Dirty theopolitics emerge after FFRF’s school complaint

Although our secular Constitution in Article VI explicitly bars such a religious litmus test, it's no holds barred for dirty theopolitics in the land of FOX-TV, tea party politics and the evangelical extreme right.

Statement by FFRF Co-Presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker:

David Williams, a Republican who is challenging Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear in Kentucky's Nov. 8 gubernatorial election, is engaging in the ugliest kind of "religion-on-one's-sleeve" politicking.

Williams is trying to smear Beshear because FFRF successfully stopped illegal clergy-led prayers to Jesus over the intercom at school-sponsored football matches in Bell County, Ky.

FFRF's staff attorney Rebecca Markert sent a matter-of-fact Aug. 9 letter of complaint to the superintendent in Bell County. FFRF had been contacted by district residents reporting that area Christian clergy were invited to pray over the PA system before football games. FFRF's letter cited legal "chapter and verse" — decades of clear and incontrovertible precedent in the form of Supreme Court decisions speaking directly to the violations like the ones in Bell County. Apparently, Bell County officials, despite the clear law, had sought an opinion from the state Department of Education. A spokesperson there warned that the "alleged activity actually does constitute unconstitutional endorsement of religion," and that the county would waste funds defending an illegal action. The superintendent then announced the prayers would stop.

Williams apparently saw a "gotcha" issue. He issued a self-serving press release Aug. 26 "to denounce this attack on prayer at public functions and lead the efforts of state government to defend our citizens' right to voluntarily prayer anywhere they choose."

Although Beshear was not involved, Williams said: "It is a travesty that Gov. Beshear will not stand up for freedom of religion in Kentucky, and instead sides with an organization called 'Freedom From Religion Foundation.' As governor, I will stand up against out-of-state liberal organizations that want to stomp on our freedom to voluntarily pray in public places."

Williams also complained that Beshear, when attorney general, ruled that the posting of Ten Commandments was unconstitutional. How could Beshear do otherwise? It's a no-brainer! The Supreme Court correctly and emphatically ruled in Stone v. Graham, a 1980 case out of Kentucky, that such bible postings were unlawful promotions of religion.

Ironically, FFRF is also unhappy with Williams' target, Beshear. You may recall that as governor he approved a scheme to apply Kentucky's sales tax reimbursement program to the construction of a Noah's Ark theme park designed, as Beshear put it, “to bring to life the various stories and places in the bible."

FFRF is an explicitly nonpartisan, apolitical educational organization. We do not endorse or oppose candidates, or get involved in elections. Nor do we appreciate being used in an election-year smear.

A year before the 2012 presidential election, secularists are already cringing at the imposition of a de facto religious test for public office. Although our secular Constitution in Article VI explicitly bars such a religious litmus test, it's no holds barred for dirty theopolitics in the land of FOX-TV, tea party politics and the evangelical extreme right.

This religious test now goes beyond requiring that candidates wear their religion on their sleeves. Must candidates now publicly defy the Supreme Court and its solid rulings against the imposition of religion in our public schools? Shades of George Wallace standing at the schoolhouse door! Except instead of barring black children, Williams as governor would be telling all students to bow down to his deity.

Look at presidential candidate Rick Perry's false statement that "In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools." Is there no end to the pandering?

Williams' quarrel isn't with FFRF. His quarrel is with our Supreme Court and its duty to uphold our nation's godless and secular Constitution. Is atheist-baiting — blacklisting those of us working to uphold the Constitution, science, reason and progress — becoming the 21st century form of redbaiting?

Electorate, it's time to demand that the media, candidates and their spin doctors keep religion out of politics! Freedom of personal conscience — to believe or not believe, but not to expect the government to settle the question — should not be a political football.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

Send this to a friend