When Atheists and Other Freethinkers of Sacramento adopted a highway in 1995, we wondered how much negative attention we would receive. Would we have to fend off the "religious nuts"? Would motorists target us, swerve onto the shoulder to frighten us, throw tomatoes? Seven years later such aberrant thoughts are just that: aberrant. Most drivers zip on by, a few toot their horns, smile, and wave. None gives us a problem.
We have maintained our two-mile stretch of highway longer than any other group in the Sacramento area, and lately we have received unasked-for but welcome attention. A local television news show used our sign as a lead-in when explaining another community work adoption program. A few days later the Travel section of the Sacramento Bee newspaper mentioned our sign in an article about traveling north of Sacramento.
Bee staff writer Will Evans, in his description of the highway, mentioned "the one adopted by Atheists and Other Freethinkers." It was a joy to see, especially when Highway 99 runs the entire length of the state of California, and our two-mile section is a few miles north of Sacramento. People have evidently taken notice of the sign as well as the clean stretch of highway.
The recent gratuitous use of our name and sign made me think that many times we nonbelievers exaggerate the animosity toward us by the general public.
Also, it may be that Dr. Michael Newdow's suit regarding the elimination of "under God" in the pledge has helped create a climate in our area in which open communication is increasingly possible. However, I really believe that the general public is more neutral about us than we think.
My husband and I belong to several freethought organizations, among them the Humanists of Hawaii. Shortly after we became members, we noted that every Martin Luther King Day the people of Hawaii hold a large parade in Honolulu. Marchers include members of groups as diverse as union groups, women's groups, and church groups. We suggested that HOH join. Members were reluctant. They were afraid they'd be attacked verbally or people would throw things at them. Now, the Humanists of Hawaii have participated two years in a row with nothing but positive feedback.
When contemplating being more forthright, I think of a friend of mine. She grew up toeing the Roman Catholic line, believed in an omniscient god through the birth of her ten children, but is now a model of freethinking.
No one who knows her is ever in doubt about her "non" beliefs. She's an example for the rest of us. I believe that now with government so virulently religious, if we don't speak out we will live to regret it.
We must let elected officials know that we are vocal and voting.
That doesn't mean groups and individuals will not encounter difficulties. Dr. Newdow has received nasty calls and threats. Atheists and Other Freethinkers of Sacramento gets an occasional hateful message on the voice mail. But for the main part we get no flak.
Lately, I took a personal risk. I live in an age-restricted community where Christianity is a given, where a Jewish Friendship Circle didn't evolve until the community was a few years old. It is a constant fight to get people to call it a Winter Holiday party instead of Christmas party. This week I put an ad in our monthly newsletter saying a nontheistic group was forming, and those interested should call me. I gave my telephone number. It will be interesting to see how many freethinkers respond. I have already identified ten and certainly there should be others.
My husband and I identified ourselves as humanists almost a quarter of a century ago. At that time we did not know freethought organizations existed. We thought we were alone in the world. Over and over people who discover FFRF, AAI, AHA or any of the other freethought groups say essentially the same thing. So it behooves us to be more upfront--not risking our jobs or well-being, but using common sense in coming out--to friends, to co-workers, to our communities. According to recent statistics, 30 million of us embrace nontheistic views. Let's make it count.
When a terrible disaster happens--an air crash, a flood, or an earthquake--people thank God that it wasn't worse. (But then why did he let the earthquake happen at all?)
Or, even more childish and self-indulgent: "Thank you God for the traffic jam that made me miss that plane." (But what about all the unfortunate people who didn't miss the plane?)
The same kind of infantile regression tempts us when we try to understand the natural world.
"Poems are made by fools like me . . . But only God can make a tree."
A pretty song, but an infantile explanation. It's too easy. Lazy. The moment we put a little effort into thinking about it, we realise that God the creator is no explanation at all. He constitutes a bigger question than he answers.
Once, we couldn't do any better. Humanity was still an infant. But now we understand what makes earthquakes; we understand what made trees. Not just trees like oaks and redwoods, with their underground root system like a huge, upside-down tree.
The arteries that leave the heart branch and branch again like a tree. There are about 50 miles of blood vessels in a human body.
Nerve cells, too, branch like trees. They are so numerous in the teeming forest of your brain that, if you stretched them end to end, they would reach right round the world 25 times.
In the face of such wonders, do you fall back, like a child, on God? "It's so wonderful, so complicated, only God could have done it."
It's tempting, isn't it? But it's not a real explanation. Not the kind of explanation that actually explains anything. And it's nowhere near as poetic as the true explanation.
Because the beauty is that humanity has grown up. We now know the true explanation. It's gloriously simple once you get it, and more wonderful than our forefathers could ever have imagined. It makes use of yet another tree. The family tree of life. It began with something smaller than a bacterium, and it branched and branched to give all the species that have ever lived, whether extinct like the dinosaurs, or still hanging on like our own. Evolution really explains all of life, and it needs no supernatural intervention of any kind.
The adult response is to rejoice in the amazing privilege we enjoy. We have been born, and we are going to die. But before we die we have time to understand why we were ever born in the first place. Time to understand the universe into which we have been born. And with that understanding, we finally grow up and realise that there is no help for us outside our own efforts.
Humanity can leave the crybaby phase, and finally come of age.
Now there's a thought for more than just a day!
The Ten Commandments monument never should have been placed in Cameron Park. It was wrong to erect it there nearly 40 years ago--whatever the purported reason--and it's wrong to leave it there now.
We can't have freedom "of" religion--that is, the freedom to worship (or not) as our hearts and reason tell us--without freedom "from" religion. To make a free choice, we must be free from religious requirements.
Some of the complainants in the current court case consider themselves religious, and some don't. Some have won awards for service to the community. Some have done graduate work in theology. All thought long and hard about the decision to sign on to the Freedom from Religion Foundation's lawsuit--not because they doubted their stand on moving the monument but because they feared repercussions from elements of the religious right not exactly known for rational thought.
Some people say the monument honors young people who banded together to fight the Mississippi River flood in the mid-1960s. But before you jump on that bandwagon, take a look at the monument: There's no mention of the flood or the brave folks who helped save the city. What connection do the Ten Commandments have with fighting a flood? Why not a statue of a bucket-wielding teenager, a woman filling sandbags, a man hoisting them against the rising floodwaters?
Look at what the monument actually depicts: an eagle, the U.S. flag, two Stars of David, two stone tablets (seemingly the tablets that Charlton Heston carted down the mountain).
Then read the actual words that the city government is endorsing by keeping the monument in the park. Are you comfortable requiring La Crosse residents to believe only in religions that follow one god, who must be worshipped on a certain day? Do you believe, as the city essentially is saying, that Hindus, Buddhists, and others don't belong in the Coulee region?
It's a diverse world, folks, even in La Crosse, Wis. And no one religion holds all the answers for everyone.
Those of us who have joined the lawsuit to move the monument--and the hundreds of people who have contacted us to applaud our decision--are not antireligion. We want to protect freedom of religion by ensuring that church and state stay separate. Allowing the monument to remain in a city park erodes religion's constitutional protections.
People who argue that the monument belongs in Cameron Park because this is somehow a "Christian" country are blinded by their own religious zeal. They don't see that they've become what their religious forefathers tried to escape--proponents of an official state religion.
With the so-called "sale" of the park land to the Eagles, the city has admitted that the monument does not belong in the park. This "sale" is a sham, a ruse. If city officials believe this is a good idea, why didn't they "sell" the park land before? Why was it offered only to the Eagles? Why is the city refusing to sell other parcels of the park to others for other monuments? The answer, of course, is because a bare majority of the City Council is desperately trying to keep the monument in a place where they know it has no legal business. This is the distorted outcome of a corrupted process.
What, then, to do? Many people are saying, "Why not move the monument to the Episcopal church on Main Street?" The church wants it, and the monument would be seen by far more people than in its current location. Main Street is a lot busier than King. Please remember: Those of us who want the monument moved aren't against the Ten Commandments--we're against maintaining that monument in a city park.
The Constitution, not the Ten Commandments, makes this country unique in the world. If you're interested in what can happen in a country with an "official" state religion, consider Afghanistan under the Taliban, or Spain during the Inquisition. That's what happens when government dares to dictate religious beliefs.
The U.S. Constitution promises that no despot can force a particular religion on the American people. Unlike many countries, the United States' founders believed that people should make up their own minds and hearts about religious matters.
The County of Santa Barbara removed a Christian cross from Manning Park in August, in response to a challenge to its legality by Foundation member Roger S. Schlueter, chairman of the Humanist Society of Santa Barbara.
In late June, Schlueter was alerted to the presence of a wooden cross, approximately 10 feet in height, in Manning Park, which is owned and maintained by Santa Barbara County. His brief investigation revealed that the cross had been maintained by the county for decades.
Schlueter wrote a letter to the Santa Barbara County Parks Commission asking that it be removed, citing various legal precedents.
Rick Wheeler, Interim Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, forwarded the letter to county counsel. Acting promptly on counsel's advice, they removed the cross.
"It is heartening to see the county react promptly and effectively in removing the cross. This ensures that the wall of separation between church and state remains intact and respected in Santa Barbara County," said Schlueter.
Schlueter noted that other local governments in California "have expended thousands of dollars and wasted years fighting the removal of other Christian crosses located on public lands in the state."
"Kudos to Roger for his significant First Amendment victory," added Anne Gaylor, Foundation president.
In a surprise development, the State of Wisconsin did not appeal the Freedom From Religion Foundation's landmark legal victory declaring direct public funding of "faith-based" social services unconstitutional.
"Our legal win sets a firm precedent against Pres. Bush's push to expand so-called 'charitable choice,' " said Foundation President Anne Gaylor.
In a January 7 ruling, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb of the Western District of Wisconsin declared unconstitutional the grant of $850,000 in unrestricted public funds to Faith Works, a Christian treatment program in Milwaukee for male drug abusers.
The Foundation's lawsuit resulted in the first legal victory in the nation against "faith-based" funding by government. Congress adopted guidelines in 1996 permitting some federal programs to fund churches and "faith-based" groups without requiring them to create a secular arm, remove religious symbols or stop proselytizing.
In a follow-up July 26 ruling, Crabb decided against the Foundation's separate challenge of indirect public funding of Faith Works through state contracts.
The Foundation is appealing that decision to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Below is just a sampling of typical news clippings detailing the many tragedies or disasters befalling believers. As usual, "god" gets the credit, but never the blame.
The "Comforts" of Death? The tragic suffocation of three little girls, ages 2, 4, and 6, in their family's cedar chest in rural Wisconsin on Aug. 5, was declared "an act of God" by their deeply religious Mennonite family. "They feel the children are in better hands right now," reported Clark County Sheriff Louis J. Rosandich. Pastor James Martin of the Unity Mennonite Church said, "One of the comforts of this is that children are innocent before God. There is no doubt of the justice of God in this situation." Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Aug. 7, 2002
Church-goers forget toddler, who dies. Daniel James McCray, 23 months old, died on July 28 when his church-going parents accidentally left him in their van for five hours. Temperatures in Lehigh Acres, Fla., reached the mid-90s that day. He was not discovered until the parents were getting ready to return to church for evening services. He was the youngest of five children. Source: AP Online, July 29, 2002
Bus Crash Kills Five. A chartered bus taking youngsters to church camp inexplicably crashed into a concrete pillar of an overpass near Dallas, Tex., killing the driver and four teenagers. Most victims were members of Metro Church of Garland. Sean Burns, a deacon at Metro Church, said: "God's ways are higher than our ways, obviously, and we've just got to trust in God. There may be a reason why this happened." Source: Daily Oklahoman/AP, June 25, 2002
Church Wall Kills Four. Four people, including three children, were killed in a minivan when a church wall collapsed as worshippers were leaving a prayer service in Memphis, Tenn. Three other children were hurt when the wall collapsed at New Greater Hyde Park Missionary Baptist Church. Source: Associated Press, July 22, 2002
Three Killed in Church Bus. Three people were killed and 16 were injured when a semitrailer hit a church bus traveling with a flat tire on Florida's Turnpike near Fort Drum. Eighteen people from First Bethel Missionary Baptist Church and the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church were on the bus. Source: Associated Press, July 22, 2002
Pilgrimage Ends in Disaster. A bus carrying Polish pilgrims on a religious pilgrimage to Medjugorje crashed near Hungary's Lake Balaton, killing 19 people and injuring 32. The shrine to the Virgin Mary is in southeast Bosnia. Source: Reuters, July 1, 2002
Wall Collapses at Religious School. Eight children, ages 6-12, were killed and eight others were injured while reciting verses from the Koran, when a wall at a religious school collapsed after heavy rains in Quetta, Pakistan. Source: Associated Press, April 8, 2002
God Wasn't His Co-Pilot? A pilot of a plane, towing a "heavenly love" banner memorializing a teen car accident victim, died when his plane crashed near Bradenton, Fla. Brian Mason, 21, worked for a banner advertising company. Source: Daily Oklahoman, June 8, 2002
Bikers in Accident after Blessing. Four people who had just attended a "Blessing of the Bikes" service for motorcyclists got into an accident after leaving the Melrose Alliance Church, Melrose, Wis. None was injured. Source: Associated Press, May 5, 2002
Church Member Critically Wounded. Church member Nancy Browning was in critical condition with a gunshot wound after interceding in a dispute between an estranged lesbian couple outside Holy Cross Metropolitan Community Church, Pensacola, Fla. Andrea Cobb, 61, was charged with two counts of attempted murder after shooting at people in the church parking lot following a worship service. Source: Associated Press, April 29, 2002
Tree Crash Kills Four. When a long-dead oak tree crashed on the roof of Baptist preacher Stan Jones's Lincoln car on New Year's Eve in a country road near Cumberland, Ind., he, his wife and two of their three young children were killed. Source: AP/Washington Post, Jan. 6, 2002
Five Christian Students Die. A truck carrying five students from Abilene Christian University ran off a highway bridge, fell 30 feet to a concrete embankment and killed all five people inside. The accident occurred near Weatherford, Texas. Source: Daily Oklahoman, April 1, 2002
Priest, Worshipper Killed. A priest celebrating Mass and a 73-year-old worshipper were killed when a man opened fire without provocation at Our Lady of Peace Church, New York City. Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 13, 2002
Pilgrims Start Epidemic. More than 1,000 people in the country of Burkina Faso (north of Ghana) have died since January of a strain of meningitis linked to an outbreak among Islamic pilgrims traveling to Mecca in 2000. Source: Associated Press, April 11, 2002
Widow Burned to Death. Kuttu Bai, 65, burned to death on her husband's funeral pyre in a village in central India on Aug. 6, in an apparent act of "Sati," or ritual burning. Fifteen people were arrested in the state of Madhya Pradhesh on charges of murder and conspiracy, including the woman's two grown sons, believed to be after their mother's property. Police said a crowd of 1,000 villagers, some throwing stones, blocked them from rescuing the woman. A woman who dies through Sati is said to become a "goddess," making it possible for villagers to cash in on her death through tourism. Source: BBC News, Aug. 8, 2002
"Honor Killings" Rampant. Human rights experts report 430 cases of "honor killings" in Pakistan during the first four months of 2002. The "tradition," legitimized by religious extremists, sentences women to die if they dishonor male family members. Most killings are sanctioned by a traditional tribal council, such as the one which sentenced a 30-year-old woman to public gang-rape in June after her 12-year-old brother walked down the street with a woman from another tribe. Source: ABCNews.com, Aug. 5, 2002
Women Killed as "Witches." Ten local Bengal tribesmen were arrested for killing five women in India's West Bengal state. They told police a local priest ordered them to kill the women, contending they were witches responsible for a spate of recent deaths from malaria and diarrhea. The women were kidnapped on July 29 in the Jalpaiguri district. Women's rights groups say greedy priests, chiefs or relatives label women as witches to seize property. Source: BBC News, Aug. 1, 2002
Father Convicted in Son's Death. Jacques Robidoux, 29, a member of "The Body," a Massachusetts-based Christian fundamentalist sect, was convicted of murder in June for the starvation death of his son, Samuel, who died three days before his first birthday. Roubidoux's sister claimed she had a religious prophecy that he and his wife Karen had to withhold solid food from their son, even though Karen was pregnant and not producing enough breast milk to nourish him. Roubidoux testified tearfully that he believed to the end that a miracle would save his emaciated baby, who wasted away in 51 painful days. Karen is scheduled to go on trial in September for second-degree murder. Source: Associated Press, June 17, 2002
Doomsday Leader Doomed. A leader in the doomsday cult that killed 12 people and sickened thousands in a nerve gas attack in Tokyo in 1995 was sentenced to death in late June. Tomomitsu Niimi was also found guilty of slaying a lawyer and his family, but said he was just following the orders of religious leader Aum Shinrikyo. Source: Associated Press, June 26, 2002
Drumstick Beatings. A Japanese faith healer, Sachiko Eto, was sentenced to death for beating six people to death with a drumstick during a 1995 exorcism ritual. The group carried out drumstick beatings for about a year. Source: Associated Press, May 11, 2002
Protective Services Aids Boy. The state of Arizona took medical custody of a 9-year-old Prescott boy whose parents refused to give him follow-up chemotherapy and radiation treatment after the removal of a tumor in April. "Our religious beliefs are in our heavenly father," said Stephen Schaffer, father of Samuel. Source: Arizona Republic, May 7, 2002
Starving Baby Rescued. A vegan couple in Queens, New York, were arrested in April for starving their baby daughter by denying her breast milk and formula, feeding her only nuts, fruits and vegetables. At 16 months, Ice Swinton weighed only ten pounds when authorities found her close to death last November. Joseph and Silva Swinton, both 31, contend veganism is their religion. Ice, in foster care, is still developmentally delayed. Source: New York Post, May 6, 2002
Father Kills Daughter, 11. William Harrold, 51, of Seattle, Wash., was charged with first-degree murder after he "decided to give his only child to God," and shot Tiffany Grandquist, a 5th grader. The shooting occurred after St. Therese parochial school said she was "acting up," and asked the family to find a new school. Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 20, 2002
New Zealand Parents Guilty. A jury in New Zealand found parents of baby Caleb Moorehead guilty of manslaughter in March, after failure to provide the necessaries of life for three of the baby's six months. Caleb died on March 29, 2001, of broncho-pneumonia due to vitamin B12 deficiency caused by the Mooreheads' vegan diet. The Seventh Day Adventist parents kidnapped the baby from a hospital before he was slated to get a life-saving vitamin injection, considering his illness a test of their faith. Source: New Zealand Herald, May 6, 2002
TB Victim Dies. A 24-year-old Tulsa woman who refused treatment for tuberculosis because of her religious convictions died after an 11-month quarantine in her home. Maria Rebecca Rossiwall refused treatment as a member of the Christian Science Church. The Christian Science practitioner who prayed for her almost daily told the media he reduced his usual fee of $20 per ministerial session for her. Source: Daily Oklahoman, May 31, 2002
[St. Paul teaches] that government . . . derives its moral authority from God. It is the 'minister of God' with powers to 'revenge,' to 'execute wrath,' including even wrath by the sword (which is unmistakably a reference to the death penalty).
--Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
First Things Journal, 2002
My becoming a Christian upset him [Ted Turner] very much--for good reason. He's my husband and I chose not to discuss it with him--because he would have talked me out of it. He's a debating champion. --Jane Fonda, filing for divorce E! Online news, May 15, 2002
One of the reasons I believe the spiritual door was opened for an attack against the United States of America is that the policy of our government has been to ask the Israelis, and demand it with pressure, not to retaliate in a significant way against the terrorist strikes that have been launched against them. --Sen. James Inhofe, R-OK Senate floor speech, March 2002
I have great respect for the Holy Father and I have not lost confidence in the church [due to priest sex abuse scandals] . . . . The Lord is pruning the branches right now, . . . --Jim Tower Pres. Bush's advisor on "faith-based initiatives" Boston Globe, April 23, 2002
Every great and meaningful achievement in this life requires the active involvement of the One who placed us here for a reason. --Vice President Dick Cheney, 2001 New Republic Online, March 20, 2002
Whenever [one] hears [our] religion abused, he should not attempt to defend its tenets, except with his sword, and that he should thrust into the scoundrel's belly as far as it will enter. --King Louis IX of France Roman Catholic Saint (Quoted) Boston Daily Globe April 9, 2002
This [Jewish] stranglehold has got to be broken or this country's going down the drain. . . . A lot of Jews are great friends of mine. They swarm around me and are friendly to me. Because they know that I am friendly to Israel and so forth. But they don't know how I really feel about what they're doing to this country, and I have no power and no way to handle them. --Evangelist Billy Graham to Pres. Nixon, 1972 Recently released tape recording
[Islam is] a very evil and very wicked religion. --Rev. Franklin Graham NBC Nightly News, November 2001
I just fear that they're [the Muslims in America] in agreement that this is a just and holy war. --Rev. Franklin Graham Fox TV's Hannity & Colmes, Aug. 2002
[Pluralists] would have us to believe that Islam is just as good as Christianity, but I'm here to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that Islam is not just as good as Christianity. Islam was founded by Muhammad, a demon-possessed pedophile who had 12 wives--and his last one was a 9-year-old girl. And I will tell you Allah is not Jehovah either. Jehovah's not going to turn you into a terrorist that'll try to bomb people and take the lives of thousands and thousands of people. --Rev. Jerry Vines Pastor of First Baptist Church Jacksonville, Fla. Southern Baptist Convention Times-Union, June 12, 2002
My parents did not practice any organized religion, although my father was raised Roman Catholic and my mother was Jewish. But there was always an ethical context to our lives, a very strong notion of individual moral responsibility.
--Actor Harrison Ford
Parade, July 7, 2002
Our father was not a religious man. The faith that many people place in god, we place in science and other human endeavors. --Children of baseball legend Ted Williams Reuters, July 25, 2002
. . In India, as elsewhere in our darkening world, religion is the poison in the blood. Where religion intervenes, mere innocence is no excuse. Yet we go on skating around this issue, speaking of religion in the fashionable language of "respect." What is there to respect in any of this, or in any of the crimes now being committed almost daily around the world in religion's dreaded name? --Writer Salman Rushdie "Slaughter in the Name of God" Washington Post, March 8, 2002
I am all for the death of God. . . . [I am against] every religion and fundamental organization where there is one truth and they will kill you if you don't believe it. In the Middle East, we are delivering each other to hell. If President Bush unleashes hell on Iraq in the next weeks, it will tell us something about human nature's capacity for monstrous wrongs. Hell is our own creation. --Award-winning children's author Philip Pullman Edinburgh international books festival The Guardian [UK], Aug. 12, 2002
I never really believed in God. Not even for a week, not even between the ages of 6 and 10, when I was an agnostic. --Author Tariq Ali The Clash of Fundamentalists: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity
I'm not a practicing anything. I've been brought up around Buddhism and I'm very interested in it, and if I have any leaning I would lean toward Buddhist feelings. But as I have seen so many devout people, I wouldn't categorize myself as a practicing person. --Actress Uma Thurman Biography Magazine, Aug. 2002
Just when we wish to flee to religion for sanctuary, we find ourselves fleeing from religion for sanctuary. -Columnist Maureen Dowd New York Times, April 7, 2002
If the United States of America really wants to fight these terrorists, . . . it needs to strike at the source of their fanaticism--the human need to invent deities to explain our existence. It needs to join the cause of striking down superstition and mythology with appeals to reason and the evidence of science. --Columnist Rex Wockner San Antonio Current Dec. 20-26, 2001
Imagine you woke up one day and found that Jehovah's Witnesses had taken over your government. That's like what happened to us [in Sudan, where Islamic Sharia is being imposed]. --Rebel Taisier Ali New York Times, April 30, 2002
The US is one of the most extreme fundamentalist cultures in the world, not the state, but certainly its culture. --Author Noam Chomsky Book 9-11
Schoolchildren should never be forced to appear to be patriotic by standing for a pledge or by mumbling words because their classmates do so. --State Rep. John White D-Manchester, NH World War II Veteran Union Leader, March 8, 2002
Public schools should provide a secular education. They should focus on the things that humans have explored, discovered, invented, created and done. Yes, students should be told that evolution is a scientific theory, but they should also be instructed in the definition of a scientific theory. The theory of evolution is a cousin of the theories of gravity and relativity. --Former Denver Broncos player Reggie Rivers Denver Post columnist April 11, 2002
No matter where it appears, government-sponsored Christocentrism, or even religiocentrism, undermines this nation's ideals. . . . The single most important phrase in the Pledge is not "under God." It is "liberty and justice for all." --Attorney Marci Hamilton findlaw.com, Aug. 6, 2002
The Religious Right has spent more than 20 years chipping away at the wall of separation between church and state, trying in Taliban-like ways to inject religion into public schools and the operations of government. In former crusades the technique was "religion by the sword." For the Religious Right, it is "religion by the ballot box." The legislation under consideration in Congress [to remove the ban on politicking by churches and religious groups] would move that goal to within reach. --Columnist Robyn Blumner St. Petersburg Times April 12, 2002
For some reason, we don't read about mobs of atheists stoning and burning alive human beings who do not share their non-beliefs. So far, no agnostics have blown themselves up in discos, taking someone's children with them. . . . Moral relativists are not organizing militias for the purpose of putting people in jail for possession of the Ten Commandments; . . . More to the point, confronted on an almost daily basis with the dangerous capacity of religious belief to drive people off the deep end (to induce a woman to murder her children, for example), why does belief continue to be encouraged, protected and accorded a special place in North American society? --Columnist John MacLachlan Gray "Do we have a misplaced faith in religious belief?" Toronto Globe & Mail, March 13, 2002
[Religion itself] has caused more harm than any other idea since time began. --Larry Flynt The State of the Union New York Post, June 11, 2002
Until browbeaten in recent years by huge lawsuit settlements, some of the leaders of America's largest single body of faith, the Catholic church, appear to have struck a bargain with the devil. They have opted to protect predatory, child-molesting priests, and to conceal, lie about and wish away the wretched consequences of their deeds. --Arizona Republic editorial February 13, 2002
The only reason they're still priests and not prisoners is because the church is protecting them. --Attorney Jeffrey Anderson San Francisco Examiner, June 5, 2002
Abstinence Program Unconstitutional
A federal judge in Louisiana ruled on July 25 that the state illegally allocated federal money to promote religion in its abstinence-only sex education programs.
The ruling is the most significant blow to Pres. George Bush's campaign to fund faith-based programs since a federal judge in January struck down funding of a Wisconsin faith-based program, in a case brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. ordered Louisiana to stop granting money to organizations or individuals who "convey religious messages or otherwise advance religion" with tax dollars.
The lawsuit, filed in May by the American Civil Liberties Union, was the first legal challenge to abstinence-only programs created under the 1996 welfare reform legislation. Bush is asking Congress to extend the $50 million-a-year program and increase other federal abstinence grants from $40 million this year to $73 million next year.
Cities, states or organizations receiving the federal grants are required to teach that abstinence is the only reliable way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Grant recipients may not discuss contraception, except to mention the "failure rates of condoms."
The ACLU proved that taxpayers' money was used to distribute bibles, stage prayer rallies outside abortion clinics, and generally preach Christianity. Grant money, for instance, funded a theater group that performed before high school students using a character named "Bible Guy," who claimed, "As Christians, our bodies belong to the Lord, not to us." A center which received funding asked in its grant application for money to buy Christian music tapes, bibles and a book advising that Christianity can keep children out of gangs.
The misuse of tax dollars to promote religion through abstinence, which often includes antiabortion propaganda, is believed to be a nationwide problem.
The Washington Post reported in July that the Department of Health and Human Services awarded $27 million in new abstinence grants to many groups with religious affiliations.