Unenforceable ban on atheists holding public office still on the books in 8 states
This is an old story but after reading an article about a study [PDF] suggesting there are many atheists who don’t want to admit they’re atheists, I remembered reading about how a country which prides itself as a world leader in personal freedom still has laws banning atheists from public service.
My memory was correct, and that country is the United States. Oyez, which publishes Supreme Court resources including audio of oral arguments, has a great page on the 1960 case which declared such laws unconstitutional (as if anyone should have needed the Supreme Court to tell them that…).
In Torcaso v. Watkins, the Court held unanimously that, quoting Oyez:
such a requirement places the state of Maryland firmly on the side of those people who believe in God and are willing to state their belief. With this requirement, Maryland effectively aids religions that profess a belief in God at the expense of any other form of belief or disbelief. The First Amendment expressly prohibits a state from taking this position. Although the candidate has the option of not pursuing public office rather than declaring a belief in God, the test is an unconstitutional encroachment on the freedom of religion.
So these laws aren’t enforceable, but the fact that they’re still on the books is an affront to the Constitution and should embarrass any lawmaker who claims to respect that Constitution.
Tim Cook: Pro-discrimination ‘religious freedom’ laws are dangerous
Tim Cook, in an op-ed at the Washington Post:
Our message, to people around the country and around the world, is this: Apple is open. Open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. Regardless of what the law might allow in Indiana or Arkansas, we will never tolerate discrimination.
I admire the visible positions Cook is taking on more and more issues these days.
The Hidden War Against Gay Teens
Alex Morris wrote a great piece at Rolling Stone about what can only be called the social abuse being perpetrated at Christian schools.
You should know before you read the quote below that “they” refers to the leadership of one of the Christian schools discussed in Morris’ article:
“They found out she was a lesbian, and they made her go in front of the entire school and tell them,” says Tristan. “And then they kicked her out the next day.”
I was raised Catholic.
I know the Bible inside and out.
I read it twice, cover to cover, in addition to about 16 years of Catholic-affiliated schooling.
I know Catholicism and other forms of Christianity are sometimes mutually unintelligible.
But there is nothing, absolutely nothing, Christian about behavior like that by an adult authority figure.
To out someone against their will, before their peers, only to cast them out afterward, as a means to teach them they are inferior, is the very definition if evil.
It is petty, resentful and indicative of a disgusting superiority complex coupled with a total lack of moral intelligence.
Veganism as religious belief
I must admit that I never thought about it in that light, but I’d love to read the plaintiff’s essay.
Student loses suit over school ID requirement
Wired‘s David Kravets reports that:
The girl’s father, Steven, wrote the school district explaining why removing the chip wasn’t good enough, that the daughter should be free from displaying the card altogether. “‘We must obey the word of God,” the father said, according to court documents. “By asking my daughter and our family to participate and fall in line like the rest of them is asking us to disobey our Lord and Savior.”
Unfortunately, in the modern American climate of violence, it’s hard to support someone who refuses to wear an ID, especially with the the tracking removed by the school. You can download the 25-page ruling as a PDF document here.
“Gay conversion” snake-oil salesmen taken to court
Erik Eckholm, reporting for the New York Times:
Referred to Jonah by a rabbi when he was 18, Mr. Levin began attending weekend retreats at $650 each. For a year and a half, he had weekly private sessions with Mr. Downing as well as weekly group sessions. He quit, he said, after Mr. Downing had him remove his clothes and touch himself, saying it would help him reconnect with his masculinity. Mr. Goldberg has defended Mr. Downing’s methods as sometimes appropriate for men dealing with body image problems.
Golberg and Downing have no license to practice psychology or therapy. They took money from men in exchange for the promise of “curing” their homosexuality. And, as this passage demonstrates, Downing took advantage of at least one young man’s vulnerability.
Conversion “therapy” is one of religion’s dark arts, with no basis in reality and the primary purpose of enriching cynical snake-oil salesmen by feeding off the self-hatred of confused individuals. No god wants you removing your clothes and touching yourself for a fake “therapist.”
Sadly, the California ban on this absurd abuse of religion only applies to licensed therapists. This would leave “religious counselors” like the scum described in this story able to continue to profit from the desperation of people who can’t live with the thought that their god will hate them if they’re true to who they are.
If you think gay people need to seek healing in the form of getting “un-gayed,” you’ll get no respect from me.