Date: Tue, 23 Jul 2002 19:14:14 -0400 From: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: AANEWS for Tuesday, July 23, 2002 To: getgod
A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S #1046 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 7/23/02 http://www.atheists.org http://www.americanatheist.org http://www.atheistviewpoint.tv ftp.atheists.org/pub/atheists
A Service of AMERICAN ATHEISTS "Leading The Way For Atheist Civil Rights And The Separation Of Church Ad State"
In This Issue... * Court -- taxpayers to subsidize clergy training. * Show your support for Dr. Michael Newdow! Sign the on-line petition. * South Carolina OKs "In God We Trust" plates. * AA urges Secular Memorials on 9/11/02 * Join Us! For Reason and the First Amendment. * American Atheists Speakers Bureau * Resources * About this list...
COURT APPROVES STATE SUBSIDY FOR THEOLOGY SCHOOL STUDENT Ruling Threatens Separation, State Constitution Ban On Financing Religion: Wide Implications For Funding Faith Groups, Projects
A federal appeals court has struck down a Washington state law that denied public scholarships to students pursuing degrees in theology and training for the ministry.
The decision in DAVEY v. LOCKE charged that the state had violated the First and 14th Amendments when it deprived a student of a "Promise Scholarship" after he declared a college major in Pastoral Studies at Northwest College, a school affiliated with the Assembly of God denomination. According to the Seattle Times, the ruling has "stunned" many constitutional attorneys and officials in the state's education department. Some fear that it could accelerate the process of wider funding for private and religious schools.
Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, a religious advocacy group founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, gushed that the ruling "is a resounding victory for equal treatment of people of faith."
"This decision ends a strong message that religious exclusions will not be tolerated under the Constitution. A student should not be penalized financially for pursuing a degree in theology," said Sekulow.
The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court ruling was made in a 2-1 decision by a judicial panel. It voids a 1969 law passed by the Washington legislature that declared, "No aid shall be awarded to any student who is pursuing a degree in theology." The statute was based, in part, on Article I Section 2 of the Washington State Constitution that provides:
"Absolute freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment, belief and worship, shall be guaranteed to every individual, and no one shall be molested or disturbed in person or property on account of religion; but the liberty of conscience hereby secured shall not be so construed as to excuse acts of licentiousness or justify practices inconsistent with the peace and safety of the state. No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction, or the support of any religious establishment..."
The decision may touch on more students that the 22-year-old plaintiff, Joshua Davey. The Washington Promise Scholarship program awards grants to more than 6,000 state residents who come from households with modest incomes.
"It does have far-reaching impact in the way the state handles scholarships," declared attorney Stuart Roth of the ACLJ who represented Mr. Davey.
But Marc Gaspard, executive director of the Higher Education Coordinating Board which administers the program, warned that the ruling means that taxpayers must now subsidize training for those seeking to enter the clergy.
"It appears to me in reading this decision the court has devalued state law and dismissed our constitution," he told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper. "It's a surprise, since we won a summary judgment in a lower court."
"The value of the state law is to put a clear separation between the state and religion," Gaspard added.
The ruling could have even wider effects, though, since it also appears to void part of the First Amendment of the state constitution which prohibits taxpayer funding of religious institutions and practices. A number of state constitutions have wording more expansive than that found in the federal constitution regarding separation of church and government, and subsidizing houses of worship. The Ninth Circuit decision could open the way for cases challenging, for instance, statutes that prohibitthe use of public money to restore "historic" churches and religious sites, and provide further precedent in funding faith-based social outreaches.
At least one organizations, "Partners for Sacred Places," is seeking access to government funding in order to repair and restore thousands of dilapidated churches across the country. The idea has also won support from Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.).
The decision is the third this month where a Ninth Circuit Court panel wrestled with issues touching on the separation of church and state. In June, the court struck down the inclusion of the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, saying that it promoted a sectarian, monotheistic religious belief and thus violated the First Amendment. The court also rejected the claims of a man from Washington state who argued that he was the victim of discrimination when he refused to salute the American flag and take an oath in order to graduate from the State Patrol Academy.
In DAVEY v. LOCKE, Judge Pamela Ann Rymer opined, "A state law may not offer a benefit to all ... but exclude some on the basis of religion. Washington's restriction disables students majoring in theology from the benefit of the scholarship." She was joined in that opinion by Judge Ronald Gould.
But Justice M. Margaret McKeowan dissented, and noted that the Washington statute "has successfully navigated the tensions between the free exercise of religion and the prohibition of its endorsement."
She also wrote that the "genesis" of the suit was not the technicalities of how the scholarship program operated, but rather the state constitution which "defined its vision of religious freedom as one completely free of governmental interference, a vision the State explicitly refused to taint by the influx of public monies into religious instructions."
"The simple truth is that Washington has neither prohibited nor impaired Davey's free exercise of religion. He is free to believe and practice his religion without restriction ... The only state action here was a decision consonant with the state constitution, not funding 'religious ... instruction.' "
Thus, the 2-1 decision in DAVEY marks yet another significant shift as courts move from "strict neutrality" in respect to religious practice, to a position of so-called "accommodation." Under the latter, a seemingly irreconcilable conflict between the First Amendment and the separation of government and religion is tilted toward the churches -- seeking a way to further "accommodate" religious exercise.
For further information:
http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/pledge2.htm ("Ninth Circuit strikes 'Under God' in Pledge of Allegiance ruling," 6-26-02)
http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/faith38.htm ("Lieberman calls for public funds to repair 'historic' churches, synagogues, mosques," 12/27/01)
SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR DR. MICHAEL NEWDOW, PLEDGE DECISION!
Dr. Michael Newdow, the heroic Atheist who has successfully challenged the inclusion of 'under God' in our Pledge of Allegiance, needs your support! Clergy are wailing about the decision, while beholden politicians scramble to find a way to over-turn the ruling, even if it means amending our Constitution.
American Atheists urges you to show your support for the ruling. Here are some steps you can take ...
* Sign our on-line petition supporting Dr. Newdow. Join the thousands who have already expressed their support. Just visit http://www.atheists.org/action/newdowpetition.html and add your name. Tell others about the petition as well. Copies of the petition are regularly sent to Dr. Newdow to let him know that America's diverse community of Atheists, Freethinker and others of no religious belief -- and all who support the separation of church and state -- applaud his courage and tenacity in fighting this important legal case!
* Fight to defend the decision! Action is needed now to win the "culture war," public-opinion battle over this historic ruling. American Atheists urges all individuals and groups to get involved by contacting elected officials and opposing any bogus Constitutional amendment ploy to return to the religionized pledge. Letters to media are needed. For ideas, talking points and contact information, visit our action alert at http://www.atheists.org/action/alert-27-jun-2002.html
* USA TODAY is running a poll that you might wish to participate in. It asks: "Should the words 'under God' be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance?" You can vote, and read about efforts to reverse the Ninth Circuit decision at http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2002/06/27/pledge-hold.htm
SOUTH CAROLINA UNVEILS NEW "IN GOD WE TRUST" LICENSE PLATE
Motorists in South Carolina will be able to purchase license plates for their cars which declare either "In God We Trust" or "Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places."
The motto is displayed across the top of the plate, and the American flag, along with the South Carolina flag, decorate the center portion. Drivers would pay the regular $24 fee for either plate.
State Rep. Lanny Littlejohn (R-Spartanburg) cited the surge of patriotic fervor following the September 11 terrorist attacks. Littlejohn backed State House Bill 4416 in February, a so-called "homeland defense" statute that in hopes of preventing terrorist violence requires that all public schools conspicuously post the national motto of "In God We Trust" in classrooms, cafeterias and auditoriums.
An AANEWS investigation has revealed that Littlejohn is an outspoken fundamentalist Christian and Deacon of the Pacolet Mills Baptist Church. In 1999, he was featured in a Boston Globe story about American attitudes concerning interracial marriage thirty years after the historic LOVING v. VIRGINIA case. That decision involved a white man, Richard Loving, and his African-American wife, Mildred, who on the night of July 11, 1958 were rousted from their bed and arrested in Carolina County, VA. A judge promptly ruled that their marriage was illegal, noting "Almighty God created the races ... and the fact that He separated the races showed that He did not intend for the races to mix."
The Supreme Court overturned the ruling. Even so, in 1999, nearly 25% of Americans surveyed considered interracial marriage to be "unacceptable," mostly on religious grounds. One of them was State rep. Lanny Littlejohn who told Boston Globe reporter Phillip W. D. Martin: "That's (interracial marriage) not what God intended when he separated the races back in the Babylonian days. The races would be a lot better off if they stuck with their own kind."
"I've been raised a Baptist all my life," added Littlejohn, "and I guess that's exactly where it comes from. My family taught me that over the years, and that didn't take place during my upbringing, and therefore I don't espouse it."
South Carolina State Attorney General Charlie Condon said that the "In God We Trust" license plates do not violate the First Amendment and would pass constitutional muster. "The courts have repeatedly ruled that the words ... are not an endorsement of a particular religion," he added.
"The (U.S. Supreme Court) has said that the National Motto serves the non-religious purpose of solemnizing public occasions," Condon told the Metrobeat news paper, "and express confidence in America and recognize the attributes of America. Rather than an endorsement of religion, the words 'In God We Trust' are a symbol of patriotic pride and an acknowledgment of America's religious heritage. Nothing in the Constitution prohibits using the National Motto to teach our children to honor and hold high the values and ideals of our country and our love for God and Country."
Littlejohn, however, said that the plates are all about religion and proselytizing. "This will allow all South Carolinians to display their belief in God and their patriotism to the country and state," he told Associated Press.
The new plates will not be available until some time next year. A Florence, S.C. resident, Gary Finklea, donated $4,000 to begin produce of the "In God We Trust" plates. He will reportedly be reimbursed once 167 of the new tags are sold.
A Brief History -- "In God We Trust"
* No, "In God We Trust" has not always been the American national motto. It is, rather, an artifact of a long effort throughout American history to declare the United States to be founded upon "religious" or "Christian" principles, and the period of the cold war.
After the election of Dwight David Eisenhower in 152, the Hearst newspaper chain began a campaign to include the words 'under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. That change, supported by the Roman Catholic Church and groups like the American Legion, occurred on June 14, 1954 when the alteration was approved by Congress. The same year, religious magazines were given a special discount mailing rate. Then, on July 11, 1955, Eisenhower signed Public Law 140 requiring that all currency and coins bear the "In God We Trust" slogan.
* On July 30, 1956, Eisenhower signed Public Lw 851. This replaced the long-standing national motto of "E Pluribus Unum" or "Out of Many, One" with the religionized slogan "In God We Trust." The change was part of an effort to use religious belief and sectarian faith as both a litmus test in the ideological battle against "godless Communism," and a declaration of America's supposed religious heritage.
Other laws quickly followed, including statutes requiring elected officials or those appointed to an office of public trust to swear a religious oath, "So help me God."
* All of this violated the constitutional separation of church and state. The requirement of a religious oath violated Article VI of the Constitution which states:
" ... no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."
In the case of the South Carolina "In God We trust" license plates, supporters were careful to provide motorists with an "alternative" to the religionized slogan. That may allow the program to slip under constitutional review says Dr. Ron Romine, political science professor at the University of South Carolina. He told reporters that individuals will be able to choose which plate to display, but he adds that other parts of the state's "homeland defense bill" may have problems -- such as displaying the motto in public schools. Age and other factors, such as students being part of a captive audience during the school day, may render that practice legally inappropriate.
Still, defenders of "In God We Trust" -- whether in classrooms, on license plates, or on the money supply -- often present a two-sided and contradictory argument. "God" is obviously a reference to a supernatural, monotheistic being, as noted in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court decision striking down the Pledge of Allegiance. On the other hand, supporters can muse that the slogan is "not tied to any specific religion" or is a rhetorical device, part of a "civic religion."
S.C. Libertarian Party Chairman Chuck Williams is about the only political figure in the state speaking out against Littlejohn's scheme to promote religion on the road. He said that his party "has no problem with any private school having any religious association they so desire, but once you get government involved, you shouldn't have religious affiliations..."
"Ultimately, it amounts to ways for politicians to grandstand and throw mud at any of the ones that have common sense," Williams added.
For further information:
http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/igwt1.htm ("Stamping out religion on national currency," 3/15/99)
http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/igwt2.htm (House passes resolution to acknowledge motto 'For the government of a religious people,' " 7/26/00)
http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/igwt4.htm (Religious brush wars over slogans, creationism, prayer spread," 2/19/02)
http://www.atheists.org/public.square/coins.html (History of how 'In God We Trust' slogan was put on our coins -- testimony of former American Atheists president John Murray before a subcommittee of the U.S. House of representatives, September 14, 1998).
ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF SEPTEMBER 11 TRAGEDY APPROACHES American Atheists Urges Secular Memorials Across The Nation!
On September 11, 2002, Islamic militants launched the ultimate "faith-based initiative" and attacked targets in Washington, DC and New York City. Thousands died in this religion-based terrorism, and the lives of many more were affected.
The one year anniversary of that tragic occurrence approaches.
Over the course of the past year, the September 11 tragedy has become an excuse to violate the separation of church and state. Clerics and political leaders, including President George Bush have exploited the events and the horrific imagery to rally the nation to prayer and religious faith. As with the cold war decades ago, religious belief is now promoted as a badge of patriotism and concern for fellow human beings. In the process, millions of Americans who profess no religion have been insulted, marginalized and excluded.
It's time to take back and reclaim our share of the cultural landscape. One way to do this is for Atheist, Freethought, Humanist and other secularist groups to consider sponsoring Secular Memorials on or about September 11, 2002. If we demand "a seat at the table" in political affairs, we must claim participation in honoring the victims of this tragedy, and saluting the many heroes and heroines as well.
American Atheists urges you to visit http://www.secularmemorials.org and consider organizing an appropriate event in your community. There are suggestions, along with resources and a discussion board so you and your group can join the conversation. America's diverse community of nonbelievers has every right to be heard on this important issue. If you are a member of an Atheist, Freethought, Humanist or other nonbeliever group, consider joining with us in this national event. Visit http://www.secularmemorials.org .
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