The Second Coming of J.C.

resAfter almost two months of being on hiatus, The Word of J.C. is back!  Now that life has settled down a little bit, and I have more time to write again, keep on the look out for new posts, which will be coming out at least every two days, throughout the summer.  For now, let’s review a few of the top stories that were missed during the break:

In April, Catherine and Herbert Schaible were charged with third degree murder, after losing their second child to a preventable illness.  For those of you who don’t remember them, the Schaibles were charged with involuntary manslaughter and placed on probation in 2009, after another of their children died from pneumonia. The couple had refused to seek medical attention for him, opting for prayer as treatment, which eventually led to the child’s death.  This time, another of their children, an eight month old infant son, suffered through two weeks of diarrhea and breathing problems while the couple once again refused to take him to a doctor, watching and praying as he wasted away.

Sylvia Browne, the widely acclaimed psychic, was once again exposed as a fraud this month, after Amanda Berry was found and rescued from her captor’s house, where she had been abused and held prisoner for a decade.  Browne told Berry’s parents that Amanda was dead and “on the other side” in 2004, during a taping of the Montel Williams Show.  This is not the first time that Browne has wrongly predicted the death of a missing child.

Pat Robertson told a female caller to his show, last week, that cheating is a “tendency of man,” and to stop focusing on her husband’s transgressions.  He continued, telling her that it was her duty to “make a home so wonderful that he doesn’t want to wander,” implying that her husband’s infidelity was the result, not of his own choices, but of her inadequacies.

So far, over forty people have been killed in Myanmar, as a result of religious violence between Buddhists and Muslims.  Around 1200 Muslims are now taking shelter in a monastery, while the government attempts to quell the violence.

In Louisiana, lawmakers have voted to uphold a bill that requires creationism to be taught in any school that includes evolution in its curriculum.  A move to repeal the bill, which has been on the books since the 1980s, was shot down, despite the fact that the Supreme Court has determined it to be wholly unconstitutional, as it requires religious ideals to be taught in public school classrooms; a clear violation of the establishment clause.

These are just a few of the many examples of religion, science denial, and charlatanry causing direct harm to both individuals and society as a whole that have occurred in the short time that I have been on break from this blog.  This, more than anything else before, has convinced me that humanists, secularists, skeptics, and all of their like MUST continue to speak out on a regular basis about the dangers posed by those who would choose to hold religious and supernatural ideas in higher regard than scientific advancement, the good of others, and the protection of constitutional principles. It is time that we as a society stop tolerating injustice and death on the grounds that we cannot infringe upon the beliefs of others. These are not issues of freedom of belief or religious liberty, but issues of safety, health, and law, and they must be addressed as such.

-J.C.

PA. Republican Attempts to Stifle Church/State Separation Lawsuits by Introducing Legislation that Would Prevent Plaintiffs from Remaining Anonymous

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The man in the photo above is Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Tim Krieger.  Apparently, Rep. Krieger doesn’t like the idea of citizens using anonymity to protect their safety and identities, when filing lawsuits that they fear may cause public backlash upon them and their families.

Yesterday, the Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus website reported on the introduction of House bill 922, which would prevent plaintiffs in lawsuits pertaining to the display of religious symbols on public property from remaining anonymous, unless they can directly prove that they would suffer physical injury as a result of appearing in court.

GREENSBURG — Rep. Tim Krieger (R-Delmont) announced today the introduction of his legislation to guarantee public transparency in litigation impacting the expression of religious liberties in public places (House Bill 922).

Passage of House Bill 922 would require that the party bringing any lawsuit designed to suppress, remove or inhibit the display or use of religious symbols in public locations would not be allowed to proceed anonymously, unless it can be clearly demonstrated that the primary litigant(s) would suffer serious physical harm due to appearing in court.

There are so many things wrong with this, I almost don’t know where to begin.  Let’s start with Krieger’s rationale behind this bill:

“Religious expression in public places has been part of our nation and Pennsylvania for generations, from the founding of the Commonwealth by William Penn and onward to modern times,” said Krieger.  “Even inside our state Capitol, religious symbols are still prominently displayed in both chambers of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, as well as through a mural of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments adorning the chamber of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  A troubling practice has emerged in recent years where private parties file anonymous lawsuits to attack the display of religious symbols in public places.”

So, apparently Mr. Krieger finds the enforcement of church/state separation “troubling.”  Do you know what I find troubling?  The fact that we have state representatives who oppose the enforcement of and adherence to one of our most basic constitutional principles: that no government body may endorse any religion in any way.  Whether the practice of public religious displays has been traditionally allowed or not has no bearing on its legal status.  The fact is that the establishment clause makes it an unconstitutional practice.  Period.  This constitutional ideal has been upheld and reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in case after case, yet we still have elected officials who directly ignore, and even fight against it.

“Passage of House Bill 922 would guarantee that no individual or organization will be able to use our state courts as a weapon to attack the right of Pennsylvania citizens to display religious symbols in public places while hiding in the shadows,” said Krieger.

The right of citizens to display religious symbols in public places?  I don’t remember reading that in the constitution, Mr. Krieger.  Could you point it out for me, please?  Because, as I’ve already said, I’m pretty sure that the establishment clause, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, says something very different.

As far as his comment about the plaintiffs in these cases “hiding in the shadows,” this is nothing more than an attempt to vilify a minority who has every reason to want to remain anonymous in these cases.  This is illustrated by the huge precedent of harassment and threats that has been seen in the past, when individuals have publicly identified themselves in lawsuits such as the ones that this bill is aimed at.  Through cases like those of Jessica Ahlquist,  Vashti McCollum and many others, we have repeatedly seen the plaintiffs in such lawsuits and their families subjected to a variety of attacks, including verbal harassment, community shunning, threats of violence and death, actual violence, the online publishing of home addresses and more.  The fact that Mr. Krieger wants to do away with the only real protection that future plaintiffs have against this type of backlash is both angering and sickening.

When we have elected officials who directly oppose the enforcement of constitutional principles, it should be a red flag.  When those same officials attempt to introduce legislation that is aimed directly at discouraging citizens from pursuing the enforcement of those principles by taking away their only means of guaranteeing their safety in doing so, the citizenry should be sounding the alarm so loudly that those officials can’t hear themselves think.

So, I’m issuing a call to action for all secularists and other supporters of the establishment clause: let Rep. Krieger know that we will NOT tolerate this attack on citizens’ ability to safely fight for church/state separation.  You can find Rep. Krieger’s office contact information below.

-J.C.

Representative Tim Krieger
57th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
101 Ehalt Street
Greensburg, PA 15601-2300
Phone: 724-834-6400

E-mail: Tkrieger@pahousegop.com

A Word on Childhood Indoctrination

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I pledge allegiance to the Christian Flag, and to the Savior for whose Kingdom it stands. One Savior, crucified, risen and coming again, with life and liberty to all who believe.

Picture, if you will, 15-20 small children, huddled around a Christian flag at the front of a small church, droning these words out in a thrall-like monotone.  This is the scene that I was unfortunate enough to witness at the start of a church service, a few months ago. For numerous reasons, this was one of the most disturbing things that I have ever witnessed.  Let’s start at the beginning:

I pledge allegiance to the Christian Flag, and to the Savior for whose Kingdom it stands.

Now, this may not be the most popular idea that I have ever expressed, but I dislike the concept of children being required to pledge their allegiance to anything.  The idea that any of these children (some who were as young as 4, and none who were older than 9) have the mental capacity to truly comprehend the implications of taking an oath of allegiance is almost as ludicrous as the religious ideas that their parents are forcing them to pledge to, here.

Additionally, if someone is going to teach their children to pledge their allegiance to something, I can think of many other things that are much more deserving of it than a flag, or a religious figure.  How about a pledge of allegiance to the human race, or to all life?  Perhaps a pledge of allegiance to the planet that sustains all forms of life that we know of?

One Savior, crucified, risen, and coming again…

So, now we get down to the fairy tales.  The fact that these ridiculous notions of resurrection and immortality are being taught to these kids as factual events is sickening, in and of itself.  That these kids are forced to recite a weekly pledge, in which they must assert complete belief in these stories, under the pressure of doing so in front of a large group of adults and authority figures, makes me angrier than I have words to express.

…and coming again with life and liberty to all who believe.

And, to hell (literally) with all who don’t believe, right?  As a parent, this one gets to me the most.  How anyone could possibly think that teaching their children that anyone who does not think, believe, or live as they do is undeserving of life or liberty is a positive thing is completely incomprehensible to me.  Have we, as a species, not seen enough of the harms that are caused by notions such as these?  Are the parents of these children so ignorant, as to be unaware of the fact that millions of people throughout history have been enslaved, tortured and murdered, because of this very concept?  To be honest, I truly hope that they are that ignorant, because the only other possibility is far more disturbing.

The bottom line to all of this is that this kind of childhood indoctrination is brainwashing, no matter how you look at it.  Taking these children to church every Sunday, and forcing them to affirm belief in a religion that they cannot yet even fully comprehend or understand cannot be viewed under any other light.

Parents, here’s a novel idea: instead of teaching your children what to believe, why not try teaching them how to think?  Rather than teaching them to accept whatever they are told by those who hold authority over them, try teaching them to examine things, ask questions, and draw their own conclusions.  Granted, there’s always the possibility that they may not end up seeing things as you would like them to, but would you not prefer to raise a thinking individual, who decides things for his or herself, rather than an ignorant follower, who accepts whatever he or she is told by authority?

And, if you’re going to force your children to pledge their allegiance to something, please allow me to suggest this alternative to having them pledge to a flag, or belief system:

I pledge allegiance to the Universe, and all the life which it supports. One cosmos, in our care, irreplaceable, with sustenance and respect for ALL.

-J.C.