One of the first defenders of separation of church and state, you can help support his ideals by contributing to AU today, by clicking right here.
If you would like to learn more about where Jefferson’s perspectives on separation issues and deism came from, a great resource is “Nature’s God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic” by Matthew Stewart.
Happy birthday to one of our favorite founding fathers!
Very good quote from the President: he gets it!
“Our government does not sponsor a religion, nor does it pressure anyone to practice a particular faith, or any faith at all. And the result is a culture where people of all backgrounds and beliefs can freely and proudly worship, without fear, or coercion….”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!
It’s always nice to see appropriate allowances being made for people to celebrate their religious faith, when it doesn’t affect anyone else’s liberty and rights to celebrate their own (or their lack thereof). As Justice Ginsburg noted:
“Unlike the exemption this Court approved in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., accommodating petitioner’s religious belief in this case would not detrimentally affect others who do not share petitioner’s belief”
Considering that prisons in 40 other states allow for inmates to have beards, and with arguments like “the inmate could smuggle contraband or weapons in his beard” (when there are no laws saying that inmates must shave their heads), it’s surprising the case actually made it as far as it did.
When faced with a lawsuit over their refusal to allow non-Christian groups to distribute material alongside those who were distributing Bibles, a Florida school board finally relented and said others could hand out their books and pamphlets as well. But when they finally realized what that meant, and that religious groups they didn’t like (including the Satanists) would have similar access to children as their preferred ones, they decided to cancel the event completely.
You have to either allow no groups at all to distribute their materials, or allow all of them: anything else become Constitutionally problematic. But situations like this expose the hypocrisy behind those who claim religious freedom to defend their actions, but then immediately back down when it becomes clear theirs may not be the only religion represented.
A reasonable article from Reason magazine on why mixing religion with public policy is not the right thing to do:
No, it’s not time to “turn back to God,” especially when it comes to politics and public policy. What ails the government is not a deficit of religiosity but a nearly complete failure to deal with practical issues of spending versus revenue, creating a simple and fair tax system, reforming entitlements, and getting real about the limits of America’s ability to control every corner of the globe. God has nothing to do with any of that. The fault lies not in our stars but in policies.
The right decision. The “Ark Park” was not a good use of tax dollars.
Here’s the history: “Answers in Genesis”, the fundamentalist Christian organization behind the “Ark Park”, was asking for millions of dollars in tax breaks and incentives to build their park.
But then, in spite of their claims that the park would be an educational tourist attraction, they made it abundantly clear that it would be nothing more than an extension of their fundamentalist ministry. AND, they made it clear that the only people who would be employed by the park would be those who agreed with their fundamentalist, young-earth, anti-evolution version of Christianity… by stating that on the job openings.
Guess what? You can do that. But not while you’re getting public tax money to do so. So Kentucky will not be granting them the tax incentives.
Want my tax money? OK. But thanks to separation of Church and State, you can’t use it to promote or denigrate any religion, and you can’t use it to discriminate against employees because of their religion. Use your own money, get your own private donors, pay for it yourself, do whatever you want.
The right decision, Kentucky. Thank you.
It’s a simple lesson that seems difficult for some people to understand: once you open up a public, taxpayer-funded space for the expression of one opinion on religion, you have to open it up for all. Just as religious groups would complain if an atheist organization were given free space to communicate their ideas inside a government building while rejecting theirs, atheists have the right to use public space that has been provided to religious organizations. If you allow one viewpoint and one viewpoint only, then you are promoting that viewpoint while suppressing others. It’s not the role of government to decide whose viewpoint is appropriate to be expressed and which is not.
But Michigan seems to need a reminder:
Since 2009, the city has allowed a local church group to run a prayer station in which volunteers distribute religious pamphlets, offer to pray with passersby, and discuss their religious beliefs with people who approach the station. The lawsuit filed today does not seek to have the prayer station removed, but instead asks the court to order the city to treat believers and non-believers equally.
For those who assume (incorrectly) that Americans United only supports atheistic viewpoints, that last sentence is important: it’s not that non-believers should be treated better or have more rights than believers. It’s that ALL viewpoints should be treated equally by the government, since the government is representing all of us, regardless of religion or lack thereof. This helps protect ALL religious views and forms of expression.