“Your Comment Will Be Visible After Approval”

Bets, anyone? The article is at The Eagle Forum Blog (“Leading the Pro-Family Movement Since 1972”), and was posted by Phyllis Schlafly. It commented on the apparent absurdity of an atheist prayer at a Huntsville, Alabama City Council meeting.

Since I had written on this before (then, though, it was Greece NY), I knew the arguments, so I commented:

Although prayer is of course most often used in the context of praying to a god or gods, the definition does include a plea or entreaty to anyone at all who might give aid–Shakespeare, of course, even used it in its original meaning, as a synonym of “ask”.

As such, it is perfectly appropriate for an atheist to give an opening prayer or invocation, asking (entreating, pleading, praying) that the citizens and councilors gathered there remember that they are there as part of civic action, as governance, not as a religious gathering, and that their actions (according to the constitution) must not trample the rights of the minority to heed the whim of the majority.

The supreme court has held that the establishment clause must not favor one religion over another, or religion over non-religion (see the “endorsement test”, as found in Justice O’Connor’s opinion in Lynch v Donnelly). The constitution is thus firmly behind American Atheists in this case; atheists are citizens as much as anyone else, may participate in civic duties as much as anyone else, and excluding them even from the opening prayer sends the message (echoed in your article here) that there is only one meaning of “prayer”, and it involves belief in a god or gods.

The atheists in this case are defending the constitution. The lawmakers in this case took an oath to protect and defend that constitution, but instead have instituted a religious test (in defiance of article VI, paragraph 3 of the constitution).

As for your last paragraph… You claim it is atheists who cannot stand to see Christians pray. We atheists see Christians pray all the time; the constitution says you are free to do so, so long as you are not acting as the representatives of the government while you do so. In truth (and in your description of the events here), it is Christians who cannot stand to see atheists pray, and who have excluded them from praying (to their fellow citizens and lawmakers, not to a god) unconstitutionally. I cannot imagine why–there are as many ways to pray as there are religions, and many more besides. The government cannot take sides, though–if one is included, all are allowed, and all must be invited, and welcome.

Hit post, and “Your comment will be visible after approval”.

Like I said… bets?

Edited to add–first… they published it! Yay! I lose the bet! Second… I honestly did not intend to not link to the post–I have fixed that now and added the link.


  1. Cuttlefish says

    They are perfectly within their rights, of course, not to publish it. They have no obligation whatsoever. And since they cannot prevent me from posting it here, I am not “censored” in the slightest.

  2. Die Anyway says

    Wow! You say it so perfectlyl. No matter how hard I tried to be calm and even-handed, my comment would reek of anger and snark. I won’t bet on it being approved. It should be approved because it explains the situation so well but might not get approved for that very same reason.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    The comment will indeed be visible, after it is approved, and at that time will be reflected in all the icy sheets and frosty stalagmites of Hell.

  4. Johnny Vector says

    Well in fairness, it seems they block all comments equally. 24 hours later and still no comments. Apparently they don’t like what anyone has to say about it.

  5. Cuttlefish says

    @Birric Forcella—-

    Nah, the irony is the juxtaposition of my first comment and your visible one.

  6. GregB says

    Why of course you are censored, and the mere facts that you can publish elsewhere, or that it is within
    their “rights” are red herrings. Censorship is the act of suppressing ideas on the basis that their expression
    is objectionable for reasons aside from practicality. It not need be all-encompassing to qualify as censorship, nor
    to be effective as such.

    Should it turn out your post is not published on Schlafly’s blog the the reason clearly will be due to the fact that they want to suppress your critical examination of their position.

    To dispute the point made by Birric Forcella is dishonest or delusional, since several FTB bloggers do in fact engage in censorial behavior, and allowing that post (or even this one) does not change the accuracy of BF’s implied observation that some number of FTB writers will also block critical posts because for whatever reason they do not want their ideas challenged or disputed. This can happen even to the extent that they can and will do this selectively, keeping out damaging and well-honed posts and allowing cruder ones expressing similar ideas through, in order to burnish their position.

    This is all a matter of intellectual honesty.

  7. Johnny Vector says

    Well put me on a stick and dip me in chocolate! They actually posted it. And one other, along the same lines. I’m a little surprised that only two people have commented so far; apparently nobody cares about eagles any more. Or their fora.

  8. grumpyoldfart says

    Shakespeare, of course, even used it in its original meaning, as a synonym of “ask”.

    it is still used that way in Australia today. When voters lodge a petition with the government it has to follow a strict format or it will be rejected. After a necessary preamble the petition must begin with:

    Your petitioners therefore humbly pray

    and it must end with:

    And your petitioners as in duty bound, will ever pray.

    Here are two Australian government websites discussing the subject of petitions (there are others)



  9. Cuttlefish says

    “because for whatever reason they do not want their ideas challenged or disputed”

    That is one potential reason. I can think of others–can you? Framing it as you do leads to one set of conclusions, but by no means the only conclusions. If we assume that this is the only reason, perhaps “dishonest or delusional” is warranted, but it is every bit as warranted to think that believing this is the only possible reason is itself dishonest or delusional.

    As it turns out, they did let my comment through–good for them!

  10. Cuttlefish says


    That is actually very cool to know. With a brace of relatives in the legal profession, I know that it is in some of the older legal language here as well, but that it is a requirement? I did not know that.

    *files away for future comments…*

  11. GregB says

    I did not say that all such actions are because of a desire to silence critics. Certainly libel would be one example of legitimately blocking a post. I said some bloggers will exercise censorship for that reason.

    Even fairly casual readers of FTB like myself have seen several instances of people blocked mid-thread, or while clarifying a prior post, after politely asking important questions (usually that is followed by catcalls and snark tossed at the recently departed). And I’ve personally had a couple of posts blocked (not here on your blog) for the clear reason that they disputed a claim by the blogger. They were not impolite. They were not rehashes of prior points. They were not in the slightest overly long. They were not libelous.

    They *did* call into direct question the assertion of the main post. And they *were* censored by a FTBlogger.

    See, that’s where the “intellectual honesty” part comes in…no doubt the behavior goes on, to a significant degree. Many have noted this sort of behavior Pretending it doesn’t is a kind of cancer that eats away at the very idea of “free thought”.

    It is indeed good that they showed such respect for the free expression of ideas, as to publish your post. It is a shame on the other hand to have to take lessons on open-mindedness from extreme right wing outlets, as is clear that some of your fellow blogger here need.

  12. Cuttlefish says

    The real irony (or Alanisy) is that, had I thought for one moment that my comment would be approved, I would not have posted it here. It was posted purely as a way of keeping tabs on the comments I make in the vast wilderness of the interwebs, and would not have been here at all if it had been approved immediately.

    Ah, well…

  13. Cuttlefish says

    Yes, libel would be another reason. Can you think of more?

    Even with the examples you give, can you think of reasons (and when you say “for the clear reason” I will not dispute that it feels that way from your perspective) to cut someone off? I can think of many, some flattering and some damning (both of the “censor” and the “censored”).

    When we do not know someone else’s motives, we quite often assign them ourselves–and when we do so, it is so easy to make use of information that is available to us, but not to others. As a result, our analysis of others’ motives may not be accurate…. and is even less likely to be an accurate representation of *their* reasoning (which may be inaccurate in quite a different direction).

    Self-serving motivations apply to all people (of course, as a cuttlefish, I remain immune). If bloggers might not see your justifications for making a particular comment, likewise might you not see their justification for deleting said comment. It is also, of course, quite possible that we are looking at a case of false equivalence, that one group’s claimed injuries are trivial while the other’s are immense. Hypothetically, being prohibited from verbally abusing someone is “censorship”, just as being prohibited from speaking up for the abused. Would you equate the two?

  14. Johnny Vector says

    Keeping in mind the fact that controlling the discussion in your own space is not censorship in any reasonable sense of the word, I note that Cuttlefish says

    Even with the examples you give…

    I do not think he is using the word “examples” correctly. Consider: GregB says

    Even fairly casual readers of FTB like myself have seen several instances of people blocked mid-thread, or while clarifying a prior post, after politely asking important questions

    Perhaps, but avid readers of FTB like myself have missed all these instances, none of which you give as examples. Would you be so kind as to point out to us several such instances? Now, “several” is somewhat ambiguous, so I take the definition my college roommate used as dungeon master, which is precisely defined as 2d6. Using the online dice roller at wizards.com, I just rolled 2d6 and got 9. So, I ask you to provide 9 instances of people being blocked for no reason other than disagreement with the original post.

  15. Die Anyway says

    Still only 2 comments at the Eagle Forum, both pro-atheist. That blog must really be flying under the radar. Such commentary would usually draw hundreds of Xtian snipers.
    Or, maybe D.C. answered it so well that no further comment was warranted. (Like that ever stopped anyone. :-).

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