Texas Mess

Texas State Senator Dan Patrick, author of the Christian bestseller, The Second Most Important Book You Will Ever Read, has published a press release announcing that the Texas State Senate unanimously approved the “Patrick Resolution” (SR 141). This bill requires the State Preservation Society to permanently affix the phrase, “In God We Trust” above the Lt. Governors podium.

The Atheist Community of Austin has published their own press release, admonishing the senate and the 80th Texas legislature for their authorship and support of this bill.

There are a few points about this situation that absolutely astonished me. First, I was surprised to learn that the Texas House of Representatives passed a similar resolution last week, by a vote of 142-3. (The Representatives voting against this resolution were; Donna Howard, Lon Burnman and Garnet Coleman.) Second, I was amazed that while all of this information was available online, it took a bit of digging to get to it. The press release regarding the Senate resolution didn’t come from the Senate, it came from the office of Senator Patrick. If Senator Patrick hadn’t mentioned the house resolution in his press release, many of us might not have known about it.

But the biggest surprise was the the Senate vote was unanimous. It’s a bit disheartening to learn that every one of our State Senators thinks that divisive statements of faith, as official actions of the legislature, are a good idea. Someone out there is thinking, “You live in Texas! What did you expect?!” That’s a sentiment I generally understand – but living in Austin has made me a bit more optimistic about Texas. A single ‘no’ vote, as a sign that there’s some hope, would have been nice.

As I pointed out in the ACA press release, the author of this bill has made it clear that it serves no secular purpose and is, as far as I can tell, a violation of the Constitutions of both Texas and The United States. While most people consider this bill a ‘good thing’ or, at worst, ‘no big deal’, I think it’s time that we challenge legislation like this – and a direct appeal to reverse the mistakes of the McCarthy error and restore the original national motto, is long overdue as well.

In the past, I’ve wavered on whether or not challenging “Under God” in the pledge or “In God We Trust” on our money was really a good idea. I was certain that they both needed to be changed, but I wasn’t certain that these were necessarily the best fights to pick. I’m now convinced that these are exactly the right fights.

The Texas State Constitution has the following statement in its Bill of Rights:

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.”

We know that this is a violation of the U.S Constitution; a uninamous decision by the Supreme Court in Torcaso v. Watkins established that quite firmly. So why does it still appear in the Texas Constitution? Because no one has bothered to push for its removal – we recognize the passage is irrelevant, so it’s just not worth the bother.

Unfortunately, everyone isn’t up to speed on the finer points of law. Which means that this unconstitutional piece of nonsense still serves a purpose – it’s trotted out to support various myths about the religious nature of our government. It is a way of reenforcing a bias to those who won’t bother to investigate.

It’s right there, in black and white and it’s time we changed that.

Hey, at least he wasn’t gay, right?

Men of the Cloth Behaving Badly, Part 3,291: From sunny Vegas comes this delightful story about Catholic priest George Chaanine, who, in a fit of randiness that would cause even your average drunk Spring-Breaker to cringe, smashed a full bottle of wine over the head of a woman working at her desk in the parish office, dragged her by the hair to his own office, and proceeded to go all caveman on her. He then broke off the attack, declaring he was going to kill himself. Sadly, he didn’t follow through. The cops eventually got him, but not before he managed to make it almost all the way to Phoenix.

Things have been pretty calm for the Catholics for the last few years, as the horrors of the never-ending pedophilia scandals began to fade somewhat and most of Christianity’s sexual misadventures came from evangelicals instead. This is an unwelcome incident, but at least the diocese can take comfort in the fact Chaanine’s victim wasn’t a little boy.

When life intrudes…

Not much activity here the last few days. Well, the other guys post pretty rarely anyway, but I’ve had a number of other obligations on my time so it’s been quiet here overall. As for the final TAM report, I will probably post some photos and a quick rundown of the last day shortly. But to be honest, I’ve been kind of disappointed by the lack of response to the TAM coverage, so I’m wondering if the trouble I went to — running all over town to rent a laptop in the midst of an ice storm, paying the ridiculous surcharge for wifi that didn’t even extend to the Riviera’s convention center — was worth it. I’m sure it was; those reports resulted in much higher than usual traffic on the days they were posted. But the comments were light to nonexistent, making me wonder if the largest skeptic’s conference in the US is something people care all that much about. I mean, they really should. For all the work Randi’s doing, the woos and wackos still draw bigger audiences, and we need involved, not apathetic, people on the pro-reason and skepticism side making their voices heard.

Anyway, not to come across all angsty today. But I thought an explanation of why I’ve had better things to do than blog here over the past week was in order. I imagine I’ll get fired up again here soon. Somewhere out there in the world are religionists doing stupid things that deserve a smackdown, and I’ll be back here with a big smile on my face and a big stick in my hand.