Sometimes, I am extremely annoyed with the principle of separation of church and state — it leads to absurdities, like this recent court decision that a gay student support group was was using unconstitutional tactics — it was using materials that mentioned that some religions are more tolerant of homosexuality than others. This is, apparently, an endorsement of particular religions and therefore violates church-state separation.
Well, yeah, it is — for specific subjects, like gay rights, science education, and pacifism, some religions clearly are better than others — yet because we have to mindlessly avoid any perception of preference for one over another at any official level, the more enlightened faiths must be lumped with the dumbest, vilest, crudest kinds of religions, and you are not allowed to distinguish between them. I’ve said it before: church-state separation is a principle that protects and privileges religious belief in the United States, and furthermore as we can see here, it isolates pathological, dangerous beliefs from valid criticism.
This decision could be of some concern for future court battles over creationism, too, because science support organizations clearly do have a preference for some kinds of religions over others, and actually do promote certain doctrines over others. This is a fight driven by religious ignorance by the creationists, so of course we’ve got to engage them on the wrongness of their stupid claims about science … but if they wrap those up in the protective mantle of their holy and sacred religious beliefs, this decision says criticism is violating their religious protection. Will we have to worry that someone in the court system will take seriously the claim that teaching that the evidence says the earth is 4½ billion years old amounts to belittling religions that preach that the earth is 6000 years old, and favoring those that are agnostic on the age of the earth?
At least I can take comfort in the fact that the Pharyngula strategy is still safely on the side of the constitution: I don’t favor any religion at all, I despise ’em all equally.