The Return Of The Praying Mom

The praying mom is back. For context, here’s the earlier story.

Of course, some local Christians
Want the praying mom to stay
So they found a Christian lawyer
And they argued she could pray
Since the school administration
Didn’t want a Christian riot,
They decided she could pray each day
As long as she stayed quiet.

From the Boston Globe:

A mother who was told she can no longer pray on the steps of her children’s high school in New Hampshire has returned, but is praying in silence.

Chris Rath, district superintendent, said staff will monitor Urena’s actions on a daily basis to see if they are in line with campus visitor and religious policies.

‘‘We continue to work with her on a regular basis about how she can come and go from the high school in ways that respect both her ideas and our ideas,’’ Rath said.

Fox News’s “The Five” Debate (ha!) The Pledge Lawsuit

I know, in this country, we’re free to praise God
And we’re free to ignore those who don’t
We’d be free to spread some of this freedom around
But we’re also free not to… and won’t.
Some people might claim that we’re doing it wrong—
Why they’d say that, I cannot conceive—
Those people have freedom, like everyone else;
I suggest that they feel free to leave.

Via Opposing Views, who note Former Bush Spokesperson Dana Perino is literally telling atheists to leave the country, a case study of privilege at work. Take a look at the segment (I can’t embed it or I would); listen to the same old arguments (including “‘in god we trust’ is on our money”–so there’s another batch of coins off to the engraver–and the old favorite “they don’t believe, so why do they care?“–apparently you can either believe in god or the constitution, but not both), and then try turning it around. Imagine that there was nothing on the coins at all–not God, not Allah, not Thor, but also not “there is no god”–and imagine that their arguments were being made in opposition to a push to put “In God We Trust” on the coins to begin with. Virtually every argument they make works just as well against putting their god in our pledge (or on our money).

And then, look up in the right hand upper corner of the site, and read their own pledge:

The Fox Nation is for those opposed to intolerance, excessive government control of our lives, and attempts to monopolize opinion or suppress freedom of thought, expression, and worship.

And they probably believe it. They just don’t understand it.

Sorry, California, But You Have To Pay The Atheist *Something*.

A godless drug offender who was serving his parole
Was remanded to a program where they tried to save his soul
He denies a god exists—a “higher power” is their phrase—
So they threw him back in prison for another hundred days
Now, this differential treatment was unlawful (also, rude)
So the godless drug offender (and his lawyer, likely) sued.

The state had caused him injury, the judge could not deny
100 days in prison cos he wouldn’t tell a lie
The atheist could not deny, the bible isn’t buyable,
And since California locked him up, the state was clearly liable
A convicted drug offender, he was clearly no one’s hero,
When the judge awarded damages—the jury added, “zero”.

Now the Circuit Court has spoken, with the facts beyond dispute;
Sent the case back to a jury, with the warning “don’t get cute”

So, yeah, jury, you may not like the fact that an atheist convicted drug offender sued the state (of California) because they did not have a drug treatment program that did not require him to believe in a god… but seriously, the man was thrown back in prison for 100 days because he wouldn’t say he believed in a higher power, and this is worth nothing?

SAN FRANCISCO — California should compensate an atheist parolee for returning him to prison after he resisted participating in a religious-based drug treatment program, a federal appeals court decided unanimously Friday.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said a jury should award Barry A. Hazle Jr., a drug offender, compensatory damages for his loss of freedom and could consider possible punitive and emotional distress damages as well.

What was the case about?

After Hazle served a prison term, California ordered him to spend 90 days in a residential 12-step program. Hazle said he was atheist and asked for a secular program instead. But state officials told him they had none to offer.

Staff at the state-required treatment center reported that Hazle was disruptive “in a congenial way.” The state revoked his parole and put him back in prison for 100 days. He sued.

A Sacramento federal judge determined that Hazle had clearly suffered a violation of his constitutional rights and ordered a jury to assess monetary damages. The jury awarded zero damages.

100 days in prison, that any religious believer (or non-believer willing to lie) would not have had to suffer. But hey, he was on parole. A drug offender. An atheist. The judge asked for a reasonable damage amount, and the jury stepped up and said “nothing.” That was back in 2010 (the initial sentence was in 2007)

“Given the indisputable fact of actual injury resulting from Hazle’s unconstitutional imprisonment, and the district judge’s finding that the state defendants were liable for that injury, an award of compensatory damages was mandatory,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt, a Jimmy Carter appointee, wrote for the panel.

The court said another jury must be convened to determine Hazle’s compensation.

The comments at the story are actually not terrible, too, if you go for that sort of thing.

Edit–there is also the actual court decision here (thanks, screechymonkey), which is well worth reading.

“If The First Amendment Means Anything…”

Can your town pray to Jesus?
The courts will decide;
A town in New York
Has a case being tried

At town council meetings
(And maybe at schools)
They argue “the Christian
Majority rules”

The supremes are the ones
Who interpret the laws–
So PLEASE… don’t neglect
The establishment clause!

I’ll stop here–I could go on, but the Los Angeles Times already said everything I want to. First, the case:

In what could be its most significant church-state case in decades, the Supreme Court will decide whether official prayers at government meetings that overwhelmingly favor one religion violate the 1st Amendment. Although the case involves a town in New York, not the federal government, the Obama administration has filed a “friend of the court” brief that is distinctly unfriendly to the separation of church and state.

Next, the pithy statement:

If the 1st Amendment’s ban on the “establishment of religion” by government means anything, it means that a Jewish, Muslim or atheist shouldn’t have to endure routine official prayers “in the name of Jesus” as the price of participating in local government.

And of course, the summation:

As a policy matter, we’d be happy if governments held no prayers at all at their official proceedings. After all, not every citizen attending such meetings will be a believer in any religion’s god. But if a government insists on sponsoring prayers, it should either keep them nonsectarian or make sure that it offers equal time to a range of voices, so as not to endorse one religious tradition over another. That’s what the 2nd Circuit required, and the Supreme Court should affirm its holding.

There is more there, and I agree with it all, but you need to read it there.

The Christian Post Just Doesn’t Understand

I have to keep praying
Keep constantly praying
My soul is at stake if I pause
Each moment of silence
Or prayer I’m not saying
Is grist for the devil, because
Each time when we eat
And we don’t pray at dinner
Thank god, we’re about to be fed
It’s promoting the views
Of the wrong sort of sinner
An atheist message, instead!
Each moment god’s glory
Is not being touted
Is one where it’s being opposed!
So if prayer can’t be spoken
Or whispered, or shouted,
Then neither can silence! Case Closed!

In an editorial at the Christian Post, Wallace Henley illustrates the myopia of privilege.

The House of Representatives voted July 23 against proposals for atheist chaplains in the U.S. military. The vote was an overwhelming defeat for the idea. Only two Republicans and 171 Democrats voted for atheist chaplains.
Contrary to what you may be reading, Christians should be disappointed and atheists should be glad.
Why? Because allowing atheist chaplains recognizes atheism as a religion and would make atheists subject to the same legal restrictions they have gleefully placed on every other religion.

Which, of course, is already the case. As the ACLU and others make clear in every first amendment case they take on. Which Dave Silverman makes clear in every interview.

In the contemporary environment it is easier to speak against God than for God in the public square. An officially sanctioned military chaplaincy for atheists could actually weaken the atheists’ grip on public religious expression.

Feel free to insert your own video montage of lawmakers in DC and across the country concluding their speeches with “and may God bless the United States of America”, and of Congress on the capitol steps singing “God Bless America”, of the same lawmakers reciting the pledge of allegiance and practically shouting “under God!”. Compare the amount of religious broadcasting to the handful of local atheist radio shows. Henley is clearly delusional here.

Think about the inferences.

He means “implications”.

Now, every time a non-theist squeaks opposition to prayer at a school ballgame, or before a city council meeting, or most any other public event, powerful movements mobilize. The mere lifting of a potentially litigating eyebrow shuts down what many consider freedom of speech and expression.

Mind you, this is what happens now. See Cranston, or Jackson, or dozens of others. The reeling back of privileged position is not the same as an attack. Henley’s position is analogous to the commenter who spoke of “invisible statues of atheism“.

Atheism’s well-financed institutions often base their arguments on the allegation that taxpayer money is being used to advocate a particular religion. But if atheism is seen for what it is, a religion, then theists might be able to claim their tax money is now used to advocate the atheist position of no prayer.

Wait, can atheists claim a tax-exempt status under this view? Maybe I spoke too soon… And for the record, “no prayer” is not “the atheist position”–it has long been the case (it may still) that establishment clause cases are brought by religious believers (but not members of the majority), rather than by atheists. “No prayer” is a level playing field. If you want an atheist, anti-theist prayer, I would be happy to provide you with one.

So if atheism is recognized as a religion, might it be possible that theists could have new standing? They might even be able to argue that authorities are unconstitutionally favoring the religion of atheism by restricting prayer to a deity?
The Founders, we are reminded, opposed a state religion. But today secular humanism is most definitely the American state religion in the eyes of some courts. Atheists use their religion to regularly win orders for the removal of crosses and other religious symbols, the abolition of prayer in certain public institutions, and the prohibition of teaching that might imply advocacy of any religion in public schools except atheism.
This atheist chaplain thing could get messy for the atheists. If they are recognized as religionists they may be under the same Big Brother search lamp, legal threats and harassment theistic religions face every day throughout the nation.

Ok, fine. You want an anti-god invocation?

If you could please join me, before we eat…

God is fiction
God is fake
Thank the farmers for this steak (or cake, or shake… depending on the situation)
There is no heaven
There is no hell
It’s time to ring the dinner bell
Let’s Eat!

There–that’s an anti-god, pro-atheist invocation.

Do you see the difference between that and silence?

The Devil Went To Concord

The Devil went to Concord;
He was there to raise some hell
With Satanic clothes and music
And with drugs and porn to sell
He would fill young hearts with evil things
Like envy, lust, and hate…
He was climbing up the High School steps
When something whispered, “Wait!”

A mom was in the doorway,
Praying loudly, arms outstretched—
Asking Jesus Christ’s protection
Which the students thought farfetched
What an antiquated notion—
It’s as obsolete as sin
But with Jesus in the doorway
Surely Satan can’t come in

That’s the way some people saw it
And they loved the mother’s zeal
If the school had no objections,
Then perhaps the tale was real
But some others in the district
Find the spectacle quite odd,
Cos the Devil’s merely fictional,
And so, in fact, is God

In a conflict of religious views
A school can’t take one side
So one faith can’t be promoted
And, of course, can’t be denied
Treating everybody equally
Is what it’s all about…
So the law’s the law in Concord
And the praying mom is out.

The full story, relatively neutrally reported, at the Union Leader. Of course, the misLeader is notoriously right-wing, so you have to look at the comments. It’s actually kind of fun, because New Hampshire has a mix of both types of conservative–the social conservatives who support the praying mom, and the (small L) libertarian conservatives who support the constitution.

The Concord Monitor’s editorial, agreeing that the school was right to end the praying. Fewer comments here, of course–a smaller paper–but the first one is the one that inspired today’s verse.

Conscientious Objection The Godless Way

Your conscience is that little voice
Contributing to every choice
For those who let their conscience be their guide
The conscientious types report
If you’re the conscientious sort
You know that voice is coming from inside

For those who know their morals’ source
No Christian God, nor Jedi Force
Is necessary target for our search
But those who lack a moral spine
Whose morals need some source divine
Find conscience in the teachings of the church

For those whose morals are their own
Their stance is theirs, and theirs alone;
For others, moral views are heaven-sent.
I must admit, I was surprised
The moment that I realized
The latter group includes our government!

I guess the laws intend to seek
A very special kind of meek:
Without a god, one cannot show contrition!
Without religion, one can’t choose
From pacifist religious views!
So praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition!

See, now, this is where writing in verse is problematic. I finish the above comment, only to find that the problem has been solved. Margaret Doughty’s application for citizenship has been approved, after some very strange requests that her refusal to bear arms in defense of the nation (a 64 year old woman, she would not have been asked to) must be supported by a church’s endorsement. Apparently, conscience (on which conscientious objection depends) is officially seen not as something arising from within, but as something imposed by and supported by a particular religious tradition.

When I started this verse, Doughty represented a clear first amendment violation–that an atheist could object to taking up arms was unheard of. Quakers? Sure. Mennonites? Yup. Brethren? Have your pastor sign on the dotted line. Atheist? Wait just a moment.

I had a nice long rant ready… but Doughty’s application has been approved, so I’ll just go to bed now. You can read all about it here.

Cuttlecap tip to Joan!

Predictable Reaction To “Atheist Monument”

A Decalogue carved out of granite began it;
Jehovah’s commandments on six tons of stone
An atheist group then complained; they maintained
The establishment clause says it can’t sit alone
The lawyers advised “don’t take chances; your stance is
‘If one is allowed, well then, so are the rest’.”
So, while maybe it wasn’t their druthers, now others
Can join them, with multiple viewpoints expressed.

The atheists’ bench is the first one, the cursed one,
Reminding the county that godless exist—
That Florida’s not monolithically mythic;
That Christians don’t make up the whole of the list.
I’m hoping the Hindus will bring ‘em a lingam,
A huge granite phallus to add to the mix
So when councilmen pass, they will find a reminder
That some think the council are acting like dicks.

I read about the monument a couple of days ago, but of course the monument itself isn’t anything exciting to write about. It’s the reaction to the monument that gets fun. Mano predicted this yesterday, as reactions started to trickle in. Today, my aggregator is full of various Christian reactions to the bench.

Good for them. I think it’s a perfect monument for atheists. It says it all. Atheism – it’s where asses go.

(don’t skip the comments there. You will know they are Christians by their love. Oh! One of the comments makes the point that “Every public square without a Christmas Crib at Christmas is a monument to atheism.” which reminded me of this one from a while ago.)

“It’s absolutely ridiculous to have opposing viewpoints like this,” [Mat Staver of Liberty Council] says. “Certainly, Thomas Jefferson and Madelyn Murray O’Hair need not be opposing the 10 Commandments. In fact, Thomas Jefferson would be appalled that his writings would be used to oppose the 10 Commandments, which are the very basis of the rule of law.”

Which is why the first 4 commandments are explicitly overruled by the first amendment.

And while Fox News’s Tucker Carlson predicts (or urges) vandalism:

“I have a feeling that bench will be a magnet for graffiti,” Carlson said on this past weekend’s “Fox & Friends,” when discussing the planned atheist memorial.
“Just a guess,” Carlson added.

…at the same site, at least some see what “public free-speech forum” actually means:

Ken Weaver, a member of the Starke, Fla.-based group Community Men’s Fellowship, which originally erected the Ten Commandments monument at Bradford County Courthouse, previously told CP that he believes the American Atheists “has the same freedoms of expression as those of any other citizen or group.”

Of course, as of this writing, the only comment at that particular site is a simple “I concur Tucker”.

At the risk of repeating myself, you will know they are Christians by their love.


So today at the store, I got back 60 cents in change. All well and good, but when I grabbed the quarters to put them in the pile for de-godding, I noticed that one of them looked a little different. “In [smudge] We Trust”, it read, unless my eyes deceived me.


Yes! Now, I had never used any quarters at that store, so this must have come from a parking meter, or from the little cafe near my office, or from the UNICEF box at Halloween. Not from a busker–they always got dollar coins, and always more than one (even the lousy ones got 2 bucks minimum–I kept telling myself, it’s not my money to spend, it’s our money to put in circulation).

This coin does look like one of mine, but of course there is another, even better possibility–that there are more of us out there, de-godding coins that will be around for decades.

Free Speech, Or Plot To Kill And Eat His Wife?

We see these rights as absolute—
No state would dare restrict ‘em—
We have not broken any law…
Until there is a victim.

We’re free to speak of fantasies
Of murder, rage, or hate—
We haven’t crossed the line, of course,
Until… it is too late.

Our whispered, dark conspiracies
Are safely out of reach—
Until you find a body,
Hey, you can’t restrict free speech!

In the New York Times today, a troubling story of the cop on trial for conspiring to kill and eat a number of women, including his wife. She’s the one who accidentally stumbled across the evidence on a home computer. Her husband had been chatting on some fetish sites online, and she found detailed descriptions of how she and some of her friends were to be tortured, killed, and cannibalized.

Or… the officer was merely engaging in fantasy writing, with no plans to actually do anything he described. Torture porn has a market, after all, and the first amendment is there to protect the speech we detest. I have, in satirical verses, linked to a cannibalism site (one I sincerely believe is itself satire). These were only words, after all, and no one is harmed by mere words.

No one harmed. Imagine finding such writing, naming you (some people don’t have to stretch much to imagine such a thing). In this case, the woman moved from New York to Nevada, and contacted the FBI, understandably frightened for her life. No one harmed.

It will be interesting to watch this one play out. Words have consequences, and free speech is not absolute. And while this case is obviously an extreme, we can see the roles in this case reflected in so many other places. To what extent can you say, even to yourself, that hurting someone is any more acceptable because it is just with words?

There is one aspect to this case that sets it aside from the others that spring to mind–the officer clearly never intended his writing to be discovered by his wife. If it was mere fantasy (as the defense claims), any harm it did (and it did do real harm, unquestionably) was unintentional. There are others waving the free speech banner who are quite intentionally attacking others.

In a way, that makes them worse than this guy.