So the city council of Rowlett Texas wants to open every meeting with a prayer, and the townspeople intend to hold a “prayer vigil” tonight to support that idea. Because of course we evil atheists are gonna be there to ruin everyone’s fun again. They think we want to deprive them of the right to wish upon a star in the name of their favorite imaginary friend, but of course that was never the issue. The issue is the forced affirmation of religious beliefs as part of the job of political officials. Believers will never understand this no matter how simply I explain it, but here goes one more time anyway.
The first article of the Texas Constitution is the Bill of Rights, a portion thereof reads as follows:
Sec. 6. FREEDOM OF WORSHIP. All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences. No man shall be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his consent. No human authority ought, in any case whatever, to control or interfere with the rights of conscience in matters of religion, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious society or mode of worship. But it shall be the duty of the Legislature to pass such laws as may be necessary to protect equally every religious denomination in the peaceable enjoyment of its own mode of public worship.
Sec. 7. APPROPRIATIONS FOR SECTARIAN PURPOSES. No money shall be appropriated, or drawn from the Treasury for the benefit of any sect, or religious society, theological or religious seminary; nor shall property belonging to the State be appropriated for any such purposes.
Notice that no preference will be given to any particular religion, because most everyone is still Christian of one brand or another. So the document still feels confident enough to say that every religious denomination will be protected, because everyone has a “natural” right to believe in supernatural things. They’re not going to change that rule until there are Muslims or Sikhs on the council. Until they’re forced to be fair to the wrong non-Christian religion, they’ll still claim equal rights for all.
Until Texas towns have to deal with diversity, then they’ll say we have a right to assume there is a god, so long as it is their god. But even though you can’t be forced to attend the worship of their god, and no property belonging to the state should be used for that purpose, it still seems that you do NOT have the right NOT to believe in any almighty deities. Nor do you have the right to worship anything other than, but let’s not get into that yet.
Now imagine that you’re the Perry Mason type. You don’t buy into woo because you’re nobody’s fool. You’re a solid secular citizen serving the city and representing your community exactly the way an ideal politician should. But your co-workers insist on chanting a mystic incantation every single morning, and everyone has to take part in that. It doesn’t matter that you’re not using candles or robes, and you’re only using common speech when you close your eyes and pretend there is a ghost in the room listening to you. It’s still silly, and inappropriate, but worse than that, it’s unconstitutional. That sort of nonsense shouldn’t be required of anyone’s job, but especially not a public official who’s job description implies devising actual solutions to real world problems.
No one on the council has complained about that yet, because the Texas Bill of Rights had already established a loophole:
Sec 4. Sec. 4. RELIGIOUS TESTS. No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.
So non-believers aren’t even allowed to hold public office in this state anyway. So what right do we have to complain that we would be treated unfairly -*if* we were allowed to hold offices we’re forbidden to hold?
Astute readers will refer to Article VI, paragraph 3 of the United States’ Constitution:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
Guess what? Texas is apparently not one of the “several” states required to abide by the overriding federal law. So we’re just out, ostracized without representation. Yet -get this- the Christians say they have a right to pray, and they think we’re taking their rights away. Can you believe that? Do they just ignore Matthew 6:6? Christians are almost made of irony
Anyway, I’ll be in Rowlett tonight, like a good atheist activist ought to be.