Just Say No to Religion in Government
Unless you have kept a close eye on news from around the country over the past several months, you may not be aware of an extremely frightening trend that has been developing. In several states around the country, Republican Congressmen and Congresswomen have been introducing bills that are in complete violation of the 1st Amendment’s Establishment clause. These bills range from those that would place “In God We Trust” on Georgia’s license plates to those that would force children in Indiana’s public schools to recite the Lord’s Prayer each day. We at the National Atheist Party are shocked and astounded that our elected officials would propose such blatantly unconstitutional legislation in what should be a secular state government. We wish to publicly denounce all of these pieces of legislation and to remind these elected officials of their duty to uphold the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, rather than abridge the wall of separation and attempt to coerce and force their personal religious beliefs into our schools, our governmental policy.
In Indiana, two disturbing bills have been introduced. The first, Indiana Senate Bill No. 251, was authored by Senator Jim Tomes and introduced on January 9, 2012. This legislation would call for “Allowing the governing body of a school corporation or the equivalent authority of a charter school to provide for the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of each school day.”
According to the authors of this bill, the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer is necessary to help students “recognize the importance of spiritual development in establishing character and becoming a good citizen.” If this bill were to go into effect, each school would have the ability to determine which version of the prayer is to be recited. While the bill does allow students to opt-out from saying the prayer if he or she chooses or if his or her parents choose to be exempt, this is clearly a violation of the separation of church and state. If this SB251 were to pass, it will go into effect on July 1, 2012.
“The implications of this bill are far-reaching, not only would the bill give schools the authority to bring religion into a non-religious setting, but it would also place the burden on families who do not want to participate,” said Indiana State Chapter Leader and National Membership Coordinator Shannon Kietzman, “Those children are at risk of being ostracized due to their difference of religion or lack of belief. This bill sends a clear message: Christianity is our chosen religion. It further implies that religion is necessary for a person to be of sound character and to be a good citizen. This is an insult to atheists and to all others who do not practice a religion.”
On top of SB 251 is also the looming shadow of SB 89. Authored by Senator Dennis Kruse, SB 251 demonstrates a blatant disregard for Supreme Court decisions regarding the teaching of creationism in the science classrooms. If SB 89 passes, it will amend the Indiana Education code by adding the following section: “Sec. 18. The governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the school corporation.”
In New Hampshire, Republican Jerry Bergevin (District 17), Gary Hopper (District 7), and John Burt (District 7) are putting forth two pieces of anti-evolution legislation. The first, New Hampshire House Bill 1148, would “[r]equire evolution to be taught in the public schools of this state as a theory, including the theorists’ political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism.”
Hopper and Burt have further interjected their beliefs with House Bill 1457, which states: “Require science teachers to instruct pupils that proper scientific inquire results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established, and that scientific and technological innovations based on new evidence can challenge accepted scientific theories or modes.”
“Every attempt by elected officials to introduce legislation that serves to interject Christian dogma into the function of our government and/or our schools is a slap in the face of every person who is either not a Christian or who does not believe in a god,” said Acting Vice President of Administration pro tempore Susi Bocks. Further adding, “The First Amendment is very clear, ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”; in other words, no preference should be shown to any one religion. Our Constitution, with its secular intent, wanted to stay out of the discussion of religion in order to protect the rights of all citizens. Those that would want to ignore the intent of that document want to change our nation into a theocracy. That, we will not stand for.”
To truly grasp (R-District 124) Missouri’s Rick Brattin’s complete and utter lack of knowledge in the field of science and his sincerity in pushing Intelligent Design/Creationism into Missouri’s public schools’ science classrooms, one must read through the entire bill. A couple of examples include the following direct quotes from Missouri House Bill 1227:
“Biological intelligent design’, a hypothesis that the complex form and function observed in biological structures are the result of intelligence and, by inference, that the origin of biological life and the diversity of all original species on earth are the result of intelligence. Since the inception of each original species, genetic material has been lost, inherited, exchanged, mutated, and recombined to result in limited variation. Naturalistic mechanisms do not provide a means for making life from simple molecules or making sufficient new genetic material to cause ascent from microscopic organisms to large life forms. The hypothesis does not address the time or sequence of life’s appearance on earth, time or formation of the fossil record, and time or method of species extinction. The hypothesis does not require the identity of intelligence responsible for earth’s biology but requires any proposed identity of that intelligence to be verifiable by present-day observation or experimentation.
Destiny, the events and processes that define the future of the universe, galaxies, stars, our solar system, earth, plant life, animal life, and the human race and which may be founded upon faith-based philosophical beliefs”
Brattin has also sponsored HB 1276. This bill would amend Section A. Chapter 170, RSMo to include Section 170.335, which would read:
170.335. 1. The state board of education, …shall endeavor to create an environment within public …schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues, including biological and chemical evolution. Such educational authorities in this state shall also endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies. Toward this end, teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical evolution.
2. Neither the state board of education, nor any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, …shall prohibit any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of biological or chemical evolution whenever these subjects are taught within the course curriculum schedule.
3. This section only protects the teaching of scientific information and this section shall not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion. Scientific information includes physical evidence and logical inferences based upon evidence.
In short, this bill would force science educators to undermine the Theory of Evolution in the classroom. While the bill claims to disallow religious inference, that is precisely what the wording opens the doors to. What reason, beyond the beliefs of creationists, is there to suggest that there is controversy among scientists with regard to the Theory of Evolution? Perhaps Senator Brattin could enlighten the academic community on what, exactly, is missing from the current textbooks as far as factual information in the field of science.
“The only people who deny evolution are those with a religious ideology that they simply cannot get past”, says Missouri State Chapter Leader Eric Drennen. “Their efforts to insert their religion into the classrooms of public schools is a clear violation of what is known as the ‘Establishment Clause’ of the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Teaching our children that Intelligent Design/Creationism is a legitimate, viable theory as to how things came to be the way they are on this planet is nothing short of neglect.”
Georgia Senators Bill Heath, Chip Rogers, Lindsey Tippins, Jack Hill and Judson Hill have decided they want to place the nations religious motto, “In God We Trust” on every license plate in the state. This would be made official under SB 293 which reads:
(b) The department shall make available to all license plates recipients a decal with the same dimensions as the printed ‘In God We Trust’ motto containing only the county name. decal that contains the words, ‘In God We Trust.’ The department shall charge any person requesting such county name decal no more than the cost to the department for the manufacture and distribution of such decal.
Under this bill, Georgians who do not want the words “In God We Trust” on their license plates would be charged a fee to purchase a special state-issued decal sticker to cover it up.“The collapsing of church and state into a theocracy is abhorrent to the US Constitution and something that every US citizen should be protesting. The root of the Georgia license plate issue is national; “In God We Trust” must be eliminated as the US motto”, says Georgia Chapter Leader.
A Wall of Separation
“These bills, and especially the timing of their introduction, seem to be a calculated stunt by the Christian Right to display their fidelity to their Christian constituency, rather than a sincere effort to Christianize public school curricula. They can point to this impassable legislation and say that they tried their best, thus cozening those who hold the purse strings and ensure their continued support.”, says Party President Troy Boyle. “If these proposals are NOT such a stunt, then the Christian Right has abandoned 250 years of secularism and is seeking the establishment of a Christian theocracy no different from the governments of the Middle East that they routinely castigate as being religious oppressors.”
Just what do these bills mean to the average American citizen? Our Party stands with the Constitution and the Supreme Court, which has routinely enforced Thomas Jefferson’s Wall of Separation. A quick look through these proposed bills will reveal that they were all introduced by Republican lawmakers, and each of these lawmakers has made it a point to demonstrate their own take on the Christian faith. Then turning around with the same breath and demand we too live according to their personal dogma . Sadly, a very large Christian voting bloc has been in existence for several decades at both the state and the federal level, and this bloc has largely been putting these lawmakers in place.
We strive to bring an end to this trend. We base our platform on sound reasoning and majority unity, especially when it comes to the education of our children in public schools. We need to counteract these individuals and continue to uphold a constitutional separation of a politician’s personal church into our public state. We are reaching out to all secularists. Whether you identify as an Atheist, Theist, Humanist or Deist, if we do not stand up now, together, as a whole, our children will be making the same arguments 40 years from now. What kind of America will our children inherit if we stay docile while the whirling tornado that is the Christian Right consistently attempt to interject their version of their chosen religion into our daily lives? Join us and say “No!” to religion in government as one voice!