Freethought Today · Vol. 22 No. 8 October 2005

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

In The News

Iraq Ushers in Theocracy?

Iraq's draft constitution lays the groundwork not only for domination by Shiite Islamic clerics but would instate Sharia, or Islamic control, over women and domestic law. While one section guarantees full religious rights for all individuals and the freedom of creed and religious practices," it also decrees that "Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation."

"No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam" or "that contradicts the principles of democracy," the confusing document reads.

While women are to make up 25% of the elected Council of Representatives, property rights are unresolved, and education would be mandatory for girls only through elementary school.

Utah Decalog Litigated

The Summum religion sued the city of Pleasant Grove, Utah, in August for refusing to display its set of laws although it has displayed a Ten Commandments monument since 1971.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 1997 and 2002 that Salt Lake City and Ogden City had created a forum for religious expression by erecting bible monuments. The Summum religion had the right to erect its Seven Aphorisms on public property if the Ten Commandments monuments were not removed, the court ruled.

Naval Academy Says "Grace"

The Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., announced in late August it will not drop its practice of prayer before midshipmen's lunch. It is now the only U.S. military institution holding formal lunchtime prayers.

The "nondenominational" prayers are led by Roman Catholic, Protestant or Jewish chaplains.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2003 that mealtime prayers at the Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Va., are unconstitutional. The ACLU has indicated it will sue if it can find a plaintiff.

The Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo., holds 20 seconds of silence before lunch. West Point has no prayer.

Air Force Issues Religious Guidelines

The Air Force issued new guidelines on religion on Aug. 29, warning against promotion of any particular faith, or even "the idea of religion or nonreligion," at official functions, sporting events, meetings, ceremonies and in official communications.

The guidelines discourage public prayer, saying it "should not usually be included in official settings such as staff meetings, office meetings, classes or officially sanctioned activities."

Very oddly, they would allow for "a brief nonsectarian prayer" at special ceremonies, such as those honoring promotions, or in "extraordinary circumstances," such as "mass casualties, preparation for imminent combat and natural disasters."

The guidelines sprang from long-term complaints by cadets at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, charging that evangelical Christianity permeates the academy and that officials use their positions to actively promote evangelicalism.

"Supervisors, commanders and leaders at every level bear a special responsibility to ensure their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed as either official endorsement or disapproval of the decisions of individuals to hold particular religious beliefs or to hold no religious beliefs."

The guidelines, written in part by Rabbi Arnold E. Resnicoff, a Navy veteran, apply to the entire Air Force and will be finalized later this year.

Mikey Weinstein, an Academy grad who helped blow the whistle on Christian bias, called the guidelines meaningless without discipline of offending officers.

Military Chaplains Fundy

Evangelical Protestant chaplains are bridling at suggestions not to pray publicly "in the name of Jesus," according to Alan Cooperman (The Washington Post, Aug. 30, 2005).

The new Air Force guidelines on religion (see above) are "so detrimental to what we are trying to do in the chaplaincy," complains Air Force Col. Richard K. Hum, executive director of the Armed Forces Chaplains Board.

The Post said Pentagon data show "a substantial rise in the number of evangelical chaplains in the past decade." The Southern Baptist Convention is "by far the largest single provider of chaplains to the military," with 451 chaplains out of 2,860 active-duty chaplains.

Yet only one of every 40 service members is Southern Baptist. The Church of God in Christ has 109 active-duty chaplains, Full Gospel churches have 61, Church of Nazarene has 68, and the Church of God, based in Tennessee, has 58.

8th Circuit OKs Decalog

The entire 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in an 11-2 ruling on Aug. 19 reversing a lower court ruling, approved the presence of a Ten Commandments bible monument in a city park in Plattsmouth, Neb.

A 3-judge panel of the 8th Circuit agreed with a lower court that the city-displayed bible monument was unconstitutional. Plattsmouth, with the help of Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice, asked the entire 8th Circuit to review the 3-judge panel's ruling.

The 8th Circuit put the case on hold pending the decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court on Ten Commandments cases.

In June, the high court ruled that a Ten Commandments marker on Capitol grounds in Austin, Texas, was permissible, but that plaques inside Kentucky courthouses were not.

Writing for the court, Judge Pasco Bowman said the "Plattsmouth monument makes passive and permissible use of the text of the Ten Commandments to acknowledge the role of religion in our nation's heritage."


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