Statistics Indict Bishops, Church
About two-thirds of "top U.S. Catholic leaders have allowed priests accused of sexual abuse to keep working, a practice that spans decades and continues today," according to a three-month review by the Dallas Morning News, published on the eve of the June conference of U.S. Bishops scheduled to adopt policy on pedophile priests.
At least 111 of the nation's 178 "mainstream, or Roman rite" Catholic dioceses are headed by men who have protected accused or even convicted priests and other church officials. Implicated bishops represent 40 states. The newspaper's June 12 exposŽ notes Church spokesmen did not dispute the findings.
All 8 cardinals who lead American dioceses--and most members of the bishops committee that drafted the proposed "two strikes, you're out" policy--are involved, according to reporters Brooks Egerton & Reese Dunklin.
The newspaper's website details allegations against Catholic bishops at www.dallasnews.com/cgi-bin/2002/priests.cgi
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At least 300 civil lawsuits alleging priestly sex abuse have been filed since January, according to an Associated Press survey. AP reports nearly 250 Roman Catholic priests were suspended or removed in that time period, while a Washington Post survey published on June 9 cites 218 priests removed. At least 34 known offenders remain in church jobs, according to that newspaper.
At least 850 U.S. priests have been accused of sexual misconduct with minors since the early 1960s, and more than 350 were removed before this year, according to the Post.
The San Francisco Examiner reports at least 3,000 priests have been accused of misconduct and at least 1,300 have been treated for "psychosexual disorders."
Vatican: Coverage "Anti-Catholic"
The Vatican-approved Jesuit magazine Civilta Cattolica in early June criticized the "morbid and scandalous" treatment of the church sex abuse scandal in the United States as "anti-Catholic" and "anti-papal." The magazine previously recommended in May that bishops avoid telling congregations that parish priests have sexually abused victims, if the bishops believe the priests won't abuse again.
Leading Latin American Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga also accused the U.S. media of being anti-Catholic in an interview with the Roman Catholic monthly magazine 30 Giorni (30 Days).
The American media is reacting with "a fury which reminds me of the times of Diocletian and Nero and more recently, Stalin and Hitler," said Rodriguez, 59, considered a possible successor to Pope John Paul II.
"What is happening now, for example, to Cardinal Law is a scandal."
"Not to mention newspapers like the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Boston Globe, which were protagonists of what I do not hesitate to define as a persecution against the church," the Honduran cardinal added.
Church Criminal Investigations Start
Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley announced May 30 that he is launching a criminal investigation into the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix over its failure to report complaints of sexual misconduct against priests.
Romley may consult with other prosecutors nationwide to speak "with a singular voice" to the church, he said. Prosecutors in such cities as Boston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia have also launched similar investigations.
Jehovah's Witnesses Demand Witnesses
A letter from elders of the Jehovah's Witnesses was read at June services instructing that sexual abuse allegations will be rejected unless there are "two independent witnesses."
The elders cite Deut. 19:15, which says: "No single witness should rise up against a man respecting any error or any sin. At the mouth of two witnesses or at the mouth of three witnesses the matter should stand."
The scandal-ridden Church recently expelled former headquarters employee Barbara Anderson, for saying she has seen hundreds of suppressed files of accusations. Kentucky elder Bill Bowen, who told NBC: "It's a pedophile's paradise within the organization," also faces expulsion. He has created the website http://silentlambs.org
Baptist Laundry "Pretty Dirty"
Speaking at the opening of the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist convention in St. Louis on June 9, Rev. Bobby Welch, of Florida, said: "We shouldn't enjoy this Catholic mess too much. We're waiting on the other shoe to drop, and when it does, don't be surprised if there is more and more within our ranks."
Rev. Frank Ruff, the Southern Baptist liaison to the Catholic bishops, told the convention-goers: "Our dirty laundry is out there for everybody to see--and it's pretty dirty."
It's probably been almost 35 years since I've had a chance to speak to an audience like this. Then it was the congregation of my church. Today it's a slightly different group--but I feel very much at home here.
Dan Barker asked me a year or so ago to sit down and write a piece about how I got here, from being a Catholic priest to a member of your group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation. How did I come out of such a religious family and the environment of the deep South to be a freethinker? I put it off because I wasn't sure how I "got here," so this opportunity to speak to you today came as a challenge.
Thinking about this talk, I called my daughter--who's in law school--and asked her if she had ever known me as a believer. She said, "Dad, I suspect that you never were a believer." I wondered if she was right, and I began to reflect on my Catholic childhood.
I was raised by a Roman Catholic mother who was Irish-French and by a Presbyterian father, in a small Southern town--Natchez, on the banks of the Mississippi River, 70 miles south of Vicksburg. All of our priests were Irishmen, very moralistic and authoritarian. Growing up Catholic in the '40s and the '50s meant never, ever having to confront the fact that you were a believer in a god. You were exposed to a society, a church in which you were baptized in infancy. You were confirmed when you could hardly walk, and there was never a discussion about god and spirits for individuals. We never had to make a statement as our Protestant friends did, where they would announce their trust in Jesus or be "born again." Catholicism was a given. It was simply who I was, something almost like my ethnic origin. Did I really believe in God? Was I ever asked if I believed in God? No.
Early this morning I read a column in our Capital Times in which the author talked about taking the train to Dallas in November of 1963 and being at the scene where Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated John Kennedy. At four o'clock this morning I could remember with total recall where I was, what I was thinking, what everything was like on that day 38 years ago. I can remember those details more strongly than I remember last September 11th or anything about my mother's death or numerous other important events in my life. This morning I kept wondering: Why do I remember Kennedy's death so clearly and why did it mean so much to me? I realized that his death and how much it mattered to me is all tied up with my trip from being a priest to being an atheist.
I started school in a Catholic kindergarten when I was four years old. In November of 1963, when Kennedy was murdered, I was 25 and in my last year of Roman Catholic seminary, waiting to be ordained in nine months as a priest. I had spent the summer of 1963 doing extraordinary things, especially for me as a Southern white boy. On a very hot day in August of 1963, wearing my priest collar, I attended the March on Washington and heard Martin Luther King give his famous speech. I wasn't supposed to be in Washington. My bishop had told seminarians not to go near Washington that weekend. My parents told me that I was not to go near Washington. But I felt enthralled by King.
I had been resentful of President Kennedy, who up until then had not been very supportive of what was going on in the civil rights movement. But not long after King's speech my view of Kennedy began to change. The president gave some remarkable speeches that summer and became a man who was willing to stand up and be counted. Something happened to me. I began to see Kennedy as the person who could change society. I wanted to be part of the coming struggle in Mississippi, to be a leader in the battle to combat racism.
But my father was giving me holy hell about my involvement. He told me I should get out of the seminary and go into social work. He said, "That's what you really want to do." Well, I had been in seminary for nearly nine years, and I was determined to be ordained and make a difference. What I could still believe, in the early '60s in the seminary, was that this God, this church, this thing was on the move. And just this morning I realized that the day Kennedy was killed was the day I began to lose my faith and become an atheist. I thought: If God will let Kennedy be murdered, whose side is he on? Or does he even care? Is he really listening? Is there even a God?
So Kennedy's death was the beginning of the end for me, and the murder of my hero Martin Luther King five years later was the end of the end. It was a slow progression in my heart and soul, as I came to grips with the fact that I needed to move on and to get out of the Catholic Church. It was extremely hard, extremely scary. I'd been in the seminary for 14 years. I'd been a priest for five years, and I'd been considered Roman Catholic for all my life--31, 32 years. To get out of that, and to tell my family that I was leaving, was very hard. I was also very close to a group of young seminarians. Among them, perhaps the closest friend I had back then was a young priest named Bernie Law, who is today the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston. To tell these priest buddies of mine was also very hard.
Tom (center) with his dad (left) and young Bernard Law (right) who is now "notorious" Cardinal Law of Boston
Incidentally, most of these buddies are no longer priests today. Some are dead; others quit the priesthood. Even Bernie Law sort of quit the priesthood too--to become an Ecclesiastic! [audience laughter] But most of them who survive are still religious and still go to church. They look at me today and say, "What went wrong? How could you give up on your culture, your background, your heritage?"
Once I did quit the priesthood, I found myself here in Madison, Wisconsin, studying social work, still trying to be Catholic and fascinated with this new town. I could walk around without a collar, by god! Nobody knew who I was. They still heard the Southern accent, but this was a big town and I felt invisible and I fell in love with it. I was only going to be here two years, and that was 32 years ago. I'm still here.
My story is still evolving. I hope it's an incentive for others to ask a lot of questions! I've totally skipped one subject that's central to Catholicism and the priesthood, and that's celibacy [audience laughter]. How did I get to be celibate, how did that happen? Well, more interesting is how did I get out of being celibate? [audience laughter]
As you can imagine, at age 32 I was still a virgin physically. I got married and have stayed married to my wife Judy ever since, although I've given her holy hell. Early on, when we were struggling in our marriage, we went to a psychiatrist, and he asked us, "Have either of you been married before?" And I said, "No, but I used to be a priest." He said, "You were married to Holy Mother and the Church."
Question: How did your family and church authorities react to your leaving the priesthood?
Both of my parents were very religious, but both were very angry that I went to the seminary. Somewhat of a conundrum. I pleased them, I thought, by being very religious as they had taught me. But they sort of said, "We didn't want you to be that religious." [audience laughter] I think they were thinking grandchildren, and you know, going to church every now and then, and here I was going all the way.
When I left the priesthood, my mother had already died and my father was only slightly disappointed (though he had converted to Catholicism). But when he came to see me here in Madison and couldn't find a crucifix or a bible in the house, he realized I didn't go to church. That really disappointed him.
Did the church authorities try to talk me out of it? To the contrary, I was outspoken and pretty honest and they were probably relieved to see me go. I had come to realize, while still a priest, that I didn't believe in God. I was using the bully pulpit I had as a priest to be a teacher, to push the organization to change. What broke my back morally was a document called Humanae Vitae, issued in 1968, one month after Martin Luther King was killed. It said the only form of birth control that could be used was the age-old rhythm method. For me, such a decision was stunning since for years a committee of clergy and laypeople was saying we've got to change our birth control policy. So, to have the Pope go the opposite way and turn against it, just snapped the last thread of my interest in hanging around the priesthood.
The news about Vatican II had been concealed from us in the seminary since we were not allowed to watch television or allowed to read about it. Vatican II sort of held us there because we thought a revolution was coming. We guessed wrong.
Question: Was there any other doctrinal issues besides birth control and atheism that you had major fights with and disagreements?
Let me tell you a little about life in the seminary. In the Josephinum (Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington, Ohio), and in most seminaries in the '50s and '60s, we were taught by people who had grown up 40 years before us. Many lectures were in Latin. I could read Latin and can today, but I couldn't understand a word of it.
We used to sit in class and read what were then radical German and French theologians with the textbook covers torn off. What I got out of the seminary, in 1964, was that I wasn't a theologian. I was there to be an instrument of God, or an instrument of something, on the race issue. And that was the major thing that I wanted to do, that I tried to do, and I did it incessantly.
Once you question one thing, such as birth control, and begin to say "This could not be true," it was like a whole house of cards falling down. I remember thinking, "That means papal infallibility is not true." Papal infallibility was only declared in 1870. How did that happen? It was a grievous, arrogant mistake that the Catholics made. I remember getting up at a meeting of priests and saying, "This could not be true. We made a mistake."
In the world I lived in, the priests were the foot soldiers, not the theologians.
Question: Did you work in a parish?
I was assigned to the white Catholic Church. I knew a lot about the Vatican Council but--and this is a touchy subject--the one area I knew very little about was sex. All I knew was out of a book. Sexuality as a child in my world had been awfully handled. As a priest I was open about talking to my young charges about masturbation, about sexual feelings, and I helped them come to grips with what it's like to be a human being and accept these things in you. It got me into a lot of trouble. [audience laughter] I think people saw me as somewhat of a rebel. But I was very isolated.
Question: You mentioned your daughter and that she thinks perhaps you never had been a believer, and I'm wondering as she was growing up, what did you use for spiritual guidance? Was there any religion of any kind?
My wife is still a Christian, goes to church, and the two kids were baptized and completed confirmation classes at First Congregationalist Church here in town. But at least right now, I've sort of won them over. But I'm not sure. The question was what kind of spiritual thinking did I give my children? I personally probably did not give them "spiritual guidance" since I was very negative and resentful of all organized religion. They knew when they were children that their mother and I differed on this topic.
Tom and Judy Reed on their wedding day
Question: When you left the priesthood, what did you do?
I intended to get a degree in psychology. I wanted to be a psychologist, because I was always told I was a good listener. But to be a psychologist would have taken four years of undergraduate work and then many more years to get a Ph.D. So I said, "Well, what else can I do?" They said, "Have you ever heard of social work?" I was handed a pamphlet from a university up north. And I fell in love with it, just with that pamphlet.
Here's the funny part. I got the pamphlet in a little clinic in a community in Mississippi called Mound Bayou, an all-black community. Tufts University had an outreach center there. I'm sure these pamphlets were sent down by Madison's school and were coded, because when I walked in the door at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, they looked up and said, "Oh, you're white!"
I persevered. I worked with Dane County Human Services for almost 30 years, and was a social work supervisor in child abuse and juvenile court work. I retired three years ago and am now looking for a new career.
Question: Some years ago I heard the expression from a priest and a friend of his, that they'd both taken the "Cardinal's oath." This meant that even in the face of saying something that they probably did not believe, as opposed to their own beliefs, they would go ahead and say what the Church wanted them to say. Have you ever heard the expression?
No, I haven't heard the expression. But it rings true. I remember the night before I was ordained, the bishop was the Apostolic delegate from Washington and he said, "No matter what your bishop tells you to do, do it." I remember just sitting there and thinking, "I'm not going to do that."
Another funny story: a week earlier, before the ordination: we'd been on a week's retreat in silence, right up the street from Ohio State University along the banks of the Allegheny. Being on a retreat back in those days was a week of silence, walking and meditation. The monsignor came to me the night before ordination and said, "I really had to fight to get you ordained because a priest started following you around during retreat, and he noticed that you were skipping rocks across the river, and looking up at the sky and at the trees and throwing berries and things." [audience laughter] I was 26 years old. That was me. But the Cardinal's oath, I would have laughed at that.
Catholicism has become a much more conservative organization than when I was in seminary. Of 15 priests in my class, 12 have left the priesthood. Pedophilia is a major problem that is sweeping the church. They've been trying to muzzle any information about its happening but it's causing the priesthood to be destroyed.
A good friend of mine said, "Gee, I wish we had married priests so we could keep you in the priesthood." And I said, "Well, the fact that I'm an atheist might get in the way, too." But he said, "I hope we have a married priesthood." I hope we never do, because the church is so rotten and so politically corrupt, that by allowing priests to marry you'll only postpone the inevitable--[applause]--of laypeople, real people, taking over and slowly doing away with this Old Testament invention of the priesthood.
Question: How did your racial sensitivity develop?
I was raised in a totally segregated world and went into seminary in 1955. I was 17 years old. In 1957 I remember two things happened: Little Rock--those of you in my age bracket remember that federal courts ordered Central High School to be integrated and the federal government sent in troops. And second, there was a debate in my class, and I volunteered to take the side of Orville Faubus, the segregationist governor. I remember writing that races were not meant to mix. I had all sorts of stuff in my head.
About six months later, Xavier, the bishop of New Orleans, Joseph Rummel, issued a bishop's letter saying racial segregation was immoral. Imagine if I came in here and told you there is no wall behind me, there is no one sitting on this platform, there are no lights over your head. That's how it hit me. I was incredibly suppressed and biased. We'd never talked about this. I sat from age 4 to 17 in Catholic schools, and race relations were never discussed.
I remember it just opened me up. I didn't walk away from it, because I was a loyal person at the time. If the bishop said it, then it must be true. And slowly, as I went into seminary in Ohio, I started going Zto school with African American seminarians and the blinders dropped from my eyes. In my short lifetime, I had gone from hearing my grandmother tell about her memories as a person only one generation removed from being a slave-owner to my becoming an advocate of civil rights for all. It was a strange journey. I should add that Bernie Law was a positive influence for me on this issue.
Question: What is your view of one of the most respected humans, the Pope?
I have to stop and think. Who is the Pope? I think he is a very conservative man. When he became pope he put the kibosh on everything. And he's much more conservative than the previous pope. But I think he's perhaps the first pope that I see through a freethinker's eyes.
To me, personally, he's irrelevant.
Comment: I'm glad that the Ecumenical movement did not create a Protestant-Catholic church. It would have been more difficult for you to go away.
I totally agree with that, it's a good thing it didn't happen. The second comment was about race--he said look at the color of this room, of this convention. I grew up in the South where religion was very much a lifesaver to African Americans. Given all that, African Americans in the South tend to be very religious. When I've told my few black friends in Madison that I'm a nonbeliever, they're just incredulous.
Question: Were you aware of the cover-up of pedophilia?
I was first aware of it in the seminary. One of the teaching priests had created a cult around himself that he was somehow God's agent, and he was sexually abusing a number of boys. When he was dismissed from the seminary, his abuse was never reported to the police. This was around 1962 and he was sent back to Rockford, Illinois, his home diocese, while all of the boys, the victims of this crime, were dismissed from the seminary.
In my years as a priest, which were only five, I heard about pedophilia one time. But I'm not at all surprised at what's happening today. I think it's mostly caused by the quality of people that they had to start recruiting and the anti-sexual attitudes of the Church. There were so few young men coming into the priesthood that they had to lower the standards. The screening must have been awful. Now they're reaping the results of their recruiting efforts and have already paid millions and millions of dollars in pedophilia cases. The money is what's getting their attention, not the damage they did to the children.
Thank you very much.
The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, revised edition, introduced and abridged by Philip Appleman (W.W. Norton & Co., 2002, 134pp.), is another Appleman gem dealing with evolution.
Here, in what Paul Moody has called "a masterly condensation," is a classic edition of Darwin's revolutionary book. It retains all of the substance of the original, but only the essential elements of its profuse detail.
Philip Appleman, editor of Darwin, a Norton Critical Edition ("the best Darwin anthology on the market," according to Stephen Jay Gould), has cut deftly to the essence of Darwin's classic, losing none of the continuity or flavor of the original. This revision includes a new introduction by Prof. Appleman that perceptively traces Darwin's influence on the world of ideas.
Philip Appleman is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Indiana University, where he was a founding editor of Victorian Studies. He is the editor of Thomas Malthus's An Essay on the Principle of Population (a Norton Critical Edition). He is also the author of an early book about overpopulation, The Silent Explosion, several award-winning books of poetry, including Darwin's Ark, and three novels, including Apes and Angels.
A Foundation member, he will be speaking at the 25th annual Foundation convention in San Diego in November.
Wisconsin: Victims Without Recourse
"The legal climate in Wisconsin right now is the most hostile to the protection of the rights of victims of sexual abuse by clergy in the USA," says attorney Jeffrey Anderson, of St. Paul, Minn., an expert in civil lawsuits for clergy abuse.
That unenviable status is the result of a 1995 decision by the state Supreme Court, then and now dominated by Roman Catholic judges. Although hundreds of plaintiffs against churches for sexual abuse surfaced in the early 1990s, they have all but vanished.
In a 4-2 ruling in Pritzlaff v. Archdiocese of Milwaukee, June 27, 1995, the Supreme Court ruled against the right of a woman to sue the archdiocese over a marriage-wrecking relationship with a priest.
In the sweeping decision, the state Supreme Court said the First Amendment prohibited it from taking a case ruling on whether the Catholic Church or any other religious denomination had improperly hired, supervised or trained its professional workers.
The decision killed a lawsuit brought by "Susan Smith," alleging she was raped by Father William Effinger at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Kenosha when she was 8 or 9 years old. The church pursued a judgment against her, assessing her $10,199.39 for the church's legal costs. Sources: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 2002; April 17, 2002
Milwaukee Journal Killed Stories
While news media deserve credit for breaking stories on the cover-up of ministers preying on minors, in the mid-1990s, the Milwaukee Journal became part of the cover-up.
Freelance Milwaukee journalist Joel McNally reports that Bishop Rembert Weakland and an "entourage of church officials" met with editor Mary Jo Meisner demanding that she kill a reporter's investigative stories. The series would have detailed how the archdiocese had paid millions of dollars of hush money to silence victims of pedophile priests who were being moved from parish to parish. Meisner stood firm.
But, McNally reports, when Weakland went to "higher-ups" at the newspaper, he prevailed and the stories never ran.
When the Journal and Sentinel merged, McNally noted, the reporter was pulled off the religion beat and was "exiled to covering suburban village board meetings."
"Who knows how many children could have been spared" if the series had run, McNally wonders. Source: Capital Times [Madison, WI], April 6, 2002
Female Victims Overlooked
"Of the priests we've evaluated, more abuse girls than abuse boys," says Gary Schoener, a psychologist who, with his staff at the Minneapolis Walk-in Counseling Center, has counseled more than 2,000 victims of clergy since 1974.
Schoener says he sees six times more females (adolescent and adult) than male victims of priests. He estimates that 98% of all priest sex cases are settled out of court.
"The sexual abuse of a boy is treated far more seriously, and is considered a far worse offense than girls or women."
A.W. Richard Sipe, who has conducted studies and written books on the sex lives of priests, said he agrees with Schoener--a majority of priest victims are female, most of them adult.
"Everything's always about the altar boys. It's like nothing ever happened to the girls," says Terrie Light, West Coast regional director of SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests).
Light was 8 when, looking for her mother in the rectory in the Oakland diocese, she was reportedly raped by a priest. Sources: Sacramento Bee, March 21, 2002; Salon, March 27, 2002
Wedded to the Right
President Bush, unveiling his welfare overhaul at a Catholic church in Washington, D.C., included a proposal to commit hundreds of millions of tax dollars for welfare to the promotion of marriage.
In addition to up to $135 million for "abstinence education," Bush wants to funnel $22 million in public money, approved by Congress for child support collection, to pro-marriage experiments in about 15 communities.
Bush and "fatherhood" czar Wade Horn, of the Administration for Children and Families, also want to incorporate "marriage and fatherhood" messages into Head Start, childcare, welfare, and programs for runaway and homeless youth.
Bush will be asking Congress to allocate up to $300 million in federal and state money to "pro-marriage experiments" when it renews the welfare law this year.
Sacramento Chaplaincy Backed
Sacramento County supervisors voted 4-0 in late March to continue to fund a chaplaincy program which had required participants to be Christian.
Law Enforcement Chaplaincy-Sacramento, formed in 1977, now has about 70 volunteer chaplains who provide "pastoral care" to law enforcement officers, their families and crime victims. The chaplaincy receives most of its funds from payroll deductions, as well as $32,000 from the county, and $15,000 from the city.
In November it was revealed the bylaws require chaplains to sign a statement of faith professing to be followers of Jesus Christ. Chaplains also signed an "ethics code" agreeing not to preside over marriages of "improper persons"--such as gays and nonbelievers. The chaplaincy, finally capitulating after a public outcry, recently agreed to accept participants of all faiths and to drop its "ethics" requirement.
Officials will not renew a Probation Department agreement, in which the group received a 10% fee for administering a contract for chaplain services at juvenile detention facilities.
"First Amendment Not a Shield"
The Florida Supreme Court ruled in March that the Constitution does not protect churches from lawsuits charging clergy sexual abuse.
Said the court: "The First Amendment does not provide a shield behind which a church may avoid liability" for negligent hiring and supervision of its clergy members.
Priest helps run CUNY. The New York Senate in mid-April confirmed a priest and top church administrator as a City of University New York trustee, despite opposition to his stands against abortion, contraception and gay rights. Gov. George Pataki nominated Rev. John Bonnici, who directs the Archdiocese of New York's Family Life/Respect Life Office.
Just what Afghans need--more religion. The U.S. Agency for International Development will spend $6.5 million in taxpayer funds to produce textbooks, including Islamic teachings and verses from the Koran, for Afghanistan's schools. The USAID is giving a grant to the University of Nebraska at Omaha to provide textbooks and teacher-training kits to the schools.
Oh, we got trouble. A pastor should be present at all city cabinet-level meetings, according to Rev. Carlton N. Pressley, the new senior religious adviser of Mayor Anthony A. Williams, Washington, D.C. Pressley and the rest of the mayor's 65-member Interfaith Council were "installed" at an evening service at Metropolitan Baptist Church in late February, with a keynote by Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Christians, teens, NRA. The Christian Coalition, a group of teenagers with Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney of the antiabortion Christian Defense Coalition, and the National Rifle Association have all filed separate lawsuits challenging restrictions on campaign spending signed into law by President Bush this spring.
One-upping Judge Moore? Rather than being given the right to marry, "gays and lesbians should be put in some type of mental institution," wrote George County Justice Court Judge Connie Wilkerson, of Mississippi, in a published letter to the George County Times on March 28. He added: "You need to know, as I know, that God in heaven is not pleased with this and I am sounding the alarm."
Ohio Department's intelligent decision. After a hairy two-month push by creationists for inclusion of "intelligent design" in school textbooks, the Ohio Education Department issued a new draft in April with no changes in its position that students will be taught evolution. The State Board of Education--infiltrated by "intelligent design" supporters--has a Dec. 31 deadline to vote on the standards.
Publicly funded religious diatribes. Florida state Rep. Randy Ball, R-Brevard County, sent a letter on House stationery to Florida newspapers in late March, which the St. Petersburg Times characterized as a "religious diatribe," condemning "homosexuality as an abomination" and speaking of a "transcendent God." Earlier in March, Ball sent out emails on his state computer invoking Jesus Christ and condemning gay adoption. Ball defended his use of state equipment and stationery: "This country runs and operates on the Judeo-Christian ethic that comes out of the bible."
One Nigerian mother saved. After an international outcry, a Nigerian mother of five sentenced to die by stoning for "adultery" after a rape, was freed on March 25--but another woman has received the same sentence under Islamic shariah rules. Amina Lawal Kurami, charged with having a baby out of wedlock, is now appealing her death sentence.
Ireland says "no" to Catholic Church. The Irish electorate in March narrowly rejected a constitutional amendment further restricting abortion, promoted by the Catholic Church in opposition to a Supreme Court judgment allowing abortions for suicidal women.
Legislators walk out. Six lawmakers walked out during a March 5 morning prayer in the Colorado Senate by a Greeley pastor, who prayed to Jesus for lawmakers to accept Jesus and to reverse Roe vs. Wade.
Charter profiteering. A California state panel said in March it found "mind-boggling" mismanagement and profiteering at 40 out of 87 public charter schools serving home-study students in California at a cost of $4,800 per pupil. More than 20 charters were unevaluated due to missing deadlines.
A licensed atheist. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles sent a February notice to Steven Miles of Gainesville, revoking his "ATHEIST" license plate as "obscene or objectionable." After a public outcry, the Department reneged the order in March.
"Permeated with fraud." The Federal Trade Commission has gone to court to shut down "Miss Cleo's psychic hotline," with Florida authorities joining the states of Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in filing separate suits.
Florida code pushes religion. By a 9-4 vote on April 4, a negotiating team approved a compromise to a 1,800-page rewrite of Florida's school code, pushed by Gov. Jeb Bush, which includes provisions allowing students to pray, preach and distribute religious literature. Many senators warned it comes with a million-dollar price tag in expected lawsuits.
Florida voucher scandal. The St. Petersburg Times published an April expose about Florida's $25-million-a-year voucher program, revealing that entrepreneur educators Art and Angel Rocker, who stand to collect $1.5 million in school voucher money this year, are quitting. The rightwing couple is leaving church leaders in charge of the church schools, dogged by complaints of teacher turnover, low pay, and even using food banks to feed students.
Arizona charter revoked over religion. The Arizona Board of Education voted in late March to revoke the state's first charter school, with a Glendale school accused of illegally promoting religion with its $1.1 million in tax support.
Saving clergy tax breaks. The House of Representatives voted 408-0 in mid-April to approve H.R. 4156, clarifying the "parsonage" exemption that ministers, priests and rabbis have received for housing since 1921. The legislation, which moved into the Senate, codifies the IRS' most restrictive practice of permitting clergy to deduct the "fair rental value" of their homes.
Justice Department staff complained in March that U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has added singalongs of his own song to the routine at his daily prayer meetings. When asked by the Guardian why she objected, a department lawyer replied: "Have you heard the song? It really sucks."
Ashcroft launched into a lusty 4-minute rendition of "Let the Eagle Soar" following a recent speech to a seminary. Excerpts of the tape repeatedly have run on CBS' David Letterman Show, but Ashcroft declined to reprise his "hit" during an April appearance there.
The Guardian reported the AG even asked for Hispanic volunteers to translate his song into Spanish. An excerpt: "Soar with healing in her wings, As the land beneath her sings. Only God, no other kings. Let the mighty eagle soar."
A clip of Ashcroft's unusual performance, showcasing a Pentecostal-style vibrato, which must be seen to be believed, is at: http://cnn.com/video/us/2002/02/025/ashcroft.sings.wbtv.med.html (download RealPlayer at real.com to play).
"Should the Praying Mantis Be Our State Insect?"
The following letter, written by a Foundation member, was published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press [March 28]:
The Legislature has passed and the governor approved the image of a praying male figure as an official "state photograph." Can we next expect a state religious watercolor or oil painting? Will we need a state weed or state cloud formation? Should the praying mantis be our state insect?
In addition to making Minnesota appear silly, there is a serious aspect. The insinuation of religious themes in governmental affairs is an insult to the 14 percent of Americans who do not have a god belief. And it weakens the constitutional separation of church and state.
Shame on the Legislature for passing this bill.
--William Van Druten, Minnesota
Squaring Off at Temple Square
An "UnHoly Trinity": Steve Clark, who heads the Salamander Society; cartoonist and former Mormon Steve Benson; and Foundation staffer Dan Barker, in front of the aptly named Temple "Square" during the April General Conference weekend in Salt Lake City.
Entertaining at Ex-Mo's Expo
Taking Mormonism by storm: Steve Benson and Dan Barker, seated by a "disclaimer" at the Salt Lake City Public Library, where the two performed their inimitable cartoon-music revue, "Tunes 'n 'Toons," on April 6 and 7--blasphemously coinciding with the Mormon General Conference. But no disclaimer was needed for this crowd--the program was sponsored by the Salamander Society, made up of irreverent ex-Mormons.
Steve, a Pulitzer Prize-winning daily editorial cartoonist, is the grandson of the late Ezra Taft Benson, the former Mormon president. Dan, a piano-player and songwriter who used to be an evangelical minister, is public relations director for the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Rubbing salt into Salt Lake City, the two included several new parodies of Mormon-style hymns.
The two performances before "Latter-Day 'Aints" give new meaning to the term "Mormon missionaries."
Pardners in Crime, Dallas-Style
Dan and Steve entertained the Atheist Alliance annual convention in Dallas over Easter "Unholy Weekend" in late March, with their fusion of cartoons and musical commentary on religion and state/church relations. The Dallas program spotlighted commentary on former Texas Gov. George Bush, and the discriminatory Boy Scouts of America, headquartered in nearby Irving, Texas.
That "yellow rose of Texas between two thorns" is Foundation officer Catherine Fahringer, of Texas.
In Spanish: Brahms, el Librepensador
How many parents, soothing their children to sleep with Brahms's Lullaby, know they are singing a melody written by a freethinker?
Johannes Brahms, the great German composer known as the "3rd B" (after Bach and Beethoven), did not believe in a god.
Born in 1833--the same year as American freethinker Robert G. Ingersoll--Brahms shed his Christian upbringing early, though not without being fully informed. Jan Swafford, in Johannes Brahms: A Biography, writes of the young composer: "Though he was to be a freethinker in religion, Johannes pored over the Bible beyond the requirements for his Protestant confirmation." From then on, "Music was Brahms's religion."
In his teens, Brahms would prop books of poetry on the piano to divert himself while playing for drunken sailors in a Hamburg bar. His favorite poet, from whom many of his lyrics sprang, was the anticlerical G. F. Daumer, described by the Catholic Encyclopedia as an "enemy of Christianity" who "strove to substitute a new religion 'of love and peace.' " (In later years, Daumer converted to Catholicism.) Brahms's works were also influenced by philosophy and literature, including Hoffman, Schiller, Robert Burns, Jean Paul, and Friedrich Hšlderlin. He had a keen interest in science, and could hold his own debating politics, literature, religion and philosophy.
An avid hiker who loved the outdoors, Brahms often turned to nature for ideas. "A great deal of his music," writes Swafford, "in its inspiration and spirit, rose from mountains and forests and open sky." The melody for the finale of the C-minor Symphony actually traces the shape of the Alps, as Brahms viewed them during a hike.
Brahms occasionally used biblical texts, but only for artistic reasons. After the death of his mother, he wrote the popular Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem, 1867), but was careful to select only those biblical lyrics that relate to this life and to those who grieve. The Requiem starts with "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted," and avoids talk of eternal salvation. Noticing this secular spin, conductor Karl Reinthaler, who had studied theology and was working closely with Brahms on the Easter Week premiere, wrote to Brahms: "Forgive me, but I wondered if it might not be possible to extend the work in some way that would bring it closer to a Good Friday service . . . what is lacking, at least for a Christian consciousness, is the pivotal point: the salvation in the death of our Lord. . . ."
In other words, what about Jesus?
"Brahms was not about to put up with that sort of thing," Swafford writes. "He was a humanist and an agnostic, and his requiem was going to express that, Reinthaler or no. . . . With the title A German Requiem he intended to convey that this is not the liturgical requiem mass in Latin, nor a German translation of it, but a personal testament, a requiem. Brahms avoided dogma in the piece for the same reason . . . even if the words come from the Bible, this was his response to death as a secular, skeptical, modern man."
Brahms responded politely but firmly to Reinthaler: "As far as the text is concerned, I confess that I would gladly omit even the word German and instead use Human; also with my best knowledge and will I would dispense with places like John 3:16. On the other hand, I have chosen one thing or another because I am a musician, because I needed it, and because with my venerable authors I can't delete or dispute anything. But I had better stop before I say too much."
He had already said enough! The verse Brahms explicitly discards is central to Christianity: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Swafford concludes: "Brahms means that he could do without that verse and that dogma, in Ein deutsches Requiem and in his life. If he was a North German Protestant by tradition and temperament, he was not in his faith, which like all his convictions Brahms held close to his chest. For himself he would not call Christ a particular son of God. Meanwhile, to Reinthaler he downplays the theology of some verses he does use, saying, 'I can't delete or dispute anything' from Scripture. With that he obliquely confesses that even the hints of resurrection lingering in his texts are not his own sentiments. At the end of his Requiem, the dead are not reborn but released: 'they rest from their labors.' It is that rest from his own lonely labors that Brahms yearned for someday, as his mother rested from her life of poverty and toil."
When Brahms sometimes spoke of immortality, it was metaphorically, jokingly. To his publisher, he once wrote: "Done! What is done? The violin concerto? No. . . . One knows nothing definite; even the most credulous doesn't. . . . And I am credulous. Indeed, I believe in immortality--; I believe that when an immortal dies, people will keep on for 50,000 years and more, talking idiotically and badly about him--thus I believe in immortality, without which beautiful and agreeable attribute I have the honor to be--Your J. Br."
To his friend Richard Heuberger, Brahms, who never married, said, "Apart from Frau Schumann I'm not attached to anybody with my whole soul! And truly that is terrible and one should neither think such a thing nor say it. Is that not a lonely life! Yet we can't believe in immortality on the other side. The only true immortality lies in one's children."
Clara Schumann, by the way, the virtuoso pianist and composer who was a true life-long friend of Brahms, also had little use for the church. "Performing was her religion," Swafford observes. "The world saw Clara Schumann as a priestess, something like a saint. If there is such a thing as a secular saint, surely she was one."
Brahms also used non-biblical gods for his own purposes. The text for Gesang der Parzen (Song of the Fates, 1882) is from Goethe's Iphigenia: "Let the race of man, Fear the gods! They hold the power, In eternal hands, And they use it, As they please. . . ." However, Swafford notes that Brahms's own "gods" were earthly, not supernatural: "When he said to George Henschel, 'As much as we men . . . are above the creeping things of the earth, so these gods are above us!' the gods he spoke of were his personal ones, his real religion: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and the others. Now he approached his age with the gods of the earth vanished, and the ones in the heavens silent and unapproachable."
While working on NŠnie, his commemoration of the death of his friend, the painter Anselm Feuerbach, Brahms wrote another friend: "Won't you try to find me some words? . . . The ones in the Bible are not heathen enough for me. I've bought the Koran but can't find anything there either."
Brahms was not just a nominal unbeliever. He often had well-thought opinions on religion. Pastor and playwright Josef Widmann, who once expressed to Brahms his support of the Theological Reform movement in Switzerland, was surprised to find Brahms "not only cognizant of the issue but with forceful and contrary opinions about it." Brahms pronounced it "a half-measure that would satisfy neither the pious nor the freethinkers," Swafford writes.
Remarkable for that time and place, Brahms was never anti-Semitic. "Toward the end of his life," Swafford notes, "responding to the antisemitism that had become endemic in Austrian politics, Brahms was heard to growl, 'Next week I'm going to have myself circumcised!' . . . Brahms may have idolized Bismarck and the authoritarian Prussians, but he remained a liberal and a democrat at heart."
When the Christian Socialists finally elected Karl Lueger vice-mayor of Vienna in 1895, ending the long liberal rule, turning Austria formally anti-Semitic from then until Hitler, Brahms remarked to his friends: "Didn't I tell you years ago that it was going to happen? You laughed at me then and everybody else did too. Now it's here, and with it the priests' economic system. If there was an 'Anticlerical Party'--that would make sense! But antisemitism is madness!"
Brahms hated the music of Anton Bruckner, a devout believer whose works were later performed with gusto by the Nazis. "Everything is affectation with him, nothing is natural," Brahms said. "As to his piety--that's his business, it's nothing to me."
But Brahms admired the music of Dvor‡k, whom he had helped financially when the young Bohemian was a struggling writer. In later years, they had occasion to become well acquainted. "As the two of them talked," Swafford writes about one of their long conversations, "Brahms rambled on about his agnosticism, his growing interest in Schopenhauer, the philosopher of pessimism (Wagner's favorite). On the way back to his hotel with violinist Josef Suk, Dvor‡k was thoughtful and silent. Suddenly he exclaimed with real anguish, 'Such a man, such a fine soul--and he believes in nothing! He believes in nothing!' "
Dvor‡k's "fine soul" assessment was not hyperbole. Brahms the unbeliever was always generous and helpful, sharing his wealth liberally, living simply and humbly, giving of his time and energies to others. Swafford relates an exciting and illuminating event when Brahms was spending the summer of 1885 in MŸrzzuschlag:
"One day a carpenter's shop in his house erupted in flames. Brahms ran from his workroom in shirtsleeves to join the bucket brigade to fight the fire, shouting at well-dressed passersby to lend a hand. In the confusion someone pulled him aside and told him his papers were threatened by the blaze. Brahms thought it over for a second, then returned to the buckets. Richard Fellinger finally extracted from him the key to his room and ran to save the score of the Fourth Symphony. When the fire was out--his rooms were not touched--Brahms shrugged off the threat to his manuscript with 'Oh, the poor people needed help more than I did.' He followed that up by slipping the carpenter money for rebuilding. (He could, after all, have rewritten the symphony from memory.)"
Not only was Brahms's Lullaby (Wiegenlied) written by a freethinker, but its story might be considered scandalous by some Christians. The song was written in honor of the birth of a child of Brahms's friends Bertha and Artur Faber in 1868. Years earlier, Brahms had briefly fallen in love with Bertha when she was a young visitor to his female choir in Hamburg, and during the playful courtship she used to sing him a lilting 3/4-time Viennese melody. The romance ended, but the friendship endured, and the melody that Brahms later composed for the private lullaby was a creative counterpoint to the earlier love song that the child's mother would remember singing to the composer. When he presented the gift to the Fabers, Brahms included this note to her husband: "Frau Bertha will realize that I wrote the 'Wiegenlied' for her little one. She will find it quite in order . . . that while she is singing Hans to sleep, a love song is being sung to her." Bertha was the first person to sing Brahms's Lullaby, both love melodies dancing flirtatiously in her head.
Brahms enjoyed near perfect health until the last few months, not even reporting as much as a headache, rarely visiting a doctor. On the morning Brahms's life ended in Vienna in 1897--he was almost 64, felled by liver cancer long before he was ready to go--there was no death-bed conversion, no regret for living a godless life. Artur Faber (Bertha's husband), had come to the sick man's bed that morning to give him a glass of wine for his thirst. "Oh that tasted fine. You're a kind man," Brahms said, his last recorded words.
Johannes Brahms did not seek immortality, but he got it anyway: not in children, not in heaven, but in the beauty he bequeathed to the world.
It was a Sunday around 10 a.m. when our engine company was dispatched to a possible seizure at a Baptist church in our district. We arrived to find several frantic people in the church lobby crowded around the patient--a moderately retarded woman in her 40s with a history of epilepsy and diabetes. Her skin color was blue (cyanosis) and she was still actively seizing. Much to my amazement two people on each side of her were physically holding her upright in a chair as she convulsed (not recommended)! I soon learned that she had been seizing for about 10 minutes. The seizure started during church services (which were still in progress even now) and they had carried her out into the lobby while she was still seizing . . . hey, the sermon must go on!
Our first action was to place her on the floor and assist her breathing with oxygen and a bag-valve mask. A lot of other things were being done simultaneously such as airway suctioning, IVs, checking glucose levels (she's diabetic so she may require sugar), and getting med orders for Valium (to stop the convulsions). No sooner had I drawn the proper dose of Valium into the syringe and was preparing to inject it into the IV when this man walks up to us and identifies himself as "a church deacon," after which he says, and I quote:
"Excuse me, but services are about to conclude and I need to clear this area so people can exit. Can you move her [the patient] somewhere else?"
For a moment I just looked at him in stunned silence, not really believing what I had just heard. I looked him in the eye and he just glared back with a smug expression, almost as if to say, "Well, are you going to move her or not?" I only had time to respond, "I think this [situation] is a little more important, don't you? The people can wait!"
Fortunately, once I gave the medication the seizure broke and the patient ultimately recovered. Well, perhaps our actions were of no use after all and Jesus simply chose this precise moment to answer the "healing prayers" from the congregation? Yeah, right! In any event, the good outcome in this case isn't the issue. The issue is the insensitivity displayed by this deacon, and how his Christian beliefs apparently did not inspire him to any sort of special "Christian compassion" for a person in need. No matter where you go in the world you are going to find some people who are compassionate and sensitive to the needs of others, and other people who are not; and what religion they happen to profess, if any at all, makes no difference whatsoever.
The story could end here and my point would be sufficiently made, but there is another issue to address--a scriptural issue that, if true, would probably put me out of a job!
Jesus on Epilepsy
As was related in my account, the woman suffered from epilepsy. And according to the bible, what is the cause of epilepsy? Why "demon possession," of course! Matthew 17:14-18:
When they came to the crowd, a man came to him, knelt before him, and said, "Lord, have mercy on my son, because he is epileptic and suffers terribly. . . ." Then Jesus rebuked the demon and it came out of him; and the child was healed from that moment.
Many Christian commentaries, embarrassed by Jesus' obvious lack of medical knowledge, attempt to save face. They contend that Jesus did know that there was no such thing as demon possession, but in appearing to expel demons from afflicted persons he was really just curing them of a disease and relating it to the people in a symbolic language they could understand. The problem is that other passages, such as Mark 5:11-13, tell us that Jesus not only expels literal "demons" from people, but even forces them to possess a herd of 2,000 swine. After which, he shows his legendary compassion by forcing the entire herd to drown in a nearby lake! Jesus wasn't too fond of pigs and dogs, and he apparently had some personal issues with fig trees as well. . . .
Other passages also demonstrate literal "demons" as being the cause of sickness and disability (Matthew 8:28-33; Matthew 12:22; Mark 16:17; Acts 19:12, 15-16). Indeed, Jesus himself was accused of being "possessed by Beelzebul" (Mark 3:22; John 8:48). Funny, though, I don't recall "demon possession" ever being discussed as a pathological explanation for seizure disorders in the paramedic school I attended. And for some reason "casting out demons" is frowned upon by my physician advisor.
Maybe I should bring this up at the next paramedic meeting? Maybe not.
April 5 marked a yearÕs anniversary since a Judge in Adams County ordered the acquittal of Rodney Scott for allegedly removing a roadside memorial. The memorial consisted of a Christian cross and related paraphernalia placed by private citizens on the median strip at the intersection of Interstate 70 and East Colfax Avenue. Shortly after Scott allegedly removed the memorial, it was replaced.
In ordering Rodney ScottÕs acquittal, the judge ruled that roadside memorials erected by private citizens are litter, unlawful advertising, and an unauthorized taking of public property for private use. The Judge also ruled that they are a distraction and present a hazard to the motoring public. Therefore, at the conclusion of ScottÕs case, the Colorado Department of Transportation was asked to remove the roadside memorial at issue and similar memorials. CDOT has refused to do so.
A request was also made to the Adams County Sheriff to ticket those who brazenly clutter the public landscape with these objectionable displays. That request was refused. Bob Grant, the Adams County District Attorney who brought the Scott case, has also refused to file charges against these lawbreakers. Instead, he has appealed the JudgeÕs ruling. However, he did not ask for a stay, meaning that the ruling has all the force and effect of law and that CDOT should be removing these memorials and law enforcement should be prosecuting citizens who erect them.
To make matters worse, not only does the memorial Scott was charged with removing remain standing, new memorials have been popping up all over the State. In fact, such a memorial which contains a large figure of an angel was placed on the front lawn of CDOTÕs Region 1 headquarters and it has been allowed to remain there.
Time and time again we hear our public officials say that the law is the law and that we must obey the law, like it or not. ItÕs obvious that the public officials responsible for implementing the ruling in the Rodney Scott case have decided that this principle does not apply to them. TheyÕll simply refuse to apply the law if it doesnÕt happen to suit their fancy.
A small crowd gathered in downtown Milwaukee on March 27 to witness the removal of a monument of the Ten Commandments from city property where it had stood since 1957.
The ceremony began with remarks by Ald. Jeff Pawlinski serving as spokesman for the Milwaukee Common Council. The events of this day came about because the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals declaring such monuments to be violations of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Disagreeing with the Court but bowing to it, Pawlinski nevertheless lamented the necessary removal of the monument and its return to the Fraternal Order of Eagles, which donated the monument in 1955 in a ceremony with actor Yul Brynner to promote the movie "The Ten Commandments."
Making an apparently obligatory "nod to god," both politicians and Eagles officials, understanding neither the Ten Commandments nor the First Amendment, mourned this "sad" day and pointed the finger of blame at the "notorious Freedom From Religion Foundation," which brought the lawsuit resulting in its removal.
Don Runnells, a spokesman for the Eagles, insisted, "This has nothing to do with religion. It's about morals." Every Christian and Jew in the country ought to cringe at such nonsense. According to Exodus 20 and Deut. 5, the Decalogue was given as a covenant between God and Israel, the equivalent of a treaty between a King and a lesser lord who owed him loyalty.
The Ten Commandments begin with the statement "I am the LORD [YAHWEH] your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery." Whatever else the commandments are, they are a profound statement of faith, with each precept a stipulation of a covenant. They were never intended as mere "universal principles" acceptable to all people everywhere, as Stan Thompson of the Fraternal Order of Eagles asserted.
Ald. Pawlinski declared that the commandments are "the foundation of our nation's laws and the very structure of our society." Yet, only three of the commandments (on murder, theft and perjury) deal with modern law. It is not, after all, illegal to "have any other gods," to "misuse the name of the LORD," or work on the Sabbath (Saturday)--unless "blue laws" dictate otherwise. It's not even illegal, in spite of personal moral scruples, to dishonor your parents, commit adultery or "covet your neighbor's house." In a free state, the government has no right to make rules on those matters.
This monument contains not only the Decalogue, but also two stars of David and a Chi Rho symbol, the liturgical symbol of Christ using the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ. In effect, therefore, the monument promotes ("establishes") two religions. Those of other religions or of none at all are pointedly ignored.
It is also significant that the commandments are listed by the Catholic/Lutheran numbering, incorporating the stipulation about idols or graven images (the second commandment to most Protestants) into the first and makes two coveting commandments. A monument containing the Ten Commandments in Dallas, Memphis or Charlotte would likely have the Protestant numbering, listing a separate commandment on "graven images" and only one on coveting. Therefore the monument not only endorses the Judeo-Christian tradition, but a particular form of the Christian religion.
The best statement of the day was by Ald. Don Richards, who said that American liberty is exemplified in the freedom of the group gathered there to speak their minds on the issues involved. On the other hand, Common Council President Marvin Pratt rubbed salt in the wounds of those upholding the constitutional separation of church and state by declaring that from now on the Milwaukee Common Council will begin with prayer.
In his official remarks, Ald. Pawlinski stated that this monument "inspired those who passed by City Hall in the past half century" and that it will continue to "comfort" visitors at its new location at St. Joseph's Hospital.
As one trained in Lutheran theology, I winced at the notion that this monument was meant to comfort and inspire people. A Lutheran axiom asserts the "law always accuses" (lex semper accusat). Paul in Romans says the "law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression" (4:15) and in 3:20, "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his [God's] sight by observing the law; rather through the law we become conscious of sin."
The fundamental theological purpose of the law in the New Testament, especially in Paul's theology, is to condemn sinners and to drive them to Christ. To find comfort and inspiration in the Ten Commandments, therefore, on the bible's own terms, is to find comfort in God's condemnation of humankind for violating the commandments. Far from being an inspiration or comfort to all those who pass by, they condemn to hell all those who do not live up to the commandments by thought, word and deed! Those who reduce the Decalogue to a statement of governing principles insult the original purpose of those commandments. Every Jew and every Christian, let alone every unbeliever, ought to protest against such a misuse.
In Luther's catechetical explanation of the Ten Commandments, each command began with the expression "We should fear and love God . . ." as in the (Lutheran/Catholic) fifth commandment, where Luther says "We should fear and love God, and so we should not endanger our neighbor's life, nor cause him any harm, but help and befriend him in every necessity of life." The Decalogue is essentially a religious document.
The courts of the land, therefore, have it absolutely right: To post the Ten Commandments or to endorse them is to establish a religion. The First Amendment speaks precisely to this when it says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."