Category Archives: First Amendment

It’s really quite simple.

A local public school has recently attracted the attention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation for teaching a song that made explicit mentions of ‘God’ and ‘Lord’ to elementary-aged kids. As the article mentions, previous case law has specifically identified the song, “Thank You for The World So Sweet,” as being a prayer. This should really be an open-and-shut case.

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50 years of prayer-free schools! Well…

That’s a stretch. But 50 years ago today, in the Engel v. Vitale decision, the US Supreme Court declared that government-written prayers were not to be recited in public schools and were an unconstitutional violation of the Establishment Clause.

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A victory for church/state separation in Rhode Island!

Jessica Ahlquist is a high school student and atheist who volunteered to act as plaintiff in a case against her high school, which for several years has hung a school prayer on a banner in its gym. I’ve written about her before, and from the public’s perspective, her case has been quiet for a while now.

Good news today from Rhode Island: Jessica and the ACLU have won their case, and U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Lagueux issued a decision in the case against the prayer banner, ordering it to be removed!

The story linked above has a nice little poll in it:

Do you agree with the court order for the prayer mural at Cranston West be removed?
  • Yes – 261 (84%)
  • No – 48 (15%)

I’m amazed to see the numbers like that, considering how strongly opposed most of Jessica’s town was to her actions. Then again, this is the internet, so I doubt it’s just local folks voting. Disregard the madness in the comments on that story; three cheers for the First Amendment! Go show Jessica some love on Facebook.


I can’t believe I missed these great bits from the judge:

Lagueux states that “no amount of debate can make the School Prayer anything other than a prayer, and a Christian one at that.”

“The Prayer concludes with the indisputably religious closing: ‘Amen;’ a Hebrew word used by Jews, Christians and Muslims to conclude prayers. In between, the Prayer espouses values of honesty, kindness, friendship and sportsmanship. While these goals are commendable, the reliance on God’s intervention as the way to achieve those goals is not consistent with a secular purpose.”

Too true!

Atheist Teen Fights for Separation of Church and State

At Cranston West High School in Cranston, Rhode Island, a mostly innocuous banner has hung in the school gym for several decades. The banner, titled “School Prayer,” exhorts “Our Heavenly Father” to make students desire to improve themselves in a number of ways. In full, the banner reads:

Our Heavenly Father,
Grant us each day the desire to do our best,
To grow mentally and morally as well as physically,
To be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers,
To be honest with ourselves as well as with others,
Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win,
Teach us the value of true friendship,
Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School West.
Amen.

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If a response is beneath you, don’t respond!

A few months ago, a pretty ridiculous anti-atheist article was published in Portland State University’s student-run newspaper, the Daily Vanguard. The same article was just reprinted by the student newspaper at the University of Oregon, the Daily Emerald. It’s a real gem, for sure:

Hmm, let’s see…I could either listen to someone pushing their religion on me, or listen to you aggressively espouse how not to believe. Either way, guilt is involved and, sadly, you come off a hell of a lot more like a pompous and arrogant bastard!

I can just bet that the author is so busy patting himself on his hypocritical back that he hasn’t seen the furor this has raised. But that’s not what this post is about. The article is practically a parody of itself, and can essentially be summed up as “I don’t want to hear you, so shut up”.

This post is about the response by the University of Oregon’s campus atheist group, the Alliance of Happy Atheists. Continue reading

The Friendly Atheist Under Attack

Hemant Mehta, one of the most tolerant, genial, and patient atheists I’ve ever seen, is currently under attack from a thinly-veiled far-right Christian hate group calling itself the Illinois Family Institute, which has a history of saying some pretty nutty stuff. And I’m not just calling them a hate group, either; for a while, the Southern Poverty Law Center had them listed as one, specifically for their strident anti-gay stance, comments, and leadership. Continue reading

Glad I’m not in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma state representative Sally Kern has proposed what she calls the “Oklahoma Citizen’s Proclamation for Morality.” The proposition, which can be read in its entirety here, is truly comedy gold. She claims that “our economic woes are consequences of our greater national moral crisis,” which (of course) can be blamed entirely on abortion, same-sex marriage, pornography, divorce, illegitimate births, and other favorite canards of the fanatically-religious right.

She whines and moans about how President Obama didn’t officially recognize the National Day of Prayer, but he did recognize a month of tolerance for the LGBT community.

But the real juicy idiocy is at the very end:

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that we the undersigned elected officials of the people of Oklahoma, religious leaders and citizens of the State of Oklahoma, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world, solemnly declare that the HOPE of the great State of Oklahoma and of these United States, rests upon the Principles of Religion and Morality as put forth in the HOLY BIBLE; and

BE IT RESOLVED
that we, the undersigned, believers in the One True God and His only Son, call upon all to join with us in recognizing that “Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord,” and humbly implore all who love Truth and Virtue to live above reproach in the sight of God and man with a firm reliance on the leadership and protection of Almighty God; and

BE IT RESOLVED
that we, the undersigned, humbly call upon Holy God, our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer, to have mercy on this nation, to stay His hand of judgment, and grant a national awakening of righteousness and Christian renewal as we repent of our great sin.

Signed on the second day of July in the year of our Lord Christ Two Thousand and Nine.

Yowza. This from a woman who says she understands separation of church and state… and who has, in the past, said that homosexuals were a worse threat to America than terrorists. Does anything really need to be said here? She needs to be gone. Fast.

This kind of stuff needs to be shoved forcibly into the light of day. Thanks to the folks at Right Wing Watch for this one.