Enforcing the First Amendment Establishment Clause against evangelical Christians who insist that the government help them to promote their Gods is like trying to kill a mole invasion on your backyard lawn with a baseball bat. Every time you think you have the critter dead it just keeps popping up again and again leaving more holes and tunnels everywhere.
Of course, if left to have things their own way, the vast majority of American Christians would soon dismantle the wall of separation between church and state completely and we would have an ugly patchwork of democratic theocracies all across the United States. Teachers would be leading sectarian prayers in public schools. Creationism would be taught in public school biology classes. The Ten Commandments and other religious symbols and displays would decorate every public building. Legislatures would pass laws based entirely upon the morality found in the pages of the Holy Bible.
That’s why it is vitally necessary that private organizations such as the ACLU and the Freedom From Religion Foundation keep complaining loudly and going to court each time they see religion raising its slimy tentacles within the halls of government in America. I know it all seems trivial to some but believe me, organized religion left to its own devices can do an awful lot of damage to freedom loving people if not kept strictly in check.
Recently in Colorado, for example, we have a majority of evangelical Christians who have it in their stubborn minds that local government public meetings should commence just exactly like it’s done in their churches -- with prayers and invocations to their Gods -- which subject everyone who wishes to attend, religious and non-religious alike, to their favorite brand of good old time religion.
When the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained reminding the City Council of Pueblo that it is unconstitutional to coerce people at a government meeting to participate in what is typically a Christian prayer, they had the good sense to stop the practice. That prompted a bitter outcry in Colorado Springs, 45 miles to the north and an editorial in the Colorado Springs Gazette urging that community to draw a line in the sand.
"As its name implies, this confused organization believes we have government-protected freedom from religion in addition to our freedom to pick and choose religious beliefs or to ignore and avoid them all," conservative columnist Wayne Laugesen wrote. "While we have a right to shun religion, we do not have a right to government protection from the sights and sounds of religion in public — even on government property."
I suggest that it is the evangelical Christians who are confused here – not the FFRF. This has nothing whatsoever to do with Christians exercising their rights to sound off about their religion in public, but everything to do with them enlisting the sponsorship, promotion and support of the government in the process.
Christians have every right to show up at public meetings dressed like Jesus Christ carrying a cross with signs on their backs declaring “God loves you.” They can tattoo their foreheads in large red letters: “Jesus Saves.” They can bow their heads in prayer as much as they like. What they cannot do – what the Establishment Clause forbids – is to have the government do it for them. It’s as simple as that.
Why is that so difficult for them to understand?
Meanwhile, a misguided federal district judge in Texas (another backyard mole) has issued a temporary restraining order against a high school’s ban of public school cheerleader Bible and religious messages on signs at school sponsored sporting events. The Kountze Independent School District banned the messages after the Freedom From Religion Foundation accused it of violating the Constitution.
But an advocacy organization fighting the ban, won a restraining order from a Texas district court that puts the school’s decision on hold until an October 4 hearing.
The high school football team runs through the giant banners before each game. “Our boys always pray on the field before the game,” said a parent. “They got the idea to give inspiration to the football team (with the Bible verse banners).”
Where do Christian evangelicals get the idea that they can use their local public high schools to promote their religious beliefs at football games?
The U.S. federal courts, including the Supreme Court have ruled again and again that government in the form of public schools may not promote religion in this manner. No doubt they will rule that way in this case at the October 4 hearing.
No matter. The Christians won’t give it up. Their government Gods will just keep popping up everywhere like backyard moles.