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In the News

S.C. atheists barred from volunteering

Upstate Atheists, a freethought group in the Spartanburg, S.C., area, was barred from volunteering at the Spartanburg Soup Kitchen, according to an Oct. 23 story in the Herald-Journal.

Eve Brannon, 25, Upstate Atheists president, said the group would instead hand out 300 “care” packages to the needy on Oct. 26. Packages contained socks, gloves, toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, soap, rain ponchos, snacks, shaving razors, antiseptic wipes, deodorants, tissues and gum.

“I told them we wouldn’t wear our T-shirts. We wouldn’t tell anyone who we are with. We just want to help out,” Brannon said. “And they told us that we were not allowed.”

Lou Landrum, Soup Kitchen executive director, told the Herald-Journal she would resign before she let atheists volunteer and be a “disservice to this community.”

“This is a ministry to serve God,” she said. “We stand on the principles of God. Do they think that our guests are so ignorant that they don’t know what an atheist is? Why are they targeting us? They don’t give any money. I wouldn’t want their money.”

Landrum added, “They can set up across the street from the Soup Kitchen. They can have the devil there with them, but they better not come across the street.”

Legion pulls support over pledge refusal

American Legion Post 134 in Morton Grove, Ill., withdrew its financial support for the city park district because park board member Dan Ashta refuses to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. Post Commander Joseph Lampert confronted Ashta at the Oct. 24 board meeting.

Ashta thanked Lampert for speaking his mind, according to the Morton Grove Champion, but stood his ground, as he did earlier when he told the village clerk that “I feel like we’re compelling people to speak,” adding that the First Amendment affords the right to also not speak.

Ashta objected to making people pledge allegiance to a government they might oppose. He said people with objections to religion or religious objections also shouldn’t have to feel isolated or unwanted for not standing.

“I think the Constitution is what makes this country great and worth making sacrifices for. Countries with weak constitutions usually don’t last,” Ashta said.

Post 134, with about 800 members, contributes $2,600 annually to city-sponsored events.


Christian college group flush with cash

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, headquartered in Madison, Wis., had just over $99 million in 2012-13 revenues, according to an Oct. 9 InterVarsity press release. That amount puts InterVarsity atop a list of Wisconsin nonprofits compiled by KerstenDirect, a Texas fundraising and marketing agency. The ranking doesn’t include hospitals, universities, museums and several other categories of nonprofits.

InterVarsity’s National Service Center in Madison serves over 1,600 staff, including field staff who work with 909 InterVarsity chapters on 590 college and university campuses across the U.S.

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State/Church Bulletin

Bus driving pastor
fired for prayer 

George Nathaniel, 49, Richfield, Minn., was fired Oct. 30 as a bus driver for refusing to stop leading students in prayer. The private contractor fired him after getting repeated complaints from the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District.

Nathaniel is pastor at the Elite Church of the First Born and Grace Missionary Baptist Church, reported the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Nathaniel said he drove school buses in Wisconsin and Georgia before coming to Minnesota and that he’s always prayed with students.

“We got to get Christians to be able to be Christians and not have to be closet Christians. You have something good, you are going to share it with somebody.”

He allegedly waited till the last child got on the bus before starting the daily prayers, which lasted about seven minutes.


Catholic ‘Red Mass’ draws high court

Five U.S. Supreme Court justices attended the annual Catholic “Red Mass” at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington on Oct. 6, as did several members of Congress and Denis McDonough, White House chief of staff. Attending were Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan. (The first three are Catholic and the last two are Jewish.)

The Mass continued a 60-year-old tradition and is intended to bless the upcoming work of the Supreme Court and other judges and public officials, reported the Legal Times. The name refers to the bright red vestments worn by clergy and to the red flame symbolizing the Holy Ghost.

In Stars of David, a 2005 book by Abigail Pogrebin, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said of the Red Mass, “I went one year and I will never go again, because this sermon was outrageously anti-abortion. Even the Scalias, although they’re very much of that persuasion, were embarrassed for me.”


16-year-old ordered
to have baby

The Nebraska Supreme Court, in a 5-2 decision Oct. 4, denied a 16-year-old girl’s request for an abortion, saying she had not shown that “she is sufficiently mature and well informed to decide on her own whether to have an abortion.”

The girl lives with foster parents because she was taken away from her biological parents due to physical abuse and neglect. At the parental rights hearing, she told the court she was pregnant and couldn’t support a child or be “the right mom that [she] would like to be right now.” She also told the court she feared losing her placement in foster care if her highly religious foster parents found out she was pregnant.

The district court judge, Peter Batallion, appears to have served in the 1980s on the Omaha committee for Metro Right to Life, according to the Houston Chronicle. Batallion allegedly told her “when you have the abortion, it’s going to kill the child inside of you” and asked if she would “rather do that than risk problems with the foster care people.”


Vets threaten
boycott over prayer

American Legion Post 311 in Hawley, Pa., said if its chaplain isn’t allowed to pray at the Veterans Day ceremony at Wallenpaupack Area High School, members will boycott the ceremony.

The post chaplain has never prayed at the annual ceremony, but when Commander William Kennett heard that graduation prayers were no longer allowed [following a complaint by FFRF last June], he asked if that applied to the Veterans Day event. Yes, it does, he was told, reported the Pocono Record.

In a letter to the editor, Pat Thompson, Legion executive board member, spread a widely believed myth: “There are no atheists in foxholes. Saying a prayer does not establish a religion.”


Tiller prosecutor
loses law license

Former Kansas Attorney General Phillip Kline lost his law license indefinitely Oct. 18 after the Kansas Supreme Court unanimously ruled he violated ethics rules in his prosecution of abortion providers, including the late Dr. George Tiller.

The court, in a 154-page decision, found that Kline, attorney general from 2003-07, demonstrated “overzealous advocacy” and failed to operate “within the bounds of the law,” reported the National Law Journal.

Kline, now an assistant professor at Christian-oriented Liberty University School of Law in Lynchburg, Va., can’t seek bar readmission for three years.

He was at the center of controversy in 2006 when a memo from Kline to his staff was leaked. In the memo, he told staff how to form a campaign committee for him at each church to “encourage people to contribute and volunteer.” 


God in Air Force
oath now optional

The U.S. Air Force Academy has made “so help me God” optional in its honor code after being pressured by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, CNN reported Oct. 25. The oath reads “We will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does, so help me God.”

Cadets had been required to recite the oath at the end of basic training. It’s also taken yearly by all cadets to reaffirm their commitment to the honor code, said academy spokesman Maj. Brus Vidal.

The academy respects “the ability of our cadets, Airmen and civilian Airmen to freely practice and exercise their religious preference — or not,” a statement said.

Mikey Weinstein, MRFF’s founder and president, said he intends to sue unless the offending phrase is removed, even if it’s optional. “If the words are still there and you don’t say [them], you turn yourself into a tarantula on a wedding cake.”

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FFRF Legal Victories

FFRF halts Ohio flagpole prayer

FFRF successfully ended a “See You At The Pole” event at Columbia High School in Tiffin, Ohio, after learning that a teacher organized and promoted the event, going so far as to order pizza and lead the students in prayer. The school principal also participated, promoting the event through the school’s morning announcements and commenting that he thought prayer was “an important thing to do.”

Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel sent a letter Oct. 8 to Superintendent Don Coletta to explain the violation: “Faculty participation and organization of a prayer event is inappropriate and problematic. Even if a prayer event in your school is hosted by a student organization, adult participation or promotion is impermissible. While the school cannot prohibit students from organizing or participating in a prayer event, the Supreme Court has stated that public school employees, including teachers, must refrain from actively participating in religious activities.”

Coletta responded Oct. 14: “I have taken steps with both individuals (and others) to make sure our personnel are both aware of the legal boundaries and that they act within them. I intend to monitor this situation in an effort to ensure both the rights of students and the obligation of the District are honored.”


Teacher: Freedom ‘comes from God’

A Michigan social studies teacher will no longer be allowed to distribute and display a poster with the Pledge of Allegiance alongside a message asserting that “our freedom ultimately comes from God” and that the founding fathers felt similarly.

Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel sent an Oct. 11  letter to Superintendent Tim Haist of Big Rapids [Township] High School: “While the recitation and display of the Pledge of Allegiance in a public school is permissible, promoting and displaying religious arguments alongside it are not. The poster’s assertion overlooks many statements from this country’s founders which acknowledge their secular principles, and thus flatly ignores the secular position on the issue.”

The posters were produced by Gateways to Better Education, a Christian group whose mission is to inject “faith in the public schools” and to teach students “about the importance of the bible and Judeo-Christian history, thought and values.”

Haist replied Oct. 14 that the teacher in question had been told that “District policy states that we can ‘neither advance nor inhibit religion.’ ” Haist said the teacher was also given a document stating, “While Michigan standards do include an exploration of the American government and its foundation, including fundamental ideas and philosophical and historical origins through investigation, I struggle to see the connection between the pledge and this standard. The pledge in not a foundational document. As we both know, it was written over 100 years later and not adopted by our government until 1954.”

He also encouraged the teacher to write a lesson plan about the pledge’s revisions and their historical context.


FFRF grounds prayer
 at Atlanta airport

A staff member at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport attended an employee and customer satisfaction luncheon that was organized by the airport, which is owned by the city of Atlanta and is the busiest U.S. airport. The lunch began with a Christian prayer, during which guests were instructed to bow their heads. It included readings of bible verses and was led by a Christian chaplain.

Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel contacted the airport on behalf of the local complainant, pointing out that such prayer “creates acrimony, makes minorities feel like political outsiders in their own community, and shows unconstitutional governmental preference for religion over nonreligion.”

An airport representative responded in late summer, stating that FFRF’s concerns were taken very seriously, and that personnel conducting an upcoming customer service event were “committed to abiding by all applicable laws and City policies.”


VA: Stop mandatory treatment prayers

Military veterans sent to substance abuse treatment by the Sacramento Veterans Administration in California will be offered an alternative to religious programs because of an FFRF letter of complaint.

FFRF was contacted by a veteran who said that in his program, he was forced to take part in prayers and meetings that emphasized God. Despite multiple talks with counselors about his beliefs, he was threatened with expulsion if he so much as stepped out of the room during prayers.

Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott wrote to the VA on July 23: “[N]o government program can require participation in religious activity or promote one religious view over another. It seems that nothing is being done to protect the rights of conscience of those who are nonreligious.”

Elliott pointed out that 23.1% of all military personnel identify as atheist, agnostic or having no religious preference.

The Department of Veterans Affairs responded Oct. 22, stating that it was “reinforced to D&A Detox that they are not to require attendance in prayer activities to remain in treatment; reinforced with them that they should not stigmatize any Veteran who opts out of such activities; [and] reinforced with VA staff to ask about objections to 12-Step model programs in considering program placement.”


Praying Arizona coach ordered to stop

The football coach at Sunrise Mountain High School (Glendale, Ariz.) will no longer be allowed to force students to pray or pressure them to join the school’s Christian club, nor will faculty be allowed to participate in the club, due to a complaint letter from FFRF.

FFRF’s complainant reported that head football coach James Carter made all players hold hands and pray to Jesus Christ before and after football games or face reduced playing time. Carter also reportedly pressured players to join Christian Club on Campus (CCC). Several other teachers also participated in CCC.

Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel wrote to the school district, pointing out it’s unconstitutional for coaches to organize, lead, participate in or force players to pray. Seidel also noted that the Equal Access Act says school employees may only be present at religious groups in a nonparticipatory capacity, and that such groups must be student-initiated and student-run.

The school district responded promptly to say that all parties named in the letter had been contacted and claiming the district would “continue to educate all personnel in order to ensure adherence [to federal and state laws].”


‘Preying’ pastors
ousted at lunch 

FFRF has stopped the practice of allowing preachers and pastors to enter Pedro Menendez High School in St. Augustine, Fla., during the lunch period and pressure students to attend their churches and church functions.

According to the complainant, youth pastors “quite intrusively butt into conversations” to ask students to attend religious events.

Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel sent an email to the school district to detail how this practice raises serious constitutional and liability issues for the school: “This predatory conduct should raise many red flags, especially if there are no security measures in place to keep such visitors out or if these religious visitors are not subject to the same security measures that other visitors may be.”

An attorney for the district responded Oct. 29: “We have terminated [the pastors’] standing invitation to visit the school at lunchtime.”


Struggle successful
for secular club 

After a contentious six-month struggle narrowly avoiding a lawsuit, James Bowie High School in Austin, Texas, has decided to allow senior Nick Montana to form his club. The group in question? A secular student alliance, which would provide a community for nonreligious teens.

Principal Stephen Kane had repeatedly refused to approve the group, but school attorneys ordered him to relent after Montana reached out to two national secular nonprofits, the Secular Student Alliance and the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The organizations declared the school’s change of course a victory for atheist equality.

Struggles like Montana’s are common occurrences across the country. In a new effort to defend students’ rights, SSA and FFRF have formed a partnership.

Citing the federal Equal Access Act and the First Amendment, the partnership appealed to Kane to stop stonewalling Montana. The law requires schools with extracurricular clubs to treat all student groups equally, regardless of viewpoint. Once FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel weighed in for the partnership, it took four working days for school attorneys to order Kane to approve the group.

Montana’s efforts took six months from the time he first asked to start the student group. School administrators had delayed approving the group, and later suspended it when it tried to meet unofficially. Federal law and school policy state that a group shall be approved once a student has a faculty sponsor and submits a constitution, which Montana did. Two other groups submitted requests and were approved while Montana’s languished.

Montana’s controversy comes as America youths are becoming more secular and increasingly organizing around their secular identities. A 2012 Pew Research Center survey found that the percent of millennials 18-29 reporting doubts about the existence of God has doubled in five years, from 15% in 2007 to 31% in 2012. In the same time period, the SSA exploded with growth, from 81 campus groups to 357. They support 402 groups today, 52 of them at high schools.


Violations stopped
in Tenn. schools

FFRF has stopped several First Amendment violations in Franklin County Schools, Franklin, Tenn.

Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert sent a letter in early September about a memo circulated last December to parents of children attending North Lake Elementary. The memo said “Merry CHRISTmas” and mentioned that parents need to teach their children the “real reason for the season.”

Markert additionally noted that candy canes were distributed by one teacher with a story attached claiming the origin of candy canes is religious: “The candymaker made the candy in the form of a ‘J’ to represent Jesus, who came to earth as our savior. . . Thinking that the candy was somewhat plain the candymaker stained it with red stripes. He used three small stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received, by which we are all healed. The large red stripe was for the blood shed by Christ on the cross so that we can have the promise of eternal life.”

Markert noted that Snopes has debunked this evangelical legend.

In October, Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel contacted the district yet again regarding a complaint that a teacher at South Middle School had passed out bibles with bookmarks warning that people who do not believe in Jesus are damned. Seidel wrote, “Parents who send their children to school in your district entrust teachers to use their positions of authority and influence for secular educational purposes, not to indoctrinate 6th graders in the teacher’s personal religion.”

A lawyer for the district has responded that while the school board hadn’t been aware of the bible and candy cane distributions, those practices would be halted immediately: “That’s done, that’s over.”

FFRF also asked the North Lake Elementary PTO to stop praying before meetings, noting the practice is divisive. According to the Herald Chronicle, board member Chris McDonough suggested a moment of silence: “There are people in this county who do not go to churches, who do not believe the same things you do, and we have to make it possible for those people to feel comfortable as well. The majority doesn’t rule.”

On Oct. 14, the school board voted to sever all connections with the PTO, which no longer has official standing or district affiliation.


Tenn. judge cited
for nixing Messiah

On Aug. 14, FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert wrote to Timothy R. Discenza, disciplinary counsel for the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct in Nashville, to lodge a formal complaint about Lu Ann Ballew, a child support magistrate. Ballew had presided over a child support hearing Aug. 8 in Cocke County Chancery Court in Newport to settle a dispute over a 7-month-old’s last name.

At the hearing’s end, Ballew ordered the boy’s name changed from Messiah DeShawn Martin to Martin DeShawn McCullough. According to an interview with WBIR-TV in Knoxville, she said said the name change was warranted because “[T]he word Messiah is a title, and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ.”

Ballew further said that a child named Messiah would have a hard time growing up in a county with a large Christian population: “It could put him at odds with a lot of people, and at this point he has had no choice in what his name is.”

In FFRF’s complaint, Markert noted that such conduct “send a clear message to nonbelievers and those who practice minority religions that [Ballew] is not neutral and that she will abuse her position to advance her own Christian views. Ms. Jaleesa Martin, the child’s mother, stated ‘I was shocked. I never intended on naming my son Messiah because it means God, and I didn’t think a judge could make me change my baby’s name because of her religious beliefs.’”

The parents appealed and another judge ruled in September that Ballew’s ruling was unconstitutional. The parents continue to call their son Messiah DeShawn McCullough. Messiah’s siblings are named Micah and Mason.

On Oct. 23, a three-member investigative panel of the judicial board concluded there was “reasonable cause to believe [Ballew] has committed judicial offenses” and ordered the board’s disciplinary counsel to file charges, Reuters reported.

The panel cited a clause of the judicial code that says religion and other personal biases must not play a role in rulings. Ballew has 30 days to file a response.

Messiah was the 387th most popular name for boys born in the U.S. in 2012, according to the Social Security Administration. There were 762 applications for boys named Messiah in 2012. In 2011, there were 368 Messiah requests.


Charter school agrees to stop prayer

Indian River Charter High School in Vero Beach, Fla., has halted graduation prayers. After receiving a report that a student started the 2013 ceremony with a Christian prayer, Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel wrote to the school district June 4: “[T]he Supreme Court has settled this matter — high school graduations must be secular to protect the freedom of conscience of all students.”

The district responded in late August, stating it would remove invocations from future graduation programs.

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They Said What?

I like to say thanks to God and the glaciers.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, on the state’s abundant deposits of coarse-grained “fracking” sand in demand worldwide

Capital Times, 10-10-13


The people of this state need a candidate who can clearly and unapologetically articulate Biblical values without fear or compromise. They need a candidate who will tell the simple truth that abortion is murder, and homosexuality is condemned by God (but that Jesus forgives and heals those who repent).

Press release from “kill the gays” Pastor Scott Lively, proclaiming “humanism breeds corruption” and announcing his run for governor of Massachusetts 

Scott Lively Ministries, 9-30-13


Pray that conservatives in the House and Senate will not succumb to a godless compromise and that the Senate will not try the “nuclear option” (change Senate rules to require just 51 not 60 votes to end a filibuster and force a vote). Pray that the American people will wake up and demand that their senators defer implementation of Obamacare and find a responsible compromise on the continuing resolution and debt ceiling.

Plea to the Family Research Council’s “prayer team”

frc.org, 10-10-13 


Holly and I made a decision to build a house. It’s a big house. It’s a beautiful house. It’s 8,400 square feet of heated living area to be exact. That’s a big house, no doubt about it.

Steven Furlick, pastor of Elevation Church, Charlotte, NC, addressing news reports about the couple’s $1.7 million home, which totals 16,000 square feet in all

Charlotte Observer, 10-27-13


The Constitution would not have been written by Freemasons. They go against God. . . . You cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve two masters. Praise be to God. Lord Jesus Christ.

Dianne Reidy, U.S. House stenographer, shouting from the dais during a vote on whether to end the government shutdown

C-SPAN, 10-16-13 


For the past 2 and ½ weeks, the Holy Spirit has been waking me up in the middle of the night and preparing me (through my reluctance and doubt) to deliver a message in the House Chamber. That is what I did.

Dianne Reidy, email to Fox News host Greta Van Susteren

Washington Time, 10-18-13


The priest who does not pray cannot live chastity, which is a gift from God. He should live obedience and poverty. In these days, one has to be more and more careful, because we are like sheep among the wolves.

Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, archbishop of Lima, on recent clerical scandals in Peru

National Catholic Register, 10-17-13


O.J. is very religious now, and he’s been counseling other inmates with bible studies for months. When I talk to him on the phone, all he wants to discuss is religion. He’s obsessed!

O.J. Simpson associate Norman Pardo, who says the 66-year-old, eligible for parole in 2017, wants to launch a worldwide crusade called “Holy Safari!” 

National Enquirer, 10-17-13


Rules grow like barnacles on a ship: They’re easy to pick up and hard to remove, and they really slow us down. The writ of Sarbanes and Oxley wounded the entrepreneurs in ways that only decades can heal. Consider abolishing some rules every now and then, as a sign of your love for your people.

Forbes contributor Todd Hixon, “An Entrepreneur’s Prayer For Better Government”

forbes.com, 10-23-13


I don’t want to support lesbianism, I don’t want to support Planned Parenthood, and I don’t want to support abortion. And if that be the case, I’m not buying Girl Scout cookies.

Radio host Kevin Swanson, also a teaching elder at Reformation Church, which meets at Clear Sky Elementary School in Castle Rock, Colo.

New York Daily News, 10-22-13


God will help us. That is our prayer.

Duraimony Dickson, pastor of Houston Tamil Church near Rosharon, Texas, on a fire of unknown origin which destroyed the church

KHOU-TV, 10-22-13 


We don’t cater to you people.

Comment allegedly made by a Hobby Lobby employee in Marlboro, N.J., to a customer asking why the store doesn’t stock bar mitzvah cards

Hopelessly Partisan blog, 9-27-13


They do not value children the same way that you do. You cannot bring a child into this world with someone who does not value the child as God does and as you do.

Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, reason No. 3 of “9 reasons to not marry someone who’s pro-choice”

marshill.com, 10-25-13


If I go to my service tonight and God moves on me, and I mean the Holy Ghost anoints that place and you got people shouting, you got people getting saved, people getting healed, delivered and God moves on me to pull out a four-and-a-half-foot rattlesnake and it lays fangs into me, if I’m anointed by God, that snake is not going to harm me. I don’t care if it bites me 20 times, there’ll be no harm.

Pastor Andrew Hamblin of Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette, Tenn., on “Snake Salvation”

Christian Post, 10-23-13


It was staggering to me that there’s the statistics that were thrown out about the number of people in this world who are not familiar with Jesus Christ and the Gospel, and the numbers were really, really something that I would have never guessed in this day and age that it would be that way.

Mayor Robert Willey, Easton, Md., speaking at the 31st annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast at the Tidewater Inn

Star Democrat, 10-28-13


Jesus died for our freedom. And Jesus destroyed Satan so that we could be free, and that is manifested in what is called the Constitution of the United States. God created this nation and God created the Constitution. It is written on biblical principles.

Former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, interview with Pastor John Hagee

Global Evangelism Television, 10-20-13

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I’m not religious in terms of believing in organized religion. If you look at the genocide that happened in the witch hunts and the killing of women, it was about wiping out female power.

Actress Julia Ormond, who plays a witch in Lifetime’s new series “The Witches of East End”

MCT News Service, 10-4-13


Secularism and excellence in moral reasoning are what’s necessary for a high standard of human rights. So today at the dinner table, ask your kids where their rights come from. I have rights, you know. Really!? From where? Push them! Teach them a lesson! Because if you don’t push them now, they’ll be pushed, shoved and shot by religious fanatics later.

“Atheist in Wheaton” [Ill.] James Kirk Wall

ChicagoNow, 10-27-13


Ghana’s economic productivity is under threat because workers are spending too much time at all-night church services, according to a senior cleric.

News story quoting Rev. Frimpong Manso, head of the Assemblies of God Church in Ghana, where two-thirds of the population is Christian

The Guardian, 10-28-13


If you believe that the world is only 6,000 years old, as some of these people do, given that the true age of the Earth is 4.6 billion years, it’s equivalent to believing the width of North America is 8 yards.

Biologist Richard Dawkins

“Real Time With Bill Maher,” 10-25-13


I was once Christian. But I sincerely considered the matter and found no evidence to support faith. I then decided to change for a more positive and healthy perspective on life, love and compassion. As I moved away from religion, I found both peace and a lot of good, similarly minded people. So if some think I’m going to hell, I’ll probably be in better company than those who would condemn me for this.

Ricky D. Smith, Danville, Ky., letter to the editor

Advocate-Messenger, 9-16-13


[If] I were a coach, even a Christian one, I would not want team prayers at all. That’s because it’s no better for team-building than it is for nation-building, which our founders wisely recognized. And that’s because, obviously, you exclude every player who doesn’t believe in the prayer leader’s god, or doesn’t believe in any god, or is just smart enough to see the folly of praying to a peaceful god when playing a game as violent as football.

Columnist Dan DeWitt, an atheist, on a Florida school superintendent’s memo asking coaches to not lead prayers

Tampa Bay Times, 10-8-13


Sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” or do something else to make it a grand occasion. Don’t appropriate religion for that purpose. Keep religion separate and special and have the sphere of government be religion-free so that everyone feels equally included. I think that is the American tradition.

Ann Althouse, University of Wisconsin-Madison law professor, arguing against prayer at events such as graduations

Wisconsin State Journal, 10-6-13


I’m suggesting we take holy books out of the process. Instead, people will have to show they understand they could be sent to prison if they don’t tell the truth.

Ian Abrahams, Bristol, UK, on a Magistrates’ Association proposal to stop having witnesses swear on the bible in court

Charisma News, 10-14-13


She called me a filthy little liar and gave me a big dose of castor oil. I couldn’t keep it down — threw up.

Witness in the trial of Fr. Finian Egan, alleging a nun disciplined her for reporting Egan molested her when she was 10

Sydney Morning Herald, 10-14-13


I can stand at the beach’s edge with the most devout Christian, Jew, Buddhist, go on down the line, and weep with the beauty of this universe and be moved by all of humanity, all the billions of people who lived before us, who have loved and hurt and suffered. To me, my definition of God is humanity and is the love of humanity.

Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad, 64, telling host Oprah Winfrey that she’s an atheist

“Super Soul Sunday,” 10-13-13


Doesn’t it just plain suck that the Old Testament isn’t cool anymore? The book’s got everything: genocide, incest, and even talking donkeys! That’s why David Tuchman has taken it upon himself to rehabilitate the text as OMGWTFBIBLE.

From comedian David Tuchman’s “new take on the Old Testament,” recorded live in New York City the third Monday of every month and available by podcast

Tablet Magazine, 10-14-13

I’m quite sure a Christian would not be happy if the town meeting began by everybody announcing how thankful they were we’ve finally learned there is no God. One could say it’s just teaching Christians to be tolerant of atheists, but nobody would or should take that seriously.

Arnold Loewy, Texas Tech University law professor, arguing that government meetings shouldn’t start with prayer

Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, 10-20-13


Archbishop Michalik’s words make us feel fear and revulsion.

Ewa Orlowska, victim of a Polish pedophile priest, on Archbishop Jozef Michalik’s comment that a troubled child “seeks closeness with others and may get lost and may get the other person involved, too.”

Associated Press, 10-22-13


We’re pretty sure all babies are born atheists and, rather than commit them to some religion before they’re old enough to have a say (let alone control their pooping functions), we’d rather celebrate their undoubted belief in Mummy and Daddy.

Kickstarter promotion for baby shoes by Atheist Shoe Co. in Berlin

boingboing.net, 10-29-13


It’s time for the atheist movement to get off the political sidelines. It’s time to truly help this country become a better place to live for all its citizens. The recent Values Voter Summit demonstrated that the likely 2016 GOP frontrunners and its base wish to transform America’s secular state into a tyrannical theocracy — a nirvana absent gays, liberals, immigrants, Muslims and science books. If the atheist movement doesn’t evolve into a politically agitated, unified and mobilized Secular Left, then the Christian Right might just get its way.

CJ Werleman, author of Crucifying America and God Hates You. Hate Him Back.

salon.com, 10-26-13


Gay marriage, pot, religion’s the next one to fall.

Entertainer Bill Maher

“Real Time With Bill Maher,” 10-25-13


[A Catholic] professor once asked me, “When I talk about God, I mean love and justice and reconciliation, not a man in the sky. You talk about love and justice and reconciliation. Why can’t you just call that God?” I replied, “Why must you call that God? Why not just call it what it is: love and justice and reconciliation?”

Chris Stedman, assistant humanist chaplain at Harvard University

CNN, 10-16-13


Sky News reports today that in Britain, increasing numbers of prison inmates are being bullied into converting to Islam. The Prison Officers Association says this is a result of the growing influence of Muslim gangs in British prisons. Some victims have been terrorized by the gangs.  But there is also concern that some of the converts could become radicalized. 13% of Britain’s prison population is Muslim.

Blog synopsis of growing British prison problem

Religion Clause, 10-20-13


[Barack Obama] believes government is your God.

Rev. Rafael Cruz, Purifying Fire Ministries pastor and father of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, speaking at a National Federation Of Republican Assemblies prayer breakfast

youtube.com, 9-15-13


In your lifetime, much of your potential, or lack thereof, can be known simply by swabbing the inside of your cheek. Are we prepared to select out the imperfect among us?

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., warning a packed house at the late Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Virginia that scientific advancements will lead to eugenics and more abortions

Associated Press, 10-28-13


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FFRF, ACLU settle Jesus portrait case

The Freedom from Religion Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio have settled a lawsuit against the Jackson City School District in Jackson, Ohio, with the district agreeing not to continue to display a portrait of Jesus.

FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert wrote a Jan. 2 letter of complaint on behalf of parents with students at the school, provoking Superintendent Phil Howard to publicly vow that the “Head of Christ” painting would only be removed by court order.

That order came in October in the form of a consent decree mandating that the portrait be permanently removed from school property. Parties agreed to a financial settlement requiring the school to pay the plaintiffs a combination of damages and legal fees totaling $95,000. FFRF’s share of the legal fees was $7,500.

“We’re pleased that the plaintiffs — parents and students — whose identities will be protected, will each receive $3,000 in claims and damages,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It’s just and appropriate that students and parents who risk public exposure amid threats of retaliation for speaking up for the First Amendment should receive damages and that public school officials who violate the First Amendment be held accountable.”

The portrait was posted prominently in Jackson Middle School but was later moved to the high school after the ACLU and FFRF filed the lawsuit. The school tried to argue that the portrait was part of a “limited public forum,” but eventually agreed in court to remove it from the school, reportedly to avoid “risking taxpayer money.”

The school district worked with an upstart Texas Religious Right group, the Liberty Institute, that proclaims at its website: “We have never lost a case to the ACLU, [or] Freedom From Religion Foundation.” (This was FFRF’s first case in which the Liberty Institute had interceded.)

Negotiations were stalled when it was discovered that the portrait had never actually been removed from the school. It had been moved to an art closet and was “resurrected” for a prayer meeting on the school lawn, which was attended by school faculty and administrators on the National Day of Prayer last May.

This violation of the court agreement prompted another round of legal filings by both sides, delaying the settlement and increasing legal fees, all of which, as the ACLU of Ohio pointed out, was unnecessary. FFRF received a small portion of the legal fees payment.

The case was before Judge Algenon L. Marbley, U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Ohio.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit Nov. 1 in California state court against the city of Pismo Beach, challenging prayers at city council meetings and the city chaplaincy post.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Nov. 6 in a related and closely watched case involving a challenge by two plaintiffs to Christian prayer by the town of Greece, N.Y. The plaintiffs are women, one atheist and one Jewish, who are seeking to invoke protections under the U.S. Constitution.

FFRF’s new lawsuit invokes only the California Constitution’s No Preference and Establishment Clauses, as well as a civil rights provision. Regardless of how the Supreme Court decides the Greece case, FFRF’s case can proceed, and could carve out protections against government prayer for all citizens in the country’s most populated state.

Plaintiffs are FFRF, which has about 2,800 California members, and local FFRF member, Dr. Sari Dworkin, who is also a member of Atheists United of San Luis Obispo, which brought the First Amendment violation to FFRF’s attention. AUSLO and FFRF have been preparing the suit for more than a year. 

Dworkin, who identifies as “an atheist Jew,” was surprised to encounter the council’s Christian prayers, which “cause her to feel offended, disenfranchised, and intimidated about participating in her own government.”

Pismo Beach established an official city chaplaincy in 2005, appointing a Pentecostal preacher, Rev. Paul Jones. He’s affiliated with the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, which emphasizes “speaking in tongues” (although he has refrained from doing that during city council prayers). Jones delivered 112 of the 126 prayers scheduled by the council between Jan. 1, 2008, and Oct. 15, 2013. All but one of the 126 prayers were addressed to the Christian god.

In virtually every city prayer, Jones pressured citizens and the council to live a Christian lifestyle, to vote for “righteous” leaders and to make decisions that honor Jones’ particular god. The board meets twice a month.

At least 54 of the prayers contained a “Christianized” view of history. FFRF’s legal complaint documents several egregious examples, including Jones’ claim that:

• The Constitutional Convention approved a prayer motion (there was no such prayer).

• James Madison said our government was based on the Ten Commandments (he did not).

• George Washington claimed it was impossible to govern without the bible (fabricated quote).

• James Madison read from the bible at the Constitutional Convention (untrue).

FFRF seeks a declaration that the prayers violate the California Constitution. The complaint also alleges that the prayers violate California civil rights laws by coercing and forcing citizens to undergo Christian worship if they wish to participate in their government. FFRF is also challenging the establishment of a city chaplaincy.

FFRF thanks Dworkin, attorney Pamela Koslyn for taking the case pro bono, FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel, AUSLO for its support and AUSLO members for prayer transcription.

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David Vs. Goliath

After I won the pledge case before the Ninth Circuit, someone asked me, "Do you feel like David and Goliath?" I thought about it for a second, and I said, "Yeah, I feel like Goliath, because the law is extraordinarily on my side." If you go through all of the tests that the Supreme Court has ever enunciated on the Establishment Clause, the two words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance are clearly unconstitutional. Last night we heard about the Lemon Test. The Lemon Test has three prongs. The first prong is: was the law passed for a religious purpose? The second prong asks if it has a religious effect. The third: is there an entanglement with religion and whatever's going on there in government? Why did they stick the two words, "under God," in the Pledge of Allegiance? Clearly it had to be a religious purpose. It fails the first prong of Lemon. What's the effect? Clearly its effect is to have God in our government. That fails the second prong. And it's entanglement to the hilt. Government is saying the words. That's clearly unconstitutional. There's also the neutrality test. The words "under God" are not neutral. The government is taking a position on the question: "Is there a God? Is there not a God?" There's the imprimatur test. This places government's imprimatur on the idea of God. Clearly, by every one of the Supreme Court's legal tests, we should win this case. Moreover, we're the Goliaths in this case in principle, even if you didn't have a test. If you try to express, try to put into normal vernacular the words of the Establishment Clause--"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion"--what does it mean? We have separation of church and state is one way of stating it. But no matter what you come up with, sticking the two words "under God" in a nation's pledge clearly would fail the Establishment Clause. So we're Goliaths in terms of the principle as well. Where we're Davids, on the other hand, is in numbers. Ninety-three percent of the population believes in God, and most of those people would like to have God in their government. The problem with that is we have a Constitution that very wisely does not permit majority rule over matters of conscience. The other place where we're Davids is in terms of finances. The religious right has a lot of money. Just to give an example, most of you know that the religious right tried to get the mother of my child involved, to derail the case. When the case first broke, they flew her out by private jet from California to Washington, D.C. A private jet costs about $25,000. That flight is five times as much as what I'm going to spend totally for this entire case. As of a year ago, those attorneys already had about $145,000 in legal fees accumulated, before the latest round of briefs. I'm just one guy, I don't have a secretary, I have to make my own copies on the copy machine I bought for $50, buy my own papers, send everything just regular mail. So we're Davids in that regard. I'm going to look at case precedent from most to least recent to show how we're Goliaths in terms of the law. The last major case on the separation of church and state was in 2002, actually announced a day after the Ninth Circuit pledge decision was announced, on June 27, 2002. The Supreme Court heard a case known as Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, that talked about school vouchers in Ohio. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, approved the program, saying it's neutral. There really is a tension here. On the one hand, we don't want to discriminate against religion any more than we do for religion. On the other hand, we don't want government money going to religious institutions. It also should be acknowledged that when public money goes to these religious schools, it's supposed to be used just for the secular aspects of those schools. Clearly, if you give money to the secular aspects, that's more money then that is available for the sectarian aspects. So that's always the issue. If you look at the opinion, it tells us that 96% of the vouchers that were used for private institutions went to religious institutions. That's obviously of concern, and therein lies the tension with the ideal of government not being for or against religion. That's very different, though, from what's going on like the pledge case. Even in the Zelman case, Chief Justice Rehnquist, who wrote the decision, carefully said that the reason this case is okay is because the government is acting neutrally. It's saying individuals are spending public money on religious institutions, but the government has to be neutral. Clearly the government isn't neutral when it sticks the two words "under God" in the middle of our pledge. So even under Chief Justice Rehnquist's analysis, the pledge case has failed, if you went by what he did in Zelman. The next case--we move back a year--was in 2001 called the Good News Club. That was a 6-3 decision. Basically we have three sets of three judges. We have on the "bad" side--no editorializing here--Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas, who will always vote against separation. On the "good" side, the great side, we have Souter, Stevens and Ginsberg. They want strict separation. In the middle we have three justices that we have to watch, and those are really whom we have to direct our cases toward: Kennedy, O'Connor and Breyer. In the Good News case, Justice Breyer actually went on the other side, along with O'Connor and Kennedy. The Good News Club is a bible club that wants to use school classrooms to meet with children after school is out. The school district policy permitted nonprofits and community groups to use its schools after hours, with an exception for religious institutions. The Supreme Court said the district was discriminating against religion. Justice Breyer, in voting with the majority, noted the record just hasn't been developed yet. If it is shown that there is coercion to these little children, he would remand the case and let the lower courts look at that. Again, if you apply the neutrality issues with regard to the pledge, it's still in our favor quite strongly. Back another year was Mitchell v. Helms, a case in Louisiana about government aids to private schools. We've had quite a few of these cases. The first major religious freedom case and parochial-aid case was Everson in 1947, which was about busing children: should we pay to bus children who go to sectarian schools? The Supreme Court said yes, we should, if we're going to pay for other kids to get to public schools. Again, we have that tension. Do we want to discriminate against religion? On the other hand, we are giving public money and it's benefiting the sectarian institutions. It's a tough call. If you're a strict separationist you say no. If you're like Rehnquist and Scalia, then clearly that would be fine. In Mitchell v. Helms, we had four justices, who in religious aid cases seem to twist the Lemon Test around, even though all the justices who have twisted it have complained about it constantly. Scalia referred to the Lemon Test as "some ghoul in a late-night horror movie, that repeatedly sits up in its grave and shuffles abroad after being repeatedly killed and buried. Lemon stalks our Establishment Clause jurisprudence, once again frightening little children and school attorneys." After complaining about Lemon so much, they simply rearranged it, removing the entanglement prong, saying, "We only have two prongs: purpose, and effect." Then they said, "An effect is now itself divided into three prongs, one of which is entanglement. The others are: does government invoke any religious belief or give aid based on the religion of the recipient?" In Good News, you have the big three again--Thomas, Rehnquist and Scalia--with Kennedy joining this time, saying: "As long as government is neutral, we don't care about what happens to the money. We don't care if the funds get diverted to sectarian institutions. Government has acted neutrally, and that's fine." The five other justices did not like that theory. They said you need more than that. Neutrality is required, but you also need to make sure that there are no funds being diverted. O'Connor and Breyer said, "We think that the diversion in this case is not adequate to worry about, so we're going to vote with the majority party." Our three--Souter, Stevens and Ginsberg--all said, "We think there's too much diversion," and so they voted against it. Once again, we see that this is a case very different from something like the pledge challenge. Go back one more year, to 2000. Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe was the case that said you can't have prayer at high school football games. This followed a 1992 case, Lee v. Weisman, which said you can't have prayer at high school graduations. In the original 1992 case, Lee v. Weisman, they said the government, the school board, the school principal, is calling in some stranger to give a prayer, and even if it's nonsectarian, it's a prayer to God, and some people are uncomfortable with that. Because it's government acting, you can't do that. It was a great case for us. In the Santa Fe case, they went even further. In Santa Fe, what happened was the students themselves were voting, and they were electing their own student to give any talk on anything, but it always turned out to be a talk on religion. So the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in our favor, with Breyer, Kennedy and O'Connor all coming over to our side. They said: "What we're having is a majority vote that allows them to use the machinery of the state to invoke their religious beliefs. We're not going to allow that." They also referred to another case that they decided simultaneously, Southworth, which spoke about viewpoint neutrality. "The whole theory of viewpoint neutrality is that minority views are treated with the same respect as are majority views." Again, if you look at that with regard to the pledge, clearly the minority view that there's no god is not given the same respect as the majority view when we say we're "one nation, under God." All of these cases taken together show that in the law, at least as it now stands, we are the Goliaths. All law is on our side, there is nothing against us. So I still think quite strongly, although some people think I'm wrong, that we're going to win. There've been a whole bunch of Ten Commandments cases lately. All of you have certainly heard of the one in Alabama, which I'll get to in a minute. It's estimated there's about 20 active Ten Commandments cases right now. There was the case that we've just heard about with Margaret Downey in Pennsylvania, Third Circuit. She won it in the district court level, which was great, but she did get overturned in the court of appeals. Her case involved a Ten Commandments plaque put in the courthouse in the 1920s. A previous case in the Third Circuit, about a Ten Commandments plaque dating to 1918, was also lost. What they said was, "These are historical. They're not invoking religious belief, you can hardly see 'em, it's part of the building now, and so we're going to let it slide." They kind of got grandfathered in. I think that's wrong. At some point in time this was stuck in there for religious purposes, and that act should be fixed. But they didn't see it that way. It's not the end of the world for us, it certainly doesn't say that people can start putting Ten Commandments monuments and plaques around anymore. Most of the Ten Commandments monuments being litigated were put up by a group called the Fraternal Order of Eagles, which has an acronym: FOE. I don't know if that's intentional! The Eagles is a group that generally does good stuff, they give to diabetic foundations and kidney diseases and everything else. But in the 1950s when Cecil B. DeMille directed "The Ten Commandments" and Charleton Heston came down from the mountain, the Eagles got together with DeMille and decided to put up these monuments. I actually contacted the Grand Wizard or whoever it is, and he told me that it just became cost-prohibitive, so they've stopped doing that. But there still are these plaques and monuments around, and these are being litigated frequently. There's a case in Adams County, Ohio. That one went our way. They had these Ten Commandments monuments in four high schools, and those were ruled unconstitutional. There was one, Adland v. Russ, in 2002, involving a monument they wanted to place at the Kentucky capitol building, which was ruled unconstitutional by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Another involved the Summum religion. I don't know how many of you have heard of Summums, but it's a religious group in Utah, and is about 30 years old. The Summums did something I think was very wise and I would recommend that anybody who litigates these cases in the future do the same thing. They were in the Tenth Circuit in Utah--and the Tenth Circuit had already ruled that monuments with the Ten Commandments were okay in certain circumstances. They went to the city of Ogden, Utah, which had a Ten Commandments monument displayed. They called it a violation of the Establishment Clause, and said if you don't grant relief by getting rid of this thing, what we want you to do is put up our thing. We have seven principles, and we want to put up a monument with our seven principles. They won. They lost on the Establishment Clause ground, but they won on the grounds of free speech and the violation of viewpoint neutrality. The city was saying, "We're going to take the Judeo-Christian monument, it's okay, but we're not letting other people put up theirs." The court said, "You go back and figure out a way for them to get their seven principles put up or you get rid of the other." I actually went to Utah and met with the Summums, and it was an interesting time. The group that I met were mostly Korean, and they do a lot of proselytizing, and we went out to the city of Ogden--not to one of the finer areas of the city. They were looking for people to convert, and they found this guy, he was sitting on the curb and playing these bongos, somewhat disheveled and not very happy-appearing, didn't seem to be too bright. They invited him back to their meeting hall and gave him some Korean food. Interestingly, they gave him a lot of Bacardi, kind of got him drunk. I remember him playing the bongos and kind of a humming and making these sounds and it was startling, because when they first came up to him he looked kind of lost, and all of a sudden he converted to Summum, and you could see this confidence come over him, this sense of aplomb that would come when some dumb, numb and glum Summum slum bum, would hum and drum with dimsum and rum. (Actually, that's not a true story.) One of the monuments the Eagles donated was in La Crosse, Wis. La Crosse is an interesting name; I guess it's better than La Jesus, but not too much. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has taken on that case and they won at the federal level so far. So way to go, Freedom From Religion. I think it's hard to talk about Ten Commandments cases without mentioning Judge Roy Moore in Alabama. Judge Roy Moore had prayers before his sessions, and he put a Ten Commandments plaque on his wall in his lower courtroom. The ACLU was absolutely right to challenge him. The problem was Judge Roy Moore got very famous and became known as the Ten Commandments judge and was consequently elected to be Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. I think the case with Judge Roy Moore really highlights why the Establishment Clause is so important. This man is not only a citizen, not only a lawyer, not only a judge, not only a justice in the State Supreme Court, but the chief justice of the State Supreme Court, who was ordered by the federal government to take this thing down and refused. What would give somebody the gall to do that? Only religion, only belief in God. He's convinced that he's right and he's willing to totally forego the law for the rest of society. That's an incredible thing. I think the fact that he did that should be a warning. That's why we need the Establishment Clause. He is the best advertisement we have. Probably the most important thing about the case is that every time something like this happens, God contacts me. He called me up (which is something because I have an unlisted number), and he said I should write another song, so I wrote another song for Judge Roy Moore. This is the world debut of the song, hope I don't choke. Because this is a song about something done in the South, I'm going to do this with a Southern accent. But because I'm from New York, it's South Bronx. (Performs "Roy's Rock") So now I want to talk about two other cases of mine. First I'll talk about the one against congressional chaplains. There's a case called Marsh v. Chambers, 1983, in which state legislative chaplains were challenged, and the litigant lost. Ernest Chambers was a legislator out in Nebraska, who was forced to listen to chaplains every time the Nebraska legislature met, and brought suit against that. The case got to the US Supreme Court, and Chief Justice Burger wrote the opinion. There's nothing in the opinion about what the Establishment Clause means. Clearly, the Chief Justice couldn't write about what the Establishment Clause means, because it certainly means that you can't have tax-paid chaplains coming in and giving religious prayers before congressional sessions. So Burger didn't even bother to discuss the Establishment Clause--I guess he was precluded from discussing that. Instead he said, "Look at the history." And he came out with what's a good point, at least on first blush. In 1787, the Founders met and came up with our Constitution. The deal was that if they got nine states to ratify it, we would have a United States. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state. We had a country. At the end of 1788, Congress first met, they had the electoral college, they elected George Washington president, and on April 30, 1789, Washington was inaugurated as president. We still didn't have a Bill of Rights at that time. We still only had the Constitution. It wasn't until June 8, 1789, that James Madison first even proposed the Bill of Rights. During the summer of 1789, they finalized the wording for the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to our Constitution, and on Sept. 25, they sent the text out to the states to ratify. The Bill of Rights wasn't ratified until December 1791. What Chief Justice Burger said was, "If you look in the record, on Sept. 22, 1789, three days before the final wording of the Bill of Rights was created, the same people who came up with this wording voted to pay for chaplains. Whatever the Establishment Clause means, and I'm not going to discuss it because I'd lose this case if I do, the fact that the same people who came up with the wording and voted for the Bill of Rights also voted to pay the chaplains, shows that clearly it doesn't mean you can't have chaplains." However, it's not really the complete argument and doesn't give the complete history. First of all, those people, we know, were politicians, and we saw what happened in the pledge case--99 out of 99 senators went out and said, "This is a horrible thing." A large portion of those senators are lawyers and I'm sure they understand the issues here, yet there wasn't any question. They're politicians; they can count. Ninety-three percent of the population believes in god and you don't want to go against that. I don't think there was any difference back in the 1700s. The fact is: the chaplains were actually instituted before we had the Bill of Rights. They were put in place in April and in May 1789 in the Senate and the House respectively. So before the Bill of Rights had ever been introduced, we'd put chaplains into our government. What politician's going to say, "Oh, let's get those chaplains out of here"? He's going to lose his job. So that's a very good reason to understand why chaplains would still be there. Chaplains fail all of those tests that I mentioned for the Establishment Clause, so this seems to be an unconstitutional practice. Justice Brennan wrote a really good dissent to Marsh, but it was a 6-3 decision against us. We've seen since that time the problems that come with chaplains. Four years ago we put a Catholic chaplain in the House--the first Catholic chaplain, tremendous problems with that. Danny Hastert, who was speaker of the House, said, "In all my years in this Congress I have never seen a more cynical, more destructive political campaign than occurred with trying to get a Catholic chaplain in the House." If there's anywhere where we don't want this sort of religious controversy, it's in the halls of Congress. That's another reason why I think Marsh should be overturned. There's the question of original intent. First of all, there is a question as to whether original intent was the "original intent." Did the Framers want to bind the future for hundreds of years--or thousands of years, however long we last--with what they were seeing back in the 1700s? I think the answer is clearly no. I like to think of it in terms of the Internet. If we came up with laws now in regard to the Internet, who in their right mind would think we'd want those laws applicable in the year 2200? You've got to be nuts. Things change and I think that they certainly had that in mind. The other thing is we never can know what the Framers intended. There were 55 separate men who came up with the body of the Constitution. By the time the first Congress met for the Bill of Rights, there were about 116. There was no original intent. They were very different individuals. One of the first individuals in the first Congress was Rep. Thomas Tucker from South Carolina. One of the things the first Congress passed was the resolution to go to President Washington to declare a day of thanks. That's originally where we got Thanksgiving. Thomas Tucker said: "You can't do that. We don't have the power to pass a law like that or pass a resolution because we are forbidden from getting involved in religious matters. And this is a resolution to thank God. We can't do it." Remember, this had to be ratified by the people, so it doesn't even matter what these original Founders had in mind, it matters what the people had in mind in every one of the states. So we'll never know what original intent is. Even if we did know what original intent was, we frequently don't abide by original intent. The Alien and Sedition Acts were passed in the 1790s. You got put in jail or fined if you wrote bad things about the government. Those acts would clearly be unconstitutional today under our First Amendment jurisprudence. If we think that original intent can be measured by what these men passed in Congress, those men in Congress passed the unconstitutional Alien and Sedition Act. They also had death as a penalty for counterfeiting. They had 39 stripes (whippings) for altering any court records. Marbury v. Madison, possibly the most famous case, was about the fact that those original founders, those original members of Congress, passed a law that was unconstitutional. So what they did, the laws they passed, even though they created the Constitution, may not in fact coincide with the Constitution. We have a letter from John Adams saying the first chaplain, who was established during the constitutional convention in 1774, was put in place for political reasons, that we were using religion for politics. That's exactly what we don't want to ever happen. DuchŽ was the first chaplain, an Anglican. Remember, the Anglican Church was the Church of England back then. John Adams said this was a masterful stroke. By getting an Anglican minister to come out on our side, they thought that we got a lot of people to support us. So it was using religion for political purposes. The other thing that I find astounding is that the Supreme Court will say, "Well, we have to stick by this original intent idea." The Supreme Court's first pledge case was in the 1940s, before "under God" was added. This was a case of Jehovah's Witnesses who don't pledge, who said they can't pledge to flags. They got expelled from school in 1940 in the Minersville case, and the Supreme Court upheld it. Now let's think about it. The Supreme Court in 1940 had the benefit of the briefs and the cases that had progressed in the district court, and the court of appeals. They had months to go over this argument, they could discuss it with their clerks and among themselves, and they came out and said, "You can expel them because they won't salute the flag." Three years later they completely reversed themselves. They overruled Minerville. They reversed themselves after all that thought, and recognized they made a mistake. The Framers put together a whole country--it wasn't like they were just focused on this one thing--and didn't have nearly the amount of time that this Supreme Court had in these two particular cases. How come we can't say 200 years later that their decision to have a chaplain before the Bill of Rights was passed is inapplicable today? The other case I brought is the inaugural case. Actually Prof. Dershowitz wrote about it right after it had occurred. On January 20, 2001, Pres. Bush had two Christian ministers come in giving very Christian prayers. Prof. Dershowitz wrote that the first act by the new administration was in defiance of the Constitution, which it was. I just want to read you the prayers that were read. I didn't tune in to this for any reason, I just happened to be home, put on the TV. Rev. Franklin Graham was the first speaker, he gave the benediction, and Kirbyjon Caldwell gave the invocation. Billy Graham was supposed to come, but God works in mysterious ways. Billy was sick. So Franklin substituted for him and he said: "Let us pray. Blessed are you, our Lord, our God. Yours, O God, is the greatness and wonder and glory and the splendor and the majesty, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom. You are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you. You are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt, and to give strength to all." Just starting with "Let us pray" already violates the Constitution. Then he ends: "Now, O Lord, we dedicate this presidential inaugural ceremony to you. May this be the beginning of a new dawn of America as we humble ourselves before you, and acknowledge you alone as our Lord, our Savior, and our Redeemer." Doesn't end there: "We pray this in the name of the Father, and of the son the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." This is in the middle of our inauguration! This is incredible. Then we have the other person, this Kirbyjon Caldwell. (This was President Bush wanting to show us how he respects diversity; Kirbyjon Caldwell is an African-American pastor, and is to alliteration where Jesse Jackson is to rhyme.) He went like this: "Let us pray please. Almighty God, the supply and supplier of peace, prudent policy and nonpartisanship, we bless your holy and righteous name. Thank you O God for blessing us with forgiveness, with faith, and with favor. Forgive us for choosing pride over purpose, forgive us for choosing popularity over principle, and forgive us for choosing materialism over morals." Then he thanks Bush and ends: "We respectfully submit this humble prayer in the name that's above all other names, Jesus the Christ, and all who agree say Amen." This is at our inauguration. It's incredible! After I had the oral surgeon put my teeth back in my jaw, I decided to file this suit. I already had practice, I had filed the pledge case, so it was pretty easy. I filed a lawsuit, and we should hear from the Ninth Circuit soon on assigning an oral argument in that case. We'll see what happens. When I filed in district court, the government argued that I didn't have standing, saying I live in California, and they gave these invocations in Washington, D.C. The judge didn't buy that one. They then said, "Well this is covered by Marsh v. Chambers." I said, "No it's not, it's covered by Lee v. Weisman in Santa Fe," and they said, "No, no, Lee v. Weisman is about graduation, which is important." The judge responded, "Are you saying that the inauguration isn't important?" I'll just give you a little history. The first inauguration was with George Washington and was in City Hall in New York, New York, the capital at the time, down on Wall Street. The building had this balcony and George Washington came out to the balcony and took the oath. The oath of office is in the Constitution, and there's no "So help me God" in there. George did that on his own. He pulled out a bible, which they didn't even have prepared, someone had to go to the Masonic Lodge and get a bible. He then went into the City Hall, he gave a speech to Congress, and then the whole entourage left the City Hall and walked about a half a mile to St. Paul's chapel, where there was a chaplain. Bear in mind again this was April 30, 1789, before Madison had even introduced the Bill of Rights, so we had no First Amendment to violate. Nobody knows what the chaplain said. As far as we know, he may have said, "Y'know, I think we should have separation of church and state here." In any event, he gave his speech, it's not been recorded, and from that time on until 1937, there was not another chaplain at a presidential inauguration. If you read Chief Justice Burger's opinion in Marsh v. Chambers, he talked about the "unambiguous and unbroken history of more than 200 years." Well, we don't have that with presidential inaugurations. So I don't think Marsh v. Chambers applies at all. I made that argument, and the judge seemed to buy that. So then he looked for another issue, as he clearly didn't want to tell the president of the United States that he's violating the Constitution. So he said during our hearings, "George Bush says 'God Bless' at the end of everything, do you want to get rid of that?" Of course, I said, "Yes, I do want to get rid of that, but he has his own free exercise rights, it's a different issue, I'm complaining about this bringing in of chaplains." So the judge kind of gave up on that one, too. Where the case now lies is a separation of powers issue. This is a really interesting thing. Does the judiciary have the right to tell another branch of government whether or not it's violating the Constitution? I had thought that'd been covered in Marbury v. Madison in 1803, but it isn't actually that clear. There are cases that kind of make you wonder what the judiciary can do. Anyhow, it's in the court of appeals, and we'll see if they uphold that idea. Finally, we have Justice Souter, who in Lee v. Weisman, that case with the graduation prayers, said it's clear that these are politicians and politicians can raise constitutional ideals on one day and turn their backs on them the next. So the whole basis we have for Marsh v. Chambers is no longer tenable. That's why I brought the case and hopefully that'll overturn Marsh.

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