Start standing up (at a podium) for the Constitution by Don Ardell

By. Don Ardell

There are many days that will live in infamy alongside Dec. 7, 1941. Just two obvious examples are Nov. 22, 1963, and Sept. 11, 2001. If asked, I would also list May 5, 2014, as a date certain to live in infamy.

That’s the day the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Town of Greece v. Galloway that it’s constitutional for local governments to host prayers at official meetings.

Someday, a secular Supreme Court will override this dreadful decision. Our Constitution is godless. It is not hostile or friendly to religion. It is simply neutral. Our founders met centuries ago at a constitutional convention that included no prayers. A separation was established in the Constitution between religions and governments at all levels. This was deliberate. The founders knew from their experience in Europe that religious matters were divisive, that disparate sectors of the population did not want to be governed by or included in the religious dogmas and rituals at odds with their own religious beliefs, or absence of such beliefs.

Freedom from is as important as freedom of religion, and these two freedoms require governments that are neutral in matters of a religious nature. Yet today, politicians and many influential allies enthused with church-based sensibilities have introduced, at every level of government, elements of the predominant form of religiosity — namely, Christianity.

My views are the same as Robert Green Ingersoll’s, who in one speech said: “Improved Man will not endeavor, by prayers and supplication, by fastings and genuflections, to change the mind of the Infinite, or to alter the course of nature; neither will he employ others to do these things in his place.” In another he said that “all prayers die in the air that they uselessly agitate.”

Consider this partial list of areas in which violations or influences are rampant:

• Religion in public schools and universities (e.g., creationism, school prayer, bibles/religious texts in curricula/student religious clubs and religious distributions, music, Pledge of Allegiance, displays, events and evangelism during the school day and use of facilities by church groups).

• Faith-based programs and other subsidies of religious institutions.

• Tax exemptions for churches and clergy.

• School vouchers and government subsidies of religious schools.

• Official prayer, religious displays and ceremonial religion at government events and meetings, religious displays on public property, religious mottoes, pledges and resolutions.

• Governments-sanctioned discrimination, religious exemptions (military, prisons, housing, health care facilities, etc.).

• Church involvement in elections/lobbying and ballot initiatives and U.S.-Vatican diplomatic relations.

• Marriage, reproductive justice and other privacy issues.

A course of action

These violations will not cease owing to the good will of Christian and other religious elements. Secular Americans have to make known their desires for adherence to separation of religion and government at every level and in social and other interactions. Doing so need not be confrontational; constructive requests for governmental neutrality should be sufficient to slow and hopefully reverse a steady drift toward theocracy. Secularists have many allies in the religious communities who share their desire to keep religion and government apart.

This requires, as a first step, that more Americans be aware of the nature, rationale and history of separation of church and state. Local officials should be reminded that they may not legally use their authority, public funds or government property to promote religion, despite the fact that a majority presently approves of religious intrusions.

The Greece decision has energized many secularists to actively resist further Christian incursions into public life, and to do more about those already in place. To foster specific protest about government prayer, FFRF has designed a contest, the purpose of which is to show that government prayers are unnecessary, ineffective, embarrassing, exclusionary, divisive or just plain silly. The thinking is that if more citizens protest prayers, the likelihood increases that they will stop sooner rather than later.

Anyone interested in the contest need only sign up or otherwise gain a chance to appear at a council meeting or other government function and deliver a secular, instructive invocation. The goal of the contest is to educate everyone about why we have, or should protect what we are entitled to have — namely, separation of church and state.

Giving an invocation is a real wellness act of freedom-seeking, as well as the patriotic thing to do. If you are planning such a thing, I thank you in advance for your service.

Freedom From Religion Foundation