June 22, 2011 - 11:53 am

At a standing room-only press conference in a U.S. House office building yesterday, members of Congress joined representatives from the Secular Coalition for America and dozens of other civil rights organizations in urging President Obama to fulfill the promise he made nearly three years ago to end the Bush-era policy that allows religious organizations receiving federal funds to discriminate in employment on the basis of faith.

Under the current policy, established by an executive order by President George W. Bush in 2002, scores of qualified people, such as Saad Mohammad Ali, an Iraqi refugee who served as an interpreter for the U.S. government and came to the U.S. in 2008, have been denied employment because they practiced the wrong religion.

According to the Seattle Times, in 2010 Ali “was told he would not be considered for [a position as an Arabic-speaking caseworker] because he is a Muslim,” not a Christian. Even though World Relief, the agency that rejected Ali, received up to 70 percent of its $32 million budget that year from taxpayer sources, it was completely legal for them to discriminate.

When he ran for president, Obama vowed to stop taxpayer funding of such blatant discrimination, telling a crowd in Zanesville, Ohio in July 2008, “If you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help, and you can’t discriminate against them – or against the people you hire – on the basis of religion.”  To keep this promise, all Obama needs to do is sign an executive order reversing the Bush policy.

More than two years into Obama’s presidency, however, this discriminatory practice is still in place, and many religious organizations are hoping it stays that way: In August 2010, more than 100 groups sent members of Congress a letter asking them to oppose any laws that would stop their ability to discriminate and only “hire employees who share their faith.” A White House spokesperson said yesterday that the Justice Department "continues to review this issue on a case-by-case basis," which numerous speakers yesterday decried as no real protection at all.

To combat this influence, more than 50 organizations, including SCA, yesterday sent Obama a letter urging him keep his promise to stop awarding taxpayer dollars to religious groups that discriminate, and we were happily joined by four members of Congress at a press conference led by Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), pictured below with SCA Executive Director Sean Faircloth, to make the case in force.

SCA Executive Director Sean Faircloth with U.S. Rep. Robert "Bobby" Scott (D-Va.)

While many of the attendees represented religious groups and religious minorities, SCA staff made sure to include nontheists in the conversation.  SCA Government Relations Manager Amanda Knief specifically reminded everyone present that, in many instances, it is people without religion who face the greatest level of discrimination and stigmatization in the workplace.
 
You can send your own letter to President Obama through SCA’s Action Alert system here, and watch the below video SCA made about this issue last year, on the second anniversary of Obama’s campaign pledge in Zanesville.

June 20, 2011 - 12:57 pm

A growing number of local and national civil rights organizations have joined the protest against Texas Gov. Rick Perry's extremist-sponsored Houston prayer gathering since SCA first criticized the event two weeks ago.

Echoing SCA's position that it's totally inappropriate for an elected official to promote divisive religious messages while teaming up with an identified "hate group" such as the American Family Association, organizations including the Southern Poverty Law Center, American Atheists, the Interfaith Alliance, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations have all issued statements condemning Perry's role in the event.

But it's not just the "usual suspects" promoting church-state separation who have a problem with Perry's actions. Last week, more than 20 clergy members from the Houston area penned a must-read editorial in the Houston Chronicle, explaining their "deep concern" over the event:

We believe in a healthy boundary between church and state. Out of respect for the state, we believe that it should represent all citizens equally and without preference for religious or philosophical tradition. Out of respect for religious communities, we believe that they should foster faithful ways of living without favoring one political party over another. Keeping the church and state separate allows each to thrive and upholds our proud national tradition of empowering citizens to worship freely and vote conscientiously. We are concerned that our governor has crossed the line by organizing a religious event rather than focusing on the people's business in Austin.

We also express concern that the day of prayer and fasting at Reliant Stadium is not an inclusive event. As clergy leaders in the nation's fourth-largest city, we take pride in Houston's vibrant and diverse religious landscape. Our religious communities include Bahais, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Unitarian Universalists and many other faith traditions. Our city is also home to committed agnostics and atheists, with whom we share common cause as fellow Houstonians. Houston has long been known as a live-and-let-live city where all are respected and welcomed. It troubles us that the governor's prayer event is not open to everyone. In the publicized materials, the governor has made it clear that only Christians of a particular kind are welcome to pray in a certain way. We feel that such an exclusive event does not reflect the rich tapestry of our city.

Reading a group of Christian and Unitarian Universalist ministers offer such a poignant defense of secular government and warmly refer to agnostics and atheists as their "fellow Houstonians" is a truly great reminder that in debates such as these, it's not only non-religious people who support keeping church and state separate. We've received more than a few negative emails from religious Americans who think that our criticism of Gov. Perry amounts to opposition of a citizen's right to private worship. That's simply not true.

As the authors of the editorial point out, secular government is in many ways what allows religious faith to flourish. Providing freedom of and from religion is the only way to ensure that everyone is able to practice, or not practice, their own beliefs freely -- and the best way to preserve those freedoms is a secular government that gives no privilege to one worldview over another.

When a U.S. governor, on the other hand, declares that "as a nation, we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles," and insists that all Americans should embrace his religion as the only solution, those freedoms become threatened, for believers and nonbelievers alike.

Rick Perry might not fully appreciate the purpose of secularism, but those Houston clergy members sure do:

"We ask that Gov. Perry leave the ministry to us," they wrote, "and refocus his energy on the work of governing our state."

Is there a secular word for "amen"?

Correction: This post originally referred to the op-ed's authors only as Christian clergy when, in fact, many of them were also Unitarian Universalists. The post has been updated to reflect those changes.
June 9, 2011 - 1:25 pm

Atheists are still widely discriminated against in the voting booth, a new study from the Pew Research Center confirms.

The national survey asked whether certain traits would make those polled more or less likely to vote for a candidate for president, and by far, the trait with the most negative response (61%) was lack of belief in a god.

More Americans are willing to vote for a candidate who is gay, Mormon, or divorced, or who had an extramarital affair or used marijuana than they would someone who simply has no belief in supernatural entities. Clearly, we still have a long road ahead of us toward fostering greater acceptance of nontheists in society. 

A related poll by Gallup this week reiterated how outnumbered nontheists are in the overall population: more than 9 in 10 Americans say they believe in god, a figure that's been relatively constant since the 1940s, though the actual breakdown (91% believe in god, 8% do not) suggests a slight increase in the number of Americans who lack belief -- or, at the very least, are willing to admit so in a poll. (Belief in god drops further, to 80 percent, when those polled are given the alternative option of saying they believe in a "universal spirit.")

According to Gallup:

Belief in God drops below 90% among younger Americans, liberals, those living in the East, those with postgraduate educations, and political independents. However, belief in God is nearly universal among Republicans and conservatives and, to a slightly lesser degree, in the South.

How will these personal beliefs affect the way people vote? According to Pew, 33% of Americans said a candidate's atheism made "no difference" to them, so clearly there are many believers willing to vote for non-believers. Atheists may be a minority, but we're still a part of America's cultural fabric, and we shouldn't be flat-out rejected by the majority simply because we affiliate with a different set of beliefs that do not necessarily translate into political views.

If there is a sign of hope in either of these polls, it's the fact that Americans are overwhelmingly willing to vote for members of other minority groups -- including blacks, Hispanics, gays and Mormons -- to which they may not belong. I'd like to think that's because our fellow citizens know it's wrong to judge someone solely on a label, and because they understand that within those groups, there is still a wide and diverse range of positions on the policy issues that should matter most when choosing a candidate.

I just wish they would realize the same is true for atheists.

Note: There is already one 2012 campaign that is shaping up to judge whether an openly atheist candidate can earn the support of theistic voters: Cecil Bothwell, an atheist, has announced his intention to run against U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler (D) in North Carolina's 11th Congressional District.

 

 

June 3, 2011 - 3:37 pm

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

But former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who announced yesterday that he will again seek the Republican Party’s nomination for president, still faces many questions about his Mormon faith and the impact it might have on his decisions in office. When he last ran for president, Romney delivered a major speech (video here) intended to quell possible concerns about his religion, which polling suggests would prevent many Americans from casting a ballot for Romney or any other Mormon. 

By giving such an address, Romney drew unavoidable comparisons to John F. Kennedy, our nation’s first Catholic president, who in 1960 famously told a group of ministers that, if elected, he would give no special privileges to his personal religion, and that his decisions in office would in no way be guided by the Catholic Church or its papal hierarchy.

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute,” Kennedy declared.

Speaking almost 50 years later, Romney also promised to not take orders from his religious higher-ups:

Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin. […] I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law.

But, alas, Mitt Romney is no Jack Kennedy.

While the former governor said that no one religion should dictate our laws, he made it very clear that he believes religion in general should play a role in state affairs, saying that, “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. […] Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.”

Put another way, Romney believes in freedom of religion, but not freedom from religion.

But it gets worse. From there, Romney’s comments veered off into inaccurate, unhistorical theocratic ramblings:

We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.

The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation 'Under God' and in God, we do indeed trust.

We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders – in ceremony and word.
He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our Constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from 'the God who gave us liberty.'


Where to begin?

1. If Romney believes (wrongly) that secularism is a “religion,” shouldn’t it deserve the same protection he earlier promised to other religions?

2. America’s Founders did not insert “under God” into the pledge or place “In God We Trust” on our currency. Those phrases were both added to our national lexicon during the 1950s, at the height of the Cold War and anti-Soviet hysteria, when crusading members of Congress sought ways to distinguish Americans from “godless communists.”

3. As numerous historians and Supreme Court decisions have affirmed, the Founders established the United States as a secular nation, where, as Justice Hugo Black wrote in 1947, the “wall [between church and state] must be kept high and impregnable.” That means no special recognition of Romney’s – or anyone else’s – “God.”

Twice in his 2007 speech Romney quoted President John Adams. I wonder what the presidential hopeful would think of the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli, which Adams signed, and which clearly stated that, “The United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion”? Because, in myth and reality, Americans are a diverse, multicultural, and pluralistic people. Our nation is composed of many types of Christians, but also Buddhists, Sikhs, Wiccans, polytheists, and millions more who lead good and moral lives without religion or belief in gods.    

Romney himself said that, “Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree.” But by falsely claiming that freedom requires religion, and that secularists are “wrong” to support the secular America envisioned by our Founders, Romney violated his own prescription: He voiced intolerance for a belief system that he disagrees with.

One year before Romney delivered that address, a Gallup poll showed that 17 percent of Americans would not vote for a “generally well-qualified candidate for president who happened to be Mormon.” An earlier poll found that 53 percent would not vote for an atheist. If Romney really hopes to serve all Americans as president, he might want to try reaching out to constituents, like atheists, who he disagrees with, but who could relate to the social intolerance Mormons have experienced – and he, in many ways, still faces.

Condemning the secular government that allows every American to practice his/her own beliefs freely, while insisting that your “God” receives special treatment, is not a good way to do that.

June 1, 2011 - 1:25 pm

Kentucky state officials recently agreed to contribute more than $40 million in state taxpayer funds toward the construction of a Biblical-themed amusement park featuring a full-scale “replica” of Noah's Ark. Those backing the project – and who will benefit from the precious taxpayer cash – include Answers in Genesis, the fundamentalist Christian group that runs Kentucky’s infamous “Creation Museum,” where visitors are told that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, and dinosaurs walked alongside humans.

The group’s latest enterprise, “Ark Encounter,” will feature a Tower of Babel and a “Journey Through Biblical History,” according to designs on its website. But just in case you were worried, the website also promises that everything will be “historically authentic.” After all, the park will provide “a powerful outreach to teach the world about God’s Word and the message of salvation!”

Oh, boy.

Despite numerous objections that using state funds to build an unabashedly Christian theme park violates the separation of church and state, both the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority and Gov. Steve Beshear (D) have supported the project, arguing it will provide much-needed jobs to the Bluegrass State.

But if you read Ark Encounter’s website, the thanks for their funding belongs to someone else entirely.  

 “Just as God brought the animals to Noah by the appropriate time (Genesis 6:20),” reads one post on Ark Encounter’s blog, “He’s providing the resources for this dynamic experience.

Exactly. As long as by “God,” you really mean the hardworking taxpayers of Kentucky.

In an editorial yesterday, The New York Times regretted that, under current Supreme Court doctrine, state support for the proselytizing theme park could probably withstand a court challenge, but that still doesn’t make the actions of Kentucky officials right:


[G]ranting tax incentives to the explicitly Christian enterprise clearly clashes with the First Amendment’s prohibition on government establishment of religion. Public money is not supposed to pay to advance religion. Kentucky’s citizens should certainly ask themselves if this is really the best use of taxpayer dollars.


If the project moves forward as planned, Ark Encounter would open in 2014 and continue receiving taxpayer dollars for the next 10 years.

May 25, 2011 - 4:01 pm

Following the tragic and preventable deaths of children whose parents believed faith rather than medical care would cure their ailments, the Oregon Senate voted earlier this week to eliminate "faith-healing" as a legal defense and allow prosecutors to seek murder charges against parents who deny their children medical care for religious purposes.

The 25-5 vote comes the same week that a couple from Oregon City stand trial on charges of first-degree criminal mistreatment for refusing to seek appropriate medical care for their 18-month-old daughter who had a serious eye problem and nearly went blind until her vision was saved by court-ordered treatment. The parents belong to the Followers of Christ church, whose adherents "embrace faith-healing and the power of God to treat disease and medical conditions," with predictably horrific results:

Two other couples from the church have gone to trial [since 2008]. In both cases, the sick children weren’t taken to a doctor but instead were anointed with oil while the family prayed.

Jeff and Marci Beagley were convicted last year of criminally negligent homicide in the 2008 death of their teenage son and sentenced to 16 months in prison.

Raylene and Carl Brent Worthington were found not guilty of second-­degree manslaughter in the death of their 15-month-old daughter. Carl Brent Worthington was convicted on a lesser charge of criminal mistreatment and served two months in jail. [...] The church’s small cemetery, not far from the end of the Oregon Trail, has row after row of headstones marking children’s graves.

Under the measure passed by the Senate, the state would soon be able to charge such parents with first-degree manslaughter or murder. The Oregon House unanimously approved a similar measure in March and is expected to pass the Senate version very soon. Once the bill is signed by the governor, it will immediately become law.

Oregon's removal of "faith-healing" exemptions would (obviously) be a step in the right direction, but the proposal concerns only the penalties faced by adults after they have committed child abuse for unjustifiable religious reasons. The Secular Coalition for America supports the removal of "faith-healing" loopholes from criminal statutes, but we also advocate protective laws that would allow local governments to intervene and provide medical care before children are harmed by their parents' dangerous religious beliefs.

In order to protect children as best we can, SCA has been working to remove a similar "faith-healing" loophole from the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), which provides federal funding for state child protection services, but still includes several religious exemptions. You can read more about CAPTA on our issues page here.

 

May 6, 2011 - 2:29 pm

For the first time ever yesterday, a sitting member of the United States Congress recognized the first Thursday of May as the National Day of Reason, celebrated by millions of Americans as a more inclusive alternative to the congressionally mandated National Day of Prayer that is held on the same day.

U.S. Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) entered the following proclamation, which resulted from collaboration with the Secular Coalition for America, into the congressional record yesterday:

The National Day of Reason, observed by millions of people in this country and around the world since 2003, celebrates the application of reason and the positive impacts it has had on humanity.  Reason and rational discourse have the power to improve living conditions around the world and cultivate intelligent, moral, and ethical interactions among people.

Reason and rational thinking have made our country great. The Constitution of the United States of America is based upon the philosophies developed during the historical Age of Reason and the idea that citizens engaging in rational discourse and decision-making can govern themselves.  The Constitution also contains a strong separation of church and state, making it clear that government should continue to be built on reason.

Our nation faces many problems—ending two wars, creating jobs, educating our children, tackling our budget, and protecting our safety net.  Although the gravity of these issues may drive many to prayer, the way we will solve them is through the application of reason.

The National Day of Reason is also about taking time to improve our communities—whether that means holding a blood drive or collecting items for the local food bank. It is also about ensuring that our government represents citizens of all beliefs and backgrounds.
 
I encourage everyone to join in observing this day and focusing upon the employment of reason, critical thinking, the scientific method, and free inquiry to the resolution of human problems and for the welfare of human kind. It is the duty and responsibility of every American to promote the development and application of reason.

We are extremely thankful to Representative Stark, the only openly nontheist member of Congress, for having the courage to promote reason as the only viable strategy for solving our nation's woes. Americans are, of course, free to pray if it they choose, but SCA believes it is a violation of the separation of church and state when the Congress designates a specific day for the president of our secular nation to encourage all Americans to pray.

SCA Government Relations Manager Amanda Knief was interviewed by the Christian Broadcasting Network yesterday to convey that message: (Her comment starts around 1:11):

Not all Americans believe it's proper for the government to call for a Day of Prayer.

Amanda Knief, the government relations manager for the Secular Coalition for America, said it violates separation of church and state.

"We do not believe the government should be in the business of telling people when or how to pray," she explained.

To his credit, President Obama did at least mention non-believers in his annual National Day of Prayer proclamation:

"Let us be thankful for the liberty that allows people of all faiths to worship or not worship according to the dictates of their conscience, and let us be thankful for the many other freedoms and blessings that we often take for granted."

Still, if our country values and protects the freedom of religion, why does anyone think it's OK for the president, in an official statement from his office, to "ask all people of faith to join me in asking God for guidance, mercy, and protection for our Nation"? After all, not even "all people of faith" believe in Obama's "God."

And that's why the National Day of Reason is such a favorable alternative: it can be celebrated by ALL Americans, not just those who pray or believe in a god.

It should be mentioned that Stark's proclamation yesterday was not the first time a public official has favored a day of reason or opposed a day of prayer. The City of New Orleans declared an official "Citywide Day of Reason" in 2009 and 2010, and former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura notably refused to sign a National Day of Prayer proclamation while in office, saying at the time, “I believe in the separation of church and state. We all have our own religious beliefs. There are people out there who are atheists, who don’t believe at all … They are all citizens of Minnesota and I have to respect that.”

To learn more about the National Day of Reason and related events, visit nationaldayofreason.org.

 

 

May 2, 2011 - 11:07 am

Are atheists and other nonbelievers treated as "second-class citizens" in the United States? Researcher Gregory Paul and sociology professor Phil Zuckerman assembled the evidence to make a compelling case in Saturday's Washington Post:

Long after blacks and Jews have made great strides, and even as homosexuals gain respect, acceptance and new rights, there is still a group that lots of Americans just don’t like much: atheists. Those who don’t believe in God are widely considered to be immoral, wicked and angry. They can’t join the Boy Scouts. Atheist soldiers are rated potentially deficient when they do not score as sufficiently “spiritual” in military psychological evaluations. Surveys find that most Americans refuse or are reluctant to marry or vote for nontheists; in other words, nonbelievers are one minority still commonly denied in practical terms the right to assume office despite the constitutional ban on religious tests.

Rarely denounced by the mainstream, this stunning anti-atheist discrimination is egged on by Christian conservatives who stridently — and uncivilly — declare that the lack of godly faith is detrimental to society, rendering nonbelievers intrinsically suspect and second-class citizens.

This largely overlooked discrimination is even more puzzling when you consider how inaccurate the negative stereotypes about atheists truly are. In fact, as Paul and Zuckerman show, nonreligious people are -- by many important measures -- far better off, and far better behaved, than their religious counterparts:

A growing body of social science research reveals that atheists, and non-religious people in general, are far from the unsavory beings many assume them to be. On basic questions of morality and human decency — issues such as governmental use of torture, the death penalty, punitive hitting of children, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, environmental degradation or human rights — the irreligious tend to be more ethical than their religious peers, particularly compared with those who describe themselves as very religious.

Consider that at the societal level, murder rates are far lower in secularized nations such as Japan or Sweden than they are in the much more religious United States, which also has a much greater portion of its population in prison. Even within this country, those states with the highest levels of church attendance, such as Louisiana and Mississippi, have significantly higher murder rates than far less religious states such as Vermont and Oregon.

As individuals, atheists tend to score high on measures of intelligence, especially verbal ability and scientific literacy. They tend to raise their children to solve problems rationally, to make up their own minds when it comes to existential questions and to obey the golden rule. They are more likely to practice safe sex than the strongly religious are, and are less likely to be nationalistic or ethnocentric. They value freedom of thought.

While many studies show that secular Americans don’t fare as well as the religious when it comes to certain indicators of mental health or subjective well-being, new scholarship is showing that the relationships among atheism, theism, and mental health and well-being are complex. After all, Denmark, which is among the least religious countries in the history of the world, consistently rates as the happiest of nations. And studies of apostates — people who were religious but later rejected their religion — report feeling happier, better and liberated in their post-religious lives.

So why the hostility to atheists? And is there hope that society is becoming more accepting of non-belief?

More than 2,000 years ago, whoever wrote Psalm 14 claimed that atheists were foolish and corrupt, incapable of doing any good. These put-downs have had sticking power. Negative stereotypes of atheists are alive and well. Yet like all stereotypes, they aren’t true — and perhaps they tell us more about those who harbor them than those who are maligned by them. So when the likes of Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly and Newt Gingrich engage in the politics of division and destruction by maligning atheists, they do so in disregard of reality.

As with other national minority groups, atheism is enjoying rapid growth. Despite the bigotry, the number of American nontheists has tripled as a proportion of the general population since the 1960s. Younger generations’ tolerance for the endless disputes of religion is waning fast. Surveys designed to overcome the understandable reluctance to admit atheism have found that as many as 60 million Americans — a fifth of the population — are not believers. Our nonreligious compatriots should be accorded the same respect as other minorities.

I draw two conclusions: One, we in the secular movement need to do a better job combating character attacks from the Becks, Palins, O'Reillys, Gingrichs, and others in the media and on the Religious Right who want atheists to remain second-class citizens. Second, we need to draw more attention to this issue, and to the evidence. Articles in the mainstream media, such as this one, certainly help.

But what do you think: Why do Americans still dislike atheists?

 

April 25, 2011 - 12:21 pm

During an interview in which he complimented Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, questioned President Obama's religion and citizenship, and said he believes in the Bible "word for word," the Rev. Franklin Graham told ABC's Christiane Amanpour on Sunday that "secularism is anti-Christ."

"I look at the world in which we live today, and the secularism is anti-Christ," Graham said on ABC's "This Week." "It's every bit anti-Christ. We can't talk about Jesus in our schools. God has been kicked out of our government. Whether it's Europe or whether it's here, yes. The spirit of anti-Christ is in the world today."

In a complete journalistic failure, Amanpour did not press Graham, whose father Billy has had a private audience with every U.S. president since Harry Truman, on any of his comments, and instead gave him an unchallenged forum to spread his radical evangelical message, even asking at one point "what will the second coming look like?"

It's not surprising when a divise figure like Graham -- who last year created controversy by calling Islam "evil" -- spews theocratic nonsense. But it's beyond frustrating to see a prominent mainstream journalist like Amanpour give tacit approval to his radical views by refusing to question their accuracy or meaning -- by say, pointing out that the First Amendment's Establishment Clause clearly separates church and state. 

It's also interesting how Graham says that keeping religion and government separate is "anti-Christ" but that he believes the Bible "from cover to cover; absolutely, word for word." Hmm, I wonder what he thinks of Matthew 22:21, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”

Who said that, again? Oh yeah: Jesus! Does that mean Graham thinks Christ is "anti-Christ"?

What about Amanpour's next guest, Pastor Tim Keller, who said, "I personally think that the church, as the church, ought to be less concerned about speaking to politics and more concerned about service"? 

Does Graham think Pastor Keller is anti-Christ? We don't know. Because Amanpour didn't ask.

 

April 20, 2011 - 11:17 am

While hosting an Easter prayer breakfast at the White House yesterday, President Barack Obama told a group of Christian leaders that "there's something about the resurrection of our savior Jesus Christ that puts everything else into perspective." 

Obama, a Christian, said it was important to praise god for the "gift" of "his son, and our savior," Jesus Christ.

“And that’s why it’s important to have this breakfast,” Obama said. “In the middle of the these critical national debates, in the middle of our busy lives, we must make sure we keep everything in perspective. Children help do that. A strong spouse helps do that. But nothing beats scripture and the reminder of the eternal ... I pray that our time here this morning will strengthen us both individually as believers, and as Americans."

 

Well, here's some perspective, Mr. President: Millions of Americans are not "believers," and millions more practice a religion other than Christianity. So when you, as the leader of our secular democracy, refer to "our savior Jesus Christ," and say that "nothing" is better than your holy text for gaining perspective on life, you alienate millions of constituents who hold different views on life and religion than you. When you make such statements, you don't sound like a civilian leader of a secular nation. You sound like a member of the clergy.

Commemorating a holiday that carries great meaning for you and millions of Americans is one thing, Mr. President, but appearing to place a presidential stamp of approval on one religious view over others is not appropriate for someone in your position, especially while speaking at the White House. 

If you want to truly "keep everything in perspective," please remember that as president you represent not just Christians, but all Americans -- and a growing number of us live fulfilled and meaningful lives without prayer, the Bible, or Jesus.

 

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