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Sun Feb 22, 2015 at 02:19 PM PST

"You have to be carefully taught....."

by arodb

"You have to be carefully taught....."

Readers of my age will recognize the lyrics from South Pacific that I was reminded of yesterday walking our dog near a little league game that was about to begin.  The song includes,

"You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!

This was about the age of the boys who were lined up, who were reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.  The Pledge is something I've taken personally for a long time.  I went so far as recently protesting it as an agenda item at our city council when I was there in an official capacity, and for the only time the Mayor stated explicitly that it was "of course, voluntary."

There are a few councils though out the country that are taking up this issue, but mostly it's a loser for anyone who wants a political career.  This has taken on even more currency with Rudolf Guiliani's recent claim that President Obama "does not love America."

My wife and I were able to see the twenty or so children following instruction of their coaches in proudly reciting the pledge.   As we started to walk away, we heard a new affirmation, this time something I had never head in this setting, "I love my God, I love my country........."  We shook our heads and walked away.  If the gate had been open, I just may have walked down and pleasantly started to chat with the coaches, maybe asking what kind of league it was, without even a hint of what I'm expressing here.

But, that wasn't possible.  But as we walked away, I said, "This is where we live.  This is their mentality and we are in the middle of it."  This was not "compelling children to recite a mantra" which is explicitly unconstitutional based on the 1943 decision of West  Virginia v. Barnette.    This was a voluntary organization with children just learning about being part of a team, and getting praise from the men when they get a hit, nab a line drive or affirm their love of God and Country.

The song from South Pacific is about learning to hate those who are different, but when children join in saying whom they love, is this not also defining those who would not join in as being different, maybe even as worthy of hatred --perhaps someone who is even the President, who is accused of not loving either their God or their Country.  

You have to be carefully taught


Yesterday may come to be considered as a landmark in our national history, the occasion being a ceremonial proclamation, not even an actual speech, rather posted on the Whitehouse daily reports since 1996.  Here's the most prominent website, Religious Freedom Day, (RFD) with a somewhat conservative tilt that provides every official proclamation made by the three Presidents since the first one in 1993.  (I was informed in this comment of a website covering this day with a more liberal perspective, First Freedom Center.)

The Religious freedom clause of our first amendment is a one sentence version of the 1786 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom authored by Thomas Jefferson, and found on the page 8 of this teachers guidebook published by the RFD organization linked above.  Jefferson was quite a writer (would have gotten many recced diaries here on DK) along with being a lawyer who used words precisely -- and a politician, knowing the emotional impact of language.  

The guidebook has the 18th century document followed by a shorter version for today's students and teachers.  Yet, both of these, along with our own constitution and derived laws are vague on one vital issue.  This is whether freedom of religion means allowing the choice of which one, or whether refusing to participate in any is equally protected.  I don't think this ambiguity is an oversight, but was as far as Jefferson the politician would push the people of his time to support what came later in the document.  The great wars of the world that he knew were mostly secular, but combatants often defined by religions, such as the Crusades, and between Catholic and Protestant. His document specifically allowed equality between Christians and Muslims, although there were few of the later in the Colonies.

Jefferson, among the those of highest intellectual achievement of his time, and certainly considered by many, of all times; began this statute of religious emancipation with these words:

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 it was in his Almighty power to do;    
If this were meant as a proclamation for equality for those who deny the existence of a creator, it certainly doesn't sound like it!  In fact, it gives credence to those who say that this nation was created on Christian, or at the least, monotheistic values. Yet, even if this were Jefferson's conclusion, should it bind us to this day?  All of our foundational documents described the rights of "men" which was not an oversight, as they did apply only to white men, among whom it was all but universally understood this world having a creator.  

And why not. Science, meaning knowledge which is based on verifiable evidence, was in its infancy, with the biblical creation myth being as good an explanation as any others that could be offered.   Charles Darwin hadn't even been born; and his schema of an alternative to creation was so revolutionary that he hesitated to publish it for decades.  For me, understanding our national foundations are not to be found in the preamble of this seminal work of Jefferson, one that he was as proud of as his authorship of the Declaration of Independence.  It is in the text that follows, which is found in his expostulation of the relationship between organized faith and another sacred institution, government, that provides his guidance for our own era:

Be it enacted by the 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 opinion in matters
of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish
enlarge, or affect their civil capacities
I contend that the phrase "religious opinions," given the context of his times, should be construed as "philosophic or existential views" as during his time religion was the idiom of conversation of these ultimate thoughts on mankind's purpose and place in existence.  As such, the nihilism and materialism of atheism would be conveyed as a tone of a less dogmatic sect of Christianity, or even incorporated into those exotic religions that Jefferson had some knowledge of.  A common riposte of evangelical Christians in debates is that atheism of just another belief system, that it no more than a religion, meant to negate any sense of claims of superiority of intellectual rigor.  In many way's I agree. But if atheism be no more than a religion, it certainly is also no less. And as such should fall clearly under the protections and prerogatives of Jefferson's principles.  While there are vast differences in approach between the two rubrics, both are identity groups that satisfy the human need for belonging that require transcending the vicissitudes of scientific discovery. So, conviction must be held in some ways that are beyond logical discourse by both.

This argument that atheism is a religion, (and certainly there are those such as Buddhism and Scientology that are recognized by the I.R.S in spite of the a-theistic nature of their tenets), provides a different reading of our foundational national documents. While our constitution can preclude any laws that punish atheism, it cannot stop public opprobrium, so the politician part of all who require public votes for accession to higher office meant marginalizing an already unpopular group. This process  explains why non-believers have been excluded from the protection and benefits of every other religion simply by perpetuating this linguistic quirk, supported by political inertia and self interest.

This explains why only when this electoral calculation was no longer relevant unlike the first two proclamations, only now can Barack Obama include these words as part of the principles that underlie this country's protection of religious freedom.  From  the 2015  annual proclamation of Religious Freedom Day:

The First Amendment prohibits the Government from establishing religion. It protects the right of every person to practice their faith how they choose, to change their faith, or to practice no faith at all, and to do so free from persecution and fear. This religious freedom allows faith to flourish, and our Union is stronger because a vast array of religious communities coexist peacefully with mutual respect for one another.  

It is only a single phrase, but I see it as a small first step which, as we have learned from recent history, can become a movement that gathers force.  I'm convinced from a careful reading of his most prized legislative achievement that Thomas Jefferson would be cheering us on.    

This diary is still running on the Recommended list here, STOP! READ! LOOK AT SHOCKING PHOTO! U.S. Army Officially Recruits for ‘Mission for God’  Several readers have been concerned that this was a photoshop of the offensive words, "On a Mission for Both God and Country" so I contacted the Military Religious Freedom Foundation in New Mexico.  

I just got off the phone with Mikey Weinstein, who asked me to convey his response which were words to this effect:

"It's an actual poster that has been around for several months, We hired a photographer to shoot the pictures (there are several) and chose to copyright it.  It is legitimate.  I wanted to show the picture to get the public's attention, so didn't go into all of these details."

When I asked if it was authorized above the local recruiting level he assured me that it was, as he has close friends in the department responsible for such material, and he felt certain it would have been approved by someone with a rank of at least a colonel.

My take on this is after the break:
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Sun Dec 07, 2014 at 03:03 PM PST

ISIS is Islam, so say the new apostates

by arodb

I just read this article by Thomas Friedman, How ISIS Drives Muslims From Islam, that describes a phenomenon that I find encouraging.  Our country was founded on freedom of religion, which seemed like a good idea at the time.  Yet, what is this thing we call "religion" that includes hundreds of denominations of Christianity, from creationists to those who respect science and humanism. It also includes the same range of Judaism, from ultra-orthodox where women are diminished and liberal education ends for boys in middle school to reform congregations where many of the rabbis, not to mention the congregants, are atheists.  Also under this rubric, that provides generous tax exemptions are Scientology, and other groups such as Mormons, who up until very recently had been considered a cult by many such as Billy Graham.    


On Islam

15%7 votes
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| 46 votes | Vote | Results

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Reposted from ARODB by arodb

Or - An anti- authoritarian movement even Scalia may support

I will include after the squiggle a diary posted yesterday before I participated in a council meeting of Encinitas California.  I had been struggling with how to protest our regular pledge of allegiance in the light of the forced illegal ejection of a man in Florida who had refused to stand for the Pledge.  I was actually anticipating being arrested, and sort of looking forward to the experience, but it would have been disturbing to say the least.

It turned out that our Mayor allowed me to speak in advance of the Pledge, which is shown on this video.  It may not seem like a big deal, but for the first time a Mayor explicitly stated that our city's recitation is "an optional activity."  And while only one person in the room chose to sit during the pledge, me, I did so with pride that I was affirming our country's constitutional foundation, without the the fear of being exposed for not being a patriot and for hating our country - which motivates millions of citizens to make a pledge, or pretend to,  that is other than their own personal convictions  

Changing our county's attitude on this will be a long slog.

I suggest reading the link to my article that is an extensive legal historical analysis of the 1943 West Virginia v. Barnette, including analysis of the dissent of Felix Frankfurter. (it also explains why Antonin Scalia could very well support this #sitforthepledge movement.)  Most of us on this site are familiar with this case, but very few of the general public have ever heard of.  It would be good if this diary stayed up for a while, as the public, at this time more than ever,  has to learn how American patriotism is different from autocratic countries, such as those we were fighting in 1943 and soon may be again in the middle east.  

I've set up a twitter hashtag:  #SitForThePledge  

 I don't know how to promote this, or my article about Barnette, and would appreciate any help and/or suggestions how to do this.  

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Reposted from ARODB by arodb

This is being reposed  with an update after the meeting and a short video

9/8/14 PM

Tonight, at 6PM Pacific time, I plan to take Joseph Richardson's Pledge protest to the next step.  For reasons a bit complex, I will be on the dais of a joint meeting of the city council of the City of Encinitas, California that is being held with a citizen's advisory commission of which I'm a member.  

The second item on the agenda says simply "Pledge of Allegiance" just like it is on the hundreds of meetings held though out the year. What exactly I will do as a protest is uncertain, as is the reaction of the membership of the two bodies at this meeting. My only choice is to stand and claim the impending agenda item to be an illegal act as defined by the Supreme Court of this country.  Wow, for this alone I could face a criminal charge as you will see in the message below the squiggle.  After my essay is a list of city ordinances describing their options if one is out of order.  

Just so the readers here understand, I'm doing this because I have no choice.  I've been engaged in this issue, probably from my days in elementary school in Washington D.C, when not only did we recite the pledge but also said a prayer.  Perhaps I would have felt like an outsider for many reasons, but having to recite religious words, prayers and songs, did not help make this little Jewish boy feel he exactly belonged.  Having gotten on this committee has made it impossible to simply hold my nose as we are told to do to avoid the stench of where sausages or laws are being produced.  Once I got involved, there was no going back, not without an overwhelming sense of being defeated, and worse, something I never had to really face, being a coward.  This kind of depression is worse than getting arrested and charged with a crime of disturbing a city meeting.

The challenge to the city below is heavy reading, especially the excerpts from the West Virginia v. Barnette decision that while most here know, few have read the full dissent by Justice Frankfurter.  It could be written today by a Justice decrying an activist judiciary.   Ironically, as I point out, the current most avid opponent of this, Antonin Scalia, describes the activist Justice,  Robert Jackson as his most admired holder of this position.  

See letter and document below the break

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I just heard this brief bulletin on KPBS San Diego driving home within the last half hour.   Here is the stub of the report, with no more details from the local newspaper, The U.T.  The comments on the story are flowing, so we can get a hint of the public reaction from them.   This is the newspaper that lead the resistance to the many court decisions that have now gone on a quarter century, with the motto, "Save our Cross." It will be interesting to see if they now will foment more hatred or accept the law of the land.

"A federal judge had ruled that the Cross on Soledad Mountain in LaJolla is unconstitutional"  

This was the diary posted here June 26, 2012 after the Supreme Court Refused Cert on the appeals decision:

After 23 years, Constitution Prevails on Solidad Cross

My friend Phil Paulson who typed the first brief of his law suit in 1989, didn't live to see this day. The Supreme Court finally, by refusing certiorari, affirmed the ninth circuit decision that the cross on public land that Paulson challenged, is, in fact, unconstitutional.  

As I have been spending this day revising and editing my website, Soledad Veteran's Memorial, certain things have become clearer about this long odyssey, and just how close we came to the outcome being different. I also have been focusing on attempting to change the tone of hatred that had permeated San Diego, where the cross is located. Since the first suit so long ago,  Paulson earned a new first name in the local press; not combat veteran, or professor, but atheist, always "atheist Phil Paulson" with contempt so clear it jumped off the pages of the Union Tribune.    

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Reposted from ARODB by arodb

It is constitutional, but only if you listen very carefully, so much so that it has yet to be noticed.

I have just watched this video of the oath of office administered by Chief Justice John Roberts a few hours ago. Unrealized by those who have watched it, it was a confirmation of an historic change that he initiated on January 20, 2009.

This is a long story, one that I have been directly involved in for over four years, and recently took up again by attempting to publicize the meaning of the change. It is important that this be made widely known, as it is, at the least, a small vindication of a long effort by Mike Newdow and others.  I have two articles on this on my personal site, the first that I have been working on for the last week, Presidential Oath of Office-to God or Country  At the end of the article is a link to an addendum on legal and media aspects of the suit brought by Newdow that most likely resulted in this new variation of the oath.

I'm still working on this addendum, but have it opened for those interested.  For those of us who value protection of our secular society this change of a single word is meaningful.


Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 07:28 PM PDT

GOP now God's Own Party

by arodb

Reposted from ARODB by arodb

I started to write this diary before before the video defaming the Prophet of Allah unleashed homicidal fury among some Muslims, yet I saw clearly the danger of what was being sowed by Candidate Romney.  I envisioned his promoting a mindset that would justify similar hatred in this country against those who do not espouse the dominant religious views.  

Romney has a law degree from Harvard, and must be aware of the Jurisprudence of the Pledge of Allegiance that he so blatantly ignores in detail and in spirit.  His latest action is described in this N.Y. Times article, In Romney’s Hands, Pledge of Allegiance Is Framework for Criticism  that I will quote from:

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Reposted from ARODB by arodb

Since the denial of certiorari on Monday of the appeals court decision that the cross is unconstitutional,  I've thrown myself into the issue.  This has been in the courts for going on 23 years, and there are those who feel that if it can be stalled for another decade or two, perhaps they will find a new Supreme court that shares their Christian Dominionist views.

I wrote this diary yesterday about a key turning point, when a compromize had been reached only to be sabotaged by political opportunists.  I've been updating my own website dedicated to this issue, updating the Wikipedia article on the person who first brought the suit to remove the cross from public land, writing to lawyers for the Jewish War Veterans and ACLU who litigated the recent suit and appeal, and exchanging emails with a columnist for the metropolitan daily Union Tribune who write this article, that described the resistance to the decision.  Liinks to everything is available on the websites, Soledad Veterans Memorial

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My friend Phil Paulson who typed the first brief of his law suit in 1989, didn't live to see this day. The Supreme Court finally, by refusing certiorari, affirmed the ninth circuit decision that the cross on public land that Paulson challenged, is, in fact, unconstitutional.  

As I have been spending this day revising and editing my website, Soledad Veteran's Memorial, certain things have become clearer about this long odyssey, and just how close we came to the outcome being different. I also have been focusing on attempting to change the tone of hatred that had permeated San Diego, where the cross is located. Since the first suit so long ago,  Paulson earned a new first name in the local press; not combat veteran, or professor, but atheist, always "atheist Phil Paulson" with contempt so clear it jumped off the pages of the Union Tribune.    

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Reposted from tekno2600 by tekno2600 Editor's Note: I published this late yesterday, so not too many people saw it. But, I thought it might fit well to have it republished here. As an atheist and an ex-Catholic, it annoys the hell out of me to hear the Catholic church saying that if they are not allowed to dictate beliefs to their employees (even indirect employees) then that takes away the church's religious freedom. Say what? -- tekno2600

I just wrote a letter to Obama urging him not to back down in requiring contraceptive coverage options for non-church employees at Catholic affiliated organizations. I decided to make it an open letter, because I do not see enough reporting on this story that points out that Obama is the one standing up for religious freedom and it is the church that is fighting against religious freedom.

The church is trying to prohibit employees, many of whom are not Catholic and do not work in church related jobs, from having health plans that cover contraception. It should also be pointed out that no one is forcing people to use contraception just because it is covered. The cost of covering contraception in an insurance plan is much lower than if that burden is put directly on individuals. Yet, somehow the narrative keeps getting framed as "Is Obama violating Catholics' freedom of religion?"

I say "Hell No!" So, follow me beyond the Fleur de Kos below and I will explain this from the point of view of an Irish Catholic who did time in Catholic schools and churches until the age of 18, and is now a happy atheist (like many ex-Catholics).

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