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Peter Martin is championing a woman suing to enforce the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the California Constitution against what she says is the active government promotion of religion.

The Times Standard coverage.

According to Martin, Jager testified that city staff drafted a proclamation and prepared a letter promoting the 2012 prayer breakfast.

”These two documents were prepared by city staff during working hours,” Martin said. “He may not feel that is inappropriate, but I think we will leave that up to a court to decide.”

Jager confirmed Friday that he had asked Deputy City Clerk Suzanne Ziemer to type up a letter promoting the breakfast, but said he doesn’t see that as a misuse of city time.

”It maybe took her two minutes to type up,” he said. “I mean God Almighty, we are really splitting hairs here.”

As a matter of law, I’m not certain that the time is relevant, only that public resources were used to promote a religion.  It comes down to the details of the prayer breakfast.  Public prayers have been upheld at the Federal level, but Peter Martin is arguing that California law is tougher.

The complaint cites a Hindu prayer delivered last summer as in violation.  Is the City of Eureka really promoting Hinduism?  In the movie Slackers it was suggested that the cartoon Smurfs was part of a plot acclimating us all to blue people – so we can deal with the return of Govinda.



Seriously, this is not an onion piece.  China is banning the practice of reincarnation without official permission.   The issue?  The Dalai Lama is refusing to reincarnate to a rebirth in Tibet until it is independent.

But maybe the practice should require a license!

Some are claiming that the vast difference in the nature of the coverage between the Colorado shootings a couple of weeks ago and yesterday’s shooting up of a Sikh temple right near where I was recently vacationing in South Milwaukee is racist and cultural.   However, to be honest, I also think there may be an element of fatigue – the Denver event having been so recent, that there may be a certain level of numbing effect.  Still, the question has to be asked, and some attempt must be made to answer.

Pat Robertson isn’t blaming the Devil as he did with the Haitian earthquake.  He’s not blaming gays or feminists.  He’s blaming atheists because it’s the same whether they’re shooting up a Sikh Temple or a Baptist Church.  Only, Baptist Churches don’t often get shot up, unless they’re promoting civil rights.  More recently it’s a Sikh Temple and a Unitarian Church, of which many of the members are atheists.  Go figure.

The Onion already has something up.  Is it too soon?

The TPM headline is uncharacteristically misleading.  30 percent of the youth surveyed did not say they didn’t believe in God.  They said they have experienced doubts in God.

Still, I actually think that doubt is healthier than absolute disbelief.

The data is from Pew.

So why is the Boomer generation the only one getting more religious?

An interesting poll from the Public Religion Research Institute.  It polls over 1000 people, but just over 800 of them are registered voters.  The methodology is explained, somewhat, through the link.  The poll gives Obama a 9 point lead over Romney, which I think is a bit high, but not so far out of the range of recent polls.  Obviously they were taken before Obama admitted his support for gay marriage.

TPM summarizes the religious breakdown as follows:

White evangelical voters strongly support Romney over Obama (68% vs. 19%).

Catholic voters overall say that they would be more likely to vote for Obama than Romney (46% to 39%), although white Catholic voters favor Romney over Obama by a significant margin (48% to 37%).

Obama has an advantage over Romney among white mainline Protestant voters (50% vs. 37%) and religiously unaffiliated voters (57% vs. 22%).

And while 16 percent of those polled believe that Obama is a Muslim, only 1 percent believes he’s Mormon.

What a difference half a century makes.  After the Scopes Monkey Trial, politics had pretty much secularized in the mainstream, until the McCarthy era when political religion was revived in Cold War context and in response to growing culture mediums (rock music, radicals movie makers, etc.).  JFK was under a particular pressure as the first (and only) Catholic President with concern over “Papicism” in terms of social democracy (Rerum Novarum specifically, which would figure prominently in the Second Vatican) more paranoid “apostate church” issues.  This speech was probably designed to ease concerns that he had been elected as Pope-surrogate.

But for the most part, politics had secularized, until the emergence of the Moral Majority during the Reagan Revolution.  Nobody objected to the the notion that a political figures core morality might be rooted in religion, but the concept of a religious political agenda driving electoral campaigns and policy was well out of vogue for two brief decades beginning with JFK.  Does anybody remember Ford’s religion?  Johnson’s?  Some of us touched by anti-war politics might remember that Nixon had been a Quaker largely because of the irony of the situation, and the response from Quakers themselves.  But until the 1980s, we really didn’t know our political leaders’ religious affiliations.  Now even liberal pols are pretty much forced to proclaim their Christianity in personal and political terms, as the liberal pol’s bonafides on the issue are routinely challenged.

In any case, we certainly would not have seriously entertained proposals for “faith based” public funding of privatized social programs, or “vouchers” for public funding of religious education, or official prayer in schools.  It was a brief renaissance in the approach to the Establishment Clause (and yes conservatives, I know that “wall of separation” only appeared in a private letter by Thomas Jefferson).

This speech would be attacked all over Fox News today, and even on the other stations.

Addendum:  Somebody else sent me this video.  I have no idea what it’s about.

And another friend sent me this.

This kid, who protested a school prayer at the graduation ceremony, finds himself ostracized, demeaned, and shunned by his own family.

Very sad story about a very brave young man.

Addendum:  This blogger outlines why he or she thinks the young man is being a jerk.  Maybe it’s hard to understand what it’s like to have to sit through an official prayer for a religion you don’t share.  It’s oppressive actually, especially as a kid.  You’re not even sure what you’re supposed to do, and you want to avoid doing anything to attract attention to yourself, so you do what those around you are doing.  You put your head down and pretend like you’re praying, because you really don’t want to seem any more different than you already are.  The blogger obviously hasn’t been through it.  Not as a kid.

The other night I was watching the old German silent movie version of Faust.  I was watching it for the fame film imagery and special effects – including a fascinating scene of Faust’s village in which all of the sudden Mephisto appears over it, enshrouding it with evil and despair – specifically by introducing the Black Death.  The scene is six minutes into this clip.

A bit later in the film – can’t find the clip on youtube – the people are dying and Church officials are trying to generate even more fear for their own nefarious purposes.  A group of the villagers respond in defiance of the fear and the plague itself:

“We shall live!  We shall love.  We shall die dancing in each others’ arms!”

I don’t know if those lines were drawn directly from Goethe, but even as the film itself moved into the dark, the chant continued to resonate with me – and I think they may well be the most beautiful lines in cinema, in context (I don’t think the lines would have worked in a “talkie” and I probably would have been one of those anachronistic people who would have lamented the loss of something vital in silent film as the medium made the switch).  Nietzsche did once comment that Goethe had “a kind of almost joyous and trusting fatalism” that has “faith that only in the totality everything redeems itself and appears good and justified.”  If these lines are Goethe’s, they certainly back Nietzsche’s comment up.

Goethe was actually a political conservative, more than skeptical of the Enlightenment’s claim that social change could be safely accomplished through reason.  But as we all learned in high school, he introduced redemption to the preexisting Faust mythos, and the striving for better as virtue.  I’ve never actually tried to read a translation of Faust, and I’m skeptical that it’s worthwhile based on my school learning that the verses were intricately designed for the German language.   But if the dancing-to-the-end theme is consistent with his work, I can understand the Jewish character in the 1980s film Reunion who refused to believe the Nazis could take over, because “this is the land of Goethe and Schiller!”

Anyway, if the world comes to an end on May 21 as the billboards claim, I’ll see you all on the dance floor before most of us descend to Hell.  If it comes to moments, I hope I can remember my favorite line translated in the old French film King of Hearts:  “Three minutes is great!”

This guy says that all the calendars have been wrong, and therefor the Last Supper took place on the day reported in the Gospels.

Next he’s going to prove that the value of pi is an even 3.


July 2020