Rules for joining: 6-22-09
Another anti-terrorism move?: 6-24-09

When courts rule on religion: 6-23-09

I have said here and elsewhere before that some court cases having to do with the free exercise of religion are so obvious that they never should have gotten to court in the first place.


Most of these have to do with units of government promoting one religion over another.

But there are some court cases in which reasonable people can, in good faith (so to speak), disagree about how far constitutional protections of religion should go before they run into other legitimate claims either of government or of other institutions.

One such case recently was decided by the Texas Supreme Court. In effect, the ruling confirmed the constitutionality (in Texas) of a 1999 law, the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That law requires government to show a compelling reason for limiting the rights and privileges of religious institutions.

This particular case involved a zoning matter. And you can read details about it in the story to which I've linked you in the previous paragraph.

I want to raise this matter today simply to say that our judicial system will be wrestling with religious freedom cases for a long time, and although some of them involve obvious abuse of constitutional principles, others are not so easy to figure out. So although there never should be any religious requirement for judges, it would be helpful if people elected and appointed to the bench would be well educated about matters of faith as well as constitutional boundaries.

I frankly don't know what kind of training law schools give students about the place of religion in public life in the United States, but my guess is very little. Do you know anything that would contradict that view?

(The illustration here today is from

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Lots of people, it turns out, are searching for God on the Internet, ABC News reports, and online evangelists are ready to respond. No surprise there. But not all people who search for God on the Internet are seeking to find either God there or spiritual advice. I'm one who uses "God" as a standard Google news search word to turn up any stories mentioning God that I might want to pass along to you blog readers. And it works. It found the story I've linked you to today. Thanks, God.

* * *

P.S.: My latest column for The Presbyterian Outlook now is online. To read it click here. To read both it and all my Outlook columns, click here.


Will Graham

Bill, I have found that the atheists who post here do not understand the Constitution in even a rudimentary sense. They seem to think that it requires that religion have no place in public life and that the believer must be silent about his beliefs.

We are all familiar with Iggy's constant rants and demands that believers SHUT UP and KEEP THEIR BELIEFS TO THEMSELVES.

But many Supreme Court decisions support free expression for believers.

What the anti Christians, those who would want to silence Christians, do not understand is that while the First Amendment does not allows Government to Establish Religion, neither does it allow it to make any law restricting the FREE EXERCISE THEREOF.

And even students...CHILDREN...have Constitutional rights in this regard and have a right to religious clubs at school if the school allows other types of clubs, as long as the impetus is from the students and not the school.

Of course, if the Supreme Court did turn against religion...just as it once said that a black man was three fifths of a man, (Buck v Bell) or that forced sterilization of the "unfit" could be allowed (Buck v Bell...the majority opionion favoring sterilization by the Atheist Oliver Wendell Holmes) then Civil Disobedience would be required on the part of believers.

Will Graham

And since just yesterday we had a new atheist poster making claims similar to Iggys, in this case that children SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO JOIN FAITH BASED ORGANIZATION (there goes church! LOL!) it is important to note that their are many cases at the state and federal level that also support the religious rights of children, even if those cases necessarly make it to the Supreme Court.

And it is important to understand that our rights do NOT come FROM the Constitution...they are simply recognized by the Consitution. The Declaration of Indpendence made clear where our rights came from, and should it ever become necessary there are many who will make their stand there.

Will Graham

The choice comment made yesterday, that will be preserved for posterity, that CHILDREN SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO JOIN FAITH BASED if atheism does not require faith...supports a point I made a while back.

The atheists want to control and dictate how children are raised, to suit their OWN agenda. Here is an amusing article backing that up:

Dolores Lear

"... our judicial system will be wrestling with religious freedom cases for a long time... So although there never should be any religious requirement for judges, it would be helpful if people elected and appointed to the bench would be well educated about matters of faith as well as constitutional boundaries."

What are matters of Faith, as well as constitutional boundaries? Are there any boundaries on Faith?

How many different Faiths are there, besides Denominations? What kind of training can be given to Judges of different Faiths, to Rule on Faith Matters?

How many different Faiths are there on Earth and in the USA, in One Religious Denomination? Christian means many things, and has resulted in many Denominations.

If Members of Christianity cannot agree on their Basic Faith, how can All Judges and especially Five, possibly Six, Catholic Supreme Court Judges?

Just 'saying' Jesus is God, since 300, has made many Planetwide Religions. American Christianity has many Synods, and are different from European Synods, etc.

So What Federal, State, City, or County group, will come up with One Faith Rules in Government?

Is the USA getting ready to make New Religious Faith Rules for Judges, about Abortion, and Marriage is between a man and woman, as Federal or State Laws? And Overturn Same Sex Marriage?

How Educated and Free from a State Religion, are the Citizens and Children today, with the Faith in our Many Forefathers?

Dolores Lear

"And it is important to understand that our rights do NOT come FROM the Constitution...they are simply recognized by the Constitution. The Declaration of Independence made clear where our rights came from, and should it ever become necessary there are many who will make their stand there."

And when the population mix changes to a Muslim Majority of Citizens, instead of a Christian Majority, will the Declaration of Independence make clear where their rights came from also?

Will the Muslim Citizens get Equal Holidays, Prayers and Icons in Government also?

No other Religion has been strong enough to Challenge the Christian Majority before, as to Government Equality in Religion.

All groups of Humans even Atheists have Freedom to assemble in the USA, but none have their Group recognized in Government but Christians.

Not because of our Group of Mixed Forefathers, as they were not all Christians, but because they came from Countries with State Governments, and they wanted the USA to be Free of a State Religion for All.

And it is, but the Christian Majority held the seats in Congress and favored the Christian Religion, Icons and Prayers, not by Law but by Majority Consent, or proclamation.

Now Citizens are in the process of removing these Christian Icons. Why is the USA/America called a Christian Country?

With the Changing Majority of Religious Citizens, and Atheists Citizens growing in numbers, will a Muslim Religious Citizen Group Majority, add new Icons to the Government, for Equality, that will upset Christians?

What Will Christians like Will and Adamh do, as well as other Christians, when they become the Minority, that accept America has been a Christian Country. I hear comments from Christians : 'it was always this way'. Try Shawn Hennessay.

Dolores Lear

Correction on Sean Hannity name.


Will Graham -- before you preserve Secular Parent's comment for all posterity, I think you should go back to yesterday's comments and read her 10:07 PM post in which she says, "...and I misspoke when I said that children should NEVER be allowed into a church..." If you choose to keep throwing someone's comment out there for "posterity," even after they've thought better of it, that reflects more negatively on you than it does on them.

But I did want to clarify one thing I said that I think got misunderstood: I wasn't saying that the average child isn't interested IN FAITH -- just that most young children aren't drawn to intensive study of the Bible and church doctrines.

And about not being sure about anything until we die: I go both ways on this. I feel a deep certainty about the reality of Jesus Christ: He is the part of God Who made God fully human. At the same time, I feel like I'm on a lifelong journey toward understanding the purpose of His life and death, and what it means to be risen with Him. No matter how much I learn, I believe I'm still in for a ton of surprises.

Bill, about the state staying out of religion in Texas, I was glad the halfway houses were able to stay. People who've served their time shouldn't be banned from society. People who don't want to take the risk of living near someone who's done wrong in the past, should move to the boondocks themselves (people just have a way of not being perfect -- so if you're seeking the perfect neighborhood, better not have any neighbors).

At the same time, I didn't like it that there was no judgment against the church where the teenager was forcibly restrained for an exorcism, or against the pastor who betrayed confidentiality.

adam harrison

I think Will is quite correct to preserve Be Asia's comment for posterity.

She said that children should not be allowed to join faith based organizations...she did not include NEVER.

And although she supposedly now says that she "mispoke" the "NEVER" part allows for the possibility of "OFTEN" not be allowed into a church.

Further, she now claims she was making up stories about Jonathan...she was clearly lying in an attempt to smear Christians and she got caught and, as Iggy quote Forrest Gump, "thats all I'm going to say about that."

(You do know that she is a friend of Iggy's too, don't you Susan? And that they worked on setting up atheist meetups together don't you? She is here to trash the board, just like her little buddy.)

The Secular Parent

It's always a good idea, I think, to re-evaluate the relationship between religion and politics--which includes the judicial system. We have activist courts on both sides: progressive and conservative.

Though each case should be judged for its own merits, many lawyers and judges come to the courtroom with fixed opinions on the issue of religion: in or out they quietly murmur.

It would be nice if those judges and lawyers, and children, had an opportunity to view faith in context that allows for challenge, without the fear that because a viewpoint is challenged, its wrong.

Also, it would be nice if we taught our children that this country was founded on secularist principles--we wanted to get way from the King and his divine authority. There's nothing wrong with faith. In a country with multiple perspectives, we ought to look at separating church and state, just like Jefferson did when he introduced the very first law separating religion from public affairs.

This of course doesn't mean that religion should be in a closet hiding somewhere. Religion--and lack of religion--should be celebrated. After all, not one of us KNOWS what happens when we die. At best, we should raise our children to be enlightened Agnostics.

Red Biddy

Just because the halfway houses in Texas were owned by a pastor does not make this a religious freedom issue although the Texas Supreme Court, in its decision, used the Texas Religious Freedom Act to allow the continued use of the properties to house released drug offenders.

Can't help wondering if the decision might have gone the other way if the owner of the properties had not been a pastor, or the released offenders had been sex offenders or violent type criminals.

Halfway houses for any rank of offender do lower property values and the tax base in neighborhoods which is probably the reason the city changed the zoning laws after the fact !

The owner of the houses in question (pastor or no) should have asked the City if it was O.K. before he changed the function of the houses from single to multi family.

It was a little worrisome that the released offenders were not supervised. It would only take one released drug offender to be caught selling drugs to the local school kids, for the Supreme Court of Texas to be persuaded to change its decision.

Bill, I'm sure all law schools spend at least a semester or two on Constitutional law of which the Establishment Clause is such an important part. As to whether the classes give students any training in the importance of religion in public life, I would think they would. It would kind of depend on the teacher wouldn't it ?
My son went to Berkeley law school, and during his time, one of the teachers there was Philip Johnson, who was one of the founders of the Discovery Institute and the Intelligent Design movement. My son did not have him as a teacher (fortunately) but one could imagine what kind of biased anti science religious law Johnson would have been teaching.

adam harrison

Secular Parent, it doesn't matter what you think; you make claims of your own that children should be raised in a certain secular agnostics...but then pretend that you should have some power over others who do not see the world that way. In other words, you claim that your irrational world view...that all existence, life, mind, and reason itself are the product of mindless forces...should control the lives of people who know that Truth exists and the world is not as you pretend.

That isn't going to happen.

The Constitution protects the Free Expression of Religion from infringement by the government.

SEPARATION of Church and state does not mean SUBMISSION to the state.

adam harrison


Red Biddy

Pilate asked Jesus a very important question: "What is truth ?"

Can you answer that, without going into a long rant about religion -YOUR particular religion ? Bear in mind that what might be true for you will not be true for anyone else, even those who share your faith.

A secular world view is a lot more truthful and rational than your faith based nonsense about heaven and hell, angels, virgin births and so on.
All children are born into this world atheistic. They don't know anything about religion or anything else until they are taught. As a secular parent myself, I chose not to fill my child's mind with a lot of stuff I knew wasn't true ! It worked. He's still an atheist !

As an ex-christian I think the reason there has been so much contention about Christianity is that the early Xians made Jesus into a God. They got the idea (probably) from the Romans who turned their popular emperors into gods thereby giving them (they thought) immortality.

Jesus never said he was the Son of God or the Messiah. He wanted to make his religion into a kinder gentler faith and that's all !

So adamh - what is Truth

Dolores Lear

Hebrews 11:1-3. KJV. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear."

Today we Know 'GOD/LIFE'? or Something Not Human, is the Source of the Elements that make our Universe, with Visible and Invisible Life.

"The things which are seen were not made of things which do appear" Life which is seen are not made of Life that is seen, but of the evidence of Elements that that are not seen."

With High Tech Knowledge of the Elements of the Universe, we do not need Faith in the Supernatural God, of the writings of Past Natural Humans, without High Tech Science to Know this Truth of LIFE.

We do Know 'the LIFE things which are seen, were not made of things which do appear.

Natural Humans had to explain this High Tech Knowledge differently than our Scientist do today.

So we need a New Definition of Faith, in LIFE, and Faith in the Supernatural Unknown.

High Tech Science is the Unknown Supernatural Gods of Religion and Myth.


adamh -- was your 5:24 PM post intended as a threat to Secular Parent? Or was it just a tie-in with Bill's topic of the day?

Also, from your 5:01 PM post -- where did you hear Secular Parent saying that she felt she had a right to exercise power over those who see the world differently from her?

I think many of us have strong opinions regarding how children should be parented -- i.e., right here on this blog, I think it was either you or Will who made some comment about "parents like me" being the sort who leave their kids open for others to "give them experiences," and I think you might have even said I could be setting my kids up for harm (this was in reference to my not wanting to force religious experiences on my children).

While I definitely took that comment from you (or Will) as an insult and a sign of disrespect, I didn't take it as an insinuation that you thought you had a right to control how I raised my family. With this in mind, adamh/Will, it's entirely possible for others to express disagreement with YOUR parenting, without necessarily trying to control you.

Just Thinking

Red Biddy,

What is truth? A statement that is true. When we cannot know about something directly, such as Heaven, then we can only rely on witnesses who can be trusted. Was Jesus a reliable witness?

Many people cannot believe that Jesus lived a sinless life and that Jesus was crucified, died and was resurrected. But if he was, then I'd say that makes him a unique, reliable witness. So let's look at a small sampling of true statements.

Nobody would have had more reason to find sin in Jesus than the Jewish religious leaders who instigated the crucifixion. They tried and failed to find such fault with Jesus. If they had been witness to ONE sin, then that would have ended Christianity.

Where is Jesus' tomb? It was lost to history because there was no body. Nevermind that Roman guards were placed outside the tomb to guard it, and their failure could have meant their own deaths. The body disappeared.

Did the Jews steal the body? If the Jewish leaders could have produced the body, then Christianity would have ended.

Did the Romans steal the body? That would have been exposed, considering the contacts that the Jewish leaders had to get Jesus crucified in the first place.

Maybe the Disciples conspired to steal the body. If the Disciples knew that Christ was dead and not coming back, they're bailing because it was NOT a fun thing to be a follower of Christ! They were hated by the Jews and by the Romans for being Christians. Nobody wants to volunteer for that action if Christ, the one claiming to be God in the flesh, is dead and gone. The earliest persecutions would have stopped immediately if the Disciples had quit preaching the Resurrection message.


Just Thinking

(continued - part 2)

So what happened to the body? The Disciples claimed that Jesus appeared to them, to as many as five hundred at once. Not a one ever recanted. And worse yet, why would the Disciples lie about that? Do they want to keep their little club alive after their leader was mercilessly crucified? Doesn't really add up. They're not getting rich. They're definitely not popular. They're not gaining power. What's up with that?

There are so many issues with the Apostles, too. Peter was unstable. He fled in fear and denied Jesus when confronted by the Romans who came to take Jesus. After the Resurrection, he does not deny Jesus, and ends up crucifed himself. That's an odd change in personality for a liar who claims to have seen the resurrected Jesus. He goes from a man who denies Jesus when the Romans come for Jesus, to a man who is crucified himself because he will not deny Jesus. Lies don't usually work that kind of positive change in a person.

Peter wasn't the only Apostle who paid with his life because he would not deny Jesus. If it's a lie, I'm caving at the point where I die if I keep up the lie. Wouldn't you?

There have been many books written on this subject. And Christianity remains. Jesus was a reliable witness. He lived a sinless life, was crucified, died and was resurrected.


Red Biddy,

The Truth is stranger that biblical fiction.

Cole and I have been talking over past year with many Christians about their religion and AGAIN AND AGAIN we come across "faith" vs. "facts" vs. "verified reality = scientifically based" vs. "personal peace/revelations".

It is dog chasing its tail again and again. The basic tenant of "faith" is NOTHING CAN ARISE FROM NOTHING, THEREFORE SPACE ALIEN YAHWHEH (aka god, father of Jesus) is the only game in town.

THERE IS NO OTHER PSYCHOLOGICAL UNDERPINNING OTHER THAN THIS from what I have seen. Everything else is just window dressing - IN EVERY FAITH, CULT, OR SPIRUTAL PHILOSOPHY give or take a few.

Hence, TRUTH is always seen AS THE TRUTH OF THE GOD, and nothing else - not changing, ever lasting, always true. The same will be said about "crazy Muslims" and Jews and crazy Scientologists and other cult members.

It is UNSETTLING for the psyche of htese people NOT TO HAVE AN ANSWER - i.e. Truth. You have to "cling" to the "TRUTH" because psychologically NOTHING ELSE MAKES SENSE TO THEM.

For you and me as atheists or agnostics or even "normal/liberal/secular Christians=freethinkers like Bill Tammeus or Susan or "crazies" like Dolores - sorry, dear! - (or at least for me) UNCERTAINTY IS NOT AN ISSUE. I, personally, thrive on waking up every morning and going out hunting, exploring, combatting advertsity, etc. - in short enjoying the UNCERTAINTY and FIGURING OUT PHYSICAL AND NORMAL ways of overcoming it.

There is no TRUTH in what I do - it is WHAT I DO. It is like trying to figure out if there is TRUTH IN BREATHING OR IN GOING #2 IN YOUR TOILET - this is a non sequitor and makes no sense.


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