Religious hate, religious motivation was the primary thing [causing Sept. 11]. . . . The world is getting more and more out of reach of simple people who have only religion. And the more they depend on religion, which of course solves nothing, the more the world gets out of reach.
--Nobel Laureate V.S. Naipaul
New York Times Magazine, Oct. 28, 2001
I asked if she'd like to read a piece about what it's like to be an atheist living in the United States. --Freelance journalist Haider Rizvi when asked by an Indian editor if he'd like to write an essay about being a Muslim in America New York Times Notebooks, Oct. 24, 2001
I happen to be an agnostic, which, by my definition, is a cowardly atheist. . . . But as far as an afterlife, there's no there there. Nada. This life, here on earth, is what it's about. Is there a hell? Well, there are many hells on earth, you see. Heaven? Well, certain moments, they look kind of good. --Studs Terkel Mother Jones Magazine, Nov/Dec 2001
Once we turned it all over to the traders and the high priests--and that happened a long time ago--and all of our power went to an invisible man in the sky and the bankers and Wall Street guys, we let go of this wonderful thing that we've got: the brain--this objectifying thing that can say, "I, other," and can do all sorts of abstract thinking. --George Carlin Gallery, Oct. 2001
Former heavyweight boxing champ Muhammad Ali visited the ruins of the World Trade Center on Thursday. When reporters asked how he felt about the suspects sharing his Islamic faith, Ali responded pleasantly, "How do you feel about Hitler sharing yours?" --Dr. Ibn-Ziyad The Black World Today, Oct. 23, 2001
I believe that the here and now is good, and worth working to improve; that human suffering is bad, and worth seeking to mitigate; and that life and peace, beauty and plenty, are to be sought as ends in themselves, for ourselves and for those who succeed us. I believe this world and its future matters, matters completely, matters more than anything. I believe this world is real. I know of no other.
. . . For is the pursuit of the next life not a corrupter of this one? Is not the doctrine that this world does not matter an invitation to callousness, and the call of the next a call to madness?
Godlessness is a humanising force. --Matthew Parris Times political columnist "Belief in paradise is a recipe for hell on earth" The Spectator, Sept. 22, 2001
Unfortunately, 83 Florida House members believe that when it comes to school prayer, "there ought to be a law." So they voted to pass one on Wednesday. . . . Why is this a bad idea? Because, at official school functions, it shoves prayers into the ears of those who don't want to hear those prayers or don't share the same faith as those giving the prayers. --Sun-Sentinel Editorial "School Prayer Bill Misguided," Oct. 26, 2001
Texas' governor and two would-be governors have baited their political hooks with a flashy trinket called school prayer. They should be ashamed . . . Our forebears languished in prison and died in the fight for religious liberty. Certainly we can stand up to oppose forcing any brand of religion--even an absurdly bland and generic one--upon others. --Baptist Standard Editorial "Politicians prey on people's predisposition to pray" October 29, 2001
The other day I saw this quotation posted on a sign outside an Assembly of God church: "The Lord is a man of war." It sounds like something Osama bin Laden would say, but it turned out instead to be a quote from Exodus 15:3. The idea that God is male, and one who favors war and male domination of women, comes to the three major monotheistic religions straight from the Bible. --Prof. Robert McElvaine Washington Post, Nov. 2001
Most Mormons . . . act like army ants whenever [Mormon] hierarchy gives instructions about political matters. --Historian D. Michael Quinn Excommunicated Mormon scholar Salt Lake Tribune, Aug. 10, 2001
I'm an atheist, and that's it. I believe there's nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for each other. --Actress Katharine Hepburn Ladies Home Journal, Oct. 1991
Now in my early 60s, I have probably reached the point where roughly half the people I have known in my lifetime are dead. Quite a few were brutes, many were swine, the largest number fairly negligible. Must I maintain a false piety for every one among them? I'm not even sure that I want them all to rest in peace--certainly not those brutes and swine--or at least not entirely so. If you can't speak ill of the dead, who the hell are you going to speak ill of? --Joseph Epstein "Rest Not Completely in Peace" Wall Street Journal, Sept. 7, 2001
Bible Believers Torture, Kill Girl, 12
Jehovah's Witnesses parents systematically beat their daughter to death with 160 blows on Nov. 10 while meting out the biblical punishment of "40 lashes minus one, three times."
Constance Slack, a nurse, and Larry Slack repeatedly hit their daughter Laree, 12, with a 5-foot stretch of inch-thick rubberized electrical cable filled with strands of wire. She died of internal bleeding.
The parents, from South Brandon, Ill., were upset that Laree was being "uncooperative." According to the state's attorney, the couple had been planning to go out to eat but could not find a jacket with Constance Slack's wallet and credit cards. Larry Slack ordered his children to search for it. Dissatisfied that they were not looking hard enough, Slack first lashed the couple's 8-year-old son Lester several times. Then, enraged over finding laundry in the house, which Laree was in charge of washing and putting away, he ordered her to "assume the position" to be whipped.
When she squirmed away after several lashes, he ordered his two teenage sons to tie her face down to a metal frame, then lashed her 39 times. The mother then whipped the girl 20 more times. When Laree began to scream, Slack ordered his sons to fetch a towel to stuff in her mouth, and tied a scarf over the towel and used a stick to wind the scarf like a tourniquet. He cut off his daugher's shirt, ordered the other children to pull off her pants and whipped her 39 more times, with Constance then whipping 20 more lashes. Laree writhed and her back began to bleed, so her father untied her, turned her over and beat her 39 more times on her stomach and chest.
They were charged with first-degree murder and aggravated battery of a child for beating their 8-year-old son on the same night. Their five other children, who were all home-schooled, showed indications of physical abuse and are in state custody. Sources: Chicago Sun-Times, Nov. 13, 2001; Chicago Tribune, Nov. 14, 2001
Christian Mom Slays Young Daughters
Tracy Camburn, 38, poisoned her daughters Candice, 10, and Kimberly, 5, with paint thinner, then repeatedly stabbed them to "prevent suffering," after "voices" said the world was ending. The girls' bodies were found Sept. 10 in the same bed at their home in Zeeland, Michigan. Camburn comes from a church-going family; her grandfather was a minister and her parents run a summer church camp. She is active in the Central Wesleyan Church in Holland. Sources: Grand Rapids Press, Sept. 20, 2001; Oct. 17, 2001
An Islamic court in the state of Sokoto, Nigeria, issued an October decree mandating death by stoning for a pregnant woman for having premarital sex. Her male sex partner was acquitted by the same court, which said it had "insufficient evidence" against the man. Source: Associated Press, Oct. 23, 2001
Mother Kills Daughter,
A woman who believed her 4-year-old daughter was possessed by demons killed the girl while attempting an exorcism. Sabrina Wright, 29, New York City, was charged with murder after drowning her small daughter. Police do not know why the child was with her mother instead of the relative who had been awarded custody in 1999. Source: Associated Press, Nov. 14, 2001
Girl, 13, Dies Without Medical Help
A couple in Grand Junction, Colo., whose 13-year-old daughter died from untreated diabetes and gangrene, received 20 years' probation in November, were ordered to provide medical insurance for their remaining 12 children and to schedule "necessary" doctors' appointments. As elders of the General Assembly Church of the First Born prayed over her, Amanda Bates died on Feb. 5, bedridden, in severe pain, running a high fever and vomiting. Her death sparked changes in Colorado law making it easier to prosecute parents who withhold medical treatment from their children. Source: Associated Press, Nov. 9, 2001
Manslaughter in Baby's Death
A couple in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., were arrested in September for the July death of their 11-month-old daughter, who died of untreated purulent meningitis and general medical neglect. The baby was ill with a high temperature for at least a week. Richard and Agnes Wiebe are members of the Church of God in Upland, which promotes prayer over medicine for illness. A Church of God website quotes several biblical passages, such as: "And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him." The mother, who is pregnant, has given birth at home twice to stillborn children. Source: Daily Bulletin [Ontario, Calif.], Sept. 19, 2001
White supremacist brothers Benjamin Matthew Williams and James Tyler Williams pleaded guilty in September to federal charges of setting fire to three Sacramento synagogues and an abortion clinic in 1999. Still facing state murder charges for the 1999 slaying of a gay couple, they plan to defend themselves citing the bible's condemnation of homosexuality. Source: Associated Press, Sept. 7, 2001
"Jesus Christ" Stabs Boy
A man who was staying at Guiding Light Mission, Grand Rapids, Mich., stabbed a boy, 10, in the eye with an ink pen. According to witnesses, the mentally disturbed suspect, 27, approached the boy and his father while the latter were out walking, "dancing around" as if to assault them and "claiming to be Jesus Christ." Source: Grand Rapids Press, Oct. 29, 2001
Religious playground equipment was removed from Lily Cache Greenway, a public park in Bolingbrook, Ill., shortly after the Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote a letter of complaint on behalf of Foundation member Norman Lathrop in early fall. One piece of equipment with a biblical Noah's Ark theme was covered with text paraphrasing the entire bible tale, and informing children that Noah "was 950 years old when he died." (See center photo.) The Foundation received a prompt response from a city official thanking it for letting the city know about the presence of the religious equipment, and assuring the Foundation it would be removed. Mr. Lathrop wrote: "I went to take the 'after' photos, and, as you can see, a nice animal replacement was installed."
It only took 300 years. Six women executed as witches in Salem were finally exonerated on Nov. 1 by an act of the Massachusetts governor and legislature. The State legislature issued a general amnesty in 1711 exonerating all but six of the 24 women and men hanged, crushed to death or dying in prison during the witchhunts. Source: Reuters, Nov. 2, 2001
Religion no divorce panacea. About 33% of born-again Christians have ended their marriages, according to a nationwide telephone survey of more than 7,000 adults, comparable to the rate of those "who have not embraced" Jesus, according to Christian researchers. Source: Barna Research, Aug. 6 Report
Christian hate groups proliferate. There are 338 Christian patriot-militia groups active in the Midwest: 50 Christian identity groups, 37 Ku Klux Klan chapters, 95 neo-Nazi and skinhead groups, and 58 that are a mix of anti-immigration advocates, neo-Confederates and Holocaust deniers. Source: Devin Burghart, author, "State of Hate: White Nationalism in the Midwest 2001-2002," Washington Post, 11/10/01
Corruption Index. Among the Corruption Perceptions Index ranking of the 10 most corrupt countries are a number of highly religious ones: Bangladesh, Nigeria, Indonesia, Uganda, Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Cameroon, Kenya, Ukraine and Tanzania. Among the 10 "least corrupt countries" are mainly secularized ones: Finland, Denmark, New Zealand, Iceland, Singapore, Sweden, Canada, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Norway. Source: Transparency International, 2001
Shrinking Islam? A survey of religious affiliation among American adults by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York estimates there are only 1.1 million Muslim adults in the United States, not 6 million as commonly estimated. A report commissioned by the American Jewish Committee estimates there are at most 2.8 million Muslims, making up about 1% of the American population. Sources: American Religious Identification Survey 2001, Oct. 24, 2001; "Estimating the Muslim Population in the United States," New York Times, Oct. 25, 2001
One-fourth of Jews secular. About 1.4 million Jews--a quarter of the U.S. Jewish population--say they are secular or have no religion at all. Only about half of American Jews claim to be Jewish by religion; another quarter identify themselves as Jewish by parentage or ethnicity but align themselves with another faith. Source: American Jewish Identity Survey, Jewish Week, NY, Nov. 2, 2001
Multiplying sorrow. Women who are Jehovah's Witnesses have a 44-fold greater risk of maternal death due to obstetric hemorrhage than do other women. Researchers found that 6% of 332 JWs studied experienced obstetrical hemorrhage, two of whom died, yielding an average maternal mortality rate of 521 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 12 maternal deaths for non-JWs per 100,000 live births. Source: Mount Sinai Medical Center Study; American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Oct. 2001
This speech was delivered on Sept. 22, 2001, to the twenty-fourth annual national convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation held at the Concourse Hotel, Madison, Wisconsin. The speaker was honored by the Freedom From Religion Foundation for "turning a personal tragedy into a compassionate crusade for women's rights."
We often think of the separation of church and state and our freedoms when we celebrate Independence Day, as we should. However, the concepts of freethought and separation of church and state were debated long before the "New World" of America was discovered. For centuries there was little separation between the church and the government. A thought that did not agree with religion was often punished by the state. Transgressions against the heavenly laws were often punished by earthly punishments.
One of the more famous examples involved a man by the name of Galileo. His thoughts went against the church, so he was placed on house arrest for the rest of his life. The price of his freethought was the loss of his physical freedom. He was lucky--as many people who dared to think of things that went against religion were burned at the stake.
The influence of the church continued long after we won our independence.
There have been many other examples of the state punishing those who disagree with the day's religious beliefs. I'd like to tell you one of those stories that involved a nurse. Sadie Sachs, mother of three, delirious from septicemia, died in a nurse's arms while her husband watched. The cause of her death was clear. She didn't die from AIDS, cancer or any other incurable illness. Sadie's death was easily avoidable at that time using existing technology. The nurse committed her life to making sure that others like Sadie received the help they needed. And for her efforts she was thrown into jail. The year of Sadie's death was around 1912 and the nurse was Margaret Sanger.
Now Sadie had been told that if she got pregnant again she might die. Already the mother of three, she couldn't afford another mouth to feed even if she survived the pregnancy. The advice given to her to avoid that pregnancy was to sleep on the roof and if that didn't work, then "Tell Jake to sleep on the roof." Her resolution to an unwanted pregnancy was to pay the $5, the going rate at that time, to an illegal abortionist. The result was that Jake Sachs was left a widower who had to raise his children alone.
Now it's no wonder that the state arrested Margaret Sanger. After all, the interpretation of the bible in those days was that women should be subordinate to men and "go forth and multiply." To dare educate a woman about her body, and much less, teach her how to keep from getting pregnant was religious sacrilege, to be punished by imprisonment.
The price of reproductive freedom for Margaret Sanger was her freedom, taken away by being put into jail. For her, and most of us, the price has been cheap compared to Sadie. Unfortunately, Sadie has not been the last one to pay the ultimate price.
Now I want to tell you the more recent story of another nurse.
Three and one half years ago, this nurse, who cared for people, became a person that had to be cared for completely. January 29, 1998, was the turning point in my life. At 7:33 a.m. a bomb exploded outside the clinic where I worked. A Birmingham police officer was killed, and my body was seriously injured.
As you listen to this story, caused by hatred and violence, I would like for you to try to imagine yourself in my shoes, or my husband's, as one of my children, or my parent, one of my friends. I want you to be able to feel how one event of extreme violence can be so devastating to your life or to someone you love. With the recent events of last week this should be a little easier for you to imagine.
A stranger attempted to kill me that day because he disagreed with my beliefs. We all have different opinions, values and beliefs--religious, cultural, ethnic, political, sexual--but does this sound like a good reason to kill someone?
I've learned that the person accused of this crime was raised in a church that preached hatred. It preached hatred of those who thought differently from them. They were right, and everybody else was wrong. And from what I can determine, his logic was that it was his religious duty to try and kill me. If the state was not going to make abortions illegal, then he felt it was up to him to be the enforcer of the church's laws.
On that fateful day I went to work like any other, didn't think anything about it. I woke up and two weeks of my life had passed away that I knew nothing about. As I began to come out of that long sleep I realized something was very wrong. I couldn't talk because there was a tube in my throat to keep me breathing. I wasn't eating either; they had a tube in my nose for that. My eyes wouldn't open. Everything from head to toe was in tremendous pain. My extremities felt like large dead weights that wouldn't move, unless someone moved them for me.
Once I was able to comprehend, they told me a pipe bomb had been placed outside the clinic where I worked. It exploded about 12 feet from where I was standing. This device contained dynamite and nails, and if any of you believe the person accused of this crime did not intend to hurt anyone, think again. After all it was aimed at the front door.
The force of the blast was so strong I was blown out of my shoes and it shredded my clothing. The fireball from a bomb reaches 3000 degrees Centigrade--that's over 5400 degrees Fahrenheit. So I had first, second and third degree burns over most of the front of my body.
The bomb was packed with one and one half inch roofing nails. The FBI drove a crowbar into the ground where the bomb was placed and they tied bright pink strings to every nail that was stuck into the brick of the building. All these strings form a cone. But just to the left of the center of the cone, the missing strings form the outline of a person because that's where I was standing that day and the nails went into me instead of the building.
I have many of those nails and fragments left in my body. They say they can't remove them because it would cause too much damage. The best party trick I know is that we have a large refrigerator magnet at home, and I have many places that magnet just sticks real well. It will pull the skin up on my legs because the nails are so close to the surface. The others are deeper, but I can feel that magnetic tug, so I know where most of them are located. It's just a matter of time before they will work themselves up to have to be removed.
Officer Sanderson was bent over the bomb when it exploded, so his body was literally torn apart. But because he was to the side of the bomb, his body only had a couple of nails in it. The bomb was aimed at the front door, where most of the nails went. This device was not meant to close the clinic or to cause property damage. It was intended to murder.
Now to make sure the bomber killed someone, he stood across the street and he watched us. And when he decided that the two of us were as good as any to kill that day, he pushed the button. He detonated the bomb by remote control and then he walked away. This was no less premeditated murder than if a stranger had walked up to you on the street with a shotgun and pulled the trigger.
According to a Discovery Channel show on bombs, the force usually kills people within 15 feet. Shrapnel kills for several feet beyond that. I was 12 feet from the bomb that day and in the direct line of shrapnel. People heard and felt the explosion for miles around. It's amazing I can hear at all. My left eardrum ruptured eventually, which caused one of my 18 operations that I have had in the first two years.
The first thing the surgeon told my husband that day was that I had a hole the size of your fist in my lower right abdomen. Both my large and small intestines had to be resectioned because there were so many areas that couldn't be repaired. So when people say I'm a gutsy lady, they don't know how literal they are when they say that! Katie Couric said that on the news one day: "Man, she's a gutsy lady."
My right hand was mangled. It was about four times the size it is now. My broken little finger never healed properly so I'll always have that polite pinky finger to drink tea with. It just happened to be the middle finger that had an open joint injury, just tore it apart at the joint and kind of just flopped around. So I will never be able to play the piano or write like I used to, because somebody took that part of my life away from me.
The force of the blast tore the flesh and muscles off the front of my legs. The foot bones in my lower left leg were shattered. My right leg didn't break, which we don't know why, but it did have more muscle and nerve damage than the left leg. My left leg, since it was shattered, had to have four long screws placed into the bone and attached on the outside with a metal rod, which is called an external fixator. It took months to get my what-we-call-"good leg" out of a brace, but it happened that first year.
For several days my legs were covered with pigskin, to help slow the blood loss. Over the next few weeks I was given several pints of blood. As far as blood loss goes, I say that I had a complete oil change that day, because I was down to one third of my blood volume before I reached the hospital and it was only four blocks away.
Now skin will only grow over muscle, not bone, and that's all I had left on the front of my legs. So they split both my calf muscles, then brought part of it around to the front to make a muscle flap. They disconnected my motor nerves, but left my sensory nerves, so when I touch my leg in one place I can feel it in a completely opposite place. I can put an object on my leg and that other place will immediately turn cold. The only thing that really wasn't burned was my left thigh and that's what they used as the donor skin to cover the front of my legs. Skin grafts take months to heal and those were still healing when I finally went home.
My legs don't look great; they're quite ugly. But my husband and I think they're wonderful because they are still attached to my body. The vascular system was destroyed in my left leg, so they had to take the femoral vein from my right leg and turn it upside down and make it into an artery for my left leg. Otherwise the surgeon would have amputated that day. Both my knees have long scars on them where they had to open them up and clean the nails and shrapnel out, because they were literally nailed into position that day and would have never moved again had they not done so.
My right eye orbit and facial bones were broken. The sheer force of the blast was so strong it tore my eyelids off. They had to be sewn back on and my tear ducts reconstructed. They were afraid those tear ducts would never work again, but I proved them wrong on that one. My left eye was torn apart by a one and one-half inch piece of wire that was spinning when it went in. So it just tore everything into pieces. They had to take out what was left, so I have a nice piece of plastic. My right eye was badly damaged, but I've had some great surgeons, so I do have limited vision in that eye now.
I brought a book of pictures and if you get a chance to look at them today, please do so. Because these are pictures of violence that I hope you will never see anywhere else in your lifetime. There are many pictures in here that are very graphic. If you don't have a strong stomach, they're not the ones for you. But look at it and think about what great physical abilities you have everyday, because they can be taken away from you in a matter of seconds. When you look at those pictures I hope they will make you think about how valuable your freedoms are.
Being blind is interesting, for lack of a better term, and I was blind for five weeks. It is so much more than not being aware of light. Even though I am a college graduate I was suddenly illiterate. I couldn't read a book or a menu at a restaurant. I had committed no crime, but I was a prisoner. No bars were needed to hold me, because I knew I couldn't leave my room without vision.
They say that those who are born blind or lose their sight at an early age adapt easier than someone at my age. Perhaps that's true, but things like color and brightness mean nothing to them. My husband's ability to describe things improved so much because he had to tell me the details of the room, tell me about people that I had met. So how could he have described the color of my room if I had never seen color? How do you tell someone about a rainbow who's always been blind? The magic of a rainbow is completely visual. If there is no sight, there is no rainbow.
So I had a new answer for the age-old question, "Why is the sky blue?" My new answer was, "It isn't." The sky wasn't blue. The grass and the trees were not green and a firetruck was not red. Clouds no longer existed during the day; the moon and the stars no longer existed at night. So actually the sky no longer had a day; it was always dark as night. There was no longer a debate over the ocean being green or blue, murky or clear; it was just foul-tasting salt water. The oooh's and aaah's of a fireworks display on July 4, 1998, was gone. There was only the loud noise to remind me of the bomb that took that beauty from my world at that time.
Now when I went to physical rehab I knew each piece of equipment by the way it felt and the type of pain that it caused, but nothing about how it looked. I longed for the day to be able to put a face to the hospital staff that I had become so dependent on. I had to put complete and total trust into strangers that I could not see. It was as if I had never met them. Sight is such an important thing. The fact that I only had one eye, and it had been damaged, makes me treasure vision that much more.
There are varying degrees of blindness, and in another way I was blind before the bomb. I was blind to the facts involving women's rights and reproductive health care. I didn't see that people were out there willing to kill to take away those freedoms. And yeah, they were always there, and I guess in the back of my mind, I knew it could happen, but I never thought it would involve me. So I say that I had a real eye-opener that day, because I lost sight in one eye, but I gained so much more vision in the other.
No matter what your view is toward abortion, you should be outraged at the violence that's being waged in this country against reproductive health care providers. No one should tolerate it. No one should encourage it, and no one should have to endure the harassment, the scare tactics, the intimidation, or the bodily harm, in order to seek, provide or endorse reproductive health care. We talk about equal access. Here's your sober thought for today: in this day and time, the only thing equal about access is that everyone has an equal opportunity of being injured or killed.
Our best means of fighting back is to passionately speak out. Katha Pollitt talked about this last night. Are you truly passionate about your involvement regarding our freedoms? If you are, then you need to let people know. Why would you want to be silent? Fear, intimidation, it might ruin your career? Those are all the things they want from you. And if you're not going to speak up, then your silence is yet another victory for the other side. If you're not passionate, what are you waiting for and what will it take? If you're not willing, then are you deserving of these freedoms and rights?
Our freedoms are in danger each and every day, more so now. This threat is not only from bombers and terrorists, but also through our own political system. Yes, America currently enjoys an environment that still allows free thought, free speech and freedom of choice. This could easily change. If people become complacent, it will change. You've heard the phrase, "Use it or lose it"? Remember something different: "Defend it or lose it."
My injuries have taught me not to underestimate these people; they cannot be ignored. Our freedom must be protected at all costs and I am here to tell you that it is indeed worth the price.
People frequently ask me, "Why do you do what you do? You were almost killed. Why speak up and risk being hurt worse?" Part of the answer is real easy: I'm stubborn. The bigger answer is to let the suspect know that he failed. He didn't shut the clinic down, he didn't silence me, he didn't create the silence that he had longed for, he didn't instill the fear in me or the other workers that he had hoped for. If we allow fear to control us, then the opposing groups win. Instead of killing me, he made me a mentally stronger person, capable of reaching and educating more people than I could have ever imagined.
I do not want this destructive event to happen to anyone else. I want people to know that violence is not the answer, and never will be. So if showing the world what my injuries are will avoid even one act of violence, then for me it is worth all costs, and the story must be told.
Over 28 years ago the tide turned. Instead of the government deciding whether or not a pregnant woman should become a parent, now people who claim to be antigovernment feel it's their duty to decide parental status for others. If someone disagrees with their views, they feel it is their god-given duty to murder those with opposing opinions. People say that the murder of abortion providers is justified, because it is against god's law. I'm tired of people dying in the name of God.
If there's one thing I would like to get across to everyone, it's that violence did not work. What the violence did do was to make Officer Sanderson's wife a widow. She has to raise her two children alone. It has cost Worker's Comp over $1 million to put my body back together. In the latest statistics, $20 million has been spent in search for the person accused of this crime. So violence has not only failed, it is very expensive and it is paid by taxpayers.
Perhaps some feel that laws to protect us are not needed, because what happened was such a rare event. Indeed, this was the first time a bomb was used to murder at a clinic. However this type of terrorism is far from being an isolated event. The Army of God's handbook goes into great detail about how to illegally impede a woman's right to access reproductive health care. The tactics range from super-glueing the locks, putting concrete in the sewer system, where to put the butyric acid in a building to get the best effect, and, my favorite, how to make a bomb. They even suggest that people with terminal illness should wire themselves with dynamite, walk into a clinic and detonate themselves. They say since you're going to die, you might as well take a few others with you.
We all know these home-grown terrorists use bombs, guns, snipers and chemical warfare. These are the weapons of war. However, their most important weapon is fear. The good news is that we decide how effective that weapon will be. We decide if we're going to allow fear to keep us from doing our jobs. Bullies will control you for as long as you let them.
Sadly, we know that this violence is not only tolerated, it is encouraged. Each year, a white rose banquet is held to honor those who have been sent to prison for the murder of reproductive health-care providers. The person suspected of the bombing in my case is a hero to these people. Someone has asked me, "What type of law would have prevented the bombing?" There is no law that can stop someone who is willing to face the punishment for murder. However, there are things that must be done to alter the environment that created the bomber.
There are many websites out there that encourage violence worship. That violence worship creates an environment that yields hate, which leads to violence, which often results in murder. We have a government for the people and by the people. Well, you are the people. Vote for those who are going to help protect your freedoms. Get involved with a change for the better. Because if there's not a continued change, then there will be more fatalities like Dr. Barnett Slepian, Robert Sanderson, Leanne Nichols, Shannon Lowney, James Barret, Dr. John Britton, Dr. David Gunn and others who felt it was important for women to have that freedom of choice. Why do I list these people? They died for our freedom. The least we can do is remember them.
Before the bomb, I was not very outspoken. I went to work, I did my job, I went home. At one point in my career I tried to teach, but the thought of getting up in front of 20 or 30 students was terrifying to me, so you would have never found me talking to a crowd like this. Things have definitely changed. One of my after-bomb sayings is: "Nothing much intimidates you after being blown up."
The former governor of Oregon was the MC at a NARAL event where I spoke, and became outspoken when her school system would not allow her autistic child to attend public school. She said, "The average person is one injustice away from becoming an activist." How true. That blast lasted only microseconds. I hope that you will not wait for an injustice to happen to you to become involved, or more involved.
In 1998, that journey seemed endless. There were many days in rehab that I had no idea how I was going to find the strength to go on the next day and the day after. I was able to find that strength by one simple realization--that I had to. If I wanted to walk again I had to endure the hydrotheraphy. I had to find the strength to take a few steps each day. And if I was to free myself of that hospital room I had to find the strength to go forward. If we want to continue to be free then we have to find the strength to fight those who wish to take our freedoms from us.
I've always been pro-choice, but the threat of losing that right never seemed real. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew terrorists were out there. The protesters were always present, just like the thought of a bomb or a shooting. It was easy to ignore the protesters, and a bomb was something that would happen in somebody else's town. No threat seems real until it happens to you. I have had my wake-up call and I can tell you that threat is very real, and the recent events in this country should tell you that also.
I would like to leave you with one question to think about. What is freedom worth to you and are you willing to pay the price? After all, freedom is never free.
This speech was delivered on Sept. 22, 2001, at the national convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, Wisconsin.
Thank you so much for the award. It is greatly appreciated.
Before I proceed with my prepared talk, let me thank two people.
Thanks to Joseph R. McCarthy, Jr. Yes, the infamous McCarthy. During my college years, I watched the complete Army-McCarthy hearings live. I detested that guy at a time when most everyone else worshipped him. But I really thank him because the very last time I went to church as a believer was in the mid-fifties. In his sermon, the priest extolled the virtues of McCarthy as a great Catholic who was being persecuted by the atheistic Communists. I walked out, never to return. So I have a debt of gratitude to old Tail Gunner Joe.
My second thanks go to my son Timothy. Tim died from injuries suffered in a car wreck 20 years ago. He had been in a coma for 536 days and passed away at the age of 15. As a result of this tragedy, I left the very comfortable practice of law as a partner in a Washington, D.C., law firm and promoted airbags in the mid-1980s. After that I moved to Denver and began a career in criminal defense and constitutional law. The practice of constitutional law, particularly cases dealing with the separation of church and state, has been by far the most exciting part of my legal career. Had it not been for Tim's misfortune I'd probably still be sitting behind my big desk in D.C. bored to death.
Also, I have to say it is a bit surprising that I receive an award for being a freethinker. The fact is I am very opinionated, especially when it comes to the United States Constitution. I believe in each of the Ten Bill of Rights as avidly as a Christian believes in Jesus. And, of those ten, the one that ranks right at the top is the very first which states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." When people question my dedication to the principle of church/state separation, I tell them it must have been the most important liberty in the minds of the Founding Fathers because they chose to lead off the very First Amendment with the Establishment Clause. It's a shame that the judicial system, and especially the current U.S. Supreme Court, has tinkered so much with these words because the admonition is simple--there shall be no establishment of religion. The idea of "accommodating" religion, which is the current rage with the judiciary, absolutely contradicts this clear and simple language and demeans our Constitution.
Now to the matter at hand--one Rodney Scott and a Colorado statute making it a crime to desecrate an object venerated by the public.
Rodney Scott is a 35-year-old country boy from the eastern plains of Colorado. At the time of this incident, he was employed by United Airlines.
Every weekday he would travel down Interstate 70 to Denver International Airport and return at the end of the day via the same highway. Interstate 70 is the main highway to and from Denver on the east.
In the short distance between Rodney's home and Denver International Airport there were several roadside memorials. One, known as the "Propp" memorial, was in the median strip of Interstate 70; another, known as the "Rector" memorial, was in the median at the junction of Interstate 70 and Colfax Avenue. The memorials marked the spot where a traffic fatality occurred and each had a large Christian cross, statues of angels, and other paraphernalia. Scott likened it to "driving through a cemetery."
Prior to the Rodney Scott incident, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) would remove roadside memorials containing religious symbols upon a request from a concerned citizen. Indeed, the FFRF's Colorado Chapter had an ongoing program with the CDOT to do so. When a request for removal was made, CDOT would first try to find out who had placed the memorial. It usually succeeded because the name of the victim was customarily placed on the cross and all CDOT had to do was check police records for an accident at that location. Once the party who had placed the memorial was located, CDOT would remove the memorial and return it to that party. Unfortunately, on many occasions, the memorial would be put right back, so the whole exercise was somewhat like a revolving door.
Now, back to Rodney Scott. One evening in mid-April of 2000, a pickup was observed by a Colorado state trooper in the median strip where the Propp memorial stood. When the trooper pulled off the highway onto the median strip, he noticed two men and the rear of the pickup loaded with various items including flowers and an object that looked like a cross. The story gets confusing at this point. The Trooper stated that he questioned Scott, who told him that he was removing these things at the request of the person who had erected them. Scott denies this. He said that he told the Trooper that he was removing some trash from the median strip.
In any event, the Trooper checked Scott's driver's license, determined that he had not been drinking, wrote down the license number of the pickup, and left. The story gets a bit hazy at this point. But what appears to have happened is that word spread around the community, a community which is small and tightly knit, that the Propp memorial was missing and so, too, was the Rector memorial. One of the interesting things about this case which I'll get into in a moment is that the Propp memorial was located in Arapahoe County and the Rector memorial was located in Adams County. Both are suburban counties adjoining Denver.
On August 5, a story appeared in the Denver Post that Rodney Scott had been charged in Adams County with desecration of an object venerated by the public. The venerated object Scott was charged with desecrating was not the Propp memorial where he was observed by the State Trooper but the Rector memorial several miles down the road. What had happened is that the District Attorney of Arapahoe County, which had jurisdiction over the Propp memorial, refused to file a criminal case. So, the Adams County District Attorney, Bob Grant, filed for desecration of the Rector memorial. The theory was that, because the Rector memorial came up missing at about the same time that Scott was observed near the Propp memorial, a circumstantial case could be made that Scott, therefore, removed the Rector memorial.
For the life of me, I'll never understand why a charge of desecration was filed against Scott. It would have been much easier for the DA to have proved theft, criminal mischief, or vandalism. The only conclusion I can come to is that District Attorney Grant was playing to the audience of the religious right with bigger things planned for his political career.
When I saw the article in the August 5 newspaper, I called Scott and offered to defend him pro bono. He accepted. A pretrial conference was held on August 28 at which time the Assistant DA offered to settle the case for a modest fine, $50 as I recall, no jail time, and a short probation. Scott turned the offer down flat and the case was set for trial before Judge Jeffrey Romeo of the Adams County Court. You can imagine our concern having to try this case before an Italian judge, who we had reason to believe was a practicing Roman Catholic. However, before moving to ask that Judge Romeo be disqualified (which undoubtedly would have been unsuccessful) we decided to shelve the idea until we got a better feel as to whether or not he would be fair.
A date was set for motions. We filed two. One was a motion to suppress statements allegedly made by Scott during the course of the investigation on the grounds that they were coerced and should, therefore, not be admissable in court. This motion was denied because, even though Scott may not have received the so-called Miranda warning, which tells him that anything he says can be used against him, Judge Romeo held that he was not "in custody" and, therefore, such warning was not required. Most people don't understand this technicality but the Miranda warning has been chipped away to the point where, if one is not in custody, i.e., under arrest, it is not applicable. The interrogation of Scott was conducted by two Adams County deputy sheriffs, one of whom was a good six feet five inches tall. Scott told the judge that he certainly felt intimidated and that he sure thought he was under arrest (which should have been enough to invoke Miranda) but Judge Romeo ruled against him.
The second motion asked that the desecration statute be declared unconstitutional because it violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Our specific argument was that the statute had the effect of carving out a special niche of recognition and protection for religion and, therefore, constituted a religious preference and endorsement violating the separation of church and state. Judge Romeo also denied this motion. I was just about ready to ask the Judge to disqualify himself when he proceeded to launch into a dissertation about the weakness of the prosecution case.
Judge Romeo did not base his comments on anything having to do with religion. Instead, he told the DA that the presence of a roadside memorial on a public right-of-way appeared to him to be litter, an unauthorized foreign object, unlawful advertising, and a safety hazard. Judge Romeo advised the DA that these were obstacles the prosecution must overcome if it was to prevail at trial.
A jury trial was held on April 5, 2001, in the Adams County Court. Shortly before trial, the DA submitted a memorandum of law arguing that the median strip of Interstate 70 is a public forum and that citizens have a constitutional right under the free speech and assembly clauses of the First Amendment to put up roadside memorials. Judge Romeo deferred ruling on this contention until after the submission of evidence.
At the beginning of the jury selection process we moved that no Christian be allowed to sit on the jury. It was our intention to argue that roadside memorials are litter and we reasoned that no devout Christian would ever accept a contention that a Christian cross is litter. Judge Romeo denied our motion. However, he did disqualify several jurors who responded to a specific question that their religious beliefs would prevent them from ever deciding that a Christian cross is litter.
Five witnesses testified for the prosecution--the mother and stepfather of Brian Rector, the State Trooper who wrote down Scott's license number, the Adams County deputy sheriff who investigated the case, and Dan Hopkins, the Public Information Director of CDOT. Hopkins' testimony was very helpful to us and I will never understand why the DA chose to present him as one of the government witnesses. The testimony of the State Trooper and the deputy sheriff was pathetic. To make matters worse, they simply out-and-out lied. They testified that there was no reason why roadside memorials should not be allowed even though people pull into the median strip to pray at these memorials and to place flowers there. They also testified that even though the crosses were driven into the ground with steel rods, they presented no danger to a motorist or even a motorcyclist who might lose control and have to go into the median strip to recover.
The mother and stepfather of Brian Rector gave very predictable testimony. When I asked the mother why they couldn't worship at the cemetery where her son was buried she replied that he wasn't buried in a cemetery. Rather, he had been cremated and his ashes sat on the fireplace mantle at home. I felt sorry for the mom but not for the stepfather. He was extremely righteous and contentious and maintained that, even though the median was public property, it was his stepson's part of the world and belonged to him. In response to my question about the Christian cross, he replied that "it wasn't necessarily a Christian cross--a telephone pole is a cross."
As I said earlier, CDOT official Hopkins was very helpful to our side of the case. He testified that the memorial was unlawful for a number of reasons and that it constituted a hazard to the motoring public. We then produced a copy of a letter Hopkins had written about two years earlier telling a citizen that he had the right to remove a roadside memorial if he objected to it. That clinched things. At the end of the prosecution's case, we moved for a judgment of acquittal. The Judge granted the motion by ruling that the roadside memorial was litter, an illegal foreign object, unlawful advertising, adverse possession of public property, and a safety hazard. He also said that Rodney Scott was within his rights to remove the memorial if, in fact, he did so.
Based on this ruling, we assumed that CDOT would promptly remove both the Rector and Propp memorials (which had since been replaced). However, two weeks later the memorials were still there. Consequently, I wrote a letter to Mr. Hopkins asking that they be removed and destroyed instead of being returned to the families. That letter was written on April 23 of this year and has never been answered, even though I have repeated my request on several occasions.
CDOT is broken up into several regions. Region 1 services the Denver metropolitan and surrounding area. In June, I stopped at the Region I office which is less than one mile away from the Rector memorial. I asked the Regional Director's assistant why the memorial hadn't been removed. She replied that it should have been removed by now and that she would look into it.
In July we received a notice that the Transportation Commission would take the subject of roadside memorials up at its monthly meeting. The Transportation Commission is composed of one representative appointed by the Governor from each of CDOT's 11 regions. The members are not government employees but come from all walks of life. The Chairman is an executive of a bank on the western side of the State.
When we saw the proposal the Commission was to consider, we were alarmed. If adopted, it would make removal of roadside memorials one of CDOT's lowest priorities. Here we were armed with a judicial ruling that these memorials are unlawful for any number of reasons, and the biggest agency in the State was planning to ignore it. Added to this, we received notification by the Sheriff of Adams County that he would not ticket the Propps and the Rectors even though they had broken several penal statutes by placing these memorials.
Four of us appeared before the Transportation Commission and testified on July 26. Our position was that roadside memorials should have a high priority and should be removed and disposed of promptly after they are observed. After opposing testimony by parents of a traffic accident victim, the Commission decided to table the matter for the indefinite future. And, here's a bit of irony. We contacted officials of Region 1 of CDOT a couple of weeks ago and were told that a memorial was just erected right in front of their building on State property. I personally went to inspect the scene and found that it included a huge statue of an angel that was very firmly entrenched into the ground. When I asked the Region 1 Director to explain the situation, I was told that the word had come down from the Governor not to remove that or any of the other roadside memorials. So much for his oath to uphold the constitution and the rule of law.
Meantime, the Adams County District Attorney has appealed the decision in the Rodney Scott case. Its basic argument is that roadside memorials are speech protected by the First Amendment and that the median strip of Interstate 70 is a public forum where citizens have a right to assemble and engage in expressive conduct. That argument is ludicrous on its face and we said so in our written brief. I should add parenthetically that I am representing Scott on the appeal and the Foundation has generously agreed to help fund the appeals project.
The matter was submitted to the appeals court in early August and we are hoping for a favorable decision soon--although I always have to caveat my optimism by noting that, in cases involving religion or having religious overtones, the judiciary is often unsympathetic to our side of the issue. Once the appeal court makes its ruling, we plan to go back to the Transportation Commission and ask it to adopt a policy of removing these memorials ASAP. Depending on what the appeals court says, we may also decide to do some excavating ourselves.
I always get a kick out of judges advising defendants in criminal cases that they are assumed to know the law and are obliged to follow it. Unfortunately, the latter cannot be said of the government itself and its officials at the Colorado Department of Transportation. This is a troublesome trend that is gaining popularity and perhaps the time has come to find a way to subject government officials to the same requirement of following the law that applies to ordinary citizens.
In any event, that is the story of the Rodney Scott case--so far. It has many more roads to travel and we'll surely keep you and the Foundation advised as the trip progresses.
I have to tell you this, whoever you are:
that on one summer morning here, the ocean
pounded in on tumbledown breakers,
a south wind, bustling along the shore,
whipped the froth into little rainbows,
and a reckless gull swept down the beach
as if to fly were everything it needed.
I thought of your hovering saucers,
looking for clues, and I wanted to write this down,
so it wouldn't be lost forever --
that once upon a time we had
meadows here, and astonishing things,
swans and frogs and luna moths
and blue skies that could stagger your heart.
We could have had them still,
and welcomed you to earth, but
we also had the righteous ones
who worshipped the True Faith, and Holy War.
When you go home to your shining galaxy,
say that what you learned
from this dead and barren place is
to beware the righteous ones.
from New and Selected Poems,1956-1996
University of Arkansas Press, 1996
The Darwin Day Project (website: www.darwinday.org) was established to promote an annual International Secular Celebration of Science and Humanity on February 12, Darwin's birthday. Many groups have independently established annual events to celebrate the contributions and insight that Charles Darwin gave to the world concerning the evolution of all biological life on this planet.
For instance, the Humanist Community in Palo Alto, Calif., began a Darwin Day celebration in 1995 and has had an annual event since that time. Dr. Pigliucci established a Darwin Day program at the University of Tennessee in 1996 that has continued to expand each year.
Clearly this is an idea whose time has come. The Darwin Day project was established to serve as a "clearing center" where individuals and groups can register their events, thereby gaining a common sense of purpose. In addition, the website is a source of information to help first-time participants plan their events. It already houses an extensive source of information and is linked to many other sources of information and organizations including FFRF. We are here to encourage, cooperate, support, and assist any individual or group plan and carry out a public celebration of verifiable knowledge and humanity.
Our long-term goal is to establish a global celebration by 2009, for Darwin's 200th birthday. In the intervening years we intend to build toward this goal by reaching out to scientists, science organizations, humanists, secularists, freethought organizations and rationalists around the world. In 2001 there were 24 events registered from across the United States on our website. This year we have worked hard to establish international contacts and one of the gauges of our success can be seen from the number and distribution of eminent scientists who have already been willing to permit us to use their names in support of this project.
They include: Richard Dawkins, Oxford University, serving as our Honorary President; Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University; Eugenie Scott, National Center for Science Education; John Maynard Smith, University of Sussex; Daniel Dennett, Tufts University; Patrick Bateson, Provost, Cambridge University; Carlos Saavedra, Instituto de Acuicultura, Spain; Steve Jones, University College London; Massimo Pigliucci, University of Tennessee; Pavel M. Borodin, Institute of Cytology and Genetics, Russia; Helena Cronin, London School of Economics; Steven Pinker, Department of Brain and Cognitive Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and many more that you can review by visiting our website.
We are also coordinating our activities with domestic and international freethought organizations including International Humanist and Ethical Union, British Humanists, Rationalist Press Association, Friends of Darwin, and the British Secular Society. Considering all of the above activities and others currently in the works, we anticipate a significant growth in the number of celebrations in 2002.
The importance of Charles Darwin's work rings loud and clear today because of current research into the specific biological mechanism that is responsible for the evolutionary process, namely genetics. Decoding of the human genome has captured the attention of us all and makes obvious the close relationship between humans and all other living things. In this context Darwin becomes a symbol for us to show appreciation to the great minds throughout history who have contributed to the development of a stable knowledge base with which to build a global civilization.
A recent book, Annie's Box, written by one of Darwin's descendants, Randal Keynes (2001), provides us with a greater appreciation of Darwin's humanity. He was a sensitive and caring family man who cared deeply for his wife, Emma, and was a loving, tolerant father who felt painful anguish from the loss of three of his 10 children. Annie was his second oldest child and died at 10 years of age. However, as a rational person he accepted the realities of life without bitterness. The Darwins' other seven children lived to become very productive people in their own right. These, together with many other warm human characteristics, make Darwin a worthy symbol for the celebration of both science and humanity.
We feel strongly that this is a unique time in history, with the public interest in science very high as a result of research into the details of the human genome, stem cell research, and their application to improving human health. It is also a time of significant controversy about the teaching of evolution in our schools, and on a daily basis we see how these issues are being politicized. Therefore, Darwin Day should be viewed as an important positive opportunity to bring interested groups together in a way that improves their public visibility and strengthens their voice in the arena of ideas so they can better serve as an inspiration for the future.
Dan Barker and Steve Benson entertained at the opening night of the first annual Ex-Mormon General Conference, held the weekend of Oct. 5-6 in Salt Lake City--the same weekend the Mormon General Conference convened. Dan, a Foundation staffer and songwriter who is a a former minister, teamed up with Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Steve Benson, a former Mormon, to make "beautiful blasphemy" together. Dan's new "Salt Lake City Blues," a parody of "Kansas City Blues," brought the house down. (See below.)
Above, Dan and Steve at Beehive Clothing, the Mormon Church's Mormon underwear factory (as Dave Barry says, we are not making this up).
Salt Lake City Blues
This parody can be sung to "Kansas City Blues" by Wilber Harrison
I'm goin' to Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City here I come. (rpt.) They've got some real peculiar people there, and I'm gonna meet me some.
Gonna take a handcart, take a handcart cross the plains. (rpt.) I packed all my belongings, but they told me not to bring my brains.
Standin' on the corner of Temple and Main, (rpt.) With my decaffeinated beverage and seventeen fiancees.
I might hear the choir. I might see the spires. I'll do a Temple Session--feel the spirit like a fire! Oh, Salt Lake City! Salt Lake City here I come. I'm goin' to General Conference, my pilgrimage to Mormon-dumb.
Read the Book of Mormon. Read a chapter every day. A burnin' in the bosom. Pay, pray and obey. There ain't no better drug to blow my mind away.
Lookin' for a party--never seen such glum-faced girls. (rpt.) Ask the Patriarchal Fathers why it's called "The Prozac Capital of the World."
I can't drink or smoke! I can't think or swear! I can't wear my shorts in this funny underwear! Oh, my heck, Salt Lake City! Why the flip am I here? They've got such prehistoric notions, it's no wonder that they call it "Temple Square."
Parody performed at Oct. 5, 2001 Tunes 'n 'Toons
Fourteen percent of U.S. adults have no religion, according to the latest American Religious Identification Survey 2001, released by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
The survey found that 52% of adults are Protestant, 24.5% are Catholic, 1.3% Jewish and .5% Muslim. The survey of more than 50,000 randomly selected adult respondents, considered the nation's most comprehensive on religion, follows up a 1990 survey.
"One of the most striking 1990-2001 comparisons is the more than doubling of the adult population identifying with no religion, from 14.3 million (8%) in 1990 to the current 29.4 million (14.1%)," according to the press release of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
"The 1990 figure may be downwardly biased due to a slight change in the wording of the key survey question in 2001. In seeking a more accurate measure of identification, the clause 'if any' was added this year to the question, 'What religion do you identify with?' The prior wording may have subtly prompted respondents to name some religion."
The survey also found that although 81% of Americans identify with a religion, only 54% reside in a household where anyone reports belonging to a church, temple, synagogue, mosque or other place of worship.
"About 20% of those who say they have no religion (including many atheists and agnostics) nevertheless report that they or someone else in their household is a member of a religious congregation," said the researchers. "About 40% of adults who describe themselves as 'religious' report no membership in any religious congregation."
Other noteworthy findings:
Catholics at 51% are a majority in Rhode Island and the largest single category (44%) in Massachusetts.
Mormons at 51% are a majority (surprise, surprise) in Utah.
Baptists are the majority in Mississippi (55%).
New York is home to 25% of America's Jews and 24% of Muslims, more than any other state.
California has the highest percentage of nonreligious people (15%), also of Jehovah's Witnesses (17%) and Hindus (30%).
While the median age of all adults is 43 years, for Catholics it is 42, for Jews 51, Muslims 28, and 36 years for those with no religion.
Black adults are most likely to give their religion as Baptist (47%) or no religion (11%).
Native Americans are most likely to give their religion as Baptists (20%) or no religion (19%).
Hispanics are most likely to give their religion as Catholic (57%) or no religion (13%).
The study was directed by Dr. Egon Mayer, Professor of Sociology at the Graduate Center and Brooklyn College, and Dr. Barry Kosmin, who also directed the 1990 religion study and is the co-author of One Nation Under God: Religion in Contemporary America (1993).
To see the study for yourself, visit the Graduate Center's website at http://www.gc.cuny.edu/folio/index.htm
Christian Sunday school curriculum is being openly taught in public schools in Rhea County, Tenn., the Freedom From Religion Foundation has learned through the discovery process in its federal lawsuit.
The Foundation sued the Rhea County Schools on April 26 challenging bible instruction, Gideon bible distribution, and other religious activities in the county's K-12 classrooms.
Since the lawsuit was filed, the School Board has insisted that the bible classes are part of the state's Character Education program, presenting the bible in a purely secular, historical manner.
Yet students in Bryan College's Bible Education Ministry have been invited into Rhea Country public schools for more than 50 years to teach the bible during school hours to children as young as kindergarteners. Evangelical Bryan College, named for William Jennings Bryan, is in Dayton, home of the famous Scopes Trial and the county seat.
Detailed records and lesson plans from Bryan College obtained by the Foundation reveal that pure "Sunday school" is being conducted at the public schools during school hours.
These forms include printed queries, such as "How I Plan To Help Students See the Truth." At the bottom of each page is this admonition to the teachers:
"Did you remember to pray for your pupils by name? Pray for yourself and for the lesson you will be teaching. Enlist someone to pray for you during the time you will be teaching. After the lesson read your Scripture passage for next week. Read it every morning before you go to class. You will be amazed at what God will teach you during the week."
Many student bible teachers candidly revealed their religious intentions in a section they filled out, titled "What do you want your pupils to know, do, and/or feel as a result of this lesson?" A sampling of student objectives follows:
"We want the kids to know how much God loves them and that children are very special to Jesus."
"That the Bible is true and it is the instrument that can give guidance and direction in your life."
"We want the kids to know that they are so important to Jesus and that he loves them so much! We will have them decorate hearts and put their names on them . . . we will have them glue their hearts onto a poster that says 'Jesus Loves Us All!' If time permits we will sing 'Jesus Loves the Little Children.' "
"We are going to sing 'I'm in the Lord's Army' and 'Rejoice in the Lord Always.' "
"God sent his Son down to earth to save us from our sins because he loves us so much."
"I want the kids to understand what it means to submit, and to learn to submit first of all to God, and also to those in authority."
"We are just going to read some Christmas stories & sing Christmas carols," one student teacher recorded in a submitted lesson plan. "I want to tell the kids the true meaning of the season about the birth of Jesus & the wisemen. . . . we may make some Christmas cards depending on time for their parents."
The instructor wrote a revealing caveat on this lesson plan: "Good idea, but remember the kids can't take anything home," showing that the bible college was actively hiding the contents of the bible instruction from parents. (See sidebar below for more student comments.)
The program uses a curriculum called "Bible-In-Light," published by David C. Cook, which is "an unapologetic Sunday School lesson of the tackiest kind," according to Dan Barker, a former minister who is now a Foundation spokesperson.
David C. Cook is described as the "Pioneer of the Sunday school." Its promotional material says: "With David C. Cook Bible-in-Life Sunday school curriculum, we're making sure that every student, at every level, feels the goodness and joy of knowing God's Word. . . . And because you want to be able to say: 'I go to a Sunday school where the biblical values I cherish continue to shape the future.'"
"The Rhea County public schoolchildren essentially are being used as guinea pigs for future Sunday School teachers to practice on!" said Barker.
Although Supt. Sue Porter has claimed that she does not know what is going on in those classrooms, evidence shows that she has been repeatedly warned that the bible classes are illegal.
In October, the school's insurance company informed the school system that it will not cover their legal costs in this case because the classes are so clearly unconstitutional.
Perhaps sensing they are losing the case, some reckless parties in Rhea County have threatened to publicly reveal the identity of one of the persons they think is the "John Doe" or "Mary Roe" plaintiff. The plaintiffs' names are being kept secret by a federal Protective Order due to Rhea County's reputation as one of the most bible-thumping communities in the country. County Executive Jimmy Wilkey, who had originally been a defendant since the County voted unanimously to uphold the Bible classes, claimed to media in October that he is free to reveal identities because the County has been removed as a party. The editor of the Dayton Herald, a graduate of Bryan College, has likewise been trying to learn the plaintiffs' identities, presumably in order to publish the names. The judge ordered Wilkey to keep his mouth shut, reminding him that the protective order applies to all parties, past and present.
The October trial date was postponed to February 19 in Chattanooga federal court. The Foundation has requested summary judgment (no trial), since there are no disputed facts.
"The Rhea County Schools are openly teaching the bible, and they are publicly proud to be doing so," Barker noted.
Bible Lesson Plans for Public Schools
A few comments from the thousands of Lesson Plans by student bible teachers in Rhea County schools. What immediately follows was for kindergarten:
"Jesus knows everything and is powerful. We should trust & obey him when he tells us what to do."
"We want our students to understand the power and love (compassion) of the Lord Jesus Christ."
"We want the students to realize how much power Christ had--so much that he could raise the dead."
"Children will learn that God made a dead man live & that he can do many things in our life."
"We will teach our kids God always answers our prayers."
"Adam & Eve disobeyed God & had to leave their beautiful garden. We will stress obedience toward God, not disobedience."
"We are God's children & God loves us like we love our pets."
Comments for other grades:
"We want the children to learn . . . how to be cleansed from sin."
"They can have a personal relationship w/ God."
"It is important that we always obey God & be faithful to Him . . . if you obey, there will be no punishment."
"To understand that the Bible is a light in your life. . . . God's word is the truth and we must obey."
"The students should be able to understand that Jesus could heal people and forgive sins."