Religion


Fire and Hammer asks a provocative question in the post "Taking a Stand": what happens when we are faced by a situation that we know is wrong, but we fail to have the courage to take a stand against it? And with most people, the little situations we face every day can be must more difficult than looking at “macro”-issues.

As Fire and Hammer describes well:

The other day my son and I were riding the subway when four black teens started cursing. They carried on their conversation as if their language was natural. On this same car there was at least one other small child who could hear this foul language. I thought about saying something to them, asking them to watch their language in front of the children, but I did not.

Later I felt bad. I felt like I missed an opportunity to take a stand. I spend time here on this blog speaking of the need for change. Yet, when it was time to really speak out, I kept my mouth shut. At the end of the day I felt a little less like a real man.

The next day my son mentioned these boys and their language. I told him he will hear people cursing, just make sure it is not him. He asked if he should say something if people are cursing: should he tell them to stop. Having missed my opportunity to speak up, I did not know what to say to my son.

It is so easy to speak here on the net, with a degree of anonymity. But there is a real world out there and I hope the next time the need arises I will have the courage to speak out, or to act in a way that will make the world just a little bit better.

Amen.

We all have opportunities every day where we have to demonstrate what we are made of. Sometimes it is the actions we take that define what we are about: the act of kindness that we extend to a stranger; or perhaps the ethical behavior we exhibit during our business dealings. But sometimes its the actions we don’t take that also can define us: the insulting comment about a coworker that we hear, but do not refute; or the injustice against someone we see, but do nothing about.

That’s one reason why we have to continually pray for forgiveness because “we have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done”.

And when it’s a matter of someone else’s behavior, it can really put us in an uncomfortable dilema. Do you “stick your nose in” to someone else’s business? What might have happend on that subway car if he had confronted those foul-mouthed kids? They might have been ashamed and quieted down in front of the small children. They might have sensed the opportunity to annoy someone and cranked up the profanity even higher in an effort to be even more shocking. They might have decided that this was their car, cursed out the father in front of his child, and tried to pick a fight. So what to do? Not an easy question to answer.

And we are confronted by these types of “little opportunities” constantly in our daily lives.

Reading this story made me think about a time during my senior year in college. It was close to the end of the year and graduation was in sight. Moods were pretty good. Most people already had secured their post-college employment or school plans. One classmate in particular was ready to start a new job, and had already gone out and bought a new car. At least at that time, it was a pretty remarkable thing. Most people, if they had a car, had something less than new — paying for college took most of our money. He asked me if I wanted to take a ride in his new car. Like anyone, he wanted to show it off. We went around campus and quickly we arrived at the edge of town. Dusk had fallen, and suddenly he took off. The car flew down the two-lane rural road. Now in the Midwest things are pretty flat. And pretty dark at night. We hurdled down the road and I was braced in the passenger seat. I don’t remember what I said. Now I’m not someone who always obeys the speed limit. But I remember what I was thinking that night: we were going *way* too fast, especially if something were to get in our way. And I remember the relief that I felt when a distant streetlight started approaching nearer, signalling the end of this road and the need to slow down.

Of course, I didn’t tell him that he shouldn’t drive like that. It wouldn’t have been cool. And maybe I was the only person he ever took out for a ride that was actually scared about what he was doing. What a loser I would be to try to put a damper on his good time.

It was only a few weeks later, just as final exams were ending and graduation was nearly upon us, that we got the news. He apparently had taken two of our friends out with him. Must have been showing them how fast his car would drive. But this time the car wrecked on that same stretch of rural road. The car left the road, and eventually flew threw a fence. The driver and person in the passenger seat were both injured, but eventually recovered. But our classmate in the back seat was ejected from the car and was died along side that road.

As I tell this story, I don’t mean to make the driver out to be a bad person. It was an accident. But it was something that was avoidable. And I can’t tell you how many times I wondered if things might have been different if I had told him what I had felt the night he took me for a ride. We can’t know for sure. Maybe he would have ignored my warnings and went on to have the exact same consequences. Maybe he would have laughed at me and went on to cause me great social discomfort with my friends. But maybe he would have thought about it and decided not to wind up the engine like that in the future…

So, all I can do is echo what Fire & Hammer put forth. Situations come up every day that do call for some action. Not always big things, but sometimes it can be the little things that later turn out to be very big things. Boy, can it be uncomfortable! It can even be embarassing, inconvienent, and painful.

And that’s why we have to pay attention and look for these times. We need to pray for the strength to take the right action. We have to encourage each other every day.

And maybe the world, and each of our lives, can end up just a little better in the end.

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Hope that you have a very Merry Christmas! And may the real of spirit of Christmas fill your heart this year.

Luke 2:
1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

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God rest you merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
For Jesus Christ, our Saviour,
Was born upon this day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray.
Refrain:
O tidings of comfort and joy,
comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy!

In Bethlehem in Jewry
This blessed Babe was born,
And laid within a manger
Upon this blessed morn;
The which his mother Mary
Nothing did take in scorn. Refrain

From God our heavenly Father
A blessed angel came,
And unto certain shepherds
Brought tidings of the same,
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by name. Refrain

‘Fear not,’ then said the angel,
‘Let nothing you affright;
This day is born a Saviour
Of virtue, power and might,
So frequently to vanquish all
The friends of Satan quite.’ Refrain

The shepherds at these tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind,
And went to Bethlehem straightway
This blessed Babe to find. Refrain

But when to Bethlehem they came,
Whereat this Infant lay,
They found him in a manger
Where oxen fed on hay;
His mother Mary, kneeling,
Unto the Lord did pray. Refrain

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace.
The holy tide of Christmas
All others doth efface. Refrain

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As the kids lie in the post-Halloween tatters of empty candy wrappers, it’s also time to remind us that today is Reformation Day. In honor of this, here are Martin Luther’s own words describing his conversion experience:

I greatly longed to understand Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, “the justice of God,” because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage Him. Therefore I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against Him. Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant.

Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that “the just shall live by his faith.” Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before the “justice of God” had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven.

If you have a true faith that Christ is your Savior, then as once you have a gracious God, for faith leads you in and opens up God’s heart and will, that you should see pure grace and overflowing love. This it is to behold God in faith that you should look upon His fatherly, friendly heart, in which there is no anger nor ungraciousness. He who sees God as angry does not see Him rightly but looks only on a curtain, as if a dark cloud had been drawn across His face.

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I caught a few minutes of the Mike Gallagher show today, and he opened saying he just couldn’t undestand the bloggers and other radio hosts who condemned his giving one hour of his show’s air time to the Westboro “Baptist” crazies in exchange for their promise not to picket at the funerals of the slain Amish girls in Pennsylvania.

His contention seemed to be that it was worth whatever price it took to spare the innocent families from having to be exposed to this group’s filty message as they attempted to gin up some exposure for themselves. But I stand by what I said yesterday. It might have been impossible to completely shield those families from the presence of the Phelps crew and their hate-filled message, but, as indecent as their appearance would have been at the funerals, that place would have been the extent of the reach of their message. Putting them on a national radio show just gave them a platform larger than they ever could have hoped. And how can anyone think this has done anything except enbolden them to aim high when they plan their next publicity stunt. What will the cost of the bribe be that time? As Independent Conservative put it, “It sets a terrible precedent for any band of nuts that wants to blackmail their way into getting their trash message a broader audience without interruption.”

He did admit that he was not thinking beyond this specific instance. And he seemed quite proud of the fact that it was his actions that kept the families from being burdened with this. (He also seemed to be quite proud of the favorable write-up on page A-14 of the New York Times as well).

I know that he heart was in the right place, but I’m afraid that monster that’s been created is only going to be getting larger and larger for the next time.

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I think that everything that can be said about the Foley fiasco has already been said. Several times over. Under the FBI and House Ethics Committee finishes their work, saying anything else is just making a lot of noise for no reason.

So tonight I was just catching up on some things, and trying to avoid the fourteenth-hundred rehash of the same Foley junk. And I happened to watch the Hannity & Colmes interview with Shirley Phelps-Roper of the Westboro “Baptist” Church. Now I had heard bits and pieces of Fred Phelps and his lot, usually because they were protesting at the funerals of servicemen killed in the War on Terror. That was tasteless enough.

Then I did hear yesterday that the same group planned to come to the funerals of the poor Amish girls who were gunned down at their school the other day. Although I heard it, I just couldn’t figure out what this misguided group throught they were trying to accomplish. It’s not like Amish communities are havens for the homosexual lifestyle.

But after watching this brief interview, it’s clear that the Phelps’ and their “church” just don’t understand anything about the Reformed faith, even though they claim some Baptist roots.

The Independent Conservative very rightfully was outraged that Mike Gallagher is turning over an hour of his radio show in order to bribe these fools into not turning the Pennsylvania funerals into a circus. After seeing just a few minutes of her, I can see how right he is to be upset.

Fundamentally, she stated that God is vengeful and is out to punish man for not following his commandments. The Amish girls were killed. Since they died, it’s because God is teaching us a lesson. Both Sean and Alan tried to get her to explain how it was that these children could have deserved such a punishment, but that’s really beside the point. Of course they did not. But it wasn’t clear that was Phelps-Roper’s contention either, she just was stuck on the idea that they died, therefore it was God that did it. At one point she did branch out and kind of insinuate that their death might have had something to do with Governor of Pennsylvania:

… those children were killed at the hands of a raging mad God to punish those families, to punish the state of Pennsylvania, because you’ve got a governor in that state got on FOX News and lambasted us because we serve God.

But there’s no arguing with a person like this. To them, everyone who dies is just another “proof” of their theory in their own minds. It’s not that they are protesting… they are just yelling.

There are some people who mistakenly believe that if you worship God right and live your life well that you will be blessed. And if something bad happens in your life then it means you are not living right. The Westoboro clan has even taken this faulty thinking to an even more ludicrous extreme. Only in their version, there is no one (except possibly themselves) that can live right.

The Phelps clan is right about one thing: we are all sinners. And we can not save ourselves. But they missed the part about the gift of God’s grace and forgiveness. All they can see is that others sin.

I’m glad that they were not there to spoil the girls’ funerals. But they have shown themselves to be nothing but publicity hounds. And they shouldn’t have been given more time to spread their junk theology.

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As this week ends, I woke up this morning just more than a little tired and disgusted. All of the news this week seemed so disappointing:

  • The Pope talks about about Islam and violence. His remarks are met with… violence. The murder of a Catholic nun in Somalia. Rent-a-Crowds being formed to burn him in effigy. Christian church buildings burnt and vandalized. The irony of the situation was not lost on countless blog sites, but most casual observers just heard the story about the Pope making a ‘P.R. Blunder’. This situation is that this is not about ‘tolerance’ of other religions, but that there are a group of Islamic people who truely believe that those who do not convert, or speak ill of Islam (in their opinion) have automatically written their death sentance. Instead, we have the Pope continuing on his apology tour and more press releases from CAIR.
  • In Congress, we had hand-wringing over the Detainee Bill. This may be the first and last time that Senators McCain, Warner, Graham will be referred to as “mavericks”, “rebellious”,and titans”. According to the press, there was Republican “infighting” and a “revolt”. But all of this over trying to clearly define the boundaries of acceptable behavior, so that we don’t later have people rushing around accusing everything as being torture. Meanwhile, Bush is being painted as someone who wants to torture people.
  • At the UN this week we had a speech by George Bush. Of course, it appears to have fallen on deaf ears. Prior to the speech, France’s Ofuscator-in-Chief announced that France would ensure that the UN Security Council will remain toothless, despite all of it’s tough talk and demands on Iran with regards to their continuing nuclear development program. Then we were treated to anti-American bashing from Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (he still smelling the sulfuric odor of the devil, Bush and shilling for Noam Chomsky), and Lebanese President Emile Lahoud (said Lahoud: “Obviously, this was a premeditated Israeli “sentence” to destroy my country and everything it stood for”). Coupled with the recent US public relations tour of former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, and we have quite a sideshow. The only America-bashers that failed to turn up at the UN were Fidel Castro and Jimmy Carter. Sickening.
  • The only bright spot in Abbas’ speech, that the coalition government of Palastine might recognize Israel, has been quickly retracted as Hamas (who’s organization is built around the singular goal of destroying Israel) unsurprisingly denounced it.
  • There were insinuations by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf that the only reason that Pakistan cooperated was that the US threatened to bomb Pakistan if we did not help them. Of course, he now can not clarify his remarks, because he has a pending book deal.

So on a whole, I have been finishing this week just feeling frustrated with the whole mess going on everywhere.

And this morning, I sat eating breakfast with a group of men with whom I regularly meet. Today we were discussing many topics in our lives. A one point a gentleman approached our table and stopped to say hello. He said that he had overheard one us talking about success and failure. He briefly told his story: about working his entire life, saving his money, raising his kids and sending them to college. Then just as he and his wife were reaching a point in their lives where they could think about comfort and travelling, she was diagnosed with cancer. The treatments wiped away the savings plan, and she eventually lost her fight this year.

He asked, “What is all you have at that point when this happens?” Not money nor success. “You have your faith and relationship with God, and the conviction in how you’ve raised your children.”

Isn’t that the truth!

These are dangerous times filled with dangerous people. There is much in this world that can be disappointing and depressing to see and hear. There are so many things that frustrate us that we wish that we could change.

But in the end, we have to have the right perspective about what it’s all about. I thank him for that reminder this morning.

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Yesterday I mentioned the “Godless Report Card” - a set of rankings issued by the Secular Coalition for America which rated lawmakers on ten key votes based on the removal of religion as well as a few issues that they found important.

The “top” scorers were all Democrats (shock and surprise!), but I neglected to list the most Godless Republicans, according to their calculations:

The Most Godless Republican Representatives:

  1. Christopher Shays (CT): 60
  2. Mark Kirk (IL): 60
  3. Nancy Johnson (CT): 50
  4. Rob Simmons (CT): 50
  5. Judy Biggert (IL): 50

The Most Godless Republican Senators:

  1. Lincoln Chafee (RI): 40
  2. (No one else scored above a 20)

These results brought to you in honor of Sen. Chafee’s primary vistory.

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Mary Katharine Ham has written both a column and blog entry about some of the 9/11 conspiracy theory-mongers, including the internet films “Loose Change” and various websites and books.

Like her, I too said “Wow, they’re crazy. Moving on.”

But it seems like there is more of this silliness in the air than ever before.

On 9/11, CNN decided to run a “Top Story”, creating a news story out of a poll (something which I really hate!), saying More Americans blame Bush for 9/11.

Asked whether they blame the Bush administration for the attacks, 45 percent said either a “great deal” or a “moderate amount,” up from 32 percent in a June 2002 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.

Of course, it’s pretty ambiguous what it means to ‘blame’ (such as their actions were a contributing factor which allowed the attacks to take place vs. the some neocon army deliberately causing the attacks).

Regardless, many of the conspiracy theories seem to be gaining in popularity, regardless of their silliness. And outlets continue to legitimize some of these ideas.

So it’s time for some disclosure: I am a Presbyterian. OK - that’s not exactly an earth-shattering admission, but it’s the basis for my disappointment over the last couple of days.

Last Friday, the Wall Street Journal ran an article that yet again pointed out some of the foolishness going on with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Apparently the Presbyterian Press has published a 9/11 Conspiracy book called Christian Faith and the Truth behind 9/11. A brief excerpt:

Written by David Griffin and put out by Westminster John Knox Press, a division of the Presbyterian Publishing Corp., the book argues that 9/11 was a highly orchestrated Bush administration sham. The collapse of the World Trade Center–which, the book says, was brought on by controlled demolitions, not Islamic hijackers–was merely a “false flag” operation, designed to spur wars in the Middle East. The goal: an all-powerful American global empire.

Later sections in the book claim that the U.S. is “demonic” and that, as the leader of the global economy, the U.S. is responsible for the starvation deaths of millions each year. Mr. Griffin believes that the answer to these problems lies in a one-world democratic government. “It would bring the kingdom of God to earth,” Mr. Griffin told me in an interview. “It’s not some pie-in-the-sky, airy-fairy idea.”

What, one might wonder, has all this to do with the Christian faith? Mr. Griffin argues that we should imitate Jesus, who he believes was a political activist who wanted to overthrow the Roman Empire. Of course, that would make Jesus’ statement that “my kingdom is not of this world” the original “false flag” operation.

Apparently this has been something of a controversy already, because there is a (feeble) defense published on the PPC website:

David Ray Griffin writes “One of our main tasks as theologians is to deal with current events in light of the fact that our first allegiance must be to God, who created and loves all people-indeed all forms of life. If we believe that our political and military leaders are acting on the basis of policies that are diametrically opposed to divine purposes, it is incumbent upon us to say so.” At Westminster John Knox Press we share Griffin’s primary allegiance and seek to encourage sustained, informed, and respectful dialogue about the most pressing issues of our times.

I’m not sure what part of the Reformed Theology this book is attempting to advance, but it’s troubling to say the least, regardless of whatever one’s opinions may be about 9/11, Iraq, or the War on Terror.

I know that the John Knox Press is not the same as an official policy of the PCUSA, but it is so troubling that they would undertake to publish such a diatribe, especially knowing its controversial premise, at a time when the denomination is still struggling to define its official positions on so many important issues.

In advertising they say they any publicity is good publicity… but I can not see how this can be good for the Presbyterian Church in any way.

I couldn’t be more disappointed in my denomination as I am today.

UPDATE: Post updated to fix some major typos (minor ones left in place!)

UPDATE: 9/18: Chuck Colson discusses the controversy. One observation he makes: “The Bible warns us that false prophets and teachers will always be among us, introducing destructive heresies and maligning the way of the truth. We need to be on guard against them — and willing to speak out against those who attempt to lead Christ’s flock astray. Bible-believing Presbyterians, take note and clean house.”

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Today Red State pointed out an interesting article in “The Hill” about a scorecard for legislative godlessness:

For House staffers who continuously gripe about the Senate’s lack of good faith, it’s official. The Senate is in fact more “godless” than the House when it comes to upholding the separation of church and state.
The folks at the Secular Coalition for America awarded 18 members of the Senate (and only seven in the House) a “perfect score” for “commitment to the separation of church and state, and their willingness to protect the interests of the non-theistic community.”

The group based the grades on 10 key votes in each chamber, including those on judicial nominees in the Senate.

Senators earning the aetheists’ praise are: Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), Mark Dayton (D-Minn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

House members with perfect scores are: Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), Pete Stark (D-Calif.), and Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.).

Very interesting indeed.

But even more interesting is the method that the Secular Coalition for America ( the self-proclaimed “atheists, humanists, freethinkers, and other nontheistic Americans”) used to determine this score. You can view their 2006 scorecard for yourself, and see how all of the lawmakers voted.

Of course, the article in “The Hill” is meant to be a little tongue-in-cheek; it was “easier” to get a “perfect” godless score for a Senator as opposed to a Congressman. For the Senate, all you had to really do was be a partisan Democrat who opposed confirming Bush’s nominations for judges. In the House, the litmus test turned out to be allowing the Boy Scouts to use DoD facilities. Only seven Representatives voted against that measure in the entire House - and that disqualified everyone else from getting perfect scores.

If you take out the Boy Scout measure, you could add 57 more to the perfect (or near-perfectly) godless list: Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ), Rep. Becerra (D-CA), Rep. Capps (D-CA), Rep. Davis (D-CA), Rep. Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Filner (D-CA), Rep. Harman (D-CA), Rep. Honda (D-CA), Rep. Lofgren (D-CA), Rep. Miller (D-CA), Rep. Sanchez (D-CA), Rep. Sanchez (D-CA), Rep. Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Sherman (D-CA), Rep. Solis (D-CA), Rep. Tauscher (D-CA), Rep. Waters (D-CA), Rep. Watson (D-CA), Rep. DeGette (D-CO), Rep. DeLauro (D-CT), Rep. Bean (D-IL), Rep. Emanuel (D-IL), Rep. Jackson Jr (D-IL), Rep. Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Moore (D-KS), Rep. Cardin (D-MD), Rep. Van Hollen (D-MD), Rep. Markey (D-MA), Rep. Meehan (D-MA), Rep. Neal (D-MA), Rep. Olver (D-MA), Rep. Levin (D-MI), Rep. McCollum (D-MN), Rep. Clay Jr (D-MO), Rep. Berkley (D-NV), Rep. Holt (D-NJ), Rep. Pallone Jr (D-NJ), Rep. Payne (D-NJ), Rep. Rothman (D-NJ), Rep. Udall (D-NM), Rep. Ackerman (D-NY), Rep. Crowley (D-NY), Rep. Hinchey (D-NY), Rep. Israel (D-NY), Rep. Lowey (D-NY), Rep. McCarthy (D-NY), Rep. Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Serrano (D-NY), Rep. Slaughter (D-NY), Rep. Velázquez (D-NY), Rep. Price (D-NC), Rep. Kanjorski (D-PA), Rep. Schwartz (D-PA), Rep. Kennedy (D-RI), Rep. Scott (D-VA), and Rep. Baldwin (D-WI). Gosh, those darn Boy Scouts really know how to mess up a “perfect” score. I wonder if these legislators just couldn’t bring themselves to face voters in their districts knowing they had voted against the Boy Scouts… or if they are just ignorant of the blatant establishment of a national religion being promoted by the Scouts!

Seriously, since the Boy Scouts believe and ascribe to doing their duty to God, I can understand why the Secular Coalition would want to deny them the opportunity to camp at an Air Force or Army facility and think that it would help ensure the separation of church and state. (It’s really what Thomas Jefferson would have wanted, right?)

Just so you fully know what it means to get a high ranking, here are the ten most important bills in each law body, in the opinion of the atheists:

For the House of Representatives:

  • Vote against Department of Defense using federal funds to support activities of the Boy Scouts of America, in particualar the periodic national and world Boy Scout Jamborees. [That measure passed 418-7 despite the atheists.]
  • Vote for an Amendment to the Job Training Improvement Act that would strike a provision expemting faith-based organizations from mandated hiring practices even when Workforce Investment Act funds. [That measure failed 186-239 despite the atheists.]
  • Vote against Passage of the Job Training Improvement Act which exempts faith-based organizations from mandated hiring practices when receiving federal funds. [That measure passed 224-200 despite the atheists.]
  • Vote for Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act allowing federal funding of stem cell studies using conventional embryos. [That measure did pass 238-194. Tell me, however, what does this strictly have to do with seperation of church and state? I certainly can see how someone might be against the bill due to religious reasons, but other than that… what gives from the atheist side?]
  • Vote to require Secretary of Defense to report to Congress on a plan to prevent religious proselytizing at the Air Force Academy. [That measure failed 198-210 despite the atheists.]
  • Vote against Amendment to the Head Start Reauthorization which exempts faith-based organizations from mandated hiring practices. [That measure passed 220-196 despite the atheists.]
  • Vote against Constitutional Amendment to ban same-sex marriage. [That measure failed because it required a 2/3 majority but only achieved 220-196. Again, I find it very interesting that “secular” world frames marriage as a seperation of church and state issue…]
  • Vote against stripping federal courts of jurisdiction to hear any case pertaining to the Pledge of Allegiance. [That measure passed 260-167 despite the atheists.]
  • Vote against protecting the Mt. Soledad Easter Cross. [That measure passed 349-74 despite the atheists.]
  • Vote for override of Presidential veto of Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. [That measure did pass 235-193, although again I wonder how this ends up on the list.]

OK, so I can see the federal funds being used at faith-based organizations, indirect use of federal money by the Boy Scouts, trying to take “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. But the Stem-cell research and Same-Sex Marriage issues really twist my brain. In these cases, it seems that the Secular Coalition for America believes that simply taking a contrary position to one held by many (but not all) religious people in some way promotes the seperation of church and state.

By that logic, do they also believe that we should allow murder, because there are many who oppose it due to their religious beliefs (and that fact that it came down in the Ten Commandments)? “That’s just silly…” you may say — but can someone answer how it’s different?

Back to their important list of legislation: For the Senate side:

  • Vote against invoking cloture on Janice Rogers Brown confirmation to be U.S. Circuit Judge for D.C. [That measure passed 65-32 despite the atheists.]
  • Vote against confirmation of Janice Rogers Brown. [That measure passed 56-43 despite the atheists.]
  • Vote against invoking cloture on William H. Pryor, Jr. confirmation to be on U.S. Court of Appeals for Eleventh Circuit. [That measure passed 67-32 despite the atheists.]
  • Vote against confirmation of William H. Pryor, Jr.. [That measure passed 53-45 despite the atheists.]
  • Vote against invoking cloture on Samuel A. Alito confirmation to be on U.S. Supreme Court. [That measure passed 72-25 despite the atheists.]
  • Vote against confirmation of Samuel Alito. [That measure passed 58-42 despite the atheists.]
  • Vote against invoking cloture on Brett M. Kavanaugh confirmation to be U.S. Circuit Judge for D.C.. [That measure passed 67-30 despite the atheists.]
  • Vote against confirmation of Brett M. Kavanaugh. [That measure passed 57-36 despite the atheists.]
  • Vote against invoking cloture on the Federal Marriage Amendment. [That measure did fail to achieve 3/5 majority required, 49-48. Again with the same-sex marriage!]
  • Vote for federal funding of stem cell studies. [That measure did pass 63-37].

Again, very interesting. Apparently certain judges were very important to the atheists and their rankings. Alito, Brown, Pryor, and Kavanaugh were bad. But no mention of John Roberts. The only pattern I see is Roe v. Wade. Is Roberts excepted from the list because he said Roe v. Wade is settled law?

So if my guess is correct, then that means that Same-Sex Marriage and Abortion and Stem Cell Research are all seen by the Secular Coalition as issues involving the “seperation of Church and State”.

Very interesting indeed.

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