Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Religious freedom bites in Oklahoma

You may remember all the kerfuffle years ago in Oklahoma, over having the Ten Commandments posted in court. A conservative representative arranged to have a big Ten Commandments statue placed in the grounds of the Capitol.  Lots of conservative "Christian" backslapping, I'm sure.

Then a Satanist group asked to put up a statue too.
Brady Henderson, legal director for ACLU Oklahoma, said if state officials allow one type of religious expression, they must allow alternative forms of expression, although he said a better solution might be to allow none at all on state property. 
"We would prefer to see Oklahoma's government officials work to faithfully serve our communities and improve the lives of Oklahomans instead of erecting granite monuments to show us all how righteous they are," Henderson said. "But if the Ten Commandments, with its overtly Christian message, is allowed to stay at the Capitol, the Satanic Temple's proposed monument cannot be rejected because of its different religious viewpoint."
And now a Hindu group has done the same thing.

One blogger writes,
If the Commission votes yes on the proposal, conservatives will flip out. 
If they vote no, they’re just inviting a lawsuit. 
This is beautiful.
It's hard not to enjoy this in a schadenfreude kind of way.  For some reason, the right wingers never understand that the Constitution applies to everyone, not just people who look like they do.  It reminds me of a survey that I told you about a few months ago, where they interviewed different "factions" of Republicans separately, and  in which one evangelical Republican described his life thus:
It’s a little bubble. So everybody – it’s like a Lake Wobegon. Everybody is above average. Everybody is happy. Everybody is white. Everybody is middle class, whether or not they really are. Everybody looks that way. Everybody goes to the same pool. Everybody goes – there’s one library, one post office. Very homogenous.  

And apparently in Oklahoma, they are stunned to find that there are Hindus amongst us.


dr.primrose said...

As a Christian, what upsets me the most about these attempts to put Christian (or Judeo-Christian) things in the public sphere is that courts can justify them only by finding that these Christain (or Judeo-Christian) things have no religious meaning.

For example, in the litigation a decade ago concerning the use of "under God" in the pledge of allegiance, one of the Ninth Circut judges (Fernandez) said that "when all is said and done, the danger that 'under God' in our Pledge of Allegiance will tend to bring about a theocracy or suppress somebody's beliefs is so minuscule as to be de minimis. The danger that phrase presents to our First Amendment freedoms is picayune at most." (292 F.3d at 613).

When the case got to the Supreme Court in 2004, Justice Rehnquist stated, "I believe that although these references speak in the language of religious belief, they are more properly understood as employing the idiom for essentially secular purposes. One such purpose is to commemorate the role of religion in our history. In my view, some references to religion in public life and government are the inevitable consequence of our Nation's origins." (542 U.S at 35)

A year later Rehnquist wrote about a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas State Statute. While he recognized that it would be improper to have them posted in a public school classroom, it was OK have the monument because it was an "acknowledgment[] of the role played by the Ten Commandments in our Nation's heritage [that] are common throughout America." (545 U.S. at 688)

Satanism and Hinduism, of course, aren't part of "our Nation's heritage" so apparently supporting statutes would violate the First Amendment while the Ten Commandments have been so drained of religious meaning that a Ten Commandments statute is OK.


And don't get me started on what the courts do with displays connected with "Winter Holiday" season. Essentially, creches by themselves are not OK but if you put enough Santa Clauses, candycanes, elves, and reindeers closeby, you've drained the religious meaning out of the creche so it may be OK (or maybe not). And apparently, menorahs and Christmas trees are OK (at least if they're next to each other) but it's not clear whether that's because, in that context, neither has any religious meaning because they are merely religion-free symbols of the "Winter Holiday" season or the religious meaning of each (if any, for Christmas trees) cancel each other out.

it's margaret said...

Too bad someone thinks that the Ten Commandments are overtly Christian... because, they're not! Sheeeeesh!