Separation of church and state: no, you may not advertise your religion to your pupils

The Supreme Court issued an order yesterday denying certiorari to Johnson v. Poway Unified School District. In Johnston, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that a California public school did not violate Mr. Johnston’s right to freedom of speech by ordering him to remove a large banner in his classroom with several references to God such as “God Bless America” and “God shed His grace on thee.”

The 9th Circuit stated: “We consider whether a public school district infringes the First Amendment liberties of one of its teachers when it orders him not to use his public position as a pulpit from which to preach his own views on the role of God in our Nation’s history to the captive students in his mathematics classroom. The answer is clear: it does not.”

The Supreme Court has denied an appeal of this decision without comment.

Here’s a link to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision, Johnson v. Poway Unified School District.

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U.S. ‘Defense of Marriage’ Act ruled unconstitutional

A U. Federal District court has ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and that  a same-sex married couple is entitled to the same employment benefits as other married couples.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White was the first since the Obama administration announced a year ago that it would no longer defend a law it considers discriminatory….

Ironically, the plaintiff, Karen Golinski, is an attorney for the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Defense of Marriage Act prohibits the extension of federal benefits to same-sex spouses and Golinski’s wife, Amy Cunninghis, had been repeatedly denied coverage since the couple married in 2008.

“The court finds that DOMA, as applied to Ms. Golinski, violates her right to equal protection of the law … without substantial justification or rational basis,” wrote White.

The judge was appointed by George W. Bush.

White’s ruling echoed that of a Massachusetts judge who in 2010 deemed parts of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, a case now on appeal before the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.

A Republican group had argued that the law protects “traditional” marriage.

In his 43-page ruling, White said “tradition alone” doesn’t justify legislation that targets a vulnerable social group. “The obligation of the court is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code,” White wrote.

The Republican congressional group can appeal, but any appeal

… would go through the 9th Circuit, where Chief Judge Alex Kozinski has already ruled in administrative orders that the federal government’s refusal to provide benefits to Golinski’s spouse violates her rights.

Separation of church and state

Quoting Debbie Weisman Clasie:

In 1948, Vashti McCollum won her case at the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) level in favor of Separation of Church and State. She must have been thrilled that it was over. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

I’ll bet when Dr. Ellery Schempp won his case in 1963, he was relieved it was over. But, again, it wasn’t.

Sydell Stone was probably delighted in 1980 that the SCOTUS found in his favor of the Separation of Church and State and, again, that it was over. But it still wasn’t.

In 1985 Ishmael Jaffree won his case, and was likely satisfied with the result and relieved it was over. You’re probably catching on…it wasn’t.

I can guarantee that in 1992 when Lee v. Weisman was decided by the SCOTUS, the plaintiffs were thrilled, relieved, delighted and satisfied that it was over. Yup, yet again, it wasn’t.

While it’s frustrating that the same, logical arguments seem to need to be made repeatedly, I personally take comfort in knowing that we have brave young people in this country like Jessica Ahlquist, Damon Fowler and Krystal Myers to continue to fight this fight.

While some of these plaintiffs/victims are atheist and some are not, there are (at least) two things they all have in common: they were fighting FOR the constitution and they won.

Jessica, Damon and Krystal: We know it’s hard to be in the minority and in the spotlight, but we hope you draw strength and comfort from the MANY of us who agree with you. We ♥ you and support you.

Another case was Engel v. Vitale in 1962, a landmark United States Supreme Court case that determined that it is unconstitutional for state officials to compose an official school prayer and encourage its recitation in public schools.

Dennis Markuze wrap-up

From Tim Farley’s History of Mabus:

Phil Plait gave a report to a sheriff by telephone. Michael Shermer told me he obtained a restraining order to ensure Mabus would stay clear of him. Canadian skeptic Steve Thoms and blogger Greg Laden also filed reports. There are no doubt others.

On February 10, 2011 I was finally able to get a copy of my report from yet another Atlanta Police office across town. I quickly took it to a local print shop and faxed it to the Montreal Police.

And nothing happened. For me or for anyone else.”

PZ Myers filed a complaint (Time to Institutionalize Dennis Markuze).

After many complaints during which the police did nothing, an e-mail petition finally got the Montreal Police off their duffs.

Kyle VanderBeek, a skeptic who works for change.org in San Francisco. Kyle saw those tweets with the emails in them, and knew he had a potential tool right at his fingertips. He created a petition titled “Montreal Police: Take “Mabus” death threats seriously” and configured it to send responses directly to the SPVM public email addres.”

While I’m waiting to hear the results of the 30-day psychiatric evaluation of Dennis Markuze, AKA David Mabus, to see if he’s too crazy to stand trial, here is a list of Dennis Markuze summaries:

“Mabus” isn’t the only Crazy Canadian by any means.

And now I’m waiting to hear about Makuze’s next appearance in court.

Lawsuits dismissed: complainant is delusional

Serial litigant Toni Patricia Irons Burley’s suits against U.S. government and President Obama were dismissed. Six of her lawsuits were dismissed by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon. The linked article has links to the judgements. Two of them contain these statements:

A complaint may be dismissed under 28 U.S.c. § 1915(e)(2) as frivolous when it describes fantastic or delusional scenarios, contains “fanciful factual allegation[s],” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319,325 (1989), or lacks “an arguable basis in law and fact.” Brandon v. District of Columbia Bd. of Parole, 734 F.2d 56, 59 (D.C. Cir. 1984). This complaint qualifies for such treatment. A separate Order of dismissal accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.

The other says this:

Pro se litigants must comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Jarrell v. Tisch, 656 F. Supp. 237, 239 (D.D.C. 1987). Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires complaints to contain “( 1) a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court’s jurisdiction [and] (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a); see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009); Ciralsky v. CIA, 355 F.3d 661, 668-71 (D.C. Cir. 2004). The Rule 8 standard ensures that defendants receive fair notice of the claim being asserted so that they can prepare a responsive answer and an adequate defense and determine whether the doctrine of res judicata applies. Brown v. Califano, 75 F.R.D. 497, 498 (D.D.C. 1977).

Plaintiff, a resident of Kingston, New York, sues the United States, President Barack Obama “and administration,” and the State of New York. She seeks $60 million “and property and land back.” Compl. at 3. In the complaint, plaintiff mentions fraud, bribery, conspiracy, and constitutional violations, but she states no coherent facts to provide any notice of a claim. A separate Order of dismissal accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.

I hope that she can get some medical help.

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Dennis Markuze threats reported in 2009

In September, 2009, Prof. PZ Myers asked for advice on how to report death threats from Canada:

  • Time to activate Team Canada! “He’s leaving a few hundred threatening messages a day, which I clean up as I find them, and has also said he is emailing these threats to every individual member of my university (I haven’t verified that he has yet, but he has done so in the past). I’d say he is just another deranged spammer, except that he’s been escalating lately — the messages have become more personal and much more violent. …— at some point he’s going to snap and cause harm to himself or others, and investigators will look with considerable alarm at the rising tide of hysterical threats he has been posting and wonder why no one did anything…. I think he’s too scrambled up in the head to make the concerted effort necessary to get all the way to Morris, Minnesota (and I have mentioned him to the local police), so I’m not barricading my doors — but he has loudly announced his desire to commit mass murder. I think the innocent residents of Ottawa or Montreal (it’s not clear where he lives) are in some danger.”   PZ got lots of good advice in the comments.
  • And he acted on them: Update on Dennis Markuze. “I gathered together all of the crazy posts he made over the course of one evening, and printed them out in very small print — it made for a small 61 page book, which would be impressive if it weren’t so repetitive and vapid. I took it down to the local police station, along with what little we know about Markuze’s addresses, IP numbers, email, and phone numbers, and plopped it down in front of a police officer….. It is now entirely in the hands of law enforcement, and all further complaints will wend their ponderous way through official channels. Our local police will talk to the Montreal police and alert them to the loon on a hair trigger in their midst, and will also alert national law agencies.” Too bad the Montreal Police can still confidently say: “NOBODY EVER COMPLAINED BEFORE!”

What makes PZ angry

The face of a bearded, cheerful, middle-aged man with the Thames river and London in the background

PZ Myers

Science blogger and outspoken atheist PZ Myers is often accused of insulting religious people just for being religious. But that isn’t so. He has no problem with people who have a quiet religious belief and mind their own business, except insofar as they legitimize religious extremists. He is angry at people who do things like this:

  • Accommodate and collaborate with genocidal invaders to protect their church (e.g., the Pope in World War II)
  • Act as an arbiter of morals while sinning egregiously and harmfully
  • Act as if God is a person with opinions that match theirs when trying to impose religious rules but fall back on an impersonal universe as God when called on it.
  • Advocate against someone else’s right to make their own decision in a situation they themselves will never be in
  • Allow honour killing— killing girls and women to restore a family’s “honour”
  • Argue against straw men and never feel obliged to discover the truth
  • Assume that God is talking to them and not to anyone who disagrees with them
  • Assume that they are blessed by God because of their good fortune in where they were born
  • Assume that women are sexual temptresses and so regard them in a predatory manner
  • Beat, arrest, or rape women who, accidentally or otherwise, show an ankle or some other body part
  • Beg the question and claim that their scripture is true because it’s the word of God and it says it’s true
  • Believe men’s testimony over women’s in court because God says so
  • Believe that wine and crackers are miraculously turned into the body and blood of a god and denigrating those who don’t believe
  • Bestow on themselves the title of “Father” while raping children
  • Bilk people out of their money
  • Blame and punish women who are raped for having sex
  • Blame the victims of random misfortune for bringing it on themselves
  • Blame their religious indignation on the people who offended them by not following the exact same rules and holding the exact same opinions
  • Bomb or kill for religion
  • Care more about reputation than truth
  • Cite one of the same twenty refuted creationist arguments that depend on mis-stating what evolutionary theory is or predicts, for the 1000th time.
  • Close their eyes to the actual consequences of their religiously based policies
  • Codify an attitude that women are unclean and children are the property of their parents
  • Collect money for charity but spend it on themselves or the church
  • Collect money for missionary work that is amounts to a free vacation for the missionary
  • Commit murder at the command of a religious authority or conspire to make others do so or protect the murderers
  • Conduct their own genocide among the peoples of other countries
  • Conduct literal witch hunts
  • Consider the suffering of a child abuser more than the suffering of his victims
  • Continue counting people who have left their religion, when arguing for their religion because of its popularity
  • Continue to house children together for church-based education although that allows deadly diseases to spread among them (Canadian residential schools)
  • Convert slaves to Christianity but deny them marriage and destroy their families
  • Convince people that they are so fundamentally sinful and flawed that they commit suicide
  • Convince people that they’re tainted by original sin to get money and obedience for “curing” them
  • Count favourable coincidences as miracles
  • Cover up for and protect rapists who raped children
  • Crush someone else’s culture to impose religion on them
  • Decide that God allows them to cheat someone of another religion
  • Declare that atheism is a religion when arguing that it’s a matter of opinion but that it’s not when applying the right of Freedom of Religion (the exact opposite of the truth)
  • Declare that their kind of religiously sanctioned family is the only real kind
  • Declare themselves to be insulted, traumatized and hated if someone dares to disagree with them
  • Define women as evil or inferior
  • Degrade someone of another religion and then despise them for being degraded
  • Demand that people who don’t believe as they do nevertheless obey all their religion’s rules anyway
  • Denigrate the qualifications of those they disagree with
  • Deny civil rights to other people
  • Deny medical care to children while praying for a miracle
  • Deny that their religion is largely an accident of where they were born and how they were brought up
  • Deny the role of human nature in the formation of religions
  • Deny women access to medical care for religious reasons, e.g. the doctor is male
  • Deny women the right to be morally autonomous human beings
  • Despise sex and sexuality so much that they mistreat prostitutes and unwed mothers (and babysitters cousins and neighbours and aunts!)
  • Discourage critical thinking and questioning because that might undermine their religion
  • Discriminate against people (students, colleagues, business owners, etc.) who do not profess the same religion
  • Disguise racism and xenophobia as secularism in banning other people’s religious symbols and customs
  • Distort the meaning of “miracle” so that any favourable event in a disaster is proof of God
  • Don’t bother with medical care for people in their so-called hospitals but get the best modern medicine for themselves (‘Mother’ Teresa)
  • Drive young men out of the community so there will be more young women for high-status men
  • Encourage the subjugation and oppression of women in private and public
  • Enshrine institutional antisemitism
  • Expel family members because of religious reasoning
  • Fail to notice that “love me or I will torture you forever” is a sick relationship
  • Fail to report crimes, breaking the law and denying morality, because it would tarnish the reputation of the church or lessen church authority
  • Fail to take responsibility for their own lust, but project it onto the objects of their lust
  • Feel free to tell people what those people worship, think, and feel based on their own prejudices
  • Feel free to tell unbelievers that they are monsters of immorality who only want the freedom to sin, yet not notice what that says about their own morals
  • Find it easier to believe that a wafer is God than that their God is a cruel tyrant
  • Force mandatory motherhood on women unwilling and unprepared to be parents
  • Force themselves and their opinions into people’s most intimate, private, and personal decisions
  • Force women to wear concealing, hot, uncomfortable clothing
  • Forget that Jesus was a Jew and that antisemitic passages were added to the Bible by early Christian groups squabbling amongst themselves
  • Forgive the criminal but not his victim
  • Frighten defenceless children with horror stories, to control them
  • Frighten people so much that they kill their families or commit suicide or both
  • Hypocritically command people not to do something that they do themselves
  • Ignore the fact that prayers are magic spells and miracles would be magic if they occurred
  • Incite hatred of others because of religion
  • Infiltrate governing bodies solely to insert a religious influence
  • Insist, against all evidence, that sexual orientation is a choice so they can blame people for it
  • Insult, cheat, mistreat, or kill people who believe in other religions.
  • Interfere with medical and family decisions because of religion
  • Invent divine revelations to justify taking what their want (hello, Joseph Smith Jr.!)
  • Justify beating children because it’s in the bible
  • Justify slavery but ignore the Biblical injunction to free slaves after seven years
  • Justify thrashing women because God said so
  • Justify wasting the Earth’s resources and ecosystems because God said they were Man’s playtoy
  • Keep a job as a religious authority when they don’t believe because they want the soft living and the money
  • Keep a woman a prisoner to protect her purity
  • Keep arguing without ever looking at relevant evidence
  • Kill girls who might disgrace the family or who disobey their fathers
  • Kill innocent people over the images of a religious figure
  • Kill someone because they are an atheist
  • Kill someone whom they think is a homosexual
  • Kill someone whom they think is a witch
  • Harm someone who is obeying the laws of the land, which differs from the believer’s interpretation of his religion
  • Kill someone for their magic parts
  • Kill, threaten, or believe it’s a duty to kill non-believers who criticize their religion
  • Kill, threaten, or believe it’s a duty to kill people who leave their religion
  • Let religion interfere with government for the good of all people
  • Let religion interfere with sanitary practices in medical care
  • Let women’s health suffer because of religion
  • Lie about scientists who are trying to do an honest job of finding out the truth about the universe
  • Lie about the effectiveness of condoms in preventing STDs or about what condoms do
  • Lie and misrepresent their purposes because of religious motivations (like the makers of Expelled)
  • Lie, slander, misquote, misrepresent scientists who are trying to do an honest job of finding out the truth about the universe
  • Limit children’s education so that they will not learn that their religion is illogical and unrealistic or that there is a wider world beyond their home culture
  • Live rich while their parishioners are poor
  • Make a profit on suffering
  • Make people ashamed or guilty over normal activities such as masturbation or sex
  • Make predictions that cause people to ruin their lives, give away their money, and harm their families
  • Make procreation a religious duty to increase the number of their followers
  • Make religion the basis of xenophobia
  • Make religion the justification for genocide
  • Misrepresent the opinions of scientists by quote-mining, especially across different topics
  • Mis-state scientific facts to bolster their arguments (AKA the Behe Blunder)
  • Move abusers to remote areas because they will escape the notice of authorities (Canadian churches in Yukon Territory)
  • Move the goalposts in an argument because their God can’t be allowed to lose
  • Name children, politicians, or others as witches or evil beings to enhance or support their reputation or power
  • Pass blasphemy laws
  • Pass laws based on religion, to be imposed on everyone regardless of religion
  • Pass laws that kill women by denying them medical care
  • Persist in sinning without making restitution to their victims because God forgives them every time
  • Persist in using arguments that have been disproved for them before
  • Physically assault someone in church for walking back to his seat without swallowing his wafer
  • Pick and choose which Biblical verses to obey and despise others who choose different verses
  • Picket, harass, intimidate, threaten, or harm anyone who wants to have or provide a safe, legal abortion
  • Practise symbolic cannibalism but refuse to acknowledge it
  • Presume to dictate morals to the world when they are child rapists and protectors of abusers
  • Pretend that the basis for evolutionary theory is argument from authority
  • Promote a false dichotomy between creationism and evolutionary theory
  • Promulgate religious ideas that cause people to harm their children or their families or to break up families
  • Protect, hide, and move child rapists so that they can continue their crimes
  • Punish people that they said God would punish
  • Rape or abuse children, wards, orphans, nuns, patients, employees, members of the congregation, or anyone else
  • Refuse to take people off their membership list when they want to leave
  • Regard the number of wives they have as points for gaining status in Heaven
  • Reject people unless those people reject their basic nature
  • Remain ignorant of history
  • Rewrite history to make their religion look good
  • Riot because their God is offended
  • Sanctify the fetus and the fertilized egg to the point that women’s health is harmed
  • Sell useless cures (miracles, prayer mats, holy water) that cost money and delay reality-based treatment
  • Sentence people to death for crimes against religion or gods
  • Shun, reject, insult, or kill people who don’t believe in their religion
  • Stifle and deny women’s talents for leadership
  • Subvert justice to protect the reputation of the church
  • Take a religious tax exemption and then meddle in politics
  • Take every later addition to their scriptures inserted by someone with a point to prove as part of an original, inerrant text
  • Teach bad logic and rationalization to justify religion to children
  • Tell people that they are so flawed that they might as well kill themselves—especially when they also teach that suicide is a sin
  • Tell unbelievers that they will burn in hell rfor eternity and don’t notice that is a threat and an insult.
  • Terrify children with tales of damnation and divine punishment
  • Think it’s OK to kill people who don’t follow their religion’s rules (e.g. people who allow abortion or eat beef)
  • Think that men are more valuable than women because God said so.
  • Think that they are always right because God agrees with them
  • Threaten violence or death—justified by religion—to those who displease them
  • Train children to think that they have sinned when something goes wrong
  • Try to control other people’s, especially women’s, lives by religiously inspired laws or feelings of guilt
  • Try to exorcise people or drive out demons instead of getting medical or psychiatric help for them or just realizing that disagreeing with parental authority isn’t demonic
  • Try to discredit science because it contradicts their religion
  • Try to force pregnancy on unwilling woman as punishment for the sin of having sex
  • Try to sabotage education
  • Undermine the credibility of sexual assault victims when they know that the assaulter is guilty
  • Urge people to give more to their religion than they can properly afford
  • Use 30,000 women and girls as slave labour for the Church as punishment for having sex (Irish laundries)
  • Use brainwashing techniques such as sleep deprivation and hours of haranguing on their children
  • Use confidence tricks and spying to convince people that they have insights from God
  • Use “divine revelation” to con young women into marriage with an assigned partner
  • Use religion as the excuse for dwelling on other people’s sex lives
  • Use religion to justify homophobia
  • Use religion to justify polygamy
  • Use religion to justify prejudice, social exclusion, political disenfranchisement, etc.
  • Use religion to justify slavery, either as a Biblical institution or to save slaves’ imaginary souls
  • Use religion to justify wars
  • Use religion to limit other people’s choice of occupation (e.g. women, Jews)
  • Use religion to maintain the ancient tradition that fathers own their children and may kill them
  • Use religion to oppress women in a myriad of ways and renew that oppression with each generation
  • Use rhetorical fallacies in anti-evolution arguments
  • Use standard denialist tactics against science
  • Use their influence to block disease prevention measures because their religion makes them want to punish sexual activity (e.g. condoms in Africa, HPV vaccine everywhere)
  • Value women less than men because it’s in their holy scriptures
  • Waste other people’s time, energy, and tax dollars by promoting their religion’s point of view
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