Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Judge Declares National Day of Prayer Unconstitutional

Posted in News by Skepdude on April 15, 2010

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT GAWKER.COM

A year-old, incorrect story about Barack Obama “canceling” the National Day of Prayer made the rounds today. Meanwhile, in reality, Obama’s Justice Department was defending the Day of Prayer to a U.S. District Court that just ruled it unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb declared section 119 of US Code 36—establishing an annual National Day of Prayer—to be unconstitutional. Her decision is available here. We certainly agree with everything she writes, and we’re sure there will be no major controversy over any of this.

The Freedom from Religion foundation brought the suit, claiming that the statute calling on the president to proclaim a National Day of Prayer each year is a violation of the Establishment Clause. Crabb found that the plaintiffs had the standing to challenge section 119 itself, but not presidential proclamations generally.

In Crabb’s reading of the case law, the government can encourage prayer when it has “a significant secular purpose,” but the National Day of Prayer has no point beyond encouraging everyone to pray.

Unfortunately, § 119 cannot meet that test. It goes beyond mere “acknowledgment” of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context. In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience. “When the government associates one set of religious beliefs with the state and identifies nonadherents as outsiders, it encroaches upon the individual’s decision about whether and how to worship.” McCreary County, 545 U.S. at 883 (O’Connor, J., concurring). Accordingly, I conclude that § 119 violates the establishment clause.

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT GAWKER.COM

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A completely demented ruling on religious proselytization in a high school classroom

Posted in Preliator pro Causa by Skepdude on March 2, 2010

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT PRELIATOR PRO CAUSA

First, take a look at these photos:

Faith banner in public school math classroom: “In God We Trust / One Nation Under God / God Bless America / God Shed His Grace On Thee”
Faith banner in public school math classroom: “All Men Are Created Equal / They Are Endowed By Their CREATOR”

Okay, standard preachy Christian rubbish. Nothing exactly new or interesting, by itself.

But … guess where these banners are located? As hinted by the geometric pie (or whatever that blue divided thingy is called), the posters about calculus and the overall “educative”-like feel of the surroundings, this is actually in … a public mathematics classroom, hung by Bradley Johnson, a math teacher at Westview High School in the Poway Unified School District in California. Because, obviously, what students want to see as they enter a supposedly secular public math class is their very Christian teacher’s public declaration of faith, as opposed to, say, anything that’s actually useful.

As you can imagine, anyone who’s aware of this little thing called the Establishment Clause – ie. Separation of Church and State – can tell you in just how many ways this violates the law. So, naturally, the Poway school district came down on Johnson and forced him to remove the banners. (Note the irony of the term “forced”, seeing as those banners should never have been present in the classroom in the first place.)

Naturally, lawsuits were filed. Because, you know, forcing a teacher at a secular institution of education to remove his proselytizing rubbish from his public classroom surely fits so well with “oppressing his religious freedom!” and all that. But, here’s the true punch to the story: the verdict.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT PRELIATOR PRO CAUSA

Americans United Applauds Court Decision Striking Down Oklahoma County’s Commandments Display

Posted in News by Skepdude on June 9, 2009

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT “AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE”

American United for Separation of Church and State today praised a federal appeals court for striking down a government display of the Ten Commandments in Haskell County, Okla.

Reversing a lower court, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously declared unconstitutional the eight-foot-tall religious display, which was erected at the local courthouse in 2004 after a campaign by a local minister and his supporters.

“This decision should send a clear message to politicians and religious leaders: Thou shalt not mix church and state,” observed the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Our courthouses should focus on the Constitution and civil law, not religious law.”

Americans United, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Green v. Haskell County Board of Commissioners case, noted that the monument displays the Protestant version of the Commandments and that it contains the text of the Mayflower Compact on the other side.

The appeals court traced the history of the monument, noting that commissioners frequently invoked religious language in defending it. One commissioner said, “I’m a Christian, and I believe in this. I think it’s a benefit to the community.”

The appellate panel, composed of three George W. Bush appointees, ruled that most people would perceive the display of the monument and the battle to keep it up as religious efforts.

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT “AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE”

Illinois moment of silence ruled unconstitutional

Posted in News by Skepdude on January 22, 2009

CHICAGO —

A federal judge has ruled that a state law requiring a moment of silence in public schools across Illinois is unconstitutional, saying it crosses the line separating church and state.

“The statute is a subtle effort to force students at impressionable ages to contemplate religion,” U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman said in his ruling Wednesday.

The ruling came in a lawsuit designed to bar schools from enforcing the Illinois Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act. It was filed by talk show host Rob Sherman, an outspoken atheist, and his daughter, Dawn, a high school student.

Gettleman’s ruling was not a surprise. He had already ruled in favor of Sherman in two previous decisions.

As passed by the Illinois General Assembly, the law allows students to reflect on the day’s activities rather than pray if that is their choice and defenders have said it therefore doesn’t force religion on anyone.

But Gettleman backed critics such as the American Civil Liberties Union, who say the law is a thinly disguised effort to bring religion into the schools.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT THE SEATTLE TIMES.

Atheists want God out of Ky. homeland security

Posted in News by Skepdude on December 3, 2008

A group of atheists filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to remove part of a state anti-terrorism law that requires Kentucky’s Office of Homeland Security to acknowledge it can’t keep the state safe without God’s help.

American Atheists Inc. sued in state court over a 2002 law that stresses God’s role in Kentucky’s homeland security alongside the military, police agencies and health departments.

Of particular concern is a 2006 clause requiring the Office of Homeland Security to post a plaque that says the safety and security of the state “cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon almighty God” and to stress that fact through training and educational materials.

The plaque, posted at the Kentucky Emergency Operations Center in Frankfort, includes the Bible verse: “Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”

“It is one of the most egregiously and breathtakingly unconstitutional actions by a state legislature that I’ve ever seen,” said Edwin F. Kagin, national legal director of Parsippany, N.J.-based American Atheists Inc. The group claims the law violates both the state and U.S. constitutions.

But Democratic state Rep. Tom Riner, a Baptist minister from Louisville, said he considers it vitally important to acknowledge God’s role in protecting Kentucky and the nation.

“No government by itself can guarantee perfect security,” Riner said. “There will always be this opposition to the acknowledgment of divine providence, but this is a foundational understanding of what America is.”

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “THE SEATTLE TIMES”

FFRF Sues Bush, Shirley Dobson and Gov. Doyle over National Day of Prayer Proclamations

Posted in FFRF by Skepdude on October 4, 2008

(MADISON, WIS.) The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national state/church watchdog, filed a federal lawsuit today broadly challenging the federal law designating a National Day of Prayer and requiring a National Day of Prayer Proclamation by the President. In addition to suing Pres. George W. Bush, the lawsuit names his press secretary, Dana Perino, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, one of 50 governors to also issue prayer proclamations, and Shirley Dobson, chair of the National Day of Prayer Task Force.

Public Law 100-307 sets the first Thursday in May as “National Day of Prayer.” The Foundation is seeking a declaration that the law violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“Mandated Prayer Proclamations by the President exhorting each citizen to pray constitutes an unabashed endorsement of religion,” contends the Foundation complaint, filed on behalf of the Foundation by attorney Richard L. Bolton of Boardman Law Firm, Madison, Wis.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “FREEDOM FROM RELIGION FOUNDATION”

Church Politicking Is Uncivil Disobedience

Posted in FFRF by Skepdude on September 26, 2008

A well-heeled extremist legal outfit is calling on priests and pastors throughout the nation to defy IRS regulations by using their tax-exempt pulpits this Sunday, Sept. 28, to endorse candidates in the presidential race.

The unethical so-called Pulpit Initiative is advanced by the troublemaking Alliance Defense Fund. The Fund seems to be advocating no less than organized crime–uncivil disobedience. The Wall Street Journal yesterday reported some 30 ministers have said they will participate. Rev. Jody Hice, of Bethelehm First Baptist Church in Bethlehem, Ga., told the Journal he will endorse Sen. John McCain: “As a pastor, I have the right to speak biblical truth without being punished for it.” (Just where in the bible can we find that reference to John McCain?)

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “FREEDOM FROM RELIGION FOUNDATION”