Samhain in Toronto\'s Dundas Square- the heart of Toronto
Toronto area Pagans shared their Samhain 2012 celebration with the public and was rewarded with GREAT press coverage. Isoprox, a dance collective, built a tree in the heart of the city, and the Dragon Ritual Drummers performed as part of the event. More details at:
By Christa Landon
Feb. 1, 2011
Lalesh Kumar claimed that he murdered Virginia Pulido and her young son Ramiro "because she was doing witchcraft on me."
The murder took place in the neighbor's home June 11, 2005. Kumar pled "not guilty fir reason of insanity. Because of Kumar's psychiatric reports, the District Attorney's office did not seek the death penalty. However, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Russell L. Hom finally sentenced Kumar to life in prison without parole, as other such violently insane prisoners committed to mental hospitals had been released to re-offend.
Kumar had been held for 72 hours observation and released about the time he claims his victim began to use magic against him. The Judge called the killings "a reflection of our system to not recognize mental health issues as they arise."
According to Andy Furillo's story in the Sacramento Bee, the California mental health system is culpable for violent crimes by a number of mentally ill persons who were released from 72 hour observation without adequate treatment, only to murder innocents.
Of course, the vast majority of the under-served mentally ill are non-violent. They are neglected as a cost-saving measure, precisely because the government knows that they have little political power and are more likely to be victims than victimizers.
In this case, we can be relieved that Wicca wasn't scapegoated. Kumar was one mentally ill man with a delusion about a neighbor. He didn't persuade anyone else that Virginia Pulido was using magic against him. He didn't rally his neighbors to track down her friends. No one was going to pay him for finding and destroying the "witch."
But such things still happen.
Witch-hunting remains profitable for "traditional healers" who designate scapegoats in Africa and elsewhere (see our World Pagan News page). There are Chri$tians here and abroad run a brisk business first in inciting fear of witches and demons and then casting them out. The horror entertainment industry exploits everyone by generating emotionally charged thought forms of the worst sort, even when they're not spreading the crazy stereotypes which paranoids nurse within them.
I don't usually recommend fantasy books. But next time when I see a "Wiccan Wanna-Be" "freaking out the mundanes," I'm going to take her aside, and tell her that there's an important magickal key to find in the CAMBER OF CULDEE series.
19 August 2008
The Demographics of Faith
A gathering at Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina, Minnesota
By Brian J. Grim and David Masci
Scores of different religious groups coexist in the United States, all enjoying the right to follow their faiths with the legal protection of the U.S. Constitution.
Brian J. Grim, senior research fellow in religion and world affairs, and David Masci, senior research fellow in religion and law, are with the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. The Forum is a project of the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan organization in Washington, D.C., which provides information on issues, attitudes, and trends shaping the United States and the world.
The United States is one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world. Indeed, with adherents from all of the world’s major religions, the United States is truly a nation of religious minorities. Although Protestantism remains the dominant strain of Christianity in the United States, the Protestant tradition is divided into dozens of major denominations, all with unique beliefs, religious practices, and histories. Furthermore, Protestant Christianity’s dominance in the United States has waned in recent years. In fact, a recent public opinion survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (Figure 1) finds that the United States is on the verge of becoming a minority Protestant country for the first time in its history. The number of Americans who report that they are members of Protestant denominations now stands at barely 51 percent, down from more than 60 percent in the 1970s and 1980s.
Roman Catholics account for about a quarter of U.S. adults, and members of other Christian faiths account for an additional 3.3 percent. Overall, nearly eight in 10 adults report belonging to various forms of Christianity. Other world religions – including Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism – now have followers among about 5 percent of the U.S. adult population. Almost one in six adults are not affiliated with any particular religion, a population that has been growing in recent decades.
Religious diversity in the United States is driven by many factors, including immigration. America’s religious diversity also reflects the protections afforded to the free practice of religion under the U.S. Constitution. Not only do immigrants feel free to bring their religious beliefs and practices with them, but many Americans decide to change their religious affiliation at least once in their lives. Indeed, according to the Forum survey conducted in mid-2007, more than a quarter of American adults have left the faith in which they were raised in favor of another religion – or no religion at all – and that does not include changes in affiliation from one type of Protestantism to another.
Rights and Restrictions on Religion in the United States
The U.S. Constitution offers protections for religious minorities and for religious practices in general. These guarantees are included in what are called the Free Exercise and Establishment clauses of the Constitution’s First Amendment. The First Amendment, which also guarantees freedom of speech and assembly, was enacted in 1791, along with the other nine amendments that make up the Bill of Rights.
The drafters of the First Amendment, most notably James Madison (a key architect of the Constitution and the fourth U.S. president), were keenly aware that religious differences in Europe had led to centuries of violent conflict. They also opposed policies made by some American states of that era to impose restrictions on certain religious denominations in favor of state-sanctioned or established churches. In particular, Madison believed that limits on freedom of worship, along with government efforts to create religious uniformity, violated fundamental individual rights. He also argued that religious faith would best thrive in an environment in which the government protected individuals’ religious liberty but did not support religious institutions. These two aims are the basis for the First Amendment’s religion clauses.
Even in Madison’s day, however, there was significant disagreement over the exact meaning of the religion clauses, which state that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” As a result, it has been largely left to the courts to determine the exact meaning of the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses.
While everyone agrees that the First Amendment prohibits the creation of a government-supported church, agreement essentially ends there. Some argue, for example, that the Establishment Clause prevents all government entanglement with religion. They believe, as Founding Father Thomas Jefferson once wrote, that “a wall of separation” exists between church and state. Others argue that the state can support religious activities and institutions as long as it does not favor one faith over another. When disputes over religious practice have entered the judicial system, courts have walked a line between these two views. They have generally ruled that the government can broadly acknowledge religion – for example, on the currency and in public oaths and pledges – but have struck down laws that seem to promote religion – such as the teaching of the Bible in public schools.
The Free Exercise Clause also has been the subject of much debate and disagreement. While courts have consistently determined that the clause protects all religious beliefs, they have treated religious practices and activities differently. Generally, courts have held that the First Amendment does not give people of faith a blank check to ignore the law. However, some court decisions have granted special exemptions to religious groups, including minority faiths. For instance, in 1943 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of Jehovah’s Witnesses to refuse to participate in compulsory flag-saluting ceremonies based on their religious beliefs.
The U.S. Religious Landscape
Within this legal context, a great diversity of religious expression has flourished in the Unites States. No official estimates are maintained of the number of religious groups in the United States because the U.S. Census Bureau has not surveyed citizens about religious beliefs or membership in religious groups since the late 1950s. A good source of information on religion in the United States today comes from the Forum’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. Based on interviews with more than 35,000 adults, the Landscape Survey details the great diversity of religious affiliation in the United States at the beginning of the 21st century.
Worshippers at the Church of the Pentecost in New York. Immigration has led to establishment of more evangelical churches.
Larger Religious Groups in the United States
The survey found that nearly eight in 10 adults in the United States belong to a Christian church or denomination. Members of Protestant churches now constitute a slim majority (51.3 percent) of the adult population. But Protestantism in the United States is not homogeneous; rather, it is divided into three distinct religious traditions – evangelical Protestant churches (26.3 percent of the overall adult population and roughly half of all Protestants); mainline Protestant churches (18.1 percent of the adult population and more than one-third of all Protestants); and historically African-American Protestant churches (6.9 percent of the overall adult population and slightly less than one-seventh of all Protestants). Protestantism also comprises numerous denominational families (e.g., Baptist, Methodist, and Pentecostal) that fit into one or more of the above traditions.
Roman Catholics account for nearly one-quarter (23.9 percent) of the adult population and roughly three in 10 American Christians. Among the native-born adult population, Protestants greatly outnumber Catholics (55 percent Protestant vs. 21 percent Catholic). But among foreign-born adults, Catholics outnumber Protestants by nearly a two-to-one margin (46 percent Catholic vs. 24 percent Protestant).
Smaller Religious Minorities
The Muslim share of the U.S. adult population is estimated to be 0.6 percent, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2007 nationwide survey of Muslim Americans, which was conducted in Arabic, Urdu, and Farsi in addition to English. Roughly two-thirds of Muslim Americans are immigrants. Nonetheless, the survey finds that they are decidedly mainstream in their outlook, values, and attitudes. Overwhelmingly, Muslim Americans believe that hard work pays off, a belief that is reflected in the fact that Muslim Americans’ income and education levels generally mirror those of the overall American public. Muslims also are the most racially diverse group in the United States. More than one in three Muslims are white, roughly one in four are black, one in five are Asian, and nearly one in five are of other races.
Hindus account for approximately 0.4 percent of the U.S. adult population, according to Pew’s Religious Landscape Survey. More than eight in 10 American Hindus are foreign born, coming almost exclusively from South-Central Asia. Nearly half of Hindus in the United States have obtained a postgraduate education, compared with only about one in 10 of the adult population overall. Hindus also are much more likely than other groups to report high income levels, with more than four in 10 making more than $100,000 per year.
Buddhists make up 0.7 percent of U.S. adults. In contrast to Islam and Hinduism, Buddhism in the United States is primarily made up of native-born adherents, whites, and converts. Only one in three American Buddhists describe their race as Asian, and nearly three in four Buddhists say they are converts to Buddhism. A quarter of Buddhists have obtained postgraduate education, a much higher percentage than in the adult population overall.
The survey finds that most American Jews identify with one of three major Jewish groups: Reform (43 percent), Conservative (31 percent), and Orthodox (10 percent). More than eight in 10 Jews were raised Jewish, and about seven in 10 are married to someone who shares their Jewish faith. More than one-third of Jews have a postgraduate education, and, like Hindus, Jews have much higher income levels than the general population.
A large number of Americans belong to a third major branch of global Christianity – Orthodoxy – whose adherents now account for 0.6 percent of the adult population. In addition, American Christianity includes sizeable numbers of Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Mormons account for 1.7% of the adult population. Approximately six in 10 Mormons have had at least some college education, compared with half of the general U.S. population. Mormons tend to have slightly higher income levels than average, with a majority (58 percent) making more than $50,000 per year. Jehovah’s Witnesses account for 0.7 percent of the adult population. More than two-thirds of Jehovah’s Witnesses are converts from another faith or were not affiliated with any particular religion as a child.
The survey finds that 16.1 percent of the adult population says they are unaffiliated with a particular religion, making the unaffiliated the fourth largest “religious” tradition in the United States. But the survey also finds that the unaffiliated population is quite diverse and that it is simply not accurate to describe this entire group as nonreligious or “secular.” In fact, despite their lack of affiliation with any particular religious group, a large portion of this group says religion is somewhat important or very important in their lives.
Only 1.6 percent of the adult population in the United States says they are atheist, with men being twice as likely as women to say they are atheist. Younger adults (those under age 30) also are more likely than the adult population as a whole to be atheist.
Geographic Distribution of Religious Groups
The survey finds that each region of the United States displays a distinctive pattern of religious affiliation. The Midwest, or central part of the country, most closely resembles the overall religious makeup of the general population. About a quarter (26 percent) of residents of the Midwest are members of an evangelical Protestant church, about one in five (22 percent) are members of a mainline Protestant church, nearly a quarter (24 percent) are Catholic, and 16 percent are unaffiliated. These proportions are nearly identical to what the survey finds among the general public.
The Northeast has more Catholics (37 percent) than other regions and has the fewest number of people affiliated with evangelical Protestant churches (13 percent). Northeasterners also are much more likely to be Jewish (4 percent are Jewish) than people living in other regions. By contrast, fully half of members of evangelical Protestant churches live in the South, compared with only 10 percent in the Northeast and 17 percent in the West. The vast majority of Mormons (76 percent) live in the West, with the highest concentration in the state of Utah. The West also has the largest proportion of people unaffiliated with any particular religion (21 percent), including the largest number of atheists and agnostics.
American Religion: Diverse and Not Dogmatic
Perhaps reflecting the great religious diversity in the United States, most Americans agree with the statement that many religions – not just their own – can lead to eternal life. Indeed, the survey finds that most Americans also have a nondogmatic approach when it comes to interpreting the tenets of their own religion. For instance, more than two-thirds of adults affiliated with a religious tradition agree that there is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of their faith. The lack of dogmatism in American religion, combined with the legal protections afforded to all religious groups, means that religious minorities are likely to continue to find a welcoming home in the United States.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. government.
Christians & Pagans Agree, Wicca Emerging as America's 3rd Religion
Christians and Pagans agree that the Wiccan community is growing at an exceptional rate, and is projected to be the Third Largest religion by 2012.
(PRWEB) April 21, 2005 -- Earth Day celebrations are seen as a way to recognize the need to save and protect Mother Earth. For some that image is not simply a slogan or phrase but the center of their worship and religious life. Known as Wiccans, aka Witches and Pagans, Nature worshippers are becoming more numerous and their concepts are emerging to challenge traditional rules of society based on biblical law. They are emerging to become a major force in spiritual communities, having increasing number of adherents, and expecting the same rights and privileges as Christians and other faith practices of the United States.
Steve Wohlberg, in his book the Hour of the Witch, was the first to state the conclusion that we are now in a turning point and that Wicca would emerge as the third largest faith in America and would directly challenge Christian ideals of church and state. This is collaborated by leading Pagan leader and researcher, Phyliss Currott stating the Wiccan community is doubling in size every 18 months. That is a predicted future community of twenty million or more members in the United States by 2012. By both Christian and Pagan standards that would be a significant shift in American society.
Wolhberg continues "Witchcraft is growing so fast on high school and college campuses that Wiccan visionaires are rushing to establish their own schools." This is meant as a warning to Christian parents. Chas Cliftion, editor of Pomegranate: The International Journal Of Pagan Studies has a collaborating statement: "We (Pagans) are like a third world country that can't put up enough elementary schools fast enough." Pagans and Christians agree that Wicca is becoming a major religious educational force in America.
So is it possible that this Earth Day, that we are seeing the seeds to a future community, deeply spiritual and dedicated to simply loving Mother Earth. Can America's Third Religion be Wicca?
It is something to ponder.
For more information on Steve Wohlberg
National Day of Prayer: May 1st this year -- Don't forget to hold a public ritual!
Next week, thanks to a quirk of the calendar, one of the biggest religious festivals within modern Paganism will coincide with the yearly National Day of Prayer on the first Thursday in May.
The National Day of Prayer, in theory a time for all Americans of faith to unite and pray (in their own manner) for the well-being of the country, has long been co-opted by conservative Christian evangelicals who operate a "task force" [ http://www.ndptf.org/home/index.cfm?flash=1]. This group (essentially run by Focus on The Family) runs the bulk of NDP events, and excludes non-Christians from active participation.
"The National Day of Prayer Task Force was a creation of the National Prayer Committee for the expressed purpose of organizing and promoting prayer observances conforming to a Judeo-Christian system of values. People with other theological and philosophical views are, of course, free to organize and participate in activities that are consistent with their own beliefs. This diversity is what Congress intended when it designated the Day of Prayer, not that every faith and creed would be homogenized, but that all who sought to pray for this nation would be encouraged to do so in any way deemed appropriate. It is that broad invitation to the American people that led, in our case, to the creation of the Task Force and the Judeo-Christian principles on which it is based."
Sounds reasonable, right?
Can't the non-Christians throw their own party? The problem is that the NDPTF bills itself as the "official" site for the National Day of Prayer, and attacks any governor who won't support their efforts with an official proclamation. In addition, Christian coordinators who attempt to throw an inclusive day of prayer [http://www.inclusiveprayerday.org/] under the NDPTF auspices are barred from running future events.
So JewsOnFirst is calling for citizens to lobby their governors to shun the NDPTF, and either not issue a proclamation, or issue an inclusive statement that doesn't empower such a narrow view of acceptable public prayer (or crib talking points from Focus on the Family).
"The National Day of Prayer has been hijacked! What began in 1952 as President Truman's declaration of a National Prayer Day for all Americans is now excluding and dividing us on religious lines. The "Task Force" excludes Jews, Muslims, Catholics and even mainline Christians from participation in the events it coordinates around the country. Many of those events are staged in government venues with elected officials, in a deliberate affront to the separation of church and state."
You can find contact information for your governor at http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Governors.shtml. You can find a sample telephone script and sample letter on the inclusive prayer day site. [http://www.inclusiveprayerday.org/sampleletter.html] You can also find there a listing of proclamations already issued.
[Think of it! May Poles EVERYWHERE!!!! cl, ed.]
New Pew Survey on US Religions: Pagans and Wiccans together are .2 -.4% of US population. Unitarians and other liberal faiths 0.7%
March 1, 2008
The Pew Foundation released its new U.S. Religious Landscape Survey on February 25, 2008. The survey questioned about 35,000 adults about their religious identity and other demographics. It shows that Americans are likely to "switch brands" in the religious marketplace. Protestantism can claim only 51% of American adults, and only 43% of adults under 30. Catholicism is more stable, but mostly because of Latino immigration. Islam is growing, but mostly through immigration; Buddhism is growing, too, but mostly through conversion.
Even though the sample was small, our own community is now numerous enough to "show" in the survey. Because of the size of the survey, the margin of error was +/- .6%, making the figures on "New Age" and "Liberal" religions unreliable. Because of the rate of change in the American religious scene, we can only hope that a larger survey will be done soon.
Again, when we use the most inclusive term to describe our community, we are counted. When our self-chosen label is most specific (Neo-Heathen Thelemite, Reformed), we disappear from the statistics.
You can read a summary of the report, see videos or even access a suite of online tools which accompanies the survey at http://religions.pewforum.org/
Download a free pdf of the entire report at
"Other Faiths" comprize 1.2% of US adult population
Unitarians and other liberal faiths 0.7%
Unitarian (Universalist) 0.3%
Liberal faith < 0.3%
Spiritual but not religious < 0.3%
Eclectic, "a bit of everything," own beliefs < 0.3%
Other liberal faith groups < 0.3%
New Age 0.4%
Wica (Wiccan)< 0.3%
Other New Age groups< 0.3%
Native American Religions< 0.3%
WHAT'S A REAL HATE CRIME?
The Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 would increase penalties for attacks on gays motivated by the person's sexual orientation. If passed, Federal action could be triggered in states that do not have hate crimes laws or if authorities fail to prosecute such attacks. Penalties would range from 10 years to life in prison.
Some black clergy claim that the designation "hate crime" should only apply to race or ethnicity. According to a story by Oren Dorell, USA TODAY, a black minister, Rev. Harry Jackson, son of a Civil Rights activist, said "I'm outraged by the fact that they get to ride on and hijack the civil rights movement," Jackson says. "I believe that much of the gay movement is a matter of choice vs. what my father went through. He couldn't change the color of his skin."
He now leads a movement against what gay activists say is their civil rights act: the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007. The group of around 30 black clergy calls itself the High Impact Leadership Coalition. They claim that the law would infringe on the civil rights of clergy, by outlawing preaching against immoral acts. "We believe there is an anti-Christian muzzle-the-pastor kind of feeling behind this kind of law," Jackson says. "I need to be able to preach that adultery, fornication, straying from the way of the Lord is wrong."
This argument is a lie, according to Harry Knox, director of the religion and faith program at the Human Rights Campaign, a gay advocacy group in Washington that is pushing for the law.
The House version, which passed in May, includes a clause that constitutionally protected free speech and free exercise of religion would not be affected. The Senate is considering a version of the bill and could vote on it this month.
"They cannot be more protected than they are … to do that because (the bill) reiterates their right to say what they want to say," says Jackson's argument "is a lie, and it should not be told in the name of the Gospel....The Hate Crimes Prevention Act would allow the Justice Department to assist state prosecutors in cases of violent felonies motivated by "prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of the victim."
Nevertheless, Jackson believes that the law would have a chilling effect on preaching against homosexuality as sexual immorality.
"Let's say a congregational member has a diminished (mental) capacity, goes out and hurts somebody or threatens to hurt somebody and is arrested and says, 'Pastor Jackson told me to do this.' Under the laws of the land, I could be implicated and brought up on charges as an accessory to that crime," Jackson says.
He cited the 2005 case in which 11 members of the evangelical group Repent America were arrested by police after a confrontation at the Philadelphia Outfest Gay Pride festival. Charges, including ethnic intimidation under Pennsylvania's hate crimes law, were eventually dropped.
Not all Christian clergy oppose the bill. Rev. Kenneth L. Samuel, pastor of Victory Church in Stone Mountain, Ga., says preachers could be subject to the law under some circumstances.
"If they are preaching the literal text of the Bible, that men who lie with men should be put to death, then they probably have a point. That kind of preaching is detrimental to society. It is hateful. … It is un-Christian. What we need to do is look again at those texts. … We need to reinterpret it just as we reinterpret Paul's condoning of slavery."
Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, which supports the hate crimes bill, says Jackson's objection is not realistic because a similar federal law that does not cover sexual orientation has been on the books for years and is rarely used. "It does, however, send a powerful message that hate crimes are against the views of the American people."
The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a Christian group presented a brief opposing the hate crimes bill. They cites the In 1998 resolution by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors which criticized area media outlets and religious groups that were running ads urging gays and lesbians to turn away from homosexual behavior. The resolution stated that a "marked increase in anti-gay violence" had coincided with "defamatory and erroneous campaigns" against gays and lesbians.
Glen Lavy, senior counsel for the ADF, argued "If San Francisco chose to define the public expression of the belief that homosexual behavior is immoral and can be charged as a 'hate' crime, it would be illegal for certain organizations to advertise events there."
Mark Potok, who monitors hate groups for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which supports the hate crimes bill, Potok says the issue is not an "either/or" choice between blacks and gays. As he sees it, "Homosexuals in this country have been badly treated for hundreds of years. Nothing about that fact takes anything away from African-Americans in this country."
Mark Potok, who monitors hate groups for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which supports the hate crimes bill, calls Jackson's argument "completely bogus." He says free-speech protections in the United States are stronger than abroad. In the U.S. cases, charges were dropped or no one was harmed, he says.
According to Rev. Jackson, the number of incidents involving gays "don't rise to the level of murder and lynchings that happened to black people." According to the Department of Justice, 14.2% of the 7,160 hate crime incidents reported by people in 2005 were allegedly motivated by a sexual-orientation bias.
Knox cited two examples: In 2006 Michael Sandy, 28, died after he was hit by a car while fleeing from men accused of robbing and beating him. The defendants told police they chose to rob him because gays are easy targets. Four men pleaded guilty to assault as a hate crime for attacking Kevin Aviance. In Knox's opinion, "The people who did that did it clearly as a hate crime, and they did it to send a message to other gays and lesbians that we are not safe in the streets of New York City....Gays and lesbians like me live in constant fear."
WITCHSCHOOL gets cool response from some in Rossville, IL
By Carol Hicks
Wednesday, July 18, 2007 7:29 AM CDT
ROSSVILLE – The Wicca School, which recently moved from Hoopeston to downtown Rossville, is not welcome by everyone in the Rossville community.
At Monday night's village board meeting, Dennis Barragree said the local news media made it sound as if all of Rossville was in favor of the school's move.
"I just wanted to set the record straight that not everyone is for that," said Barragree. "I'm not for it."
Barragree's wife, Carolyn, said there comes a time when you have to take a stand. She wanted people to make informed decisions about the school. She said the school didn't bring anything positive to Hoopeston.
"They aren't bringing anything positive to Rossville," she said.
Mayor Terry Prillaman reminded residents that the school is a business and it's not the function of the city council to accept or not accept someone moving into Rossville.
"A lot of people don't approve," Trustee Dick Queen agreed. "But the council is not in control of who moves in."
Prillaman said about half the city was for the Wicca School's move to Rossville. The positive side for Rossville, Prillaman said, is the city will receive taxes from some of the school's online and store sales. There is the added feature of it being a tourist attraction, he said, and it fills an empty building.
Used with permission.
Vision America's Right Wing Agenda: 70 Weeks to "Save" America
"It's time for the candidates to be asked whether homosexuality is a sin.
It's time for them to declare whether the killing of the unborn is ever right.
It's time for them to answer whether their Justice Department would
prosecute preaching biblical truths as hate crimes."
----- Dr. Rick Scarborough, Vision America
Note: This includes "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live."
People for the American Way announced that Vision America is traveling the country, taking the Right's get-out-the-vote strategy directly to the people via its "70 Weeks to Save America Crusades," featuring Rick Scarborough and Alan Keyes among others.
For candidates nervous about appearing before these far-right luminaries, Scarborough has posted a crib sheet of potential questions he may ask:
Do you believe Islam is a religion of peace?
Do you believe that homosexuality is a sin?
Would you pardon border patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Juan Compean?
Do you believe that tax payer's educational money should follow the child?
Do you believe the Ten Commandments should be posted on public property?
Do you believe a pastor should have the freedom of speech to endorse or oppose a candidate for public office from his pulpit?
Will your Justice Department refuse to prosecute any pastor who preaches that homosexuality is a sin and is then accused of a hate crime?
Do you believe the court had a right to withhold food and water from Terri Schiavo which resulted in her death by dehydration/starvation?
Used with permission.
New federal program targets religious discrimination
February 20, 2007
The Justice Department has redirected civil rights enforcement from issues of racism and sexism to religious-discrimination cases under the Bush administration.
The Report on Enforcement of Laws Protecting Religious Freedom
http://www.firstfreedom.gov/ff_report.htm,compares the number of religious-discrimination cases reviewed or investigated by the Justice Department for fiscal years 2001-06 to the number handled from 1995-2000. It details religious-discrimination cases involving employment, housing, credit, public accommodations, public facilities and other areas.
The report verifies that under the Bush Administration, the focus on Civil Rights enforcement has changed; religious-related appellate friend of the court briefs increased 1600% (not a typo!) and housing- and credit-related cases grew from four investigations and one lawsuit to 18 investigations and six lawsuits. Cases of religious discrimination in education increased from one case reviewed and no investigations to 82 cases reviewed and 40 investigations.
Further, the Justice Department reviewed 118 cases and 26 investigations related to land-use issues under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced today that the Justice Department is launching two programs to enforce protections against religious discrimination. He admitted that he doesn’t
know how much the programs will cost.
The First Freedom Project is educational, increasing education about religious discrimination by holding a series of training seminars throughout the country beginning in Kansas City, Mo., in March, followed by seminars in Tampa, Fla., in April and Seattle in May. Other dates and locations will be announced later.
The second program, the Religious Freedom Task Force, will review policies and religious discrimination cases. As part of the new program, the Justice Department is setting up a Web site,
http://www.firstfreedom.gov/with information on enforcement and how to file a religious-discrimination complaint.
See also Free-exercise clause
|Faith's Role on the Rise in Campaign '08
Sept. 12, 2007- The Christian Science Monitor
A survey by the Pew Forum and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows most Americans (almost 70%) say they want a president with strong religious beliefs, and 38% say there has been too little talk about religious faith by politicians. Paradoxically, the front-runners in each party - Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton - are currently perceived as the least religious among the candidates.
Full article: http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0912/p13s02-lire.html
Taxpayers Have No Say When Exec Orders Funds to Faith-Based Programs
Jay Hein, Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives v. Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.
(U.S. Supreme Court, No. 06-157, decided 6/25/07)
By: Ira C. Lupu and Robert W. Tuttle, Co-Directors of Legal Research for the Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy, and Professors of Law, George Washington University Law School.
Publication Date: 07/02/2007
Date Last Updated: 07/02/2007
On June 25, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. ("FFRF"). In a three-Justice plurality opinion authored by Justice Alito, and joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy, the Court announced its ruling that federal taxpayers lack standing to complain in the federal courts about executive branch decisions to make discretionary expenditures. The case involved a challenge by FFRF to White House programs that were designed to promote the Bush Administration's Faith-Based and Community Initiative ("FBCI"). The plurality took the view that the prior case law, which granted taxpayers legal standing to complain about spending decisions that aid religion, should be limited to situations in which Congress knowingly authorized such expenditures for the benefit of religion or religious organizations. Because the spending at issue in Hein involved "purely discretionary" executive branch expenditures, the plaintiff-taxpayers fell within the more conventional ban on taxpayer challenges to allegedly illegal government spending. Justice Kennedy added a brief concurrence, in which he emphasized concerns about separation of powers that would arise between the courts and the executive branch if taxpayer standing extended to all discretionary executive actions.
Read the whole report: http://www.religionandsocialpolicy.org/legal/legal_update_display.cfm?id=60
June 21 Set for 2007 National Prayer Day for Native Sacred Places
WASHINGTON June 19, 2007, Indian Country Today- Observances and ceremonies will be held across the country June 21 to mark the 2007 National Day of Prayer to Protect Native American Sacred Places. The exact times and days for public commemorations are listed below.
Some of the gatherings highlighted are educational forums, not religious ceremonies, and are open to the general public. Others are ceremonial and may be conducted in private. In addition to those listed below, there will be commemorations and prayers offered at sacred places that are under threat at this time.
Among the endangered places listed in the pages of this statement are sacred places that are being desecrated and damaged now, such as Hickory Ground in Alabama; San Francisco Peaks in Arizona; and Wakarusa Wetlands in Kansas.
There are other holy places which are being threatened with injury or destruction: Bear Butte in South Dakota; Little Creek Mountain in Tennessee; the Medicine Lake Highlands in northern California; Ocmulgee Old Fields in Georgia; the Petroglyphs in New Mexico; and Snoqualmie Falls in Washington.
''Native and non-Native people nationwide are gathering to honor sacred places, with a special emphasis on those that are endangered by actions that can be avoided,'' said Suzan Shown Harjo, Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee. She is president of The Morning Star Institute, which organizes the National Prayer Days.
(June 19, 2007, Indian Country Today)
Read the full story
See also from The Pluralism Project (Harvard U.) Native Americans and Sacred Land
Justice Dept. Reshapes Its Civil Rights Mission
Beginning under Attorney General John Ashcroft, and accelerated under Alberto Gonzales, the Justice Dept. has redefined its civil rights mission from protection of racial minorities to defending claims for special privileges for religious organizations. In this new campaign against the establishment clause of the First Amendment, Justice has claimed that government agencies, employers and private organizations improperly suppressed religious expression in situations that the Constitution’s drafters did not mean to restrict. For example, they have supported
- Assertions that religion-based groups like the Salvation Army have the right to discriminate in hiring in favor of people who share their beliefs even though they are running charitable programs with federal money;
- Permitting religious groups to send home religious literature with schoolchildren;
- Removing some local zoning restrictions as applied to paces of worship;
- Restricting their anti-hate crimes work to cases of human traffiking of female aliens, primarily in the sex trade. There is no other Federal agency specifically charged with pursuing claims of hate crimes by police.
Not surprisingly, this change has been hailed by many conservative Christians who believe that they are persecuted. Some conservative Jews and Muslims have also welcomed the changes, naively hoping that they meant that the federal government would support their claims of religious discrimination. Thus far all they've gotten from Justice has been Gonzoles' successful interventions on behalf of Arab prisoners who wanted to pray and women who had suffered discrimination for wearing Muslim head coverings.
The Gonzales Justice Dept has limited its voting rights activity to establishing the use of ballots in many languages where high percentages of Asian or Hispanic citizens reside. Meanwhile, they radically reduced the number of voting rights cases which might improve representation of black voters.
Perhaps even more alarmingly, the Justice Department's Civil Rights division staff has been overhauled. Under Ashcroft, the formerly non-partisan "honors program," a civil service process used for entry level hires, was replaced by senior political appointees. In suspected violation of federal employment laws, new hires are distinguished mainly by having degrees from conservative religious schools, affiliation with conservative organizations and being vocal about their Christians faith. Career civil service employees at Justice refer to them as "holy hires." At the same time, experienced civil rights attorneys have been demoted or transferred out of the department.
Ayesha Khan, counsel for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, argues that the Justice Dept. is now "engaging in freewheeling social engineering, using the power of the federal government to put in place an ideological, not constitutional agenda.” The Justice Dept. appears to be creating its own law as it undertakes this new mission, as neither the Civil Rights Act of 1964 nor the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act legislate all the issues undertaken.
WASHINGTON, June 13, 2007 — In recent years, the Bush administration has recast the federal government’s role in civil rights by aggressively pursuing religion-oriented cases while significantly diminishing its involvement in the traditional area of race.
Paralleling concerns of many conservative groups, the Justice Department has successfully argued in a number of cases that government agencies, employers or private organizations have improperly suppressed religious expression in situations that the Constitution’s drafters did not mean to restrict.
The shift at the Justice Department has significantly altered the government’s civil rights mission, said Brian K. Landsberg, a law professor at the University of the Pacific and a former Justice Department lawyer under both Republican and Democratic administrations.
(June 14, 2007, The New York Times)
Read the full story
Here's another take:
ABSTRACT - Justice Department has significantly altered government's civil rights mission by aggressively pursuing religious discrimination cases while reducing its involvement in cases involving race; critics say agency's religious-oriented initiatives go outside Congressional mandate; shift in priorities is welcomed by some religious groups, who say that government has long ignored religious discrimination; agency has transferred or demoted some experienced civil rights litigators while increasing hires from religious-affiliated institutions of Justice Dept hires from selection of law schools.
Orwellian Civil Rights at Justice Dept.
From the June 14, 2007 Progress Report
The Bush administration has recast the Justice Department's role in civil rights "by aggressively pursuing religion-oriented cases while significantly diminishing its involvement in the traditional area of race." The Department "has transferred or demoted some experienced civil rights litigators" while bringing in "graduates of religious-affiliated law schools...who favor the new priorities."
Subscribe at www.americanprogressaction.org
Uphold America's First Amendment Freedoms!
Support the First Freedom First campaign:
First Freedom First is a project sponsored by Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) and by The Interfaith Alliance (TIA).
Both AU and TIA worked to uphold Wiccan/Pagan religious freedom in the Veteran Pentacle Quest. Info about AU's federal litigation that brought about victory is at: http://www.au.org
Join members of Lady Liberty League, Circle Sanctuary, and others in supporting the First Freedom First petition and being part of the nationwide Pagan networking effort to get as many people as possible to sign on to it.
Beginning today, Thursday, June 14 -- Flag Day, and through Wednesday, July 4 -- America's Independence Day, please join in the following ways:
(1) SIGN: Sign the petition, "Safeguarding separation of church & state and protecting religious liberty" at http://www.firstfreedomfirst.org
(2) NETWORK: Forward this notice or one with the petition's URL that you create yourself -- to blogs, e-lists, websites, those you know.
(3) SUPPORT: Take petitions to Pagan gatherings, Solstice festivals, and other events and get signatures -- contact Bethany Moore -- email: email@example.com; telephone: (202) 466-3234 x 253.
Bethany Moore is American United's Project Manager of the First Freedom First project. She also happens to be Pagan (her Craft name is Aradia B)!
The Human Pentacle Project was
inspired by the long struggle to persuade the Veterans
Administration to include the Pentacle as one of the optional
religious symbols on headstones in Federal cemeteries.
Human Pentacle Instructions
Nels of Upper Midwest Pagan Alliance
I had hoped to find a mathematical equation relating to the
straight line distance between ADJACENT points of a pentacle in
relation to the circle diameter that encloses them. There is a
formula for the connected points distance but it is so precise
(something like 47.53 on a fifty foot circle) that you get way off
Essentially the best method is take half the people (say 15 of 30)
and make as round a circle as you can. Divide circle number by
five...a point every three people. Take three people and make each
line from point to every other point. Voila! a 30 person
adjust divisibility by how far the people are apart (like for 25
use 15 people close together for circumference, and five lines of
two people each stretched wide.
For the Minnesota state capitol image, I actually laid out a 50
foot pentacle, and then by hand found the adjacent point distance
using a rope as measuring tool, but really the method above
probably works just as well....
Any budding mathematicians with a better plan out there?
report on Carolyn Wiethoff's research into Pagan perceptions of
religious discrimination in the workplace
Research on Pagan Perceptions of
Special to Pagan Institute Report
By Christa Landon
March 8, 2007
As regular readers of Pagan Institute
Report may recall, Carolyn Wiethoff, Ph.D., teaches
and conducts research at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana
University-Bloomington. Her research focuses on the
workplace experiences of people whose religion is considered
"non-mainstream" or "minority" in today's society.
While Wiethoff herself is not a Pagan, she has been interested in
studying Pagans at work for two reasons: First, management
researchers knew next to nothing about religious discrimination at
work, and nothing at all about Pagans' experiences specifically.
Second, Pagans are the ideal subject group for research on
workplace practices that both make people comfortable disclosing their religious beliefs at work and/or make
people feel that they will experience negative repercussions if
they make that disclosure. This is because Pagans can be more
invisible than other minorities and thus generally can choose
whether or not to make that disclosure.
About two years ago, she requested that Pagan Institute Report
publish her request for Pagans to participate in her study of
Pagan perceptions of workplace discrimination. Her questions
- What is it
like to be Pagan at work? Do your
co-workers know? Have you experienced
- Are you
happily "out of the broomcloset" at work?
Her goals have
and call attention to workplace discrimination faced by Pagans, Wiccans,
and members of similar religious groups; understand
the nature of the workplace experiences felt by these
workplace practices that both lead to religion-based
discrimination and reduce it; inform managers about Pagans and their workplace experiences;
prescriptive suggestions about workplace practices that
contribute to making ALL workers feel accepted and comfortable
Wiethoff on March 7, 2007 for an update. At present results have
been tabulated and the report is being written, but here is a
preliminary report special to Pagan Institute Report.
494 Pagans gave
complete (and therefore usable) survey data.
Wiethoff found that there are many similarities between coming out
of the closet and coming out of the broom closet. Pagans
were much more comfortable in the workplace and more likely to
come out of broomcloset...
- if the
Pagan believed that the company's protection of religion policy
applied to them;if there is
open religious diversity (anything other than main-stream
Christianity) in the workplace; or
- if there's
a general sense that the organization welcomes and celebrates
diversity, through special events, support groups, active
diversity education. As global organizations were
perceived as committed to welcoming everyone, Pagans felt safer
and were more likely to come out in the workplace.
didn't mention the interest which Marketing and some Human
Resources departments have in attracting "cultural creatives,"
Pagans generally fit into that category and furthermore, "cultural
creatives" generally prefer being in communities with high levels
Her follow up research will be studying attitudes towards Pagans by
If you would like
to share your experience, please write to the Editor.
Carolyn Wiethoff, Ph.D.
Clinical Assistant Professor of Management
1309 E. 10th Street
Bloomington IN 47405
indiana.edu (note spambot-baffle.)
fellow Sisters, Brothers, and Relatives,
My name is BlueThunder aka Bennie
LeBeau, of the Eastern Shoshone Nation located on Wind River
Indian Reservation in the center of Wyoming. The Warriors of
Old have sent me many messages in dreamtime and other ways from
I thought that you might be interested in
considering communicating with us as we continue to work to heal
our environments in nature, by sealing with ceremonies the holes
dug into Mother Earth. She is charged and blessed by the Great
Spirit, the Sun, through our Sacred Sites. She shares this life
force with all of the living things in creation. This energy
gives us our bodies the electrical magnetic energy charge, by
which our spirits survive on the surface of Mother Earth.
Wherever we have not followed the Earth Protocols of the
Indigenous Wisdom when cutting or digging holes in her body, we
have wounded Her Heart. Our Mother is bleeding energy from
these wounds. The energy bleeding away is the life force of all
beings upon Her.
The Creator, our Father, and our Mother the
Earth have together sent dreams and instructions to heal the
environment before the coming great shift, when the power of the
Great Spirit within the Sun will increase. The date for
purification is 2012.
In the near future, many
serpents will rise from the underworld and fix on any holes
which have not been repaired or sealed by us. This means every
last hole that has been dug or cut into our Mother: the holes
cuts in roads, pipe lines etc., and under the houses, casinos,
high rise buildings, you name it. If we have not followed the
Earth Protocols of the Indigenous Wisdom when cutting or digging
holes in her body, those who live in the neighbor hoods or
homelands will pay a price. Those who heal with reverence the
areas where we live will be all right in the days ahead. Those
that do not move to heal those holes in her and purify the
Earth, Wind, Fire and Water with our creation ceremonies will be
Healing all that has been imprinted with negative actions can
and will be purified and cleansed by us or by Mother Earth. She
is giving us time to consider doing this and to act, but we do
not have much time left. This means all nations who are asleep
at the wheel and do nothing but TALK peace will not HAVE peace,
unless they consider and act upon some of the messages that have
been sent to help our families and relatives of all Nations.
The many messages say that ALL cultures are children of Mother
Earth. No matter what their ancestors have done in the past they
and we are to be forgiven, clearing all what has happened.
No one to blame but us for our thoughts and actions. But we must
all now deal with all that have been passed down from our
ancestors' actions. All the actions of all Nations -- positive
and negative -- have caused what has happened to Mother Earth
and us. Now is the time to move forward, getting over what took
place in the past, present and coming into peace for the future
depends upon our actions, immediately.
We as Tribal Nations must consider how we
teach Peace, sharing our wisdom and healing ceremonies. But to
heal, we must recognize that no Nation is entirely innocent.
Today, just as in the past, many of our own have forgotten the
Ancient Wisdom and went to warring with one another. The
messages say that many of the White, Black, Yellow and even the
Red Nations will not change. Many who will not come
to Peace will suffer the consequences of their actions. Many
will perish by the Sword of their own souls' actions and
The Great Spirit and Mother Earth love us
so much, they are working together in overtime to help all
nations remember peace and the ways of our ancestors.
Mother Earth sends messages for us, asking us to consider that
She shares the Winds, Waters, Mountains, Valleys, trees,
flowers, animals. She shares all things and asks, "What has
happened to us? Where has our generosity gone? We can
re-establish many sacred actions we carry as Indigenous Nations.
In this way, we can re-educate the White, Black, Yellow, Red and
Brown Nations with the wisdom and knowledge needed for peace.
This is prophecy: it is
not too late to protect our families from the great purification
that is happening right in front of our eyes around the world
and here in the Americas. This is a time for peace in
our hearts healing our many differences in all Nations. We must
turn our backs to face each other now, looking into each and
everyones' eyes, to heal the past injustices that many have done
to each other, including us as Indigenous Nations. No one is
exempt from these actions; all our Nations' Ancestors wounded
each other in the past to survive.
I ask that many of our sisters and brothers
of all Nations will receive in their hearts the message of this
wisdom for peace within all nations. We must then send it
from our hearts so that together we can help all our children
heal from the anger and hate of the last seven generations of
Nations. The many messages say then we will clear the way for
our children for the next seven generations to live together in
As we move forward working together, we can
heal our homelands, by supporting one another in coming hour of
darkness and joining the healing ceremonies. We as Indigenous
Nations have the power to recreate Mother Nature and restore
harmony, by healing the wounded sacred sites that hold the life
force together for all living things. We have the creation
stories and ceremonies to do this.
offer instructions for such ceremonies at
Blessings are to you and your families. May we heal all that is
and walk in the beauty Mother Earth, for she will restore us.
All that we ask we shall receive when we do the ceremonies in
peace with all cultures and nations. Again many blessings to
Thank you for you time and consideration on these messages.
Blessings be Ours!
Please consider reading the websites below to learn about their
work or peace. These are my sister and brother organizations
that work closely with our groups here the Americas and in
We have many great messages of Spoken Truth, from the Warriors
of Old, as our Nations Unite Within Souls We Walk. These were
sent from The Great Spirit through his spiritual messenger,
White Eagle. This information is on the Visions Life Force
Foundation website along with the current ceremonies that are to
be held to heal Mother Earth.
BlueThunder, Eastern Shoshone, March
14th, 2007, Wind River Indian Reservation, Wy.
May 18, 2006
The Interfaith Alliance
This Sunday, May 21, on The Interfaith Alliance's national radio
show State of Belief, Rev. Welton Gaddy exposes the coordinated
effort to undermine mainline Protestantism -- and render America's
largest denominations incapable of standing up to right wing
This unprecedented look into the takeover of America's churches
reveals the ugly truths, personal experiences, and exhaustive
research of four leaders:
Dr. Bruce Prescott, Executive Director of Mainstream Oklahoma
Baptists, is, like Welton, a veteran of the purges that marked the
conservative takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. The
strategy, says Prescott, is to keep mainstream denominations in
turmoil over wedge issues such as gay marriage, so that
conservative leaders can be free to achieve
their political and religious goals.
Dr. John Dorhauer, minister for the St. Louis Association of the
United Churches of Christ, has seen congregations around him
descend into in-fighting, provoked by right-wing propaganda.
Dorhauer explains, "What the politically motivated achieve is the
silence of the religious conscience voice that has historically
led this country....If you take out the 45 million people that are
represented by the National Council of Churches, you are going to
hollow out one of the cores of our nation's democracy."
Dr. Andrew Weaver, a United Methodist pastor and research
psychologist, has traced the campaign against mainline
Protestantism largely to the Institute on
Religion and Democracy, a think-tank funded by uber-conservatives such as Richard
Mellon Scaife and The Adolph Coors Trust.
Weaver says that the IRD and so-called
religious "renewal" groups are funneling money in "a systematic
effort to undermine mainline churches that still have democratic,
transparent processes." The problem in countering
these efforts, he says, is that "All of these traditions have
niceness at the core; while we've been thinking it's touch
football, they've been playing tackle."
Welton offers listeners a wake-up call: "The Southern Baptist
Convention was lost not because of those trying to take it over,
but because of people arguing that it wasn't a big deal."
This issue has never before been discussed on
national radio, and continues State of Belief's focus on how
religion is being manipulated for partisan political purposes. It
may stun listeners - and it is sure to inspire Protestant
congregations to reclaim their role as a positive and much needed
healing force in our nation.
State of Belief:
religion and radio, done differently.
State of Belief is heard nationwide on Air America Radio on
Sundays, 5pm EST. Information about local affiliates, listening
live via the internet, or podcasting can be found at
on the News
By Lowell McFarland
While the instant target
pernicious Religious Right assault is seemingly fellow
Protestants, we believe that this is
a strategy, much wider than
just the religious right, begun after
the disastrous 1970's defeat in
Vietnam, to blame moderates for
all ills, and systematically scheme to
control and defeat them.
For instance, support or anger at
political issues, and foreign and
domestic policies, are also a major
factor in these concerted actions.
Pagans, as moderates, have also
been at the effect of these control
freak actions and are easily driven
back into the shadows
littlest public adverse commentary.
Like mainline moderate Protestant
groups, we Pagans also easily fall victim
few naysayers or some noisy
arguments by a few. All of which blunts
Forever the Celtic story!"
Lowell McFarland is a
to Pagan Institute Report
| Free & Open Internet Under Siege:
Network Neutrality to be gutted! ACT NOW
Do you buy books online, use Google, or download to an Ipod? These
activities will be hurt if Congress
passes a radical law that
gives giant corporations more control over the Internet.
Internet providers like AT&T and Verizon are lobbying Congress
hard to gut Network Neutrality, the
Internet's First Amendment. Net Neutrality prevents AT&T from choosing which websites open
easily for you based on which site pays AT&T more. Amazon.com doesn't have to outbid Barnes & Noble for the right to work more
properly on your computer.
Politicians don't think we are paying attention to this issue.
Many of them take campaign checks from big telecom companies and
are on the verge of selling out to people like AT&T's CEO, who
openly says, "The internet can't be free."
The free and open Internet is under seige--can you sign this
petition letting your member of Congress
know you support
preserving Network Neutrality? Click here:
A list of all the ways you might be affected by Net Neutrality is
located on the bottom of this link:
H.R. 2679, the "Public
Expression of Religion Act" was introduced in March, 2005 by Rep.
John Hostettler (R-IN),
"To amend the
Revised Statutes of the United States to eliminate the chilling
effect on the constitutionally protected expression of religion by
State and local officials that results from the threat that
potential litigants may seek damages and attorney's fee."
Under Section 2 of PERA, the
"(b) The remedies with
respect to a claim under this section where the deprivation
consists of a violation of prohibition in the Constitution
against the establishment of religion shall be limited to
"(b) Attorneys Fees -
Section 722(b) of the Revised Statutes of the United States (42
USC 1988) is amended by adding at the end of the following:
'However, no fees shall be awarded under this subsection with
respect to a claim described in subsection (b) of section
nineteen hundred and seventy nine."
If this or a similar bill is passed, it would amend the Civil Rights Attorney Fees Act to stop courts
awarding legal fees or damages to any individual or group
which successfully sues under the
Establishment of Religion clause
of the First Amendment. Supporters
argue that mere threat of lawsuits is having a "stifling effect"
on Christian religious practices, specifically the public display
of the Ten Commandments and other sectarian symbols on public
property. Minority religious groups are almost never in the
privileged position to use governmental resources; strict
separation of church and state is the best protection for minority
Another proposal by Rep. James DeMint (SC) disallows "attorney
fees in any action claiming that a public school or its agent
violates the constitutional prohibition against the establishment
of religion by permitting, facilitating, or accommodating a
student's religious expression." The American Legion became interested
in the issue as result of litigation over a six-foot Christian
cross erected in 1934 as a veteran's monument at the Mohave
National Preserve. In 2001, the American Civil Liberties Union
filed suit arguing that the cross violated the First Amendment as
a "religious fixture" on public property. A federal judge
eventually ordered the monument dismantled, and attorneys received
$63,000 in compensatory fees.
In a statement announcing its "National Awareness Campaign to Stop
Abuse of the Taxpayer," Legion
commander Tom Bock said that the
original intent of the U.S. Code awarding legal fees was "intended
to help the poor obtain legal counsel in claims of real, tangible
violations of civil right." To launch their
American Legion issued a printed and pdf file document, "In
the Footsteps of the
Founders -- A Guide to Defending American
Values." The conservative worldnetdaily.com web site
"many legislators expressed surprise at the size of the attorney
fees sought and gained by the ACLU and indicated support for the
bill." Ellen Johnson,
president of American Atheists argues
that the Hostettler bill "is not for the benefit of the taxpayer,
but for government and religious leaders who insist on eroding the
wall of separation between church and state. They know, as do we,
that most attorneys are simply unable to work on long-term, complex litigation if they don't receive some compensatory fee.
We're not talking about donating a few free hours 'to the cause.'
These cases require an enormous amount of time and effort."
As it is, one of the greatest limiters on the activity of the ACLU
outside of major metropolitan areas is that local attorneys who
might otherwise accept cases are threatened with loss of other
conservative organizations in their towns. PERA and
other attempts by conservatives to limit legal fee
represent an effort to effectively deny access to trial attorneys
for victims of medical malpractice, dangerous consumer goods, and
the worst possible abuses of robber baron capitalism.
Johnson said that governments are often quite willing to squander
taxpayer funds in order to defend their unconstitutional
"Whether it is school prayer or
defending a religious monument in the public square, state and
governments are frequently very short-sighted and
belligerent when caught doing something that
violates the First
Amendment," Johnson said. "If the Legion and Representative
Hostettler really wish to save all of us some money, they should
work to stop unconstitutional practices that promote religion."
|More News Briefs & Other News Sources
Wren's Nest: Pagan World News links (voluminous, very perishable):
Religion News: complete list of news clips added on a daily basis at the
complete list of news clips added on a daily basis to the Pew
Forum's web site,
www.pewforum.org, can be found at www.pewforum.org/news.