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Praise . . . The Weismans!

The Loudoun School board, Virginia, dropped its 9-month fight to pray at graduation ceremonies in January by a 7-3 vote.

The board members agreed not to appeal a ruling in December by U.S. Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr. that banned any prayer at Loudoun public school graduations, whether student- or clergy-led, citing fiscal concerns. The district already had spent $129,000 in public funds to fight students seeking a secular commencement. That will make graduations this spring the first in its history without a prayer. (About time.)

Judge Bryan ruled: " . . .a constitutional violation inherently occurs when, in a secondary school graduation setting, a prayer is offered, regardless of who makes the decision that the prayer will be given and who authorizes the actual wording of the remarks. . . .A high school graduation, and certainly one's right and desire to attend, is an important ingredient of school life--as much as attending class. To involuntarily subject a student at such an event to a display of religion that is offensive or not agreeable to his or her own religion or lack of religion is to constructively exclude that student from graduation, given the options the student has. The Establishment Clause does not permit this to occur.

"Nor can the state simply delegate the decision as to a prayer component of that ceremony to the graduating class without offending the Establishment Clause. The notion that a person's constitutional rights may be subject to a majority vote is itself anathema. The graduating classes in Loudoun County certainly could not have voted to exclude from the ceremonies persons of a certain race. To be constructively excluded from graduation ceremonies because of one's religion or lack of religion is not a great deal different.

"Alternatively, the court finds that even if a graduation at the high school level is not inherently state-sponsored nor inherently coercive, the facts here demonstrate an excessive state entanglement with religion in violation of the Establishment Clause. Although the actions of each of the four schools differed slightly, for all of them the graduation is a state-sponsored event. . . .At all of the schools except Loudoun Valley High School, the principals took action to initiate a senior class meeting. . . .All class meetings held were mandatory for seniors at school that day.

"The defendants argue that what occurred at the high schools and what is permitted by protocol adopted was no more than 'solemnization,' and thus had a secular propose. They also argue that no religion was advanced or prohibited. A reading of the student remarks does not bear the argument out. . . .The effect of the foregoing is to advance the religion of those who believe in a deity at the expense of nonbelievers, Jews, or other nonChristians."

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Freedom From Religion!

My activism with the Freedom From Religion Foundation began in January, 1989. I contacted Annie Laurie Gaylor with a complaint of child labor violations that I witnessed at the Alabama State Docks. Through our efforts, child abuse and the violations of Federal Child Labor laws at the Alabama State Docks were stopped. The Reverend Herman Fountain of the Bethel children's home of Lucedale, Mississippi, has now spent time in the Mississippi jail. The Director of the Alabama State Docks, John Dutton, allowed the violation to happen and did nothing about it until the U.S. Secretary of Labor threatened to shut down the docks. John Dutton aided in child abuse by letting Herman Fountain abuse them on state property and violate the child labor laws. John Dutton is a member of Governor Jim Folsom's cabinet. The Governor knows this and still retains John Dutton. What does this say about the Governor of Alabama?

What did those kids need? Freedom From Religion!

I have paid for Foundation ads to be placed in the Harbinger, the alternative newspaper at the University of South Alabama. One of those ads resulted in the membership of activist Clark Adams.

What did Clark need? Freedom From Religion!

I have spoken before the legislature on the choice issue. This is more interesting than most would realize; Alabama never supported the l9th amendment to the United States Constitution. They said, "Women shouldn't be allowed to vote."

What do Alabama women need? Freedom From Religion!

I have spoken before the State Ethics Committee on two different complaints against former Governor Guy Hunt. One complaint helped get him out of office, the second will keep him out of office.

What do the citizens of Alabama need? Freedom From Religion!

I was a litigant in the State Park's lawsuit. Y'all know what happened there.

What did the parks get? Freedom From Religion!

I have worked with the president of the Alabama State School Board on textbook issues. I also worked in his unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Congress. You must remember that Alabama was the last state to stop teaching the flat earth theory in geography.

What do the students need? Freedom From Religion!

I have spoken before numerous county and city commission meetings, supporting repeal of Sunday "blue laws."

What do the citizens need? Freedom From Religion!

I recently reported the great panty check story. Deut 22:5 clearly states that cross dressing is an abomination to god. Certain Christian schools in Mobile were requiring the female students to hike their skirts to the waist to prove they were wearing feminine panties instead of manly boxer shorts. Remember, Ladies, raise your skirts for God's sake so he will know that you aren't cross dressing.

What do these ladies need? Freedom From Religion!

Just this week, I signed up a couple for the Foundation. This couple, with my encouragement, has contacted the ACLU of Mississippi. They will be filling suit in Federal Court against the state of Mississippi and the Harrison County schools for passing out Gideon Bibles. The Foundation is once again on the cutting edge of human rights.

What do Wade & Deborah need? Freedom From Religion!

Therefore, as the Jew demands freedom from the Christian practice of speaking to God through Christ, the Christian demands freedom from the Muslim practice of bowing toward Mecca, and the Muslim demands freedom from the idolatry and polytheism of the Christian, we as freethinkers must demand freedom from the tenants, rituals, and symbols of all religions.

What do we all need? Freedom From Religion!

This was a rousing pep talk delivered by Foundation member Hank Shiver of Alabama, during the "Individual Activism" portion of the annual membership meeting, Huntsville, Alabama, October 24, 1993.

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Scrooge Atheist

Four years ago I drove through the town of Belgrade, Minnesota, and discovered a creche on the post office property. I stopped and took some photographs but was not sure what to do about it. In early December I returned to Belgrade. Sure enough, it was still there.

This time I stopped in the post office and asked the postmaster why the religious display was on government property. The postmaster was friendly but somewhat evasive. He stated that the local businesses had donated much of the landscape and did the holiday decorations, and since the property was leased he did not know if the creche display was right or wrong. I saw no need to be hostile to him as I wanted as much information from him as I could get. I made certain he knew that I would be in contact with his boss and would follow up on this.

The Belgrade postmaster referred me to the responsible party for the creche, the Mayor of Belgrade, who just happened to own the business next door. (It should be noted that a private business organization owns the creche). I went next door and introduced myself and stated my business. The Mayor said they did not want any trouble and would move the offensive display.

Marie Castle and I decided to try a follow-up letter and see if they indeed would move it without further action. Much to our surprise they had moved it before they received my letter. It had been there for thirteen years and all it took was one complaint to move it! Now it sits 30 feet away on the Mayor's private property. She is now the proud owner of the Belgrade creche.

Next came vilification in the Belgrade newspaper, The Observer. They printed a picture of the creche being moved, along with my letter, just so everyone would know who to blame. The next week the paper had a number of letters about the "Scrooge Atheist," as I was labeled in a Christmas trivia contest, and of course I ruined their "holy days" by "violating their First Amendment rights."

A local Catholic priest was given almost a whole page for his dribble. He and other letter writers used the "In God We Trust" on our money as a buttress for their claim to their right to proselytize on government property. One letter writer wrote "the Bill of Rights states: 'One nation under God, Indivisible with liberty, and Justice for all.' " [sic] (There is a bright one.)

The side issue here is the direct and measurable impact of religious graffiti on our money and the religious endorsement of the desecration of the Pledge of Allegiance and the national motto. I have turned copies of these letters over to the Foundation's project on the impact of these religious statements. The people of Belgrade interpret these statements as an endorsement of their religious beliefs. It is vital we support the Foundation's collection of these statements for a possible challenge.

To date, the Belgrade Observer has printed two 600-word letters by myself, both unedited. The Willmar, Minnesota West Central Tribune did a front page story with a photo on December 24. It was a fair and balanced story.

Two local politicians responded. One agreed that this was a violation of the Constitution, but was "so trivial." The other was state Senator Joe Bertram, who called it "a holy symbol of the Christian faith . . ."

At the advice of the Foundation I have contacted the Postmaster General, Marvin Runyon. If there is not a direct order from the top next year, it might be back. I expect Mr. Runyon will understand the merits of government neutrality and will order the Belgrade post office to remain secular.

The writer is, by coincidence, a postal employee. Steven Petersen, Co-chair of Minnesota Atheists, is a member of the Foundation, as is Marie Castle.

Published in Back Issues

Mayor George Washburn of Nevada, Missouri, released a statement on December 21, 1993, complying with a request by the Freedom From Religion Foundation that he rescind his proclamation declaring 1994 to be "A Year of Bible Reading."

The Foundation made the request on behalf of a Nevada, Missouri Foundation member, after being sent a copy of the November proclamation. The proclamation called for "renewing knowledge and faith in God through Holy Scripture reading," called the bible "the Word of God," and concluded:

"Now therefore, I, George Washburn, Mayor of Nevada, Missouri, in conjunction with Christians Together, the Saints of God, and a host of others, do hereby proclaim the year 1994 as 'A Year of Bible Reading' in Nevada, Missouri and urge all Saints to study the Holy Scriptures and apply their teachings in all your actions and interactions."

On December 3, Foundation staff member Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote to protest the Mayor's misuse of office to proselytize:

"As President Thomas Jefferson noted, in refusing to make any religious or thanksgiving proclamations during his eight-year tenure: 'civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States, and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.' "

Gaylor alerted Mayor Washburn to the Foundation's successful lawsuit against the Mayor of Denver in November, 1993, when he proclaimed a single "Day of Prayer." Mayor Washburn was sent documentation of the action on Nov. 13, 1993, by Dist. Judge John McMullen enjoining the Mayor of Denver from promoting, endorsing, or sponsoring, in his official capacity, a "Day of Prayer."

"We trust you will rescind your equally improper proclamation prior to 1994 to correct this First Amendment violation."

Mayor Washburn noted, in his public retraction:

"As indicated in the complaint, I have misused the official capacity of this office by urging citizens, as stated in the proclamation, to 'study the Holy Scriptures,' which appears to be in violation of the concept of the separation of church and state.

"Therefore, due to my error, I will rescind this proclamation which was issued in November of 1993. I apologize to the Christian Together Organization for any embarrassment this action may cause."

Gaylor called the Dec. 21 rescission "a nice Winter Solstice present--to have a mayor not only understand the importance of government neutrality but to be willing to rescind an inappropriate proclamation, and offer an abject apology, is remarkably refreshing!"

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Abolish State-Supported Superstition

It took a devastating fire at Windsor Castle (coupled with a few scandals of sorts and a public outcry) to compel Queen Elizabeth II to begin paying taxes like every other limey.

Hmm. No more welfare for the royal family. Tsk. Tsk. Imagine, if you will, those Brits allowing special privileges to the royal family in the first place.

On the other hand though, here in America, there is an organization that has been getting away with special privileges for years. Don't you think it's time we gave these freeloaders the "royal boot" also? Congress has been talking about raising taxes and cutting back on social programs, but we don't need to raise taxes. We have an untapped source of revenue available now, a dividend.

After the end of the cold war, we dreamed of a peace time dividend, but we didn't find any dividend there. We thought the Reagan trickle-down theory of economics would percolate down, but we didn't find any dividend there, either. In fact, we didn't find a dividend anywhere in the last 12 years; only soaring bankruptcies and debt-financed spending, making the U.S. the largest debtor nation in the world.

The dividend is right in front of our noses. And it doesn't have to involve "new taxes," just a fairer distribution of taxes. This plan would wipe out the budget deficit, slash the national debt, end the recession, finance a national health insurance program, raise our standard of living, and most important to college students, it would increase funding for higher education.

This dividend is available in a "treasure chest" and the "booty" is ours if we wise-up and abolish special tax privileges to an institution which has been plundering money from us for 200 years. Like the British did, we also must make a stand for equal taxation.

The "treasure chest" I am referring to is secreted in the vast sums of untaxed property and incomes of religious institutions and their leaders. According to real estate records, religious organizations own between 20-25% of the property in America.

This is not limited to just churches and their adjunct facilities, but it encompasses far-flung enterprises which enjoy an unfair advantage over other mortals. If the "good news" is truly good, then churches and religious institutions should be able to stand on their own two feet by now, just like the royal family.

Such is not the case, however, as churches pay no taxes. Indeed, once a business has convinced the IRS that it is a church, nothing else is required. What a "sweetheart" deal between church and state--no accountability at all.

Historically, this tax exemption was allowed by the IRS with the understanding that religious institutions would provide social services and devote itself to the public good.

However, the results of imposing religion on society at the taxpayers' expense has proven to be a devastating experience for many and has not solved any social problems, but instead, created new ones.

The humanitarian help done by churches is merely secular atonement for the countless mental and physical abuses inflicted in the name of religion. It would be better left up to professional people (thereby creating jobs for people who would be paying taxes) to administer these social programs.

Still the church gets a free ride, and the Supreme Court, not wanting to enrage believers, rules in favor of religious tax exemptions. However, the legal opinion is that the tax-exempt status of churches is illegal. It could also be argued that we are merely subsidizing superstition and myth. In any case, we have simply permitted tradition (not unlike that of the British treatment of royalty) to circumvent constitutional law.

Some religious leaders accept the principle of fair taxation of the church. The late Bishop, Fulton J. Sheen stated: "The right of the poor to have a decent house [should] have priority over our right to erect a tax-exempt structure . . ."

And Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, former leader of the United Presbyterian Churches, announced: "When one remembers that churches pay no inheritance tax, (churches never die) . . . and [are] exempt from the 52% corporate income tax, it is not unreasonable to expect, under prudent management, that churches ought to be able to control the whole economy of the nation within the predictable future."

I'm not the first, nor will I be the last to unfurl the fair-taxation flag. As early as 1875, a noted citizen of the United States once said: "I would like to call your attention to the importance of correcting an evil that, if permitted to continue, will probably lead to great trouble in our land . . . it is the accumulation of vast amounts of untaxed church property."

The speaker wasn't a radical liberal, but the president of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant. It was in response to a 900-foot petition with 35,000 signatures, stating that: "We demand that churches and other ecclesiastical property shall be no longer exempt from taxation."

Will our nation "so conceived and so dedicated to the proposition that all [people] are created equal," continue to permit an unequal, unfair tax to remain in effect? This violates the sensibilities of others by requiring everyone to finance a religious activity that only some of the people desire. Does an almighty God need to be protected by a state legislature? Let religion stand alone by its own merits without the intercession of government.

This is excerpted from a column originally appearing in Foundation member Dan Hilbert's college newspaper, Rapp Street Journal.

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Freethought And Feminism

Remarks on the occasion of Wisconsin NOW Feminist of the Year Banquet Honoring Anne Gaylor, January 22, 1994.

Some time ago, at a celebratory occasion similar to the present one, a participant commended Anne for her advocacy of women's rights and her efforts to make choice of abortion possible for poor women, but she went on to express her disapproval of Anne's engagement in freethought.

I was taken aback by this because I had supposed that all feminists would surely know that these activities should be intellectually and practically inseparable. As President of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a 3,300-member nationwide organization, whose agenda is promoting the separation of state and church and providing education on the philosophy of nontheism, Anne is as deeply involved in the pursuit of equality for women and their right to choose abortion as she is when more directly engaged in furthering those goals.

What got Anne into the freethought movement in the first place and led to her founding of the Foundation was her recognition that the source of the 2,000-year oppression and degradation of women was Christianity. The fact that its norms and values entered the public domain and thoroughly infiltrated the law has been inimical to the status of women in the social order. Look at the devastating effects the legal dictum--in marriage the husband and wife become one and the husband is that one--propounded by the great 18th century jurist, Sir William Blackstone, has had on women's rights. What could have served as the inspiration for that but the "one flesh" passage in the Bible?

What makes the disapproval I mentioned earlier all the more startling is that there has been, over the past 30 years, a steady outpouring of scholarly books by feminist theologians, sociologists, historians, freethinkers, and others documenting in excruciating detail Christianity's devaluation of women. Since time does not permit a thousand examples, two will have to suffice. The first is from the latest book, The Creation of Feminist Consciousness, by that redoubtable scholar of Women's History, Professor Gerda Lerner of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In this book, there is an intriguing chapter titled, "One Thousand Years of Feminist Bible Criticism," in which it is said:

"Whatever route women took to self-authorization . . . they were confronted by the core texts of the Bible which were used for centuries by patriarchal authorities to define the proper roles for women in society and to justify the subordination of women: Genesis, the Fall and St. Paul. . . . These biblical core texts sat like huge boulders across the paths women had to travel in order to define themselves as equal to men. No wonder they engaged in theological reinterpretation before they could move on to other, more original and creative ideas."

The second example is from Annie Laurie Gaylor's piece in the booklet, Why Abortion? by Anne Gaylor:

"The Bible is neither antiabortion nor pro-life but does provide a biblical basis for the real motivation behind the antiabortion religious crusade: hatred of women. The bible is anti-woman, blaming women for sin, demanding subservience, mandating a slave/master relationship to men, and demonstrating contempt and lack of compassion: 'I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shall bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee' Gen. 3:16. What self-respecting woman today would submit willingly to such tyranny?"

The number of books by Christian "true believers" opposing and expressing outrage at women's defiance of the plan God laid down to govern their lives probably exceeds that on the other side. Again, time frustratingly limits me to two examples. The first is from a Catholic source, Ungodly Rage:

"Mother Teresa of Calcutta has said 'Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.' This book is about darkness. Its pages document one of the most devastating religious epidemics of our, or any other, time--an infectious and communicable disease of the human spirit for which there is no easy cure . . . . This disease . . . has a name: 'feminism.'"

The second example comes from a 566-page tome, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, edited jointly by a senior pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, and an Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. It adds up to a powerful plea for women to come to their senses and stop foolishly and impiously thinking they can rightly be equal to men or can occupy positions of leadership over them:

"The God-given sense of responsibility for leadership in a mature man will not generally allow him to flourish long under personal, directive leadership of a female superior. J. I. Packer [he is a highly respected academic theologian] suggested that 'a situation in which a female boss had a male secretary' puts stress on the humanity of both. I think that would be true in other situations as well. Some of the more obvious ones would be in military combat settings if women were positioned to deploy or command men; or in professional baseball if a woman is made the umpire to call balls and strikes and frequently to settle heated disputes among men. And I would stress that this is not necessarily owing to male egotism, but to a natural and good penchant given by God."

The sexism here is so deeply embedded and virulent that it can't possibly occur to the pastors that if it "puts stress on the humanity of both" when a female boss has a male secretary (only the reverse is "human"), it puts even more stress on the woman's humanity when she can never even aspire to be boss and must always be secretary.

Catholic or Protestant, except for a comparatively small number of modernist or liberal religionists, a very large proportion of theologians, the clergy, and their followers are appalled and sick at heart that some women are so contemptuous of the truths of Christian scriptures that they refuse to fashion their lives and distort their personalities in conformity with their dictates.

Freethought should be in the forefront of the battle for women to be treated as persons in their own right. I hope more feminists would see the connection--see the historical source of their plight--and find their way to the freethought movement, as Anne has.

Prof. Michael Hakeem serves on the Foundation's Executive Council, and is a regular volunteer.

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Why Atheists Can't Find God

Some theologians and clergy are fond of trying to persuade atheists that their unbelief is due to the limitation of their knowledge or the inadequacy of their search. Were it not for these deficiencies, they would know God exists. There were a number of theologians of the past century who made much of this reasoning--or unreasoning.

One of these was Thomas Chalmers. He argued that atheism was not supportable because to deny God, the atheist "must be a God," that is, "must arrogate the ubiquity and omniscience of the Godhead." To prove the truth of atheism, he claimed, the atheist would have to "walk the whole expanse of infinity." Writing in the same vein, John Foster contended that unless the atheist is omnipresent "he cannot know but that there may be in some place manifestation of a Deity by which even he would be overpowered." More than this, Foster insisted that the atheist must investigate every single part of the universe for every past moment in its history before being entitled to say there is no God. Robert Flint presses the point with the same vigor, holding that one cannot deny God's existence unless one has probed every last object that ever existed in the universe through all the ages.

The fallacies manifested in these bizarre challenges should be obvious. Need it be stressed that they come from fervent believers who found God as mere tots before they could have examined even a relatively microscopic proportion of the universe? These stalwart theologians don't even know their own religion. Christian doctrine holds that God is omnipresent and also immanent (inheres in the human being)--even in nonbelievers, according to some theological treatises. If so, why should the atheist be called upon to chase after God all over the globe?

Demolishing the claim that God exists does not require omniscience or omnipresence. It just takes critical analysis. These challengers are involved in a great evasion--evasion of their responsibility to present evidence to prove what they claim and to refrain from shifting the burden of proof on those who deny the validity of their claim.

Atheists are still being confronted with the same sort of attempted invalidation of their stand. In fact, it is a quite popular ploy, and one gets the impression that theologians and the clergy feel that they have discovered in it a sure-fire method of defeating the atheist. A few examples will further illustrate the tactic. Josh McDowell puts it this way:

"Atheists affirm there is no God. Yet they cannot hold this position dogmatically. For us to be able to make this type of statement with authority, we would have to know the universe in its entirety and to possess all knowledge. If anyone had these credentials, then by definition he would be God. Thus we see that, unless the atheist is all-knowing, he cannot make a dogmatic statement [McDowell is wary of dogmatism!] on God's existence. Therefore, he can only state that he is uncertain whether or not there is a God, and this view is agnosticism."

The wise atheist does not "affirm there is no God," contrary to what McDowell says, but claims that the concept does not make sense, whether in its anthropomorphic or metaphysical version. Leaving that aside, it should be noted that McDowell propounds rules of thinking for the atheist that he himself refuses to abide by. Unless omniscient, he says, the nonbeliever can only assert agnosticism, not atheism. Now, McDowell would be the last person in the world to claim omniscience. Yet, he does not subscribe to agnosticism. In fact, he professes, with an impassioned certitude that is hard to match, that God exists. As a traveling staff member of the Campus Crusade for Christ, he has crisscrossed the earth many times to proclaim the unquestionable existence of God to "8 million students and faculty in 74 countries," to quote a blurb on his latest book.

The Reverend Ravi Zacharias, president of the ministry bearing his name, writes: "Postulating the nonexistence of God, atheism immediately commits the blunder of an absolute negation, which is self-contradictory. For, to sustain the belief that there is no God, it has to demonstrate infinite knowledge, which is tantamount to saying 'I have infinite knowledge that there is no being in existence with infinite knowledge.'" It does not take infinite knowledge to show that God-talk is unintelligible; that there are as many conflicting views of God as there are schools of theological thought; that the proffered evidence of God's existence does not pass the tests for credibility; and that believers fail to distinguish between fantasy and reality.

The last example is from a book by Leighton Ford, a well-known associate evangelist with the Billy Graham ministry. He is chairman of the Lausanne Committee of World Evangelization and is interested in "soul-winning":

"A young lady taking part in a discussion group led by Stuart Briscol brashly asserted she was an atheist [It is not considered "brash" for Christians to assert they are believers]. 'Do you know everything?' he asked. 'No.' 'Then is it possible that God exists outside of what you know?' 'Yes, it is.' 'Well, then,' he said, 'you aren't an atheist; you're an agnostic. Would you like to know God if he does exist?' She replied that she would. 'Well,' he smiled [why is that man smiling?], 'you've come to the right place. You're not an agnostic--you're a seeker.'"

If that young lady had been a sophisticated atheist who was competent to think critically, she would have evaded the trap set to discombobulate her mind and would have said many things that would expose her interrogator's shallow thinking. Though there are numerous things to be said, she should have at least said: "Well now, don't you know there are countless gods? Have you not read the book just published by Facts on File, Encyclopedia of Gods: 2,500 Deities of the World? And the author admits his compilation is not exhaustive! Since you would admit that you don't know everything either, the real god might be hidden in that part of knowledge you don't know. You very well might have stopped looking too soon and therefore failed to encounter the true god. Furthermore, I can give you many logical arguments against your belief system, and my lack of omniscience has nothing to do with them."

The clergy who try to maneuver atheists into acknowledging what is alleged to be the untenability of nonbelief in God insult their intelligence by treating them with the same intellectual dishonesty--dishonesty, unless they plead ignorance of the chaotic state of affairs in Christian doctrine--with which they treat their gullible parishioners. They talk about finding "God"--as though it is a unitary, clear, single, definite, known, agreed-upon concept--as if an informed atheist does not know that the concept of god is in an extreme state of disarray in theological circles. If the amount of disagreement, conflicting formulations, incoherence, muddle, contradictory notions, and bitter dissension about God that plagues the theological fraternity and the world of philosophy were more widely known, perhaps there would be fewer pews occupied, unless rationality counts for nothing, which it very well may in religion.

Some thirty-three professors of philosophy, having expertise in religion, and academic theologians convened for the fourth annual New York University Institute of Philosophy, this one devoted to a symposium on "Religious Experience and Truth." One of the participants, Professor Howard W. Hintz, hurled this blockbuster at his colleagues:

"One of the major shortcomings of this symposium, to my mind, was a failure in each of the sessions to reach any satisfactory clarification of the central term under discussion, the term 'God.' Some efforts in this direction were made by some of the discussants, but the theologians present never really approached an explicit definition. It must also be said that many of the philosophers present used the term frequently without being any more clear or explicit about its meaning.

"The classic principle that any term must be defined before it can be meaningfully used applies with particular force to the term 'God' and to any of its synonyms. There are few terms connoting such a wide variety of meanings and conceptions as this one. There are few terms about which so much confusion prevails as to the meaning intended to be conveyed by the user, or the meaning accepted by the reader or listener. It was primarily for this reason that the discussions at all three of the Institute sessions so often floundered in obfuscations, irrelevancies, circular arguments, and question-begging statements. At no time was it precisely clear what the speakers or discussants were actually discussing." In short, even these mighty experts on the concept of God--and they were indeed that--don't know what they are talking about when they discuss it.

Many authorities have pointed out that theology--which is basically the study of God--is in a chaotic state. In his recent book, Tracking the Maze, Clark H. Pinnock, Professor of Systematic Theology at McMaster Divinity College, puts the matter colorfully: "To begin, I have to say with all the other interpreters that modern theology is incredibly pluralistic and diverse [he doesn't mean this as a compliment] . . . Christian theology is being shaken to its very foundations. . . . Basic disagreements have surfaced over who God is [he includes other basic Christian doctrines]."

A professor of the philosophy of religion at Southern Methodist University titled an article, "Oh God, Poor God." He deplores the present state of theology as "mostly an ailing enterprise." He suggests that Christianity ought to jettison most of its doctrinal baggage, including the biblical God, and transform the faith into some sort of social service enterprise.

In the eight-volume The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Professor Paul Edwards, the entry, "God, Concepts of," begins as follows: "It is difficult--perhaps impossible--to give a definition of God that will cover all usages of the word. . . . Even to define God generally as 'a superhuman or supernatural being that controls the world' is inadequate."

The article on "God" in the sixteen-volume The Encyclopedia of Religion points out that the Bible itself contains serious disagreements about the concept of God, a fact documented definitively time and again.

Michael Hakeem, Ph.D. is professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He will be taking a leave of absence from this popular column for a few months to work on a book. Working title: The Unreasoing Clergy.

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Gaylor Named "1994 Feminist of The Year"

Wisconsin feminists could not have chosen a more appropriate date on which to pay tribute to Anne Gaylor, president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, for her more than 30 years of abortion rights activism.

The Wisconsin chapter of the National Organization for Women and 140 friends and colleagues honored Anne at a banquet in Madison, Wisconsin, on Jan. 22, 1994, the 21st anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The event was marked by a front-page story in The Capital Times.

"Anne has a long history of helping women in crisis," commented Margaret McMurray, president of Wisconsin NOW.

Anne has been volunteer administrator of the Women's Medical Fund, helping more than 5,500 needy women in the midwest pay for abortions since 1972. The Women's Medical Fund, a tax-exempt charity, is believed to be the oldest continuously operating charity of its kind.

As editor of an award-winning suburban newspaper in the sixties, Anne wrote the first editorial in Wisconsin advocating abortion law reform, catapulting her into abortion rights activism.

As Hania W. Ris, M.D. recalled in her tribute that night, "In her referral work, Ms. Gaylor's phone rang day and night. Her compassion and patience never faltered, even with post-midnight calls which were not a rarity."

Anne served as Vice President Central of the National Abortion Rights Action League from 1972-1978, and founded the Zero Population Growth Abortion Referral Service, with her home phone number publicized nationally. With Prof. Robert and Peg West, she then founded the Women's Medical Fund charity, predicated on the conviction that any woman, rich or poor, should be able to exercise her constitutional right to safe and legal abortion. In 1989, under the auspices of the Women's Medical Fund, Anne successfully sued Wisconsin Attorney General Donald Hanaway, forcing him to remove Wisconsin's name from an improper friend of the court brief seeking to overturn legal abortion. She has written a book, Abortion Is A Blessing, about the fight to overturn criminal abortion laws in Wisconsin, as well as a booklet published last year, Why Abortion? The Myth of Choice for Women Who Are Poor. She has received national awards from Zero Population Growth and the Feminist Caucus of the American Humanist Association.

As Anne told The Capital Times, her work to co-found the Freedom From Religion Foundation and to help needy women pay for abortions are entirely compatible.

"The Catholic church was a major impediment of women's right to vote and the right to have and practice birth control. All of these things that benefit women and concern women directly were fought by religion," she told The Capital Times.

Her freethought views were amply acknowledged at the awards dinner, with State Senator Fred Risser recalling how he was named in a suit by the Foundation against paid prayers to open the Senate. After praising her activities, Risser quipped: "There is not enough time to tell you about the time she sued me!"

He presented her with a plaque, a Citation by the Wisconsin Senate, which was adopted by a motion by Risser and State Rep. Rebecca Young. Among the activities she was cited by the Senate for was co-founding "in 1976 the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an organization working for compliance with the U.S. Constitution's separation of church and state statutes, and has been its President since it became a national group in 1978."

Rep. Rebecca Young toasted Anne for "bravely taking on the shibboleths of our time," including her work to ensure that motherhood is voluntary, and that freedom is respected through separation of church and state. Young noted Anne's "quiet devotion to the cause of these unhappy women" who contact the Women's Medical Fund, "whom our government turns away."

"It is the Anne Gaylors of the world who move us on the road to women's equality," Young said.

Noting that Anne was born in Tomah, Wisconsin, "just a stone throw from Elroy, Wisconsin" (birthplace of Wisconsin's arch-conservative Gov. Tommy Thompson), Young provoked the loudest laughter of the evening when she asked: "How is it possible in this small corner to have spawned two individuals who are so completely opposite?" Young ended by thanking Anne for her "courage, heroism, integrity, humanity and vision."

Remarks were also made by Foundation members Profs. Michael Hakeem (see page 4) and Robert West, who called Anne "the person in Madison that I admire the most."

Liz Karlin, M.D., a previous "Feminist of the Year" recipient in recognition of her work to keep abortion accessible as owner and medical doctor of an abortion clinic, saluted Anne as "right up there with the most wonderful people," noting the "hardest part is listening to stories of despair."

Dr. Hania Ris, a longtime friend, colleague and agnostic, told Anne: "Although one of your gifts is to fire up people, you are a truly gentle woman."

Connie Threinen, a well-known Wisconsin feminist and member of the Foundation, sent a letter to be read in absentia.

Wisconsin NOW president Margaret McMurray quipped: "The village board members from Waunakee sent their regrets. They were busy taking down their Christmas--oops, I mean their 'liberty' display," a reference to the suit funded by the Foundation, challenging a creche in a public park.

Barbara Pennington of the Reproductive Rights Taskforce presented Anne with a plaque, a commemorative mug and a feminist T-shirt, asking the audience "to honor Anne and her Freedom From Religion roots," and "to honor Anne by being an activist every day."

Dan Barker provided musical entertainment, singing the feminist anthem "Bread and Roses," and Kristin Lems' "Days of the Theocracy." Many Foundation members and supporters were in attendance.

The Feminist of the Year event is an annual fundraiser for Wisconsin NOW. Fourteen "benefactors" signed on to endorse the award, along with 49 sponsors. An encouraging sign of the times was the prominence of politicians not afraid to salute a nationally known freethought spokeswoman, an uncommon phenomenon since the days of Robert Ingersoll. Among them were U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, State Senators Chuck Chvala and Fred Risser, and State Reps. Becky Young and Tammy Baldwin. Several local politicians, including the county executive, were also sponsors. Additionally, six Wisconsin legislators placed salutary ads in the NOW programme.

Anne thanks Wisconsin NOW and "all the many kind participants," including longtime Foundation member Charlotte Siverling, from rural Wisconsin, "who sent the lovely roses."

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Third Round In Wisconsin Creche Suit

Oral arguments were heard in Pat and Joseph King v. Village of Waunakee before the aWiasconsin State Supreme Court on January 7, 1993. Representing the Kings in the Foundation-funded suit was Bronson LaFollette, former attorney general of Wisconsin. Representing the Village of Waunakee was Craig Parshall, an attorney with the conservative Christian Rutherford Institute.

LaFollette argued that the case could be decided on state constitutional issues: "Federal constitutional issues should be avoided if the case can be decided on state constitutional grounds."a

LaFollette cited Article I, Section 18 of the Wisconsin Constitution, which provides that "the dictates of conscience shall never be infringed; nor shall any person be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, without consent; nor shall any control of, or interference with, the rights of conscience be permitted, or any preference be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship; nor shall any money be drawn from the treasury for the benefit of religious societies, or religious or theological seminaries."

The Village of Waunakee, he noted, spends $500-$600 a year to maintain a nativity scene.

He cited as analogous the successful suit against the maintenance of Desert Christ Park in California by a county, in which "the California Supreme Court held that maintenance of a religious display in a county park violated that provision of the state constitution."

He noted that since there is no state precedent on a challenge of a religious display, "it is proper and necessary for the court to refer to federal constitutional cases involving direct expenditure," citing Weiss v. District Board which struck the purchase of bibles for use in Wisconsin public schools. He quoted Judge J. Cassoday from Weiss:

" . . .Wisconsin, as one of the later states admitted into the Union, having before it the experience of others, and probably in view of its heterogeneous population . . . has, in her organic law, probably furnished a more complete bar to any preference for, or discrimination against, any religious sect, organization, or society than any other state in the Union." (1890)

A key issue in the lawsuit is the Village's contention that it "got around the law" by hastily erecting a so-called "salute to liberty," and adding lights to the evergreens growing in the park.

The sign reads as follows:

"During The
Holiday Season
The Village of Waunakee
Salutes Liberty
Let These Festive Lights & Times
Remind Us That We Are The Keepers
Of The Flame of Liberty And Our
Legacy of Freedom. Whatever Your
Religion Or Beliefs,
Enjoy The Holidays."
--Waunakee Village Board

LaFollette noted: "The village board has erected this display for the last 40 years without any adornment whatsoever" until a lawsuit was threatened.

The first argument in favor of the village-maintained nativity scene made by Craig Parshall was to mention "In God We Trust" on U.S. currency. The Chief Justice also alluded to the Latin crosses on a mural in the Supreme Court chambers showing "members of clergy," as well as the huge lighted Christmas tree visible from the room that was still in the Capitol rotunda at the time of the hearing.

Parshall quoted a former Supreme Court Justice saying: "We are a religious people." He said the Lynch decision required "avoiding an absolutist view" of the Establishment Clause.

When Justice Shirley Abrahamson asked him if a creche by itself, without the added disclaimer and lights, would be unconstitutional, Parshall hedged, saying it would be inappropriate in a nonholiday context or if it were a permanent feature, or in a building. The Waunakee creche, he argued, is acceptable since it is in a public park, "not a core government building," during the holiday seasons and is a "temporary fixture."

"I don't think this display is an endorsement of Christianity," Parshall added.

Parshall called it a "passive symbol, not a government activity," saying a "free exchange of ideas" can be made in a public park or forum "without saying this is the official state view." He called the $500-$600 a year a "minimal expenditure--not every benefit to religion is unconstitutional if indirect or remote." He also said Christmas has "attained cultural status," again noting the minting of "In God We Trust" on money as another example.

Justice Abrahamson noted that the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled a crucifix in an Indiana park unconstitutional. Before that could be discussed, the Chief Justice praised the Village of Waunakee for trying "to conform" to the 1989 Allegheny decision (which ruled a creche on courthouse grounds improper, but said a menorah by a Christmas tree with a disclaimer was okay). The Chief Justice said the village "handled it in an even-handed way," adopting language in the disclaimer "more inclusive than Allegheny."

Parshall then claimed the three lighted evergreens growing in the park "dwarf the Nativity scene." Abraham quickly noted the Christmas trees were not cut, but merely represented natural trees with lights on them, and asked if the lights on them are visible during the day. Parshall responded, "Without the sign and decorations, under Allegheny, the court would be without much guidance."

Parshall downplayed the three-pronged Lemon test, urging the Supreme Court to use the "more forgiving" test of "coercion" here.

In his rebuttal, Bronson LaFollette said that the Allegheny case "does not permit the display in Waunakee." He noted that the majority and concurrence determined that the Christmas tree and menorah were two secular symbols, representing pluralism, with a sign "simply revealing what the display showed."

"In Waunakee we don't have two secular displays," but a display of the "predominant religion."

"The sign can't reveal what the display does not show." He further objected to the addition of language with a "religious connotation," namely, "Whatever your religion or beliefs, enjoy the holidays."

He also cited Doe v. Small wherein a federal Illinois court had ruled that distance from city hall does "not diminish" the impact of entanglement.

A decision is expected by the conservative, elected court in June.

Published in Back Issues

For the fifth time a Foundation banner in Ottawa, Illinois, protesting the seasonal display of 16 huge paintings of Jesus, was vandalized.

On December 21 (the solstice) Foundation staff Dan Barker and members Marvin Rogan and Farrell Till returned to Washington Park to rehang the banner. It waved 43 hours before being cut down. The police did not provide special protection, as requested. No arrests have been made.

The fifth banner reads: "Religion Is Divisive." The other side reads, "Jesus Christ Is A Myth."

The banner that was erected on December 4, 1993 during a Foundation rally lasted only 36 hours before it was cut down by unknown vandals.

In 1992 the Foundation's first banner was stolen by a Sunday School teacher, another was burned, and the third banner was defaced by a man dressed as Santa. Two of these crimes resulted in convictions.

Published in Back Issues

Freethought Today reported (Dec. '93) the Foundation's victory in Denver district court last November, enjoining the Mayor of Denver from using his office to proclaim and support a "Day of Prayer." Below is the judge's written decision. At the time the lawsuit was filed by Robert Tiernan, attorney for the Foundation, the mayor had offered rent-free use of the Colorado Convention Center for the "Day of Prayer" rally, prompting Tiernan to seek an injunction against not only the Mayor's participation, but the entire Day of Prayer.

After the suit was filed, the city changed its mind about the waiver of rent, and city ministers paid $4,400 in rent as a result. The judge did not mention the history of the rental in Point 13 of his decision.

District Court, City and County of Denver
Case No. 93 CV 6056

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., a Wisconsin nonprofit corporation; The Colorado Chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc; Robert H. Fenn; and Lee Whitfield, Plaintiffs,
v.
City and County of Denver Colorado, Wellington Webb, Mayor of the City and County of Denver, Colorado, Defendants.

The court, having considered Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction, the briefs of the parties, the evidence presented at the hearing, the court file and relevant authorities, and being sufficiently advised in the premises, finds, concludes and orders as follows:

1. Plaintiffs move for a preliminary injunction to enjoin the defendants from promoting, endorsing, or sponsoring, in their official capacities as public servants, a Day of Prayer against Violence (also referred to as the "event") set for Sunday, December 5, 1993 at the Colorado Convention Center. The Court grants the injunction in part and denies it in part.

Findings of Fact

2. Plaintiff, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Inc. ("Foundation"), is a non-profit corporation existing under the laws of the State of Wisconsin and is qualified to do business in the State of Colorado. One of the Foundation's primary objectives is to promote constitutional principle of separation of church and state and to guard against infractions of that principle.

3. The individual plaintiffs are residents and taxpayers of the State of Colorado, and the City and County of Denver, and are members of the Colorado chapter of the Foundation. Plaintiff Whitfield testified that he felt insulted, outraged, and belittled by their City's participation in the Day of Prayer because he, as a non-religious person, feels left out and feels that the City's participation violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

4. Defendant, Wellington Webb, is the mayor of the City and County of Denver and its chief executive officer.

5. In the past year the problem of gang and youth violence in the City and County of Denver has escalated substantially and has become a matter of great public concern. This concern was heightened dramatically by the shooting death of 18-year old Carl Banks this past Halloween evening in the 1900 block of Cherry Street in Denver, Colorado.

6. On Sunday, November 7, 1993 a vigil was held in the 1900 block of Cherry Street in response to the Banks' shooting. The vigil was organized by several ministers and citizens in that area of the City and was attended by approximately 300 people including Mayor Webb. The people at the vigil, including Mayor Webb, engaged in prayer and expressed remorse at the death of Carl Banks as well as concern for the increasing problem of youth violence.

7. In a five-minute, impromptu meeting after the vigil Reverends Boyd and Peters, both of whom are Christian ministers as well as community leaders and acquaintances of Mayor Webb, discussed with him the possibility of a city-wide day of prayer as another step that might be taken to deal with the problem of youth violence. The Mayor was receptive to the idea, but no specific plans were made at that time.

8. The day after the vigil Reverends Boyd and Peters contacted several minsters to set up a Day of Prayer against Violence for December 5, 1993. Reverend Boyd chaired an ad hoc committee of ministers that actually organized the event and selected the day. The purpose of the Day of Prayer was to mobilize concern for, and seek solutions to youth violence problems and to do so in a prayerful setting. There is no evidence that Mayor Webb or other city officials participated in organizing the event.

9. On November 9, 1993 during normal business hours Mayor Webb held a press conference with several of the ministers who organized the Day of Prayer. At that time he issued a press release, Exhibit 1, which stated in part that: "Mayor Wellington Webb and members of Denver's clergy designates Sunday, December 5 as a citywide Day of Prayer against violence." The press release, which was issued on the Mayor's official stationery, announced the date, time and place of the event and included a statement by the Mayor to the effect that guns, drugs and violence were tearing at the community's spiritual fabric. The release also contained the clergy's acknowledgment that prayer was just one component of the overall strategy to solve violence. The release listed, as a contact person, Charlotte Stephens, a city employee.

10. In addition to issuing a press release, Mayor Webb said at the press conference that he wanted everyone to get the event on their calendar and that he had formed an Inter-faith Religious Coordinating Committee to work on the event. The Mayor further said that he was working on getting non-Christian faiths involved on the Committee.

11. The press release and press conference were reported in the Denver Post. See Appendix A to plaintiffs' Brief.

12. The day after the press conference Charlotte Stephen ceased to be the contact person for the event. That function was taken over by non-governmental persons who were promoting the event. There is no evidence of any involvement in the planning, organizing or promoting of the event by the Mayor or other City or governmental employees other than at the November 9, 1993 press conference.

Since prayer is exclusively a religious act, the endorsement of a Day of Prayer would logically be interpreted by a reasonable person as an endorsement of religion.

13. The City has leased the Colorado Convention Center to the organizers of the event. The lease was handled in the same manner the City would handle any other lease of the Convention Center. The Colorado Council of Churches has paid the full rent of $4,400.00. The City does not discriminate against religious organizations or events in leasing its facilities, including the Convention Center.

14. There is no evidence that any tax money has been spent on the event other than that involved in holding the November 9, 1993 press conference and issuing the press release.

15. Mayor Webb's intent in holding the press conference and issuing the press release was to bring people together for prayer and the discussion of solutions to youth violence.

16. Mayor Webb testified at the hearing that he believes that the event is worthwhile and he approves of it and endorses it as another solution to youth violence. However, he candidly acknowledged that the press release and press conference may have been a mistake. He testified that he intends to participate in the event but does not know what form his participation may take.

17. Reverend Boyd testified that he believes that he could have achieved, and can achieve the attendance goal of 5,000 people for the event even if the Mayor had not held the press conference. Given the level of community concern for the problem of youth violence, and the fact that the event was organized and is being promoted by ministers who are also community leaders and has the support of the Colorado Council of Churches, the Court finds this testimony persuasive. Thus, the Court finds that the event could have, and can take place on substantially the same scale even without the Mayor's press release and press conference.

18. The Day of Prayer is open to persons of all faiths as well as persons who have no religious beliefs.

19. Mayor Webb, the ministers organizing the event and their congregations believe that their right to the free exercise of religion would be violated if they were not permitted to participate in the Day of Prayer on December 5, 1993.

Conclusions of Law

20. The Court first addresses the issue of standing. Defendants have made a general challenge to plaintiffs' standing to bring this action. The Court concludes that the individual plaintiff, Lee Whitfield, and the Association plaintiff, The Freedom from Religion Foundation, Inc., do have standing. Mr. Whitfield's testimony that he felt insulted, outraged, and belittled by the City's participation in the Day of Prayer because he believes it violates the Establishment Clause is sufficient injury-in-fact to assure that an actual controversy, appropriate for judicial resolution, exists. See Conrad v. City & County of Denver, 656 P.2d 662 (Colo. 1983). Therefore, plaintiff Whitfield has standing. See id. Since Whitfield is a member of The Freedom from Religion Foundation, Inc., and that association is dedicated to promoting the constitutional principle of separation of church and state, the Court concludes that the Foundation also has standing. See Murray v. City of Austin, Texas, 947 F.2d 147 (5th Cir. 1991).

21. Before addressing the merits of this motion the Court addresses two preliminary matters. First, although this motion was filed as a motion for preliminary injunction it has been presented by the parties more in the form of a motion for permanent or final injunction. This appears to be appropriate because the evidence suggests that the Day of Prayer as presently structured and scheduled is more likely than not a one-time event. Thus, if the Court should order that the event itself be enjoined that order would have the same effect as a final injunction. Under these circumstances this motion is, in substance, a motion for a final injunction and the Court treats it as such. The foregoing is intended merely to advise the parties of the framework within which the Court resolves the motion. The result reached below does not differ because the Court is treating the motion as one for final injunctive relief. The second preliminary matter is that since the same values underlie both the federal and state constitutional provisions involved here, the Court does not treat plaintiffs' constitutional claims separately. Rather, it resolves the merits of both state and federal claims within the context of the United States Constitution. See Conrad, 656 P.2d at 670. The Court now turns to the merits of plaintiffs' claims.

22. Plaintiffs contend that the City's participation in the Day of Prayer, specifically Mayor Webb's November 9, 1993 press release and press conference, violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as Article II, Section 4, of the Colorado Constitution. Plaintiff seeks to enjoin any further conduct on the part of Mayor Webb in his official capacity as well as the conduct of other City officials which tends to promote, endorse, support or sponsor the Day of Prayer. Plaintiffs also seek to enjoin the event itself. The Court grants the injunction to the extent of enjoining Mayor Webb and other City officials, acting in an official capacity, from promoting, endorsing or supporting the Day of Prayer, but denies plaintiffs' motion to the extent that it seeks to enjoin the event itself.

23. The First Amendment provides in part that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. . ." As relevant here, the test applied to determine whether governmental conduct violates the Establishment Clause is whether the governmental action would be interpreted by a reasonable person as endorsement of religion. Freedom from Religion Foundation. Inc.. et al. v. State of Colorado. et al., _____ P.2d _____ (Colo. App. June 17, 1993). The challenged conduct here is Mayor Webb's press release and press conference endorsing the Day of Prayer. Since prayer is exclusively a religious act, the endorsement of a Day of Prayer would logically be interpreted by a reasonable person as an endorsement of religion. Because from all appearances Mayor Webb was acting in his official capacity in issuing the press release and conducting the press conference endorsing the Day of Prayer, the Court concludes that a reasonable person would interpret his conduct as a governmental endorsement of religion. As such, it violates the Establishment Clause. See id.

24. Accordingly, the Court orders that Mayor Webb and other City officials, while acting in an official capacity, be enjoined from any further endorsement, promotion, sponsorship or support of the Day of Prayer scheduled for December 5, 1993 at the Colorado Convention Center. This Order does not enjoin Mayor Webb, acting as a private citizen, from exercising his First Amendment rights to free speech and religion by discussing or participating in the Day of Prayer as long as his conduct would not be interpreted by a reasonable person as an official, government endorsement of religion. Depending upon the circumstances, this may require some type of disclaimer to dispel the impression of governmental support which his position as mayor may create. However, the Court does not believe it is necessary to enter any specific order in that regard. . . .

26. Plaintiffs' motion to enjoin the event involves issues of both the appropriateness of such an injunction under the law and the proper scope of injunctive relief. The Day of Prayer involves the use of a public forum, the Convention Center, for a religious event. As a general rule, a state may limit protected speech, including religious speech, in a public forum only upon the showing of a compelling state interest. See Lamb's Chapel v. Center Moriches, 508 U.S._____, 124 L.Ed.2d 352 (1993). A state's interest in avoiding an Establishment Clause violation may constitute such a compelling interest. See generally Widmar v. Vincent, 454 U.S. 263 (1981). It follows then that the need to avoid an Establishment Clause violation may also be a sufficient basis for enjoining the use of a public forum for a religious event. Here, since the only evidence presented regarding any promotional publicity for the event was the Mayor's press conference and press release, which the Court found violative of the Establishment Clause, there is a sufficient basis to warrant enjoining the Day of Prayer absent some corrective action by the defendants. This leads to consideration of the proper scope of injunctive relief.

27. While a court has considerable latitude in fashioning appropriate injunctive relief, see Brennan v. Monson, 50 P.2d 534 (Colo. 1935), it should generally do so in terms no broader than is necessary to remedy the situation giving rise to the need for such relief in the first place. See Doe v. Small,964 F.2d 611, 620-622 (7th Cir. 1992). This principle is particularly applicable where, as here, an unnecessarily broad injunction may infringe upon the constitutional rights of others. See id.

28. With the above principles in mind, the Court orders that plaintiffs' motion to enjoin the Day of Prayer scheduled for December 5, 1993 is denied upon the express condition that prior to December 2, 1993 Mayor Webb issue a press release containing a sufficient disclaimer of his or the City's official sponsorship, endorsement or support of the Day of Prayer to substantially offset the impression created by is November 9, 1993 press release and press conference. The Court is not ordering any personal disclaimer of the event itself or disassociation from the event by Mayor Webb as a private citizen, but merely that it be made clear that this is a privately planned, organized and supported event, and not a City event.

Dated this 24 day of November, 1993.

By The Court:
John M. McMullen
District Court Judge

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New Survey Reveals Polling Bias

First they did a poll, then they did a head count.

Many have suspected it, but now there's proof: Americans are not as religious as the polls report.

Only half of those who say they regularly attend church actually do!

According to the traditional polls, 40% of the United States population reports attending church regularly. This Þgure has held remarkably constant for decades. Responding to a 1992 Gallup poll asking, "Did you, yourself, happen to attend church or synagogue in the last seven days?" 42% of adult Americans said "Yes."

But a new study questions this prevailing wisdom. "What The Polls Don't Show: A Closer Look At U.S. Church Attendance" was published in the December 1993 American Sociological Review, casting serious doubt on the supposedly high rate of regular church attendance. The authors are C. Kirk Hadaway (United Church Board for Homeland Ministries and Adjunct Faculty at Hartford Seminary), Penny Long Marler (Assistant Professor of Religion at Samford University), and Mark Chaves (Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame).

"In the sociological literature," the three scholars write, "this high participation rate [40%] is prominently and widely cited to bolster attacks against the secularization hypothesis." They give widespread examples of this "social fact" in sociology texts, history texts, and journalism.

But many observers have doubted this characterization of high American religiosity--it doesn't seem to square with reality. This is especially true among many "old-line" Protestant denominations that have experienced membership losses and slowing growth rates the past few decades.

"Consistently high levels of church attendance and a growing U.S. population suggest that most major denominations should be thriving and growing," the authors point out, "[y]et most are not. Claims that losses in old-line denominations are more than offset by gains in evangelical denominations . . . do not sufÞce. In addition to the fact that evangelical gains simply are not numerically large enough, Americans in declining denominations still claim high levels of membership and attendance."

Church members appear to be "over-reporting" (to phrase it politely) their attendance. It has long been known that people tend to make themselves look better than they are in surveys. Overreporting (or underreporting) is often due to "social desirability" factors. Many people, for example, tell pollsters that they vote regularly, although their names are absent from voting records. Many youths underreport deviant behavior, such as substance abuse.

Suspecting that poll respondents "substantially overstate actual church attendance," Hadaway, Marler, and Chaves hit upon a novel idea. First they did a poll, then they did a head count.

Then they compared the polls to the pews. Using a variety of data sources and strategies, they estimated count-based church rates among Protestants and Catholics in a rural Ohio county (Ashtabula) and among Catholics in 18 dioceses nationwide.

To be as accurate as possible, the authors located every single church in the county, driving the length of every road. They found 172 Christian churches, 44 more than the 128 listed for Ashtabula County in Churches and Church Membership in the United States 1990. Some congregations were counted physically, and average attendance counts were received from other churches through denominational yearbooks, telephone interviews, and letters. (It is not to be expected that churches would underreport their attendance.)

"The results are dramatic," they write. Church attendance rates "are approximately one-half the generally accepted levels."

Although 35.8% of Protestants said they regularly attend church, only 19.6% showed up. The 35.8% survey result is consistent with 1991 statewide and 1992 Cincinnati polls yielding 36%.

Only 25% of Catholics were counted in church, compared to 51% reported. The 51% survey result is similar to polls in New York (44.8%), Chicago (48.5%) and Cincinnati (59.3%).

One of the harshest attacks on this new study came from Catholic priest/sociologist Andrew Greeley, who called it "a sloppy piece of work," according to Christian Century. But Gerald Marwell, the review editor who decided to publish the study, said he was not surprised by Greeley's reaction: "To some extent he [Greeley] was one of the people who is argued against in the research." Marwell pointed out that the ASR study was reviewed before publication by a panel of noted sociologists.

"To generalize from a county in Ohio to all of Protestant America is irresponsible," said Greeley. Marwell responded that the burden of proof is on the critics to demonstrate how the county in this study is out of line with the rest of the nation.

Jay Demerath, professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, responded to the survey's conclusion that Americans have been inßating church attendance. He said: "I think the study needs to be taken very seriously indeed. . . . Gallup and other pollsters are aware of this. It's kind of a dirty little secret."

The implications are obvious. If church attendance reports are unreliable, what about other "facts" of American religiosity? What about belief in God?

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Badgers Asked To "Sack" Chaplain

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has asked University of Wisconsin football coach Barry Alvarez to end his team's "chaplain" arrangement with a Catholic priest. The Foundation has asked that Rev. Michael Burke no longer be allowed to accompany the football team as its "chaplain," ofÞcial or de facto.

Burke is referred to by athletic department employees as the team's chaplain and ßew with the team to the Rose Bowl, also accompanying them to a celebration after their Rose Bowl victory in Milwaukee with Vice-President Al Gore. A recent Wisconsin State Journal article identiÞed Burke as the team's chaplain, and staff members at the Athletic Department and the football division conÞrmed that he is "the Badger chaplain."

"The University of Wisconsin-Madison is a secular institution," said Anne Nicol Gaylor, Foundation president. "This is not Notre Dame!" Alvarez, a Catholic, was recruited several years ago from a position at Notre Dame.

Following a similar Foundation complaint in 1985, the Wisconsin's Attorney General at the time, Bronson LaFollette, issued a formal opinion in May, 1986, ending an unconstitutional practice by former football coach David McClain of telling players to kneel, and leading them in pre-game prayers.

"Now we apparently have a football team chaplain, surreptitiously anointed," Gaylor said. The Foundation has requested information from the University's accounting department, yet to be answered as of publication time, including:

 

  • What perks and privileges does Burke receive as chaplain?
  •  

     

  • How much money has been spent to pay for Burke's travel to games, including the Rose Bowl?
  •  

     

  • Is taxpayers' money being paid to Holy Name Seminary, where Burke is rector, for the annual Badger practices in August conducted at the Catholic seminary?
  •  

    The Foundation has asked University of Wisconsin Chancellor David Ward for an investigation, and to sever the inappropriate arrangement.

    Wisconsin Director of Athletics Pat Richter, on January 27, issued a "clariÞcation on Burke's role." Although his Department had identiÞed Burke as the Badger chaplain in a phone inquiry from Freethought Today on January 25, in this release Richter wrote:

    "Burke's role with the football players and staff is that of supporter and friend. Under no circumstances can his relationship be characterized as a 'chaplain for the team.' "

    Richter revealed that the priest "has volunteered to be available for personal guidance and counseling for the past 17 years."

    He added: "At the request of the last Þve head football coaches at the UW, Burke has accompanied the Wisconsin football team on road trips." He said the priest's expenses are covered by the Mendota Gridiron Club, which he described as "the school's football fundraising organization."

    To other media, Richter pledged that "Burke will continue to be invited to be part of the football program in his informal role as counselor and supporter."

    No figures or documentation of the UW's claims were available at press-time.

    "Prayers were unheard of at sporting events in Wisconsin until the last couple decades. It seems incredible that a secular University would countenance them in any form, but especially ludicrous in connection with football games!" Gaylor said.

    An inkling of the caliber of Burke's "counseling" to football players may be gleaned from a report of his prayers by the Wisconsin State Journal on January 23. Pat Simms reported that Burke was invited to pray at a recent fundraising birthday party for Republican Congressman Scott Klug, and intoned: "God, you said to ask You if we ever need anything. Help all of us to re-elect Scott Klug to Congress. Amen."

    Published in Back Issues
    %866 %America/Chicago, %2013

    The Incredible Nondiscovery Of Noah's Ark

    We thought Freethought Today readers would enjoy the "inside scoop" about the initial claims made by Sun Productions in defending "The Incredible Discovery of Noah's Ark," which aired on CBS in February, 1993.

    The following is excerpted from the ofÞcial news release sent out by Sun Productions last summer, following a leak by TIME Magazine that "The Incredible Discovery of Noah's Ark" featured a phony story of the Ark's "discovery" by George Jammal. Since then, Jammal, a Foundation member, has gone public to expose CBS and the series.

    Following his speech at the 15th annual Freedom From Religion Foundation convention last October, The Los Angeles Times publicized Jammal's revelations, resulting in cancellation by CBS of future religious programming by Sun Productions. (See Freethought Today, November 1993).

    The following is our research staff's response to the article in the July 5th issue of Time magazine, and to a similar story released by Associated Press on June 29th. Both articles asserted that George Jammal, one of our 50 expert interviewees used in The Incredible Discovery of Noah's Ark, fabricated his eyewitness account of seeing Noah's Ark on Mt. Ararat.

    In examining the controversy generated by these articles, four issues must be addressed. First, who is making the claim that Mr. Jammal fabricated his Noah's Ark account? Secondly, did Sun perform due diligence in its research to determine whether Mr. Jammal's account was reliable? Thirdly, was the alleged Ark wood shown at the end of Mr. Jammal's interview authentic or a piece of doctored California pine? And fourth, is Mr. Jammal's expedition account of seeing the Ark still factual?

    Who is making the claim that Mr. Jammal fabricated his Noah's Ark account?

    Dr. Gerald Larue, professor emeritus of biblical history and archaeology at the University of Southern California says in Time that he "coached George Jammal, an acquaintance, to perpetrate the hoax, intended to expose the shoddy research of Sun International."

    It seems from this statement that Dr. Larue is probably conducting some type of a vindictive campaign against Sun. This may be the result of his appearance as a skeptic in our show, "Ancient Secrets of the Bible I" which aired on May 15, 1992. According to Time magazine, Dr. Larue felt he was "set up as a straw man."

    Dr. Larue, despite having taught both biblical history and biblical studies at USC, is a very outspoken individual on a number of controversial issues including being a frequent Bible critic. . . .

    Did Sun perform due diligence in its research to determine whether Mr. Jammal's account was reliable?

    One news interviewer went so far as to say we pulled Mr. Jammal off the street swallowing his tale without investigating the account for reliability. This is certainly not true as we investigated all of our Noah's Ark eyewitness accounts with due diligence before using them in the show. This is the investigative procedure followed in the Jammal eyewitness account:

    1. We examined his Þrst and only known interview account given on June 10, 1986, to geologist and Ararat explorer Dr. John Morris. We then made our own extensive search to locate Mr. Jammal for a research interview. . . .

    2. After locating Mr. Jammal in Long Beach, California, we conducted our own two-hour, audio taped, interrogative interview. We asked him a wide range of questions looking for ßaws and inconsistencies in his account.

    3. We compared Mr. Jammal's 1986 and 1992 interviews and found excellent consistency between the two accounts, although the interviews were given six years apart.

    4. We then gave Mr. Jammal's interview tapes to Dr. Paul Meier, a well-known California psychiatrist, co-founder of the 28 Minirth-Meier clinics across America, and author of 40 books on human behavior. Dr. Meier, who also served as the Þeld physician on Astronaut James Irwin's Noah's Ark expedition to Mt. Ararat, was asked to provide a psychiatric and content analysis of Mr. Jammal's account.

    Here are Dr. Meier's comments from a July 10, 1992 letter addressed to Sun's Chief Researcher, David W. Balsiger:

    "I have listened to the tapes you sent of the interviews you did with Ed [Davis] and George [Jammal]. I Þnd both of their accounts totally believable; and having been there myself, I know that their descriptions of the customs of the people and of the precise locations are all extremely accurate.

    "Ed and George deÞnitely have different personality types and yet are very credible. Given George's personality type, I Þnd it logical that he would keep his discovery of Noah's Ark a secret after the death of his guide and after his disillusionment with God for allowing that to happen. . . ."

    Dr. Meier also gave us the following on-camera interview regarding Mr. Jammal's account which ended up not being used due to show time restraints:

    ". . . So, he craves attention and when he and his friend Vladimir found the Ark, they were absolutely delighted. They felt special--special to God. George's childhood dream of being acceptable and deserving his father's attention was fulÞlled because God chose him to Þnd the Ark.

    "They were delighted and they took pictures of each other. George took pictures of his friend Vladimir and then Vladimir took both cameras and moved back as far away from the Ark as he could to get a full view of the landscape so that if there was avalanche, they could still Þnd it and get back to the Ark.

    "They made plans to secretly go down the mountain and not tell anyone until they got a Þlm crew because they wanted credit for Þnding it -- which you and I would too. Let's be honest! But, while Vladimir was taking a picture after backing up, he slipped and there was a rock slide and I know this is accurate. George wept while he was talking about it--and this was eight years later. Losing his friend Vladimir was devastating for him.

    "Vladimir was crushed by a rock slide and fell into a crevasse and George was able to avoid [falling in] even though he was hit by some of the rocks. He lost his friend. I believe that on an unconscious level, George then, decided, 'I was right the Þrst time. I don't deserve my father's attention. I don't deserve to be a chosen one. Why me? Why did God choose me to Þnd the Ark? Maybe God doesn't want me to tell anyone it's here.'

    "He became bitter and depressed. He developed anxiety and withdrew into himself for years. Then, he went to a debate a number of years later where he saw people arguing about whether or not the Bible was true and he thought: 'This is bigger than me. I need to get out and let people know that I saw the Ark and not just be withdrawn into myself any longer.'

    "I Þnd this to be extremely credible. He felt ecstatic, special and overwhelmed with joy when he found the Ark. Then, when Vladimir died, he felt depressed for years afterwards.

    "Professionally, the impact of Vladimir's death on George Jammal Þts a post-traumatic stress disorder and with therapy, he could work his way out of this. But he still has a lot of buried emotions which showed in his weeping during the interview and his very honest grief over the loss of his friend.

    "Some of his descriptions were especially remarkable. His description of the Ark Þts exactly what I know to be true about the Ark from the secret government reconnaissance photos.

    "I found Jammal's account to be very detailed, very accurate and very humble. He was vulnerable. He was honest and said he wanted the fame and yet he feels like he's wasted his life searching for fame.

    "I just Þnd his story extremely credible and of the four accounts I analyzed, I believe his to be the most credible. His descriptions of the customs of the people, of the Ark itself and its location, are very accurate. These are things he could not have known from outside sources. He had no access to the reconnaissance photos and prior to that year, this information was not well-known. So, I totally believe George Jammal's account."

    5. We also had Mr. Jammal's hand drawn map of his three Ararat expedition routes studied by Ararat/Ark expeditioneers and climbers. They conÞrmed the accuracy of it, and assured us that it could not have been drawn by anyone who did not have experience with the mountain.

    Regarding Mr. Jammal's account of his eyewitness encounter with Noah's Ark, we as a production company did far more investigative research than normally undertaken by "reality shows" or most news shows. Based on the outcome of our investigative research on Jammal account, we included it in the show. For the record, we also did the same type of background research on the other eyewitness accounts before including them in the TV show.

    Was the alleged Ark wood shown at the end of Mr. Jammal's interview authentic or a piece of doctored California pine?

    Frankly, we do not know the answer to this question as Mr. Jammal's show segment had to do with his visit to the Ark and not whether the wood was authentic.

    It has not been the practice of Sun or other production companies to spend money or time testing and documenting artifacts shown on the air by interviewees. If Sun undertook to test every artifact shown by our various experts we would be out of the entertainment business and stepping into the news side of TV broadcasting. This was not the direction or directive for this television network special.

    Dr. Larue somehow believes it should have been our obligation to run carbon-14 tests on the wood apparently expecting us to "create news" instead of entertaining viewers by telling them what people have to say about this ancient mystery. Besides the carbon-14 test would not necessarily have proven that the wood was a forgery or anything else as the sample according to the Time article was contaminated by baking and juices. This would have prevented obtaining accurate carbon-14 dating results.

    Is Mr. Jammal's expedition account of seeing the Ark still factual?

    We still stand by Mr. Jammal's expedition account as being accurate based on the due diligence research we have conducted. . . .

    We also take objection to the characterization by the news media that our entire Noah's Ark TV Special was a hoax. Mr. Jammal was only one of 50 experts that provided authoritative interviews on a wide range of subjects relating to the Noah's Ark mystery. Additionally, the TV Special told the Noah's Ark story as recorded in the Bible along with the presentation of historical data, scientiÞc experiments, and Ararat explorer accounts.

    Furthermore, Mr. Jammal was only one of four Þlmed eyewitnesses who claimed to have had on-the-ground encounter with the Ark. Similar due diligence research was done on these other three Ark eyewitness accounts before including them into the show. No one has come forward with evidence that any of these remaining eyewitness accounts are perpetrated hoaxes on Sun International. We also stated at the end of the eyewitness accounts that it was up to the audience to decide whether their accounts were believable or not!

    Published in Back Issues

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