Hey folks! It sure has been awhile since I posted, and for that I am sorry. I will admit I was burnt out from writing 5 posts in one week in addition to my wedding planning biz, my day job, and freelance work. Lesson learned.
So today to get back into the swing of things here at Secularly Wed, I held my very first Facebook Live stream in the Secularly Wed Community. It went ok I guess, despite having a hard time reading my notes, the screen not rotating when I recorded, bees buzzing nearby, and quite a few nervous “um” and “uh”s here and there. So basically it was a hot mess! I hope next time goes better… at least I did it, the first time is bound to be less than perfect.
In the FB Live video, I discussed two major issues which I expand on in this post, so even if you didn’t see the video, you can read about them here! And if you aren’t in the group yet, get on over there!
Trinity Lutheran Supreme Court Decision
Last week the supreme court decided in favor of Trinity Lutheran in their case claiming they were discriminated against because of their religion when they were denied a grant to make improvements to their playground. Seemed pretty cut and dry to me that of course they can’t have a state funded grant – they are a church and that would be giving taxpayer money to fund religious projects. Right? Well, it was a sad day for the separation of church and state… the supreme court decided 7-2 that the church was discriminated against and should have received the grant. Only Justice Sotomayor and Justice Ginsberg, were on our side.
True, this Court has found some direct government funding of religious institutions to be consistent with the Establishment Clause. But the funding in those cases came with assurances that public funds would not be used for religious activity, despite the religious nature of the institution.
The Church has not and cannot provide such assurances here… The Church has a religious mission, one that it pursues through the Learning Center. The playground surface cannot be confined to secular use any more than lumber used to frame the Church’s walls, glass stained and used to form its windows, or nails used to build its altar. -Justice Sotomayor
Why does this matter and why do we need to care? While a playground may not seem like a big deal, and certainly could benefit non-religious families, but the fact of the matter is that this grant frees up money for the church to spend more on its overtly religious missions. It also acts as magnet to entice families into the church. But most importantly, this sets a precedent for other churches to claim discrimination when they are denied grants for similar or bigger projects.
Atheists and non-religious folks are often content to look the other way and just get by and get along with our Christian neighbors while they continuously ask for exceptions to the rules. By brushing this off as “just a playground” we are saying “OK churches, go ahead and use our tax dollars (that you don’t contribute to) to build your own shit.”
If churches paid taxes, that would be another story… they would be just as entitled to that money as a school or other secular non-profit. But they don’t pay taxes. So that should be the end of the story.
Next time you find yourself thinking, it’s’ just a playground, stop for a moment and imagine your kid or friend’s kid coming home and asking to go to VBS this summer because so-and-so church has the best playground and all your friends are going.
Recent threats against atheists (and our statues?)
Ok, now the next thing we need to talk about is just straight up bonkers and a bit upsetting honestly.
There is a woman in Tennessee who has been not-so-subtly threatening violence against atheists because she is apparently outraged over the installation of a statue of Clarence Darrow – the famed lawyer who argued for the side of science and evolution in the “Scopes Monkey Trial.” This is something that should be a non-issue. He is a historical figure and important to the history of the courthouse, and there is already a statue of William Jennings Bryan who argued for the state (and in turn for fundamentalist Christianity) in the case! Plus, the statues were both privately funded, so there isn’t even the argument about misuse of tax dollars!
But when Hemant Mehta of the Friendly Atheist called up this women, she refused to say that she would not resort to violence and not bring guns to the statues unveiling. Her own Facebook page is full of violent rhetoric and clear threats against non-Christians.
Friendly Atheist covered this story very thoroughly on their podcast last Friday, and I recommend you visit their site or listen to the episode to get the full story.
Had anyone other than a white Christian been saying this kind of stuff, they would have the Police and FBI on them so fast and they would either be in custody or dead.
Instead, people that associate with her are making excuses, saying she doesn’t mean it, that she wouldn’t hurt a fly, etc… etc…
And you know what, maybe it is all talk. Maybe she has no real intention of carrying out violence against non-Christians, but my point is that if this was a person of color or a Muslim, law enforcement would not be taking this chance.
We also had a lawyer for the American Humanist Association who was doxxed and receiving threats and slurs from Christians who were mad that a huge cross in a Florida park has to be removed. Seriously, why do so many Christians think that this behavior is OK?
What this all has to do with us.
So why do I bring this up in a group that is about secular wedding planning. Well it’s all part of the bigger picture in our society where religious groups and people are centered and consistently given special privileges. Then when we ask for the right to be married by someone who represents our beliefs, we are told to jump through hoops and hope that our officiant is legally allowed to marry us. OR We are told we are being selfish or wrong for wanting weddings that represent our values and not those of our family or community.
All these issues matter and impact one another. I want to close with another quote from Justice Sotomayor’s dissent discussing what is becoming of separation of church and state in this country.
If this separation means anything, it means that the government cannot, or at the very least need not, tax its citizens and turn that money over to houses of worship. The Court today blinds itself to the outcome this history requires and leads us instead to a place where separation of church and state is a constitutional slogan, not a constitutional commitment.
I do plan to do more Facebook Live episodes in the Secularly Wed Community… maybe I can make this a bi-weekly thing! I would love to hear your thoughts! Bye for now!