September 17, 2009
“Sometimes people who favor separation of church and state resist this kind of candor and say that some Constitutional violations are “merely symbolic” or not worth fighting about. But if a ban on government-sponsored religious language is required by the Constitution, these are not minor violations, but go to the heart of the wall of separation. These violations, if such they are, must be fought. And, if they cannot be fought because of the political fallout, then maybe the underlying Constitutional interpretation is wrong.”
This is from Bruce Ledewitz’ report of a panel discussion held at the Netroots Convention in Pittsburgh. Click here to read his whole report and further the debate below.
September 14, 2009
A British film about Charles Darwin has failed to find a US distributor because his theory of evolution is too controversial for American audiences, according to its producer.
Science is too controversial for Americans. Well, I don’t know where you go from here. But I’d have to say: “This empire is doomed. DOOMED I say.”
September 12, 2009
From the Executive Director:
A few years ago I attended a fundraiser for Senator Patrick Leahy. EnlightenTheVote.com was then called the GAMPAC and Peter Nuhn and I took our GAMPAC donation check to the Washington DC event. I spoke briefly with the Senator, and we took a photo and then Peter and I left.
A week later our donation check was returned to us. That was a shock to me. I didn’t think that would ever happen to us, but it did. The senator didn’t want people knowing about our donation, and that an Atheist political action committee (pac) was supporting him.
Are we really that poisonous to politicians? Are we really that powerful, even if in a negative way?
What should we do if a politician asks us NOT to endorse him/her at our site? Can we be an effective political action committee if those politicians who we want to support, don’t want it?
In 2002, we launched our pac with a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington DC, and a reporter asked me what we would do if a politician did not want our endorsement? I told the reporter that if the politician didn’t want our endorsement then the politician would not get our votes or money. If we cannot endorse a candidate then we cannot drive votes and money their way.
It’s not that some politicians don’t want our support – it’s more that they don’t want the backlash from the religious. The religious are a better-organized and better-funded political machine than we are and that is what most politicians respond to. If we were better organized than the religious, then politicians would be actively pursuing our support. If we put a lot of money behind the candidates who we support, and if we work to elect them, then we will become the voting bloc that candidates will listen to.
So back to my original question. To support or not to support – that is the question. The answer is that we should support as long as we can make it beneficial to candidates and we can do that if you vote for the candidates we endorse and if you contribute to EnlightenTheVote.com. Our endorsement should benefit candidates. When you contribute to Enlightenthevote.com we donate to candidates’ campaigns and they know that enlightened Americans are organized to support them.
It is also important to donate your time to work on the campaigns of these candidates. This is what the religious do. In fact, there isn’t anything the religious won’t do to get their candidates elected to office.
Without your donations to Enlightenthevote.com and your work for the campaigns we support, some politicians may continue to be wary of our endorsement.
Atheists and other secular Americans are going political and we are going to be successful.
We are gearing up for the 2010 elections now. With your support we will elect politicians who support the separation of state and church and the noble words of the Establishment Clause, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Please donate to Enlightenthevote.com today. Please tell your friends about EV and help by spreading the word. Let’s not regret another election year.
What do you think? Leave us a comment.
Ellen Johnson, Executive Director
August 13, 2009
The Liberty Counsel has produced a document called the Declaration of American Values that does not contain a single American value. First of all it declares allegiance to the security of human life, even inbred idiot bastards. They declare they will “extend the hand of loving compassion to care for those in poverty and distress.” This is belied by the last article that wants to do away with progressive taxation.
After extending the hand of loving compassion in the first article, they then turn around in the second article and pull it right back again for anyone who doesn’t agree with their sexual orientation.
The third gives white people the right to discriminate against minorities in education.
The fourth article requires all of society to bow down to their God in schools, court houses, and legislatures.
The fifth article is the anti-filth diatribe that wants morality laws passed to censure the people’s right to freedom of expression, i.e., book burning.
Now comes the real religion of the Liberty Counsel. Private property is God to these people and the right to bear and use instruments of death to protect that property is their real religion.
The next article expresses their distrust and hatred for the courts of our land because they uphold the rights of minorities from being trampled by these people, such as, stopping the government from forcing women to engage in compulsory pregnancy.
The next article wants to “foster national unity” through the only government funding they will allow, i.e., a xenophobic war machine to kill foreigners.
The anti-progressive tax article is last. I can fully understand why the millionaire’s club of fundy ministers wants to do away with progressive taxes, but why in the hell do their followers who will have to pay increased taxes?
May 7, 2009
The Hawaiian Senate on Wednesday passed a well-meaning but Constitutionally daft bill by which that state officially recognizes a particular religion – Islam, in this case – as holding certain positive philosophical and spiritual attributes, even going so far as to call on the citizenry to respect and emulate these particular attributes. This development should be of concern to all Americans of every creed or none.
HCR 100 proclaims September 24th to be “Islam Day,” citing this as the date when “the Prophet Mohammad” arrived on the outskirts of Madinah, “thereby marking the birth of Islam.” Not content with having thereby given itself the authority to proclaim particular historical figures to be religious prophets, the Hawaiian Senate went on to make further theological judgment calls by citing the “common teachings” Islam shares with Christianity and Judaism as further evidence of the religion’s overall grandeur. Thus it is that this bill violates both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution by implicitly stating that a particular religion is worthy of praise simply by virtue of its similarity to two other religions that happen to be popular among a great number of people. Hawaii’s newly-encoded preference for a set of particular religious creeds is further made plain a bit later in the bill’s text when it is asserted that “Islam, along with its monotheistic counterparts, holds that peace is a divine quality and necessary for collective human happiness.” The State of Hawaii has thereby gotten into the messy and blatantly unconstitutional business of characterizing the philosophical nature of particular religions – and by doing so, it has inevitably insulted all of the others by omission.
In defense of Hawaii, its senate is not the first such body in the U.S. to step on the toes of the Constitution in an effort to recognize Islam’s contributions to the world; as HCR 100 notes, the U.S. Congress passed a similar measure in 1979, which is to say there is precedent for such nonsense. And, of course, there is yet another national bid in the works to codify respect for religion in general and the Judeo-Christianity in particular by way of H. Res. 397, which would establish “American Spiritual Heritage Week” in service to historical revisionism of the sort that seeks to remake our secular government as a Christian institution. Hawaii is simply falling prey to a misguided trend that we have seen before in many other states and on the national level as well.
Of course, HRC 100 and H. Res. 397 are driven by very different motivations. The latter is yet another attempt by Christian legislators to elevate religion in general and Christianity in particular to a status that they simply do not merit within the context of American jurisprudence, which explicitly forbids the government to elevate anything of the sort to any level at all; the former is merely intended to assure American Muslims that they are included within the American family, which is to say that it is an attempt to elevate Islam to the same level as Christianity and Judaism in the eyes of the state. But this, too, is misguided; in matters of religion, the state should be blind.
If Hawaiians or anyone else feel the need to reassure Muslims at home or abroad that they are not automatically enemies of the United States, there is a better way to go about this, and one that has the added bonus of promoting knowledge of our national history and secular origins – they can pass a bill in commemoration of the Treaty of Tripoli, which was passed unanimously by Congress in 1797 and signed into law by President John Adams in the same year, and which plainly states not only that our nation “has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility of Mussulmen [Muslims],” but also that “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
Incidentally, the sponsors of the pro-Christian “American Spiritual Heritage Week” might want to read over the Treaty of Tripoli as well.
May 1, 2009
The PEW Research Center survey asked: “Do you think the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information can often be justified, sometimes be justified, rarely be justified, or never be justified?”
The answer for 62% of Evangelicals was sure. 55% of unaffiliated stated no way on the torture debate. Don’t you think it is interesting when people are asked whether it is justified or not to violate the law? Ask ex-Sheriff James Parker of San Jacinto County, TX. He and three deputies were sentenced to ten years for waterboarding a suspect.
1. Murder Conviction Overturned on Appeal (1922):
After being convicted of murder in the state of Mississippi and sentenced to death, defendant Gerrard White appealed his murder conviction based upon arguments that his original confession was coerced through the use of the “water cure.” White won his appeal.
Judge Holden wrote the following description of how the “water cure” was administered in the Supreme Court of Mississippi appeals court ruling: “[T]he hands of appellant were tied behind him, he was laid upon the floor upon his back, and while some of the men stood upon his feet…upon appellant’s breast and…upon his neck. While in that position what is described as the ‘water cure’ was administered to him in an effort to extort a confession…
Gerrard White had his murder conviction overturned because his confession was coerced through the use of the water cure. (White V. State)
The ‘water cure’ appears to have consisted of pouring water from a dipper into the nose of appellant, so as to strangle him, thus causing pain and horror, for the purpose of forcing a confession.”
– Apr. 7, 2008 e-mail to ProCon.org from Peter Miller, research assistant to Darius Rejali, author of Torture and Democracy.
– White v. State, 129 Miss. 182; 91 So. 903 (1922)
2. Murder Conviction Overturned on Appeal (1926):
In 1926, John Fisher, a man convicted of murder in Clarksdale Mississippi, had his murder conviction overturned on appeal due to the fact that his original confession had been coerced through the use of the “water cure.”
In the appellate court ruling, the Sheriff is referenced as testifying “that he was sent for one night to come and receive a confession of the appellant in the jail; that he went there for that purpose; that when he reached the jail he found a number of parties in the jail; that they had the appellant down upon the floor, tied, and were administering the water cure, a species of torture well known to the bench and bar of the country…Several persons were introduced by the appellant who testified as to the presence of the parties in the jail and the administering of the water cure to Fisher and others jointly charged with the offense with him.”
John Fisher had his murder conviction overturned because his confession was coerced through the use of the water cure. (Fisher v. State)
– Rejali, Darius. Torture and Democracy, Princeton University Press, 2007.
– Fisher v. State, 145 Miss. 116; 110 So. 361 (1926).
More recently, Texas Sheriff Convicted of Torture (1983):
In 1983, James Parker (Texas Sheriff for San Jacinto County) and three of his deputies were charged by the Department of Justice with committing torture because of their use of water torture on prisoners. The four were convicted of “water torture,” which was upheld on appeal. They were sentenced to 10 years each. The case name was United States v. Parker et al.
Sheriff Parker & three deputies were convicted of “water torture.” The conviction was upheld on appeal (United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Carl Lee, Defendant-Appellant).
In the indictment the officers were charged with subjecting prisoners to “a suffocating ‘water torture’ ordeal in order to coerce confessions. This generally included placement of a towel over the nose and mouth of the prisoner and the pouring of water in the towel until the prisoner began to move, jerk, or otherwise indicate that he was suffocating and/or drowning.”
– “Around The Nation; Texas Sheriff Is Guilty of Torturing Prisoners,” The New York Times, Mar. 20, 1983.
– Wallach, Evan. “Drop By Drop: Forgetting The History of Water Torture In U.S. Courts,” The Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, 2007.
– Wallach, Evan. “Waterboarding used to be a Crime,” Washington Post, Nov. 4, 2007.
And of course, all of these cases took place in South. So this only adds credence to the poll taken by the PEW Research Center.
April 27, 2009
Once again, religious organizations and their anti-science policies are working overtime to the extreme detriment of every citizen in the US. This time they are holding up the nomination of Gov. Sebelius to the post of Secretary of Health and Human Services and right at the time when Europe is telling its citizens not to travel to the Swine flu capital of the world, North America. The markets are falling because of the potential impact the pandemic flu could have on the world’s economic recovery. Why? Because of the pro-woman political stance of the nominee who is in favor of a woman having control over her own body instead of religious wingnuts.
In addition, the anti-science religious bigots also succeeded in stopping funding for pandemic flu preparation in the recently passed stimulus funding. Just as they criticized volcano monitoring right before Anchorage’s volcano exploded, they also killed funding for the HHS to prepare for a pandemic flu right when a new pandemic strain of flu afflicts the North American continent.
Yea, it is real important for everyone reading this to go to our website and contribute to our efforts to ensure that the anti-science religious bigotted wingnuts are never elected in charge of our country ever again. They have to be stopped some how and this is the best way we can figure to elect secular and non-religious candidates to office.
The Sunday Times reports that British scientists have found a cure for the most common cause of blindness due to a new therapy found with the use of embryonic stem cells. The US with its Christian majority has lost out on making discoveries like this due to all the years of backward religious policy. How many other discoveries will be found in the future that we could have discovered earlier if only we lived in a nation that appreciated science and the advancements that come from it? How many people with die or suffer needlessly due to religious organizations control over the past several decades instead of rational leaders?
Does politics matter? Does your contribution to a political action committee dedicated to promoting secular rational leadership over the backward policies put in place like denial of embryonic stem cell research by the religious wrong? Only if your blind now. Who knows in the future.
March 24, 2009
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Saudis awaiting change from religious police
The Associated Press
Monday, March 23, 2009
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Visitors to a women’s job training center heard terrified screams _ and rushed to see an agent of the religious police dragging a woman by her hair down the stairs of the building.