Hard to say what was more remarkable about the resolution that was read into the record and referred to committee Wednesday by a member of the 87th Arkansas General Assembly.
The resolution itself:Â HJR 1009: AMENDING THE ARKANSAS CONSTITUTION TO REPEAL THE PROHIBITION AGAINST AN ATHEIST HOLDING ANY OFFICE IN THE CIVIL DEPARTMENTS OF THE STATE OF ARKANSAS OR TESTIFYING AS A WITNESS IN ANY COURT.
Or the fact that it was submitted by theÂ Green Party’s highest-ranking elected officialÂ in America, state Rep. Richard Carroll of North Little Rock, who was elected in November winning more than 80 percent of the vote in his district.
Arkansas is one of half a dozen states that still exclude non-believers from public office. Article 19 Section 1 of the 1874 Arkansas Constitution states that “No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any court.”
The U.S. Supreme CourtÂ ruled all such state provisions unconstitutional and unenforceable in a 1961 ruling in a Maryland case: “We repeat and again reaffirm that neither a State nor the Federal Government can constitutionally force a person ‘to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.'”
Carroll is merely trying to do some symbolic constitutional housecleaning, but it won’t be easy.
In 2005, state Rep. Buddy Blair filed a resolution to affirm Arkansas’ support for the separation of church and state. The resolution lost 39-44 in the House.
And last month, Rep. Lindsley Smith offered a resolutionÂ to declare Jan. 29 at Thomas Paine Day in Arkansas.
“I consider myself a very religious person,” Smith told the committee considering her bill to designate Jan. 29 as Thomas Paine Day in Arkansas. Paine, the colonial patriot who wrote “Common Sense,” a pamphlet that built support for the American Revolution. Paine also was a Deist who believed in God but not religion.
The proposal died in committee, even after Smith assured her colleagues that she was not an atheist. Which they would have known if they’d read the state constitution.
Meanwhile, in a related story, the Arkansas House passed a bill Wednesday allowing people to bring their guns to church.
“Due to many shootings that have happened in our churches across our nation, it is time we changed our concealed handgun law to allow law-abiding citizens of the state of Arkansas the right to defend themselves and others should a situation happen in one of our churches,” said state Rep. Beverly Pyle.
The bill doesn’t say whether atheists can bring guns to church.
What do Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden, and Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin, have in common?
All four candidates for U.S. president and vice-president have made it clear, exceedingly clear, they’re proud Christians.
None is willing to follow the wishes of many annoyed Canadians and refrain from ending speeches with “God bless America.”
Religion, specifically Christianity, plays a much bigger role in American politics than it does north of the border. God talk just can’t be avoided down there — thanks to the overwhelming Protestant presence.
And even though it’s not unethical by definition to invoke a Supreme Being from a political stage, the practice can be manipulated. It can even be abused for demogoguery, through suggesting, for instance, questionable wars and policies reflect “God’s will.”
That doesn’t mean the word God doesn’t ever sneak into Canadian politics. Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is quiet about his loyalty to the evangelical Alliance Church, will sometimes talk of his faith, carefully. Harper has also been known to declare “God bless Canada.”
Former Liberal PM Jean Chretien, a Catholic, occasionally mentioned God, including in this novel way: “God gave me a physical defect [a facial tic] . . . but I accepted that because God gave me other qualities and I’m grateful.”
Still, there are many fascinating reasons Canadian politicians are much less inclined than their American counterparts to, as typically skeptical Canadians might put it, “play the God card.”
I’ll cite a few of them.
The most obvious is the rising strength of white evangelical Protestants. They make up one out of four Americans.
They feel divinely motivated to convert others to their Jesus, and some are ready to use politics as part of that. Seventy-eight per cent of conservative white evangelicals voted for George W. Bush in the past two presidential campaigns. It made all the difference.
Conservative politicians north of the border don’t have this huge religious voting advantage because fewer than one out of 10 Canadians belong to evangelical churches.
And while many evangelicals quietly support Canada’s Conservatives — half of Harper’s caucus of MPs are evangelical — most don’t have any illusions they can openly bring most Canadians onside with their beliefs.
Canadians are like secularized Europeans that way. Of the world’s industrialized countries, the U.S. is the most religious and most Christian.
It wasn’t always this way.
In the early 20th century, Canada had a much higher percentage of the population attending churches than in the U.S., as North America’s leading historian of religion, Mark Noll (an evangelical), writes in A History of Christianity in Canada and the U.S.
Beginning in the 1950s, however, Canadian church attendance dropped off dramatically, as it did in Europe. At the same time, however, U.S. evangelical churches began to become more appealing, particularly to the middle classes.
The trend has caused many U.S. evangelical leaders to become carried away and aggressively declare theirs is a “Christian nation” — and always has been.
Let me confess that I was genuinely unnerved by‘s performance at the Republican convention. Given her audience and the needs of the moment, I believe Governor Palin’s speech was the most effective political communication I have ever witnessed. Here, finally, was a performer whoâ€”being maternal, wounded, righteous and sexyâ€”could stride past the frontal cortex of every American and plant a three-inch heel directly on that limbic circuit that ceaselessly intones “God and country.” If anyone could make Christian theocracy smell like apple pie, Sarah Palin could.
Then came Palin’s first television interview with. I was relieved to discover, as many were, that Palin’s luster can be much diminished by the absence of a teleprompter. Still, the problem she poses to our political process is now much bigger than she is. Her fans seem inclined to forgive her any indiscretion short of cannibalism. However badly she may stumble during the remaining weeks of this campaign, her supporters will focus their outrage upon the journalist who caused her to break stride, upon the camera operator who happened to capture her fall, upon the television network that broadcast the good lady’s misfortuneâ€”and, above all, upon the “liberal elites” with their highfalutin assumption that, in the 21st century, only a reasonably well-educated person should be given command of our nuclear arsenal.
The point to be lamented is not that Sarah Palin comes from outside Washington, or that she has glimpsed so little of the earth’s surface (she didn’t have a passport until last year), or that she’s never met a foreign head of state. The point is that she comes to us, seeking the second most important job in the world, without any intellectual training relevant to the challenges and responsibilities that await her. There is nothing to suggest that she even sees a role for careful analysis or a deep understanding of world events when it comes to deciding the fate of a nation. In her interview with Gibson, Palin managed to turn a joke about seeing Russia from her window into a straight-faced claim that Alaska’s geographical proximity to Russia gave her some essential foreign-policy experience. Palin may be a perfectly wonderful person, a loving mother and a great American success storyâ€”but she is a beauty queen/sports reporter who stumbled into small-town politics, and who is now on the verge of stumbling into, or upon, world history.
The problem, as far as our political process is concerned, is that half the electorate revels in Palin’s lack of intellectual qualifications. When it comes to politics, there is a mad love of mediocrity in this country. “They think they’re better than you!” is the refrain that (highly competent and cynical) Republican strategists have set loose among the crowd, and the crowd has grown drunk on it once again. “Sarah Palin is an ordinary person!” Yes, all too ordinary.
We have all now witnessed apparently sentient human beings, once provoked by a reporter’s microphone, saying things like, “I’m voting for Sarah because she’s a mom. She knows what it’s like to be a mom.” Such sentiments suggest an uncanny (and, one fears, especially American) detachment from the real problems of today. The next administration must immediately confront issues like nuclear proliferation, ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and covert wars elsewhere), global climate change, a convulsing economy, Russian belligerence, the rise of China, emerging epidemics, Islamism on a hundred fronts, a defunct United Nations, the deterioration of American schools, failures of energy, infrastructure and Internet security â€¦ the list is long, and Sarah Palin does not seem competent even to rank these items in order of importance, much less address any one of them.
Palin’s most conspicuous gaffe in her interview with Gibson has been widely discussed. The truth is, I didn’t much care that she did not know the meaning of the phrase “Bush doctrine.” And I am quite sure that her supporters didn’t care, either. Most people view such an ambush as a journalistic gimmick. What I do care about are all the other things Palin is guaranteed not to knowâ€”or will be glossing only under the frenzied tutelage of John McCain’s advisers. What doesn’t she know about financial markets, Islam, the history of the Middle East, the cold war, modern weapons systems, medical research, environmental science or emerging technology? Her relative ignorance is guaranteed on these fronts and most others, not because she was put on the spot, or got nervous, or just happened to miss the newspaper on any given morning. Sarah Palin’s ignorance is guaranteed because of how she has spent the past 44 years on earth.
CHICAGO — Declaring that clergy have a constitutional right to endorse political candidates from their pulpits, the socially conservative Alliance Defense Fund is recruiting several dozen pastors to do just that on Sept. 28, in defiance of Internal Revenue Service rules.
The effort by the Arizona-based legal consortium is designed to trigger an IRS investigation that ADF lawyers would then challenge in federal court. The ultimate goal is to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out a 54-year-old ban on political endorsements by tax-exempt houses of worship.
“For so long, there has been this cloud of intimidation over the church,” ADF attorney Erik Stanley said. “It is the job of the pastors of America to debate the proper role of church in society. It’s not for the government to mandate the role of church in society.”
Yet an opposing collection of Christian and Jewish clergy will petition the IRS today to stop the protest before it starts, calling the ADF’s “Pulpit Initiative” an assault on the rule of law and the separation of church and state.
Backed by three former top IRS officials, the group also wants the IRS to determine whether the nonprofit ADF is risking its own tax-exempt status by organizing an “inappropriate, unethical and illegal” series of political endorsements.
“As religious leaders, we have grave concerns about the ethical implications of soliciting and organizing churches to violate core principles of our society,” the clergy wrote in an advance copy of their claim obtained by The Washington Post.
The battle over the clergy’s privileges, rights and responsibilities in the political world is not new. Politicians of all stripes court the support — explicit or otherwise — of religious leaders. Allegations surface every political season of a preacher crossing the line.
Who doesn’t love making fun of a religion as crazy as Islam?
Â Isn’t it great when religion and politics mix?
The Vatican has been accused of trying to bring down the Italian government after a Catholic minister abandoned Romano Prodi’s coalition government, leaving it facing collapse.
The prime minister was forced to call a vote of confidence after Clemente Mastella, the former justice minister, withdrew his support on Monday.
Mr Mastella’s Udeur Christian Democrat party has three crucial seats in the Senate, where Mr Prodi had a majority of two, at best.
New elections could be called, or a caretaker government could be appointed to reform the complicated electoral law if Mr Prodi loses the vote of confidence in both chambers.
Silvio Berlusconi, the leader of the opposition, said yesterday that he wants “elections in the spring”.
Mr Mastella resigned from the government last week, after he and his wife were implicated in a cash-for-favours scandal.
He promised that his party would vote with the government, but changed his mind over the weekend. Now he has said Mr Prodi’s coalition was “dead, dead, dead”.
The impetus for his change of heart appears to have come from the Vatican, which has voiced its disapproval at Mr Prodi’s stance on gay rights and abortion.
The Vatican also shook the government last year, when Mr Prodi lost a vote on his foreign policy on the same day that a gay marriage bill entered parliament.
It’s a presidential campaign like no other. The candidates have been falling all over each other in their rush to declare the depth and sincerity of their religious faith. The pundits have been just as eager to raise questions that seem obvious and important: Should we let religious beliefs influence the making of law and public policy? If so, in what way and to what extent? Those questions, however, assume that candidates bring the subject of faith into the political arena largely to justify — or turn up the heat under — their policy positions. In fact, faith talk often has little to do with candidates’ stands on the issues. There’s something else going on here.
Look at the TV ad that brought Mike Huckabee out of obscurity in Iowa, the one that identified him as a “Christian Leader” who proclaims: “Faith doesn’t just influence me. It really defines me.” That ad did indeed mention a couple of actual political issues — the usual suspects, abortion and gay marriage — but only in passing. Then Huckabee followed up with a red sweater-themed Christmas ad that actively encouraged voters to ignore the issues. We’re all tired of politics, the kindly pastor indicated. Let’s just drop all the policy stuff and talk about Christmas — and Christ.
Ads like his aren’t meant to argue policy. They aim to create an image — in this case, of a good Christian with a steady moral compass who sticks to his principles. At a deeper level, faith-talk ads work hard to turn the candidate — whatever candidate — into a bulwark of solidity, a symbol of certainty; their goal is to offer assurance that the basic rules for living remain fixed, objective truths, as true as religion.
In a time when the world seems like a shaky place — whether you have a child in Iraq, a mortgage you may not be able to meet, a pension threatening to head south, a job evaporating under you, a loved one battling drug or alcohol addiction, an ex who just came out as gay or born-again, or a president you just can’t trust — you may begin to wonder whether there is any moral order in the universe. Are the very foundations of society so shaky that they might not hold up for long? Words about faith — nearly any words — speak reassuringly to such fears, which haunt millions of Americans.
Â Ok, admit it, none of you were expecting ANY of the presidential candidates to say something like this: “Iâ€™m agnostic.” .. Granted he wasn’t talking about it in the religious sense, it’s just fun to hear politicians say such things.
Obamaâ€™s voting record is one of the most liberal in the Senate, but he has always appealed to Republicans, perhaps because he speaks about liberal goals in conservative language. When he talks about poverty, he tends not to talk about gorging plutocrats and unjust tax breaks; he says that we are our brotherâ€™s keeper, that caring for the poor is one of our traditions. Asked whether he has changed his mind about anything in the past twenty years, he says, â€œIâ€™m probably more humble now about the speed with which government programs can solve every problem. For example, I think the impact of parents and communities is at least as significant as the amount of money thatâ€™s put into education.â€ Obama encourages his crossover appeal. He doesnâ€™t often criticize the Bush Administration directly; in New Hampshire recently, he told his audience, â€œIâ€™m a Democrat. Iâ€™m considered a progressive Democrat. But if a Republican or a Conservative or a libertarian or a free-marketer has a better idea, I am happy to steal ideas from anybody and in that sense Iâ€™m agnostic.â€ â€œThe number of conservatives whoâ€™ve called meâ€”roommates of mine, relatives who are Republicansâ€”whoâ€™ve said, â€˜Heâ€™s the one Democrat I could support, not because he agrees with me, because he doesnâ€™t, but because I at least think heâ€™ll take my point of view into account,â€™ â€ Michael Froman, a law-school friend who worked in the Clinton Administration and is now involved in Obamaâ€™s campaign, says. â€œThatâ€™s a big thing, mainstream Americans feeling like Northeast liberals look down on them.â€
Â As much as I dislike Giuliani, Romney has now taken top place for candidates I dislike. He wants tolerance for his religion, but wants none for non-believers. Fuck Romney.
A spokesman for the Mitt Romney campaign is thus far refusing to say whether Romney sees any positive role in America for atheists and other non-believers, after Election Central inquired about the topic yesterday
It’s a sign that Romney may be seeking to submerge evangelical distaste for Mormonism by uniting the two groups together in a wider culture war. Romney’s speech has come under some criticism, even from conservatives like David Brooks and Ramesh Ponnuru, for positively mentioning many prominent religions but failing to include anything positive about atheists and agnostics.
Indeed, the only mentions of non-believers were very much negative. “It is as if they’re intent on establishing a new religion in America â€“ the religion of secularism. They’re wrong,” Romney said, being met by applause from the audience.