had the ironic temerity to reprimand me: "Hold on, ma'am. We're having a conversation here." They then proceeded to "talk amongst themselves" and direct jibes at me.
"I don't believe this Annie one bit, by the way. I've followed her organization for years," said Donohue. (I had been previously asked on the air if my first name is "Annie" and had already told them it's "Annie Laurie.")
"It seems as though the humanists have declared some sort of a secular fatwa," opined Starnes.
"They're lying when it comes to the separation of church and state," Donohue added.
Morris the priest then smugly said, "The good news is that Annie doesn't represent most atheists in our country, who are so much more rational and compassionate and tolerant."
"Thank you!" I said (a remark stricken from the show transcript).
So much for "a conversation."
Postscript: In a statement July 7, Gov. Mary Fallin said "the court got it wrong," adding, "Attorney General Scott Pruitt, with my support, has filed a petition requesting a rehearing of the Ten Commandments case. Additionally, our Legislature has signaled its support for pursuing changes to our state Constitution that will make it clear the Ten Commandments monument is legally permissible. If legislative efforts are successful, the people of Oklahoma will get to vote on the issue."
In an attempt to do something — anything — in the face of marriage equality, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has issued an entirely superfluous and pointless executive order.
As Brownback's order recognized, the U.S. Constitution and the Kansas Constitution already protect the freedom of religion. Religion is even favored under the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act that Brownback signed into law in 2013.
But with the specter of two mature, consenting, loving adults marrying — regardless of their sex — Brownback is out to "preserve and protect" religion. Again.
Brownback's gratuitous order attempts to do three things. First, it says the clergy do not have to solemnize gay marriages. That right is already protected though. If clergy want to be a bigots or their religion dictates bigotry, they need not perform a gay marriage. Nobody has argued otherwise.
Second, Brownback tries to order the state government not to "take any discriminatory action against a religious organization" that refuses to provide services for gay marriages. This appears to be directed at religious bakers and florists, giving them carte blanche to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals. But no executive order can provide a license to discriminate. Brownback's self-deception is rather astounding here. Notice that he labels a state action that enforces anti-discrimination laws a "discriminatory action." Only in the religious mind of a man who thinks that we need to "collectively repent of distancing ourselves from God" can such contradictions thrive. And only would someone who believes they are acting on behalf of an omnipotent dictator think they have the right to impose that "mind forg'd manacle" on everyone else.
Third, the order says that the state government "shall not take any discriminatory action against a religious organization that provides social services or charitable services, which acts or intends to act upon sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction." This may be directed at religious adoption agencies and similar organizations. Again, it appears to be an attempt to allow them to discriminate in the name of their god, which no executive order can do. This is reminiscent of the Catholic adoption services that are far more dedicated to their religion than to the children in their care, preferring to shut down rather than place children with loving LGBTQ couples.
The good news is that this executive order cannot add legal protections for religiously sanctioned prejudice. Just as the U.S. Constitution and the 14th Amendment successfully trumped states' bans on gay marriage last month, no state law and certainly not this hollow executive order, can trump rights that belong to LGBTQ citizens.
This order is really just Brownback proving to everyone that he cannot do anything to overturn marriage equality, no matter how many vows he makes to the contrary. This is just a sore loser showing his impotence.