This was originally published on Liberal America on August 17, 2017.
A group of over 4,000 faith leaders signed a petition to keep the Johnson Amendment in place.
The Johnson Amendment is a 60-plus-year-old tax code that prohibits churches from endorsing any political candidates or getting involved in any political campaigns.
The code directly reads:
“all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
Now, the amendment doesn’t prohibit all political activity in churches. Nonpartisan voter education activities and church-organized voter registration drives are perfectly legal. Churches are free to preach on social and political issues of concern. They can also publish “issue guides” as well.
The letter reads in part:
“Faith leaders are called to speak truth to power, and we cannot do so if we are merely cogs in partisan political machines. The prophetic role of faith communities necessitates that we retain our independent voice. The current law respects this independence and strikes the right balance: houses of worship that enjoy favored tax-exempt status may engage in advocacy to address moral and political issues, but they cannot tell people who to vote for or against.”
This is important to note that faith leaders are opposing the repeal because President Trump claimed to be speaking for them when he called for a repeal of the Johnson Amendment.
In February, President Donald Trump told the National Prayer Breakfast:
“I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.”
Opponents of the Johnson Amendment often cite free speech as a reason, but the motives behind it are often financial.
Repealing the Johnson Amendment would bring a lot more money into politics via church donations. This could turn churches into powerful political organizations.
This was originally published on Liberal America on June 23, 2017.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is demanding that a cross be removed from a Texas sheriff’s office.
A concerned local resident informed the FFRF about the cross that is prominently displayed outside of the Presidio County Sheriff’s office. The cross features an eagle clutching a police badge over a holstered gun. It reads “Peace” and “Grace.”
The inscription reads:
“The Lord will guide you always.”
FFRF Managing Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert writes to County Sheriff Danny Dominguez:
“The permanent display of a Latin cross in a government office is unconstitutional. The display of this patently religious symbol on public property confers government endorsement of Christianity, a blatant violation of the Establishment Clause.”
The cross is clearly visible to all visitors. It creates the false belief that the sheriff’s office is an arm of the Christian faith. It creates the troubling message that the 30 percent of Americans who are not Christian are not equal citizens.
The FFRF reports:
“The display is made more problematic by the imagery included on the cross. An eagle, a police badge, and a holstered gun together with a religious message, all on the cross, more transparently draws a connection between the Presidio County Sheriff’s Department and the Christian religion — creating an unambiguous endorsement of Christianity. The display sends the message that the sheriff’s department is an arm of the Christian faith, relegating non-Christian residents of Presidio County to second-class status and making those residents question law enforcement’s commitment to serve and protect them.”
FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor says:
“The Presidio County Sheriff’s Department is engaging in a blatant endorsement of Christianity. Non-Christian citizens cannot feel comfortable in the Sheriff’s Office with such an obviously Christian sign.”
This is not the first cross removal case this year. This month, a cross at a park in Pensacola, Florida was ruled unconstitutional and will be taken down by the city.
This was originally published on Liberal America on June 28, 2017.
As an atheist, there are many parts of the Bible that turn me off. The concept that atheists and other non-Christians have no understanding of the Bible is incorrect at best. Most atheists and non-Christians have a better knowledge and understanding of the Bible than many people who identify as Christian.
Here are just a few verses that turn off many other atheists as well:
1. Genesis 19:8
“See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.”
The person is offering up his daughters to get raped. Seriously? This is a book that people use to justify this type of abominable behavior?
2. Exodus 21:20-21
“And if a man beats his male or female servant with a rod so that he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished. Notwithstanding, if he remains alive a day or two, he shall not be punished; for he is his property.”
It is perfectly okay to beat your slave to death according to this. Just the fact that the “Good Book” condones slavery is a turn off for many people.
3. Leviticus 25:44-45
“And as for your male and female slaves whom you may have — from the nations that are around you, from them you may buy male and female slaves. Moreover you may buy the children of the strangers who dwell among you, and their families who are with you, which they beget in your land; and they shall become your property.”
This is another one about slaves. This is about buying and selling children. Granted, this is Old Testament… but still. To talk of the buying and selling of PEOPLE as property, and especially children, goes against our current societal norms and is appalling.
4. Deuteronomy 22:20-21
“But if the thing is true, and evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done a disgraceful thing in Israel, to play the harlot in her father’s house. So you shall put away the evil from among you.”
This one calls for women who have premarital sex to be stoned. This includes those women, as in the first example above, freely given to be raped by their own father. So they not only suffer the indignity of being raped – they get stoned to death afterward. At least they wouldn’t have had to worry about PTSD.
5. Psalm 137:9
“Happy the one who takes and dashes Your little ones against the rock!”
This could also be translated as “Blessed.” So, it is saying that it is perfectly okay to smash children against rocks.