Tag Archives: Church-State

Coon Rapids Baptist Church: Are they violating IRS law or not?

I have no idea if the Coon Rapids Baptist Church, is a real church with tax exempt status, but let’s assume for the moment that they are. The question then would be, is this church jeopradizing their tax exempt status by taking and explicit stand on a certain issue and telling people how they should vote on it? Here are two photographs I snapped this morning:

Sign in front of the Coon Rapids Baptist Church and Christian School, North Bound on Hanson Blvd, Coon Rapids, MN, on election day, 2012.
Sign in front of Coon Rapids Baptist Church and Christian School, South Bound on Hanson Blvd, Coon Rapids, MN, on Election Day, 2012.

Clearly the church is saying that people should vote a certain way and clearly this is being done at a time rather close to the election. But, is this a violation of church-state separation?

Here is a document from the IRS (PDF file) that lays out the rules. Most of this is about candidates, not issues. Churches can take a stand on issues, but not if that stand links to candidates. So, for instance, a church taking an explicit anti-Obamacare position in the present election is probably violating IRS regulations. In Minnesota, the “Yes/No” vote being referred to here is an amendment to limit marriage to opposite sex couples, to be added the constitution. Almost every candidate has taken a stand on the issue, and DFLers (those are Minnesota Democrats) say “vote No” and Republicans say “vote Yes” pretty much down the line.

Personally, I think they are probably not violating IRS rules, but I also think the IRS rules could be revised. I think churches should not take positions that tell people how to vote at all, on candidates, and on issues. What do you think?

Introducing Edwina Rogers (updated slightly)

The Secular Coalition of America is a lobbying group and umbrella organization for several different secular, humanist, atheist, and skeptics organizations. The SCA is responsible for lobbying at state and federal levels, supporting legislation that is science based rather than “faith” or religion based.

Yesterday, the SCA surprised a lot of people by appointing a long time Republican operative, Edina Rogers, as the Executive Director. Rogers has been involved in the Republican Party as advisor or staffer to several senators and both Presidents Bush. She was the General Council for the Republican National Senatorial Committee in 1994, and has appeared on Fox News representing the White House on several issues including the war in Iraq and energy policy. Despite some efforts to distance Rogers from the Republican policies of the mid 1990s through recent years, there is no doubt that Edwina Rogers has been part of that process and on board with those policies.

Having said that, Rogers has worked in recent years, as a lobbyist, on projects that would not be expected to be part of the primary Republican agenda. She is a secularist and has shown evidence of having favored some policies that would be in alignment with some of the groups represented by the SCA. Here is the video produced by the SCA in which Rogers introduces herself to her new constituents: Continue reading Introducing Edwina Rogers (updated slightly)

Bishop who Looks Like PZ Myers Compares Barack Obama to Hitler

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Biologist and Blogger PZ MYers, is smiling now, but not for long.

Which is funny, because he might have just Godwined his own tax return.

Americans United is calling for an IRS investigation of the Peoria Catholic Diocese after Biship Jenky gave a homily in mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in which he said:

Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services, and health care. In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama – with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path.

Pharyngula's PZ Myers, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peioria, is smiling because he just finished doing his taxes and did not violate any IRS laws.
PZ Myers, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peioria, is smiling because he just finished doing his taxes and did not violate any IRS laws.

Well, it’s nice to know a) Hitler and Stalin had better moments (I did not know that) and b) American United attends churches looking out for this sort of violation.

The AU complaint states:

“Bishop Jenky compared Obama to Hitler and Stalin and accused him of pursuing policies that will close Catholic institutions. Moments later, he exhorted members of his flock not to vote for candidates who fail to uphold Catholic values. It is impossible to interpret this as anything but a command to vote against Obama.”

The full press release from American United is here.

Carroll County Maryland Employees to Take Bible Class?

Yeah, more or less:

Carroll County commissioners have asked county employees to attend a seminar on the Maryland Constitution led by a conservative Christian minister, sparking accusations that local officials are overstepping the boundary between church and state.

The minister in question is David Whitney, who is one of those guys who thinks he can reconcile American Law with the Bible, by making American Law like the Bible.

“We will be looking at the language of our founding fathers who wrote they were ‘grateful to Almighty God for civil and religious liberties’ front and center on this document. The Bible is the source of the authority that they looked to.”

The American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United are annoyed with the $800 of government money funding the operation. Rob Boston, of Americans United asks, “Do these commissioners realize what a mess they have stepped into? This is a toxic stew, and employees should not be forced to dine there.”

Indeed.

Dismantling Church-State boundary in Oklahoma is not OK

The constitution of Oklahoma, like many states, has a part about church-state separation. In Oklahoma, Republicans are tying to remove that provision. Representative Jason Nelson has put forth a ballot initiative that would allow voters to vote out Article 2 Section 5 of the constitution.

No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.

would become

No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.

There is a summary at Americans United

“Accommodation” for for religious groups regarding birth control coverage

From the Strib:

President Barack Obama will announce a plan to accommodate religious employers outraged by a rule that would require them to cover birth control for women free of charge, according to a person familiar with the decision.

Obama was expected to make the announcement at the White House Friday.

This could work out, because I can easily imagine a law suit by an employee who does not get the same coverage as some other employee in some similar job elsewhere, as well as a law suit from, say, a school board member insisting that teachers/staff in their school NOT be covered. Since the 1st amendment is mainly to protect individuals and not institutions, this absurd patchwork of regulations would be reversed.

Right?

Medina Valley Suit Settled

Americans United for Separation of Church and State just announced the settlement of a suit over school sponsored religious activities inthe Medina Valley Independent School District, Castroville, Texas.

District officials, administrators, teachers, staff and other employees are no longer allowed to initiate or solicit prayers or join in with students during such activities, or to encourage others to engage in such religious activities.

“This settlement brings an end to several practices we believed were unconstitutional and that violated students’ rights,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “I’m glad we were able to resolve this matter out of court.”

Also under the settlement:

* School district personnel will not display crosses, religious images, religious quotations, Bibles or religious texts, or other religious icons or artifacts on the walls, hallways, and other areas at the school.

* The district will not invite speakers, including government officials or community leaders, whom it has reason to believe will proselytize or promote religion during their remarks.

* The Medina Valley High School student handbook will contain a section on students’ rights to religious freedom, including the importance of respect for and tolerance of students from all backgrounds and the specific procedures for registering a complaint with district personnel about violations.

* The district will provide annual training to all district personnel who interact with students or parents or who supervise those who interact with students or parents. The training will cover a variety of topics related to students’ rights and church-state separation.

AU Senior Litigation Counsel Gregory M. Lipper, who served as lead plaintiffs’ counsel, praised the Schultz family for coming forward and challenging the school district’s promotion of religion.

“The Schultz family displayed great courage in standing up for religious liberty and church-state separation in the face of intense community opposition,” Lipper said. “The significant changes in the Medina Valley School District could not and would not have happened without their courageous efforts.”

From the AU

Stop Giving Money to Susah G. Komen for the Cure, and tell everyone else you know to do the same.

Komen collects donations and uses the money to help with cancer. In the past, huge chunks of money were donated to Planned Parenthood to help pay for breast exams and other breast cancer related services at Planned Parenthood facilities.

Then, Republican Cliff Stearns, a Congressional representative from Florida, launched an inquirey against Planned Parenthood. This investigation is widely regarded as a senseless political move, a mean spirited attack on women and women’s health, and a bunch of crap.

Apparently, and the details are largely secret at this time, various Right Wing Christian forces went to work to pressure Koman into dropping its funding for Planned Parenthood, and Komen dutifully caved. They either made up or pulled out of their non-profit asses a rule that said that they can’t fund agencies that are under investigation by local, state, or federal agencies. Then, they interpreted this sham inquirey in Congress as an “investigation by a federal agency” which it is not.

And, thus, under the guise of following their sanctimonious rule, Komen stopped funding help for cancer screening and other breast cancer related services to countless poor and underprivileged women.

What can you do?

Then, after you’ve made yourself feel all good and like you’ve done something, actually DO SOMETHING:

  • Go here and make an emergency donation to Planned Parenthood to make up the shortfall.
  • Use the share buttons down below or any other means you’d like to let everyone you know that Komen has jumped the shark and will no longer be regarded as a valid charity by anyone who does not hate women.

What are you sitting there staring at this blog post for? GET MOVING ON THIS! NAO!!!11!!

Many of the details known so far are reported here.

Court Refuses To Intervene In North Carolina Prayer Case

Press Release from American’s United:

The U.S. Supreme Court today announced that it will not intervene in a controversy over sectarian prayer before meetings of the Forsyth County, N.C., Board of Commissioners.

The justices’ action leaves in place an appellate court decision barring the county from regularly opening its meetings with Christian invocations.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, one of the groups sponsoring the lawsuit, said the high court was right not to intervene.

Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, “When government meetings are opened regularly with Christian prayer, it sends the unmistakable message that non-Christians are second-class citizens in their own community. That’s unconstitutional, and it’s just plain wrong.

“All Americans ought to feel welcome at governmental meetings,” he continued. “The Constitution clearly forbids government to play favorites when it comes to religion.”

The record in the Joyner v. Forsyth County case indicates that 26 of the 33 invocations given from May 29, 2007, until Dec. 15, 2008, contained at least one reference to Jesus, Jesus Christ, Christ, Savior or the Trinity.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Janet Joyner and Constance Lynn Blackmon, two county residents and members of the Winston-Salem Chapter of Americans United. They are being represented by Americans United and the ACLU of North Carolina.

On July 29, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the county’s prayer practice is unconstitutional.

“Faith is as deeply important as it is deeply personal,” wrote Judge J. Harvey Wilkinson, “and the government should not appear to suggest that some faiths have it wrong and others got it right.”

Americans United Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan said the appeals court came to the correct conclusion.

“America is extremely diverse when it comes to religious opinion and government must respect that diversity,” Khan said. “Government preference for one faith over others is a recipe for social discord.”

Happy Martin Luther King Day

Today is Martin Luther King day. To celebrated it FTB.com style, I’ll give you the quote Melody Hensley just posted as her facebook status, Dr. King’s comments regarding a Supreme Court decision to ban school prayer:

I endorse it. I think it was correct. Contrary to what many have said, it sought to outlaw neither prayer nor belief in god. In a pluralistic society such as ours, who is to determine what prayer shall be spoken and by whom? Legally, constitutionally or otherwise, the state certainly has no such right.

Arrests in anti-church-state separation protest.

There were several arrests in New York City, including one councilmember and several pastors, in connection with protest against the eviction of religious groups from public school buildings.

Seven demonstrators, including Councilman Fernando Cabrera, were charged with trespass Thursday. Police say they refused to move from the entrance to the city’s Law Department in Manhattan.

The city has told about 60 churches they must stop holding worship services in public schools after Feb. 12. It argues separation of church and state and cites a court decision.

The New York Housing Authority, which is a federally funded agency administered by the city, is also renewing it’s church-in-the-public-buildings policy.

source

Flying Spaghetti Monster Strikes Again!

This time, at the lawn in front of the Leesburg County Court House in Virginia:

Beside a Christmas tree and creche sits a large banner with a nativity scene in which baby Jesus has been replaced by a plate of spaghetti with googly eyes. A crowd that includes pirates and gnomes surrounds Jesus. At the bottom its message reads “Touched by an Angelhair.” The scene is the work of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monsters.

Near the courthouse fence is another display whose sign reads ”Greetings From Your Friendly Local Atheists.” It’s message is about celebrating the Constitution and honoring the separation of church and state.

Elsewhere on the lawn, a skeleton in a Santa suit hangs on a cross.

abc

They killed Santa? Continue reading Flying Spaghetti Monster Strikes Again!

“Silent Night” Sung

I had earlier mentioned that Americans United sof Separation of Chruch and State had expressed concern over the singing of the song “Silent Night” in a school Christmas program; Well, the event carried out and the song was sung, and AU has no immediate plans.

Alex Luchenitser, associate legal director for Separation of Church and State, said Monday afternoon the group planned no action against the play, at least not this year.

“Nobody’s planning it at this time,” Luchenitser said. “We had a short time frame to address this, so we only had time to send a letter that we hoped would educate school officials about separation of church and state. We hope in the future they don’t do this again.”

Luchenitser said his group received a local complaint about the song. He said they have a policy against disclosing details about the complaint or revealing the identity of the complainant. Continue reading “Silent Night” Sung