A Congressman Publicizes His Incompetence

Sam Johnson Defends Religious Freedom for America’s Troops – Allegedly

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Congressman Sam Johnson (TX-03) introduced the Preserve and Protect God in Military Oaths Act (H.R. 1425). This bill is in response to the U.S. Air Force Academy’s 2013 decision to make the final clause of the Cadet Honor Oath, which states “so help me God,” optional.

It is a phrase, not a clause. Oops!

Before introducing his legislation, Johnson made the following statement on the House Floor:

“Our Constitution’s very First Amendment protects every individual’s freedom of religion. But our servicemen and women who protect our county with their lives are seeing that freedom under fire.

That is a highly debatable claim.

“In 2013, the U.S. Air Force Academy made the phrase “so help me God” optional in the oath each cadet takes. And why did they do this? Because of one radical atheist group’s demands!

Radical? Probably not, but I’m sure he thinks so. Let’s see what the Constitution has to say on the subject:

Article VI, clause 3
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

The Constitution clearly forbids a religious qualification, including in an oath of service. This “one radical atheist group” was defending the Constitution, something that Congressman Sam Johnson swore an oath to do. So why is this guy writing a law with the intention of violating the Constitution?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion

And why does he think that defending the Constitution is such a “radical” idea?

“Let me be clear: Americans have the freedom of religion – but not freedom from religion. That’s why I am introducing legislation that requires Congressional approval before any change would be made to military oaths.

Freedom of religion includes freedom from the impositions or constraints of someone else’s religion. You cannot have true freedom of religion without freedom from religion.

“The moral foundation of our country is in serious danger if we allow radical groups to dictate whether or not we can freely express our religious beliefs! It’s time to take a stand.”

There are several problems with this statement.

First, “optional” is consistent with “freedom”. “Mandatory” is consistent with “coercion”, AKA lack of freedom. He’s already on the wrong side of freedom.

Secondly, nobody is being kept from saying “so help me God”. There is literally no restriction of religious liberty here.

Thirdly, there is the assumption that morality is only possible through religion. Given the history of organized religion, that is an ignorant assumption. Organized religion has made many contributions to human misery and injustice. The Bible, for example, allows for such things as:

  • Polygamy
  • Slavery
  • Animal sacrifice
  • Mutilation
  • Religious executions
  • Religious persecution

All are things that we, as a society, reject as immoral.

As for religious liberty and requiring a religious oath, let’s look at Matthew 5:33-37

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

That’s right, requiring a religious oath actually violates religious liberty, as well as the Constitution. I have no doubt that Rep. Johnson (voluntarily) included “So help me God” in his oath of office:

“I, (name of Member), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God” (5 U.S.C. §3331).

I wonder if he understands that he swore a Holy oath to support and defend the Constitution as “the supreme Law of the Land” (Article VI, clause 2), that “Biblical Law” was not written under the authority of the Constitution (and is therefore not part of the law of the land), and that “all enemies, foreign and domestic” includes those Christian extremists who undermine the rule of law in order to convert the United States into a theocracy or some other form of religiously regimented nation?

Finally, there is the purpose and nature of an oath. An oath is a formal, public commitment to a principle, a promise, or a course of action. Fulfilling an oath is a matter of honor, so the oath-taker swears by something he/she holds dear. To force an atheist, for example, to “swear to God” makes as much sense as making a Christian swear on the Qur’an or a Muslim swear on the Bible. Rather than enhancing the strength of the oath, it undermines it. It makes a mockery of the process.

In conclusion:

  • Sam Johnson does not understand the concept of oaths.
  • Sam Johnson does not understand the concept of religious freedom.
  • Sam Johnson does not understand the Constitution of the United States.
  • Sam Johnson is not qualified for the office he holds, and incapable of honoring his oath of office. And that speaks volumes about the people who elected him.

It is probably his own radical religious beliefs that limit his understanding of things outside his political/religious bubble.

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Happy Religious Freedom Day

January 16, the anniversary of the adoption of a law, written by Thomas Jefferson and guided to adoption by James Madison, separating Church and State in Virginia. The template for the First Amendment protection of religion:

An Act for establishing religious Freedom

Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord, both of body and mind yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do, that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time; that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor, whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the Ministry those temporary rewards, which, proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind; that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry, that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence, by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages, to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right, that it tends only to corrupt the principles of that very Religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments those who will externally profess and conform to it; that though indeed, these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own; that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order; and finally, that Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them: Be it enacted by General Assembly that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities. And though we well know that this Assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of Legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding Assemblies constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare that the rights hereby asserted, are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.

Free will. A fundamental aspect of liberty. Religion is a belief system, and you cannot force someone to believe, with the possible exception of brainwashing, which would be a denial of free will and liberty.

I find it interesting that the Act immediately preceding this one in the PDF concerns a matter of Church under control of the State:

An Act to authorize the Election of certain Vestries

Whereas the members of the Protestant Episcopal Church residing in many parishes [word erased] within this Commonwealth have been prevented from carrying into Execution an act for incorporating the Protestant Episcopal Church within the period therein limited for the election of vestries, occasioned by the said law not having been sufficiently promulgated so as to enable the Members of the said church to proceed in the execution thereof. Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly that Elections for vestrymen in manner prescribed by the said recited act shall be held in all such parishes on Monday in next Easter week if fair, if not, on the next fair day. And the said vestries when elected and qualified, shall have the same powers and authority, and be subject to the like rules and regulations as other vestries within this Commonwealth are by the said act entitled to, governed by, and vested with.

As an Episcopalian, I shudder at the thought of the government having such control over my church. I also shudder at the thought of some other religion having control over my government, for religion is not a democracy. If not voluntarily embraced, it is authoritarian and therefore a tyranny. How ironic that those who are most vocal in opposition to Sharia law have the same plank in their eye over Biblical law. There is no religious liberty when the government favors one belief system over another. It is said that good fences make good neighbors, and the proper role of government in a society of religious freedom is to be that fence, to mediate the frictions between conflicting religions so as to promote domestic tranquility and the greatest extent of liberty for all.

No single liberty can be absolute. There is always a point where it begins to infringe on another’s liberty. If supremacy were given to religious ‘conscienc­e’, then adhering to law would become optional and the rule of law, the foundation on which even the Constitution is built, would be irreparably undermined. In Federalist #2, John Jay said that:

“Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of government, and it is equally undeniable, that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights in order to vest it with requisite powers.”

This states the reasoning behind the basic social contract we have as a nation: the Constitution.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The Preamble to the Constitution states it more clearly: We the People…do ordain and establish… Not by the “grace of God”, but by the consent of the governed.

From Article VI:

“no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

That includes the entire public sector.

Sadly, faith in religion can sometimes be misplaced.

Today of all days, St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese files for bankruptcy in wake of sex abuse lawsuits

And: Boy who claimed he had been to heaven retracts story, best-selling book is pulled

And possibly the worst of the week: Conceived as symbol of pluralism, Muslim call to prayer at Duke canceled after backlash

The original plan drew the ire of evangelist Franklin Graham, who urged Duke alumni to withhold support because of violence against Christians he attributed to Muslims. Schoenfeld said emails and calls came from alumni and others in the community.

Blaming all Muslims for the actions of a few – and make no mistake: given the number of Muslims in the world, the number of Islamic terrorists is a very small percentage (not to mention that they are killing more Muslims than Christians) – is nothing less than religious persecution of innocent Muslims by caustic Christians who only pretend to defend religious liberty.

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Bobby Jindal School Voucher System Blasted As ‘Destruction Of Education’ By Religious Group

About that Louisiana constitution:

Art. I, sec. 8 – Freedom of Religion

“Section 8. No law shall be enacted respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Sounds a lot like the First Amendment, so why doesn’t it work the same in Louisiana?

We got a bit more explicit in Minnesota:

“nor shall any money be drawn from the treasury for
the benefit of any religious societies or religious or theological seminaries.”

Yeah, republicans ignore it here too, just the same. They pick and choose from their constitutions just like they pick and choose from their Scripture.

Call them Cullists. Or cultists.

August 7, 2012
The Honorable Bobby Jindal
Office of the Governor of Louisiana
P.O. Box 94004
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9004

Dear Governor Jindal:

I write to you as the President of Interfaith Alliance to express my disappointment, concern and indeed, outrage at the school voucher program you have implemented in the state of Louisiana. Not only do I represent this national organization whose members come together from 75 faith traditions and belief systems to protect religious freedom, champion individual rights, and promote policies that protect both religion and democracy, I also serve as Senior Pastor for Preaching and Worship at Northminster (Baptist) Church in Monroe, and thus, I am one of your constituents. Your school voucher scheme is bad for religious freedom and bad for public education as well as a blatant attack on the religious freedom clauses in the United States Constitution. Continue reading

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Thomson Reuters: Gay Marriage Ban Bad For Business

During the 2010 election, Target donated money to a Tom Emmer (R) PAC, which was exposed by Minnesota’s transparency laws. There was a backlash, particularly from their gay employees – who Target has otherwise been good to. It was a miscalculation by someone seeking to support a fiscal conservative. The problem is that fiscal conservatism comes bundled with social conservatism. Target is now selling T-shirts in support of gays and gay marriage. Emmer was among the first to be glitter bombed.

Last year, I watched some amazing testimony and debate against the amendment. (MN Senate Media Services and the House equivalent make video recordings of the House and Senate in action, and the local PBS station broadcasts it on a digital subchannel. Our own local CSPAN.) The testimony for the amendment was the usual religious persecution, fake science, reproduction, and redefinition arguments.

The Catholic Church sent out a propaganda DVD produced by the Knights Of Columbus, and right-wing talk radio was all over it.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the inquisition…

A LOT of the DVDs were returned, and a nun artist in residence got in trouble for recycling them. That didn’t sit too well, even among Catholics.

There was a flurry of gay teen suicides, and gay-bashing in schools became a hot issue. There was one particularly high-profile case of a school board refusing to protect their students in the name of religious liberty. They were eventually forced to back down.

The polls now show that most Minnesotans support gay marriage, which is why republicans want to handcuff future legislatures by carving the ban in the state constitution. They may be too late.

The amendment has to get a “YES” from the majority of MN voters. A non-answer counts as a “NO”.

Religious leaders are organizing against the amendment, in addition to groups supportive of gay rights – and now businesses. Minnesota is home to a large number of Fortune 500 companies, and they are realizing that this battle is coming to their own back yard.

We are hoping that Minnesota will be the turning point in the war on equality, that we will be the first state to reject this type of constitutional ban. 8-D

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Senator Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park/ Golden Valley) says “be afraid of the tyranny of the majority” not because the majority doesn’t rule, but because the constitution is there to protect the rights of the minority, even if we disagree with them. Latz says a proposed constitutional amendment that would enshrine religious views in our state constitution is a “political tactic”. Religious freedom, Latz says is for everyone, not just the majority.

Representative Steve Simon (DFL Hopkins/St. Louis Park) says a proposed Minnesota constitutional amendment is largely about religion. He says if sexual orientation is innate as science is showing us, and not a lifestyle choice, then God created gay people. He asks how many gay people must God create before we accept that he wants them around.

Senator Scott Dibble, who is gay, talks about how hurtful a proposed Minnesota constitutional amendment is to him and his husband.

Senator Barb Goodwin (DFL-Fridley) says Republicans are spending too much time worrying about how other people live instead of focusing on the budget. She says putting discrimination into the Minnesota constitution is “craziness”

Rachel Maddow On Minnesota’s Anti-Gay Marriage Constitutional Amendment

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Bill Clinton Opposes North Carolina Gay Marriage Amendment

What the Bible says is irrelevant. The marriage laws are not written to support the Bible, “Holy Matrimony”, or “the sanctity of marriage”.

They are written to support families. There are thousands of laws defining the rights and responsibilities of spouses, parents, and children. Laws of inheritance. Laws that recognize that a stable society needs a stable family structure.

Laws that have arisen to address the legal and financial problems that have evolved around the family unit.

None of which has anything to do with religion. The objections to same-sex marriage are contrary to the interests of the state in recognizing and supporting marriage.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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Catholic Bishops’ Contraception Coverage Argument Ridiculed By Pacifist

“Nothing is more certain than the indispensa­ble necessity of government­, and it is equally undeniable­, that whenever and however it is instituted­, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights in order to vest it with requisite powers.”
John Jay, Federalist 2

No single liberty is absolute. There is always a point where it begins to infringe on another liberty. In this case, church doctrine butts heads with public health and reproductive rights.

Within the Catholic community, Church doctrine has authority. But as Church activity extends outside that community, their rights begin to conflict with the rights of others. It is not the role of government to give preference to one faith over another, but to mediate disputes between them.

It illustrate­s the conflict between religious ‘conscienc­e’ and the rights of others. If supremacy were given to ‘conscienc­e’, then medical treatment would become subject to the unpredicta­ble religious behavior of any and every person involved.

I heard of one case where a woman got pregnant because it was against the beliefs of an emergency room physician to tell her that the medication he gave her would interfere with her birth control. That was a high price to pay for not knowing the religious beliefs of a total stranger in an emergency situation.

A pharmacist changing a prescription without consulting the doctor or notifying the patient. A lab technician who fudges the results without accountability or repercussion. A doctor substituting government propaganda for accepted medical advice, or not identifying all the options or misrepresenting the risks.

Trust between patient, doctor, lab, etc, would dissolve. Suddenly, medical outcomes would become unpredicta­ble. The American health care system would be thrown into anarchy.

The country needs a functionin­g health care system far more than it needs to protect absolute rights for a few. This is not a new idea or a shocking revelation­, it is a natural law.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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New York Times reports on Catholic Charities pull-out in Illinois

English: It's the original logo

Image via Wikipedia

“For the nation’s Catholic bishops, the Illinois requirement is a prime example of what they see as an escalating campaign by the government to trample on their religious freedom while expanding the rights of gay people. The idea that religious Americans are the victims of government-backed persecution is now a frequent theme not just for Catholic bishops, but also for Republican presidential candidates and conservative evangelicals.”

The rights of gays are not being expanding, we are beginning to recognize the rights they have always had but been denied. The Catholics still get to discriminate against gays within the bounds of their religion, but not when providing public services with taxpayer dollars.

“In the name of tolerance, we’re not being tolerated,” said Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., a civil and canon lawyer who helped drive the church’s losing battle to retain its state contracts for foster care and adoption services.

I suppose he thinks he is being clever, turning it around to make Catholics out to be the victims. To buy into his argument, one would have to believe that they have a unilateral right to be intolerant, or that attacking the rights of others is somehow an act of tolerance. Only blind prejudice could make this seem logical.

The time has come for some charities or organizations that respect equal rights to take over what the Catholic Church is unwilling to do: impartially provide a government service.

It would also help to get the Vatican out of the United States government.

New York Times reports on Catholic Charities pull-out in Illinois.

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