Would a Christian symbol on a gun keep a Muslim from buying it? Florida gun manufacturer Spike’s Tactical hopes so. One side of the AR-15 Crusader rifle selling for $1,395 has a bible verse, Psalms 144:1, and the other side shows a Knights Templar symbol of a cross inside a shield. During the Crusades, Knights of the Templar became extremely rich, controlling huge tracts of land and creating a financial lending system. The rifle’s safety selector has three settings: Peace, War, and God Wills It. Thus far, of the over 250 mass killings in the United States thus far in 2015, one involved a self-proclaimed Muslim.
Bakers and government officials aren’t the only people to refuse service on the basis of “religious beliefs.” The TD Bank in Cranford (NJ) denied notarization services last year to American Atheists, a charitable organization. The group’s president, Dave Silverman, and managing director, Amanda Knief, were asked to describe the documents that they wanted notarized and were then told that the employee could not complete the transaction. As a notary, the employee represents the state and deemed to be a “public servant.” The law requires notaries to be impartial witnesses to the signing of documents and the acknowledgement of signatures on documents. The American Association of Notaries states:
“The Notary shall not refuse to perform a lawful and proper notarial act because of the signer’s race, nationality, ethnicity, citizenship, religion, politics, lifestyle, age, disability, gender or sexual orientation, or because of disagreement with the statements or purpose of a lawful document.”
The prejudice evidenced by religious officials has escalated within the past year. After Oregon legalized marriage equality, Marion County Circuit Judge Vance Day (Salem) declared that he would no longer perform marriages because his religion would not allow marrying same-gender couples. To be clear, judges are not required to perform marriages, but Day deliberately said he would deny same-gender couples because of his “deeply held religious beliefs.” According to Patrick Korten, previously public affairs representative for the U.S. Justice Department and chair of the Oregon Republican Party, Day “has a right to those beliefs under the United States Constitution.”
An ethics investigation of Day was announced after he asked for permission to create a legal funding for expenses to defend himself. The investigating group is the state Commission on Judicial Fitness and Disability, separate from the ethics commission. One question about Day is whether his beliefs would influence any cases involving LGBT people and/or issues.
Officials claim that they can deny people services because someone else will do it. Yet this “cherry-picking” of duties creates a “conscience creep.” Ultimately, if no one is available or willing when the services are needed, people are denied their legal rights. Short of that, they are humiliated by the refusals.
As more states subsidize Christian schools with public taxes, the students become subjected to more ignorance and bigotry. An example is this statement from an American history textbook published by Bob Jones University Press and purchased by taxpayer funds that is used in many schools.
“The [Ku Klux] Klan in some areas of the country tried to be a means of reform, fighting the decline in morality and using the symbol of the cross… In some communities it achieved a certain respectability as it worked with politicians.”
More examples are here, including the statement that President Bill Clinton won in 1992 because of “an imaginary economic crisis created by the media.” Also children are taught that “science proves homosexuality is a learned behavior” and, of course, humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs. One I hadn’t heard is that a Japanese fishing boat captured a dinosaur.
High school football practice started last month, and the First Baptist Church of Villa Rica (GA) performed a mass baptism for the football coach and several players before a school-sanctioned practice session on school grounds. The church posted a video to YouTube with the message that “God is STILL in our schools!” The video is gone, but the Carroll County School District is investigating the violation of church and state. (The pastor said that the baptism didn’t violate any laws because it was before practice.) Another Georgia school was investigated last year after it daily forced Christian prayers on elementary school students.
The Gilbert Public School District (AZ) decided not to cut pages out of the Advanced Placement biology textbooks that taught biological information. Now teachers are ordering students to put stickers with this information into the books:
“The Gilbert Public School District supports the state of Arizona’s strong interest in promoting childbirth and adoption over elective abortion. The District is also in support of promoting abstinence as the most effective way to eliminate the potential for unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. If you have questions concerning sexual intercourse, contraceptives, pregnancy, or abortion, we encourage you to speak with your parents.”
While fundamentalist Christians are forcing their belief on others, they oppose education about other cultures. For 15 years, Sharon Peters had used Muslim clothing for women such as an abaya and a burka, to teach students in the town of Lumberton, 100 miles east of Houston, how wearing these items restrict the ability to see. Texas requires schools to teach about religions as part of world geography and world history, but In 2013 people attacked the teacher of 39 years, accusing her of corrupting children. The 63-year-old woman retired. Lumberton is a “white flight” town where the KKK has been active and people openly admit they don’t want “to live near blacks.”
Even students are declaring that they don’t want to learn about anyone different. Duke University freshman David Grasso has announced that he won’t read Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, recommended reading for incoming students. In this graphic memoir, the lesbian author describes her life with her closeted gay father. Grasso calls the book pornographic and claims that reading it would violate his Christian beliefs. He patterns his complaints on many other statements from students: a book, class, teacher, speaker, whatever threatens identity and beliefs.
Grasso’s refusal to follow guidelines set down by the university follows the insistence from some GOP presidential candidates that people should not follow the law if they don’t like it. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) used David Barton’s Wallbuilders email list to tell thousands of pastors that they should preach against Planned Parenthood and push Congress to shut down the government is PP is not defunded. The sermon uses lies to manipulate congregations to pressure Congress. Far beyond the false belief that Christianity is running the country, the message that leaders of congregations should do political lobbying violates religious groups’ IRS tax-exempt status:
“An organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.”
Preaching sermons to pressure the Congress is a violation of churches’ 501(c)3 rules. They need to make a decision: either pay taxes as required for lobbying groups or stop its involvement in the political process. Groups that want to avoid paying taxes need to stop stumping for candidates and legislation.
Mike Huckabee is telling all and sundry that Kim Davis doesn’t need to obey the law because the Supreme Court cannot make laws. The Supreme Court, however, has judicial review, the power to strike down laws passed by federal and state legislatures, if these violate basic principles in the Constitution. The history of the Supreme Court’s striking down state laws goes back to 1796, and the only way that the federal government can override a Supreme Court decision is through a constitutional amendment, as in the case of the Dred Scott decision. Basically, Huckabee is telling Davis to break the law of the land.
One useful piece of religion—if it works—comes from Jackson (MS) where Mayor Tony Yarber claims that prayer can fix the town’s potholes. Steve Williams (Huntington, WV) used prayer in an attempt to solve the heroin use epidemic a year ago but apparently with little success. No report from Yarber yet, but it’s been only two weeks.