I pulled the transcript, just in case I’d missed it

I listened to the inaugural address while sitting in my office at work, so it was possible that in the middle of answering emails, scheduling meetings, and entering my time, I might have missed it. But no,  not a mention.

Unlike four years ago, not even a crumb for us non-believers today. No, Mr. President, freedom is not “a gift from God.” Our freedom was earned by the blood, sweat, and tears of real, live human beings.

And no, Mr. President and Chief Justice Roberts, “so help me, God” is not part of the oath of office.  Please reread that Constitution you just swore to defend.

Article Two, Section One, Clause Eight:

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:–”I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

That being said, good luck with the bat-shit crazy contingent in Congress.

It matters

Sweetie and I will be voting today.  For me, this election is a no-brainer, at least at the federal level. I’ll be voting a straight Democratic ticket, and not because I think the Democrats I get to choose from are all that and a bag of chips.  They are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination.  The ones I have to choose from are far more conservative than I am.

I worry when I hear Shelley Berkley advocate a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I worry when President Obama touts the Simpson-Bowles Commission and wonder if Social Security will be there for me in eleven years.  I oppose the drone strikes.  I think we are far too militaristic and would like to see our Pentagon budget reduced.  The Affordable Care Act did not go nearly far enough for this Single Payer advocate.

But voting for Jill Stein, in this closer-than-close swing state is not an option, because there are some really important issues that matter.

The separation of church and state matters.  

The U.S. Constitution declares that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

Unfortunately, we do have a de facto religious test, much to my dismay.

However, while Barack Obama is a declared Christian, and he ends every speech with “God Bless America,” (Oh how I long for the days when politicians just ended their speeches with “Thank you.”), he at least has not been beholden to the religious right and has (gasp!) acknowledged that there are a great many people in our country who do not believe.

FACTS matter.

When I see the denial of science in climate change or hear a sitting Congressman declare that the Theory of Evolution, embryology and the Big Bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of hell,”   or hear a Senate candidate declare that a “legitimately raped” woman cannot get pregnant because her body just “shuts that whole thing down” I am stunned.  When I learn that these people are in charge of my life, and literally in charge of science research dollars, I am beyond gob-smacked.

I vote for reason. I vote for facts.

Women matter.

When I see Republicans denying women the right to control their own bodies and denying women their reproductive rights on the basis of said Republicans’ religious beliefs, whether it be it contraception or abortion, or categorizing some rape victims as legitimate (and others, by extension, not) or declaring the pregnancies resulting from that rape as a blessing from God, I am horrified.

Religious people in this country have the Constitutional right to believe whatever they want and to live their lives accordingly. They do not have the right to force anyone else, under penalty of law, to do the same.

Keeping religion out of our bodies, our bedrooms and our classrooms matters.

Voting rights matter.

When I see the voter suppression efforts pushed by Republicans in state after state, I am stunned.  There are virtually no known cases of In Person voter fraud.   Why would there be? It makes no sense.  In order to pull off a crime of that magnitude, the people engaging in it would have to be willing to risk up to two years in prison for this federal offense. It’s just not going to happen.  If Republicans really were worried about voter fraud, they’d tighten up absentee voting which has a much higher potential for fraud. (See granny farming)

But they won’t because absentee voting tends to favor Republicans. Voter ID laws are designed to suppress voters who traditionally tend to vote for Democrats. I guess if you can’t win in an open election on the merits of your argument, it just makes sense to remove the competition!

Character matters.

When I see Mitt Romney careen from position to position, never knowing what side of an issue he’s going to be on, I know I cannot trust him to be at the helm of our country for the next four years.

I may not agree with President Obama on every position he’s taken, and regular readers know who I supported in the Democratic primaries the last time around, but over the past term, I’ve come to understand that we don’t have a liberal Democratic president. (Can anyone tell me when we ever have?).  We have now someone I would characterize a progressive Republican president, kind of in the mold of Dwight David Eisenhower, except that Obama accepts the idea of the Military Industrial Complex.  And that, my friends, is the best we’re going to do this time around. Further,  I’m pretty sure I know where Barack Obama stands on most issues important to me. I have not seen him bobbing and dodging the way Mitt Romney has.

There are things I don’t agree with this President on. Race to the Top. No public option in the Affordable Care Act. Drones. Simpson-Bowles.

But . . .

I’ve seen President Obama grow in his office.

I’ve watched the economy come back from near disintegration.

I’ve seen the war in Iraq end. And I see light at the end of the tunnel in Afghanistan.

I’ve seen the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

I’ve seen him evolve on gay marriage to where he now stands with the majority of Americans on legalizing it.

I’ve seen him nominate two women to the highest court in the land, which that brings me to my next point:

The Supreme Court matters.

During the next four years whoever is President will likely select one or two more Supreme Court justices.  Beyond women’s reproductive rights, I need to consider what a Romney nominee (or two) might do for workers’ rights as well.

As Bill Fletcher, Jr. at Black Commentator put it:

Who gets to appoint the next several Supreme Court justices could have an impact for decades.  We have already seen the damage done by George W. Bush’s appointments to the Supreme Court in the form of the Citizen’s United decision on campaign spending.  In looking at the cases that are moving to the Supreme Court or have been taken under their jurisdiction, e.g., the Texas affirmative action case, I sure wish that there was a different balance on the Supreme Court.

These considerations are important when one realizes that progressive forces in the USA remain on the defensive.  If we had the initiative there might be a different discussion.  But at the moment we are trying to hold off some of the worst elements of an increasingly barbaric capitalism.  No, Obama does not open the road to fundamental social transformation, but to tell you the truth, if he can shift the Supreme Court balance even slightly that will be an important victory; a victory with a potentially lasting impact.

‘Nuff said.

Proclamation

As it appears that no city or county in the state has seen fit to do this today, I have taken matters into my own bloggy hands. 

Proclamation

 WHEREAS, the application of reason, more than any other means, has proven to offer hope for human survival upon Earth, improving conditions within the universe, and cultivating intelligent, moral and ethical interactions among people and their environments, an

WHEREAS, those who wrote the Constitution of the United States of America, the basic document for governing the affairs of humankind within the United States, based it upon principles delineated within the philosophies distinguishing the historical Age of Reason, and

WHEREAS, most citizens of the United States purport to value reason and its application, and

WHEREAS, it is the duty and responsibility of every citizen to promote the development and application of reason

NOW, THEREFORE, I Carissa Snedeker, Proprietress of the Blue Lyon blog, hereby proclaim Thursday, the 3rd day of May, 2012 a

DAY OF REASON

and I encourage all citizens, residents and visitors to join in observing this day and focusing upon the employment of reason, critical thought, the scientific method, and free inquiry to the resolution of human problems and for the welfare of human kind.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF I hereunto set my hand and cause the Seal of Blue Lyon to be herein affixed.

Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.

~~~~

Memo from the Big Guy to those participating in today’s public displays of piety:  

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”~ Matthew 6

A promise and a pretty picture

Lighting class assignment © Carissa Snedeker

Tomorrow. I’ll have something for you tomorrow. Maybe. It is a work and school day so I may not find the time, but I’ll try. After all, it’s crazy out there isn’t it? So much to comment on and yet I can hardly find the words.  I’m just beyond astounded.

I’m off to reread John F. Kennedy’s speech on the separation of church and state. I’d send it to Rick Santorum, but obviously he is unable to read for comprehension.

In the meantime I’m still taking pictures and getting to know many fabulous photobloggers, still doing Freethought stuff, and making plans for the Reason Rally.

Another episode of “What Violet Said”

This.

Feminists have been warning for years that contraception was next on the conservative hit list; that the war on abortion would metastasize into a war on birth control.

On Friday President Obama handed conservatives the first victory in that war, marking off contraception as a special thing that could be legitimately denied on the basis of religious liberty. You would think that the people who have been warning against this for years would be alive to the danger. And some of us are. But a lot of folks aren’t getting it.

So let me try again to explain, using examples.

Example 1: Let’s say a Jehovah’s Witness-affiliated company tells the Administration that they don’t want to cover blood transfusions in their healthcare plan because it’s against their religious beliefs. Do you think Obama would hold a press conference and announce that, henceforth, employers won’t have to pay for blood transfusions if it violates their conscience? Would he invoke the precious right to religious liberty? Would he announce that insurance companies would pick up the slack and pay for blood transfusions themselves?

Go read.

Maybe I am better

As an atheist I’ve been accused of  thinking I’m better than believers.  Well, when they act like this, I guess I am.  Never have I wished for, written of, spoken aloud, or forwarded any email with this sort of sentiment about any person I’ve disagreed with, regardless of how much I may despise them or their views.

Nick Sementelli at Faith in Public Life notes that Psalm 109, which is a prayer for the death of a leader, became a popular conservative meme after Obama’s election. The “tongue-in-cheek” prayer for the president was seen on bumper stickers. The relevant part of the psalm reads:

Let his days be few; and let another take his office

May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.

May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes.

May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.

May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children.

[Kansas GOP Speaker of the House Mike] O’Neal forwarded the prayer with his own message: “At last — I can honestly voice a Biblical prayer for our president! Look it up — it is word for word! Let us all bow our heads and pray. Brothers and Sisters, can I get an AMEN? AMEN!!!!!!”

O’Neal’s office refuses to apologize for the emailinsisting that the message was only referring to Obama’s days in office.

Uh huh.

But hey, let’s give O’Neal the benefit of the doubt.  Let’s say this is meant to be a joke. That he didn’t really mean it. What does it say about his reverence for his faith that he is using his holy book to make this joke? Does he have so little respect for his beloved scripture that it is merely to be used as a punchline to a joke?

If he has so little respect for his own religion, tell me again why I, a non-believer, am expected by people like him to “respect” this thing called “faith?”

Wouldn’t it would have been better for him to forward this?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’[f] 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor[g] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,[h] 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren[i] only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors[j] do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Moving on . . .

Perhaps you have heard of the case of Jessica Ahlquist, the 16-year-old high school student (and an atheist) who objected to the prayer banner hanging in her public high school gym and therefore sued to have it taken down. She won her lawsuit. So everything is okay now, right? The Christians have seen the error of their ways and have been in full-throated approval of the separation of church and state, right? Not so much.  The vitriol and threats (up to and including posting her home address on the internet) that have rained down on this girl are beyond the pale. Here are just a couple.

Click on the link if you’d like to see more Christian compassion. You may want to make sure you have an empty stomach though.  Here’s the irony. The “banner” that was taken down was all about “sportsmanship.”  You know, losing gracefully and with honor.

JT Eberhard brings up a good point.  If this is only the belief of the fundamentalist wing of Christianity, why aren’t the moderate Christians leaping to defend Jessica from this deluge of hate and standing up to defend one of the defining principles of the United States: the separation of Church and State?

. . .  while there was a mountain of rebukes yesterday to the threats against Jessica, they were all coming from non-believers.  The liberal, moderate Christians, the ones we are repeatedly told by the “let’s get along” archetypes of this movement are our allies, were conspicuous by their silence.  When those made monsters by faith were relishing the suffering of 16-year-old girl, our allies were nowhere to be found.  The only defenses can be that only the beasts of Christianity were aware of the RI decision or that only the beasts of Christianity were motivated to be vocal.  The first is absurd, and the second is a problem.

There is a reason that the atheists are the ones who must police church/state violations.  There is a reason we are the ones who must play watchdog against creationism in schools.  There is a reason we are the ones to make a big stink over the Catholic church lending tacit endorsement to child rape.  The reason we must rebuke and oppose these forms of religion-driven evil is the same reason we had to be the ones to go in yesterday and rebuke another series of religion-driven evil: because the moderates aren’t.  Of course, I speak in generalities.  One could point to oddball moderates who do speak up, but on the whole this is obviously the case and I don’t see how anybody can argue otherwise.

[ . . . ]

Many of these moderate have asked me (as I assume they ask others) why I care so much about religion if I don’t believe in god.  What is happening to Jessica is one of the reasons why.  Because so many use faith as a license to commit a wealth of their emotional resources to ludicrous ideas.  This often results in behavior unfit for the company of two-year-olds, in behavior that is an affront to humanity, and/or behavior that destroys lives.  And the moderates are powerless to say otherwise without invoking faith in something else.  By keeping faith sacrosanct, they keep faith alive and, in doing so, keep the monsters it produces alive.  Attachment to faith made none of those people from yesterday (and there were a lot of them) better.  It made them worse.  What’s more, it kept the moderates silent in the face of moral horrors committed by others driven by faith.

Regular readers know of my journey from faith to freethought as well as the recent imbroglio with my mother, which has opened a wide chasm between the two of us. Mother is angry with me, ostensibly because I do not believe in god and dare to vocalize my beliefs here. She accused me of disparaging the Bible. Nah…I just use it to point out religious hypocrisy (as I did above).

October 31, 2011 - Nevada Day © Carissa Snedeker

An innocent statement:  “Are you good without God? Millions are.”  It says nothing about the morality of those who believe in God.  It merely states that those who don’t can be good people too.   But that’s not how my mother saw it. When she saw this banner she “knew” that I thought I was better than she and as a result she has chosen to reject me (and my gifts) because belief in her god is more important to her than loving and accepting me as I am.  Does that sound harsh? It feels even worse.

We are estranged. I never in a million years could have thought that would be possible.  I shared our email chain with Sweetie and Daughter. Sweetie was/is furious. Daughter was horrified and told me that as she read my mother’s words she imagined how hurt she would have been if those words had come from me.   I may have totally misread my mother, but I don’t think so. Knowing how long she can hold onto a grudge doesn’t give me hope for our future.

And that breaks my heart.

Nine

Congress Critters voted today on House Resolution 13 which passed with 396 ayes and 9 nays.

Reaffirming “In God We Trust” as the official motto of the United States and supporting and encouraging the public display of the national motto in all public buildings, public schools, and other government institutions.

8 Democrats and 1 Republican, Justin Amash (R-MI), voted against it. Why did this lone Tea Party Republican freshman who supports everything I oppose,  vote no? From his Facebook page:

Here’s the roll call for H Con Res 13. The nonbinding resolution “encourages the public display of the national motto in all public buildings, public schools, and other government institutions.” Displaying “In God We Trust” on public property is appropriate in some circumstances. There is no need to push for the phrase to be on all federal, state, and local buildings.The fear that unless “In God… We Trust” is displayed throughout the government, Americans will somehow lose their faith in God, is a dim view of the profound religious convictions many citizens have. The faith that inspired many of the Founders of this country—the faith I practice—is stronger than that. Trying to score political points with unnecessary resolutions should not be Congress’s priority. I voted no. It passed 396-9-2.

Amash’s words are the flip-side of what I’ve wondered myself.

Honestly, I don’t know who should be angrier, the non-theists or the believers. If I were a believer, I wouldn’t want my god reduced to a ceremonial relic. As a non-theist, I will not invoke a god I have no belief in, and I’d really like to understand why any believer would want me to do so.  Doesn’t their god mean more to them than that? Why do they want to force a non-believer to pretend? Do they not realize that words spoken in vain make a mockery of their faith and, in essence, blaspheme their god?

It appears, Rep Amash actually gets this.

Of course, all this proves is the veracity of the broken clock rule. 

Oh, and those 396 representatives who voted aye?  They are violating their oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.

By the way, this resolution has been on the docket for some time.  See my post, They really love the 2nd Amendment,  for the full text of the resolution, which as one commenter noted, is “a litany of affronts to the First Amendment.”

And while we’re at it, let’s defend secularism at home too

From my inbox:

For Immediate Release, 27 October 2011

76 secularists and human rights campaigners, including Mina Ahadi, Nawal El Sadaawi, Marieme Helie Lucas, Hameeda Hussein, Ayesha Imam, Maryam Jamil, Maryam Namazie, Taslima Nasrin, Farida Shaheed, Fatou Sow, and Stasa Zajovic have signed on to a Manifesto for a Free and Secular Middle East and North Africa.
 
In light of the recent pronouncements of the unelected Libyan Transitional Council for ‘Sharia laws’, the signatories of the manifesto vehemently oppose the hijacking of the protests by Islamism or US-led militarism and unequivocally support the call for freedom and secularism made by citizens and particularly women in the region.
 
Secularism is a minimum precondition for a free and secular Middle East and for the recognition of women’s rights and equality.
 
We call on world citizens to support this important campaign by signing on to our petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/world-citizens-defend-a-free-and-secular-middle-east-and-north-africa.
 
We also ask that supporters click ‘like’ on our Facebook page to support this important campaign: http://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Free-and-Secular-Middle-East-and-North-Africa/271164176261820#!/pages/A-Free-and-Secular-Middle-East-and-North-Africa/271164176261820 and Tweet: #freesecularMENA in support of a free and secular Middle East and North Africa.
 
VERSION FRANÇAISE CI DESSOUS
FRENCH, ARABIC AND PERSIAN VERSIONS BELOW
 
Manifesto for a Secular Middle East and North Africa
 
The 2009 protests in Iran followed by the Arab Spring have the potential to herald a new dawn for the people of the region and the world. The protests have clearly shown that people in the region, like people everywhere, want to live 21st century lives.
 
We, the undersigned, emphasise their modern and human dimension and wholeheartedly welcome this immense and historical development. We are vehemently opposed to their hijacking by Islamism or US-led militarism and support the call for a free and secular Middle East and North Africa made by citizens and particularly women in the region.
 
Secularism is a minimum precondition for the freedom and equality of all citizens and includes:
1. Complete separation of religion from the state.
2. Abolition of religious laws in the family, civil and criminal codes.
3. Separation of religion from the educational system.
4. Freedom of religion and atheism as private beliefs.
5. Prohibition of sex apartheid and compulsory veiling.
 
SIGNATORIES
 
Mina Ahadi, Spokesperson, International Committees against Stoning and Execution, Iran/Germany
Marieme Helie Lucas, Sociologist, Founder and former international coordinator of Women Living Under Muslim Laws and founder of Secularism Is A Women’s Issue, Algeria/France
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, Iran/UK
Shahla Abghari, University Professor, Iran/USA
Siavash Abghari, Esmail Khoi Foundation, Iran/USA
Ahlam Akram, Palestinian Peace and Human Rights Writer and Campaigner, Palestine/UK
Sargul Ahmad, Women’s Liberation in Iraq, Iraq/Canada
Mahin Alipour, Coordinator, Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, Iran/Sweden
Reza Alkrami, Human Rights Activist, Iran/USA
Farideh Arman, Coordinator, Committee to Defend Women’s Rights, Iran/Sweden
Sultana Begum, Regional Gender Adviser, Diakonia Asia, Bangladesh
Djemila Benhabib, Writer, Algeria/Canada
Codou Bop, Journalist and Director of GREFELS, Dakar, Senegal
Ariane Brunet, co-founder Urgent Action Fund, Québec, Canada
Micheline Carrier, Sisyphe, Québec, Canada
Patty Debonitas, Iran Solidarity, UK
Denise Deliège Femmes En Noir, Belgium
Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, Sweden
Fanny Filosof, Femmes en Noir, Belgium
Mersedeh Ghaedi, New Channel TV Programme host, Iran/Norway
Groupe de recherche sur les femmes et les lois, Dakar, Senegal
Laura Guidetti, Marea Feminist Magazine, Italy
Zeinabou Hadari, Centre Reines Daura, Niger
Anissa Hélie, Historian, Algeria/France/USA
Rohini Henssman, Human Rights Activist, India
Hameeda Hossein, Chairperson Ain o Salish Kendra, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Khayal Ibrahim, Women’s Liberation in Iraq, Iraq/Canada
Leo Igwe, Founder, Nigerian Humanist Movement, Nigeria
Ayesha Imam, Women’s Human Rights and Democracy Activist, Nigeria/Senegal
International Campaign in Defence of Women’s Rights in Iran, Sweden
International Committee against Execution, Germany
International Committee against Stoning, Germany
Iran Solidarity, Iran/UK
Maryam Jamil, Women’s Liberation in Iraq, Iraq
Sultana Kamal, Executive Director, Ain o Salish Kendra and Chairperson Transparency International, Bangladesh
Abbas Kamil, Unity Against Unemployment in Iraq, Baghdad, Iraq
Harsh Kapoor, South Asia Citizens Web, India
Akbar Karimian, Human Rights Activist, Iran/UK
Cherifa Kheddar, President of Djazairouna, Algeria
Monica Lanfranco, Marea Feminist Magazine, Italy
Houzan Mahmoud, Representative of Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, Iraq/UK
Nahla Elgaali Mahmoud, Biologist, Sudan/UK
Anwar Mir Sattari, Human rights Activist, Iran/Belgium
Amena Mohsin, Professor, Dept. International Relations Dhaka University, Bangladesh
Khawar Mumtaz, Director Shirkat Gah, Lahore, Pakistan
Taslima Nasrin, Writer and Activist, Bangladesh
U. M. Habibun Nessa, President, Naripokkho, Bangladesh
Partow Nooriala, Poet, Writer and Human Rights Activist, Iran/USA
Asghar Nosrati, Human Rights Activist, Iran/Sweden
One Law for All, UK
Pragna Patel, Southall Black Sisters, UK
Fariborz Pooya, Iranian Secular Society, Iran/UK
Protagora, Zagreb, Croatia
Hassan Radwan, Activist, Egypt/UK
Mary Jane Real, Women’s Human Rights Coalition, Manila, The Philippines
Edith Rubinstein, Femmes en Noir, Belgium
Nawal El Sadaawi, Writer, Egypt
Fahimeh Sadeghi, Coordinator, International Federation of Iranian Refugees, Iran/Canada
Gita Sahgal, Director, Centre for Secular Space, UK
Nina Sankari, Secularist and Feminist, Poland
Secularism Is A Women’s Issue (International Network)
Aisha Lee Shaheed, London, UK
Farida Shaheed, Shirkat Gah, Lahore, Pakistan
Siba Shakib, Filmmaker, Writer and Activist, Iran/USA
Sohaila Sharifi, Women’s Rights Campaigner, Iran/UK
Issam Shukri, Head, Secularism and Civil Rights in Iraq, Iraq/Canada
Southall Black Sisters, UK
Fatou Sow, Sociologist CNRS, Dakar, Senegal
Afsaneh Vahdat, Coordinator, International Campaign for Women’s Rights in Iran, Iran/Sweden
Lino Veljak, Professor of Philosophy, Zagreb University, Croatia
Fauzia Viqar, Director Advocacy and Communications, Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre, Lahore, Pakistan
Anne Marie Waters, One Law for All, UK
Vivienne Wee, anthropologist, feminist and human rights activist, Singapore and Hong Kong, China
Women In Black, Belgrade, Serbia
Sara Zaker, Theatre Director, Bangladesh
Stasa Zajovic, spokesperson Women in Black, Belgrade, Serbia

It coudn’t happen here? It already has.

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” ~ Wendell Phillips

In case Americans think we’re immune from the same sort of thing that happened in Afghanistan, think again.

Religious violence – American style

Starting with the hanging of Quakers in Puritan America to the religiously inspired murders of abortion providers, Albert Menendez takes the reader through a journey of American religious discrmination and violence  committed generally by Protestants (and often sanctioned by the state) towards Quakers, Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, and others.  Please read it all.

At the end of his essay Menendez notes that laws on the books mean nothing if they are not enforced.

It should be emphasized that these frightful events in our history occurred despite the existence of constitutional guarantees and protections, embedded in the First Amendment and Article Six, for religious liberty and freedom of conscience. They took place in the face of state constitutional provisions which in all fifty states protected freedom of expression in religious matters. Thirty one states ban religious tests for public office and 35 states ban religious establishment. Twenty-nine states prohibit required church attendance and 25 states forbid public expenditures on sectarian institutions.

Still, the political culture must be willing to enforce these statutes and provisions or they could become dead letters, more honored in the breach than in the observance. A religiously tolerant culture is still a prerequisite for religious peace and harmony and for the equality of all citizens irrespective of their religious opinions.

We are told by Ben Wattenberg and others that “values matter most.” Indeed they do. And clearly it is evident that a truly civilized society must embrace religious tolerance and equality as supreme values. A pluralistic, libertarian culture is an additional guarantee that will make constitutional protections and loudly proclaimed ideals a living reality for the citizenry of today and for their posterity.

In a world filled with the darkness of religious strife, this is one lamp that surely must be kept lit.