So I found an article that used the controversy about the Christian cheerleading banners in Kountze, Texas, as a jumping off point to complain about the loss of Christians’ “religious freedom” in the US. The article is from a site called “American Thinker,” which appears to be another wingnut site like the WND except with less ads (because more ads would be physically impossible). The article is absolute crap, and I thought I’d tear it apart line by line. You know, fun!
Anyway, it starts off like this:
The atheists have struck again. Having discovered that a small group of cheerleaders in Kountze, Texas (pop. 2,100) were lettering Bible verses on football banners, the Freedom from Religion Foundation sprang into action. It contacted the Kountze school authorities, presumably with threats of legal action if the religious expression was not banned.
This is the last occurance of facts in the entire piece. From here, the author takes a hard right into crazyland, where government sponsorship of religion is “religious freedom” and neutrality is “promoting atheism.” Observe.
Now the controversy is headed for a court hearing. The cheerleaders are accused of displaying a Bible verse on the sort of banner that is held up for a few seconds at the beginning of games before players crash through it. This activity was apparently so upsetting that one person in Kountze tipped off the Freedom from Religion group, who appear to be intent on wiping out even the tiniest vestige of religious expression in America.
This is kinda factual, at least at first. What the author didn’t mention is that the FFRF actually never sued anybody. The school administrators actually made the right decision and stopped the banners from happening. A group of parents and students are actually suing the school themselves, but you won’t see this guy mention that. I’m actually going to leave the “wiping out religious expression” comment until a bit later. He harps on that quite a bit.
This, of course, was not what our Founders intended by the First Amendment “church and state” clause. What the clause prohibits is “the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” What atheist groups are attempting to do, with the full cooperation of Obama’s Justice Department, is precisely what the Constitution disallows: the prohibition of religion expression. Had they intended to forbid the free exercise of religion, the Founders would not have justified independence on the basis of rights with which all men are “endowed by their Creator.” Nor would they not have concluded the Declaration with “a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence.” Nor would leaders like George Washington have invoked God dozens of times in their inaugural and farewell addresses to the American people.
Yes, the Constitution prohibits the establishment of religion. And “establishing a religion” was exactly what the cheerleaders, while representing their public school, were doing. It’s amazing how often religious people don’t get that. There’s a difference between personal religious expression, which is done during someone’s free time, and state-sponsored religious speech, which is done when representing an arm of the government. One’s perfectly fine, and the other one is illegal. And the Founding Fathers made those statements in the 1700’s. I should hope we’ve improved since then.
What the Founders did intend was that the state not establish a particular denomination as the national religion in the way that Anglicanism had been established in Britain. The false idea that religious expression should be driven entirely from the public sphere would have seemed perverse to every one of our nation’s Founders. It would seem that groups like Freedom from Religion are attempting to do precisely what the Constitution prohibits: to establish atheism as our nation’s state religion.
It would seem like that, if you had no idea what you’re talking about. Only to a wingnut is government promotion of Christianity “religious expression” while advocating neutrality is “establish[ing] atheism as our nation’s state religion.” Also, atheism isn’t a religion. It’s amazing that religious belief is so ingrained into these people’s minds that they just can’t imagine life without it.
Unfortunately, the widespread effort to impose atheism on America has the support of President Obama’s Justice Department and of Democrat-appointed liberal judges. The Kountze case is only one of hundreds of instances in which atheist groups have sought the government’s aid in oppressing religious expression, and, in most cases, they have received it. Intimidated by threats of lawsuits, school districts across the country have restricted prayer at school events, censored religious expression in school publications, canceled Christmas programs, eliminated references to Christmas and Easter in the school calendar, and prohibited student groups from engaging in such activities as silent prayer or the reading of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Ok, two things. First, I call bullshit on preventing students from reciting the pledge. There is no way that happened ever. Second, has it even occurred to this man that there might be people going to these schools that aren’t Christians? And has he even considered how it must feel to be one of those non-Christian students and be subjected to mandatory Christian prayer, forced to participate in religious ceremonies, and be bombarded with Christianity over and over again? Has he thought about how much this ostracizes those students? I’m guessing he hasn’t.
At the same time that they censor the least form of religious expression, atheist groups assert their own right to include anti-religious texts in school curriculums. Works of literature that mock traditional faith, such as John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men or Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (and more extreme titles such as Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War), are routinely designated as required reading. Students are obliged to engage in sex education from early grades on, to study contraception techniques, to discuss the option of abortion, to critique capitalism, and to review the “damage” of religious wars and religious beliefs. Christopher Columbus’ devout Catholic faith is depicted as complicit in the enslavement of native populations. The devoutly religious motivation of America’s greatest presidents, from Washington to Lincoln, is ignored. Even the crucial role that religion played in the founding of America is no longer a permissible topic. (Thanksgiving itself has become suspect — “thanksgiving” to Whom? — and subsumed under “fall break.”)
Yeah, how dare schools teach things? In all seriousness, this man is upset that students read books, that sex education classes teach sex education, that economics classes teach economics, and that history classes teach history. What does he want? Does he expect that public schools cater to his religious beliefs? Does he not want schools to teach facts? Also, I’ve read Of Mice And Men, and I have no idea how it’s anti-religious. Just throwing that out there.
Yet it is somehow permissible to include and even require religious expression other than Judeo-Christianity. The Heath Anthology of American Literature, a popular first-year text in public universities, begins with an entire section of Native American creation myths. Similarly, the Norton Anthology of American Literature devotes its opening sections to refuting Columbus’ “mistaken” conception of the Americas as a vast new opportunity for Christian mission. Instead, it focuses on the supposedly imperialist motivations of New World emigrants, including the New England Puritans (“a different kind of colonist”). Norton’s “overview” begins by noting that “Columbus’s voyage to the Americas began the exploitation of Native populations by European imperial powers.” From that point on, in many classrooms, it is all downhill.
Yes, that’s right: teaching about other religions in an objective manner is the same as promoting “religious expression.” In this man’s head, having students read The Odyssey would be promoting Greek theology. Also, is he denying that European imperial powers exploited Native populations? Because I’m pretty sure that’s well established fact. Just because facts don’t agree with your preferred worldview doesn’t make them wrong. Also, in this paragraph he’s complaining that the histories of other religions are being taught, but in the previous paragraph he was complaining that the history of Christianity was being taught. It’s all about religious expression until it’s not. Makes perfect sense.
The fundamental rationale employed by atheists groups to intimidate school administrators — the idea that Judeo-Christianity is impermissible while atheism, paganism, and environmentalism are acceptable forms of belief — is not just false; it is viciously discriminatory, and it needs to be challenged. Liberal judges need to be replaced with conservatives who understand that the Constitution never intended the suppression of religious expression in schools and other public spaces. And in order to replace liberal judges at the federal level, President Obama and other liberals like him must be defeated.
So he wants bad judges. Fair enough. Also, I have no idea what environmentalism is doing in there. Actually, none of those are religions. Two are kinda close, but the inclusion of environmentalism is just bizarre.
Until that happens, there is another alternative — one, ironically, endorsed by the president himself. Called upon to enforce immigration law by deporting illegal aliens under the age of 30, Obama stated publicly that he would not enforce the law. It would seem that this precedent could be adopted by administrators in the thousands of school districts in which atheists threaten to ban religious expression.
It’s at this point that I actually hate this guy. He’s actually advocating that school administrators break the law. Of course, if they do this, they will get sued, lose the lawsuit, and be forced to pay a large sum of money. That money could have gone toward education, but instead it would be spent on an unwinnable lawsuit. Clearly our schools need all the money they can get, because people like this man still exist.
Not that administrators in Kountze and other districts would wish to go so far as the president, who violated his oath of office by failing to carry out his constitutional duty to enforce the law. Administrators might simply state that they intend to enforce the law when they get around to it. Certainly, busy administrators have better things to do than march out onto the field and confiscate banners from cheerleaders. Those manning the public address systems on Friday nights might also conveniently absent themselves at the beginning of games, allowing citizens unaffiliated with the schools to speak their mind. Until the courts and the Justice Department are willing to act on the behalf of religious freedom, the American people at the grassroots level might wish to follow the president’s example and simply not enforce any injunction banning religious expression.
Oh look, a loophole! Except that it won’t work. It’s such a clearly obvious ploy that no judge will ever fall for it. And if resorting to childish tricks like this is what you have to do, you’ve already lost.
A dozen cheerleaders in a small town in east Texas will then be free to express their Christian faith, as will Americans of all faiths. But no single faith (such as atheism) should ever be imposed on the American people. The Pledge of Allegiance, the Ten Commandments, “God Bless America,” and Christmas displays in public spaces — all should be protected as part of the freedom of religious expression guaranteed under the First Amendment. As George Washington stated in his Farewell Address, “[o]f all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.”
The sheer amount of willful ignorance here is astounding. Those cheerleaders are already free to practice their Christian faith, as they always have been and always will be. They can’t loudly proclaim it on the field, but they can go home and pray all they want. They can go to any number of the churches in their town and worship their god for as long as they desire. Christianity is not under attack, and everyone is free to practice their religion all they want. It takes an enormous amount of privilege to want to force your religion into every corner of the country, and then call “oppression” when people don’t let you do it. There are some places where religion just doesn’t belong, and it doesn’t hurt anyone to keep it out. The sooner these people understand that, the better off we’ll all be.