Keep Church In Church!


I've been listening to the Judge Katanji Brown Jackson confirmation hearings, not all of it, but when I get the chance. From all accounts and all I'm hearing, she is a brilliant jurist and will make a great Supreme Court Justice. And, the GOP has not let us down in behaving like a bunch of Revivalist Tent Preachers with one hand on their Bible and one on a rope. They don their turbans like religious fanatics and begin to berate whoever is sitting in the hot seat in their hearings.

Today, I listened to one of the Senators, I missed his name and won't waste any time finding it out, but I can tell you that it was right around 10:30 am PST and shortly before they were breaking for lunch. This Senator, cruising through the GOP minefield of issues like abortion, asked about a court case where a high school was told to stop praying on the football field.

We had a similar case here in Washington a few years back, and that coach lost his job for refusing to have the players kneel in prayer. Judge Jackson did not go for the bait and, as she has done repeatedly in these hearings, explained that each case has to be looked at on the merits of the case and the arguments for and against before reaching a decision. She didn't say it, but I will; we are talking about a court of law, not a Senate hearing where any sawdust-brained fool can say anything they want to appeal to their voters.

Freedom of religion also implies freedom from religion. This has parallels with sexual harassment in the workplace. You can sit in a bar and say nasty shit to a woman, and hopefully, you'll get knocked on your ass, but beyond that, the rude bastard that said something has no control over you. In the workplace, especially if you're a boss, you damn well better be careful. Why? Because you are the boss, you dolt! You have power over that person; you can give them a raise or make their life a living hell; you are the authority figure in the workplace, and the mere suggestion of anything takes on a whole different context than the idiot in the bar.

In sports, and especially for athletes under, say, 22, there is no higher authority than your coach. Athletes probably fear their coach more than their parents or the police. There is fear no matter how much the coach may say that prayer at practice, in the locker room, or wherever, is voluntary. The mere fact that the coach places such importance on prayer communicates to all the players that it would probably be a good idea to go along.

One of the GOP dolts was whining that you can talk in the public park about violence, pornography, any number of topics, but you can't talk about religion. This is another lie by the alt-right to inflame and divide the public, hoping that you will vote for Trump again. You can talk about religion in that park all you want. You can stand on a soapbox and proselytize until you're blue in the face - that is free speech. And, people are free to listen to you and even join you in prayer if they like. What you can't do is demand they pray or threaten them, including a perceived threat to join in that prayer.

What we are talking about here is coercion, the power to move people to thought or action based on their perception of the power you have to punish them in some way if they do not comply. Religion has used coercion for thousands of years. Religion came to the new world and wiped out the beliefs and cultures of millions of people by insisting they convert to Christianity. If they refused, many were tortured and killed; others were put into the equivalent of concentration camps or forced into slavery. And, of course, there was always the threat that you would go to hell if you didn't follow their teachings.

Just ask the ghosts of all the Native American children lying in mass graves in Canada, and no doubt throughout the Americas, about the excesses of religious zealots. Ask the ghosts of all the victims of fundamentalist Muslims who turned themselves into human bombs to eradicate people who didn't believe as they do. For all the hollow words, religion has been one of the most violent campaigns in human history in its mission to convert others. Our founders understood this, having come from Europe where the Crusades and other atrocities played out for a thousand years or more, and on December 15, 1791, they wrote this first amendment to our Constitution:

  • Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

We have public prayer all the time. When people die accidentally or are murdered, tens, hundreds, and sometimes thousands of people pour out onto the streets holding memorial candles to pray for those who died. No one tells these people they can't pray in public for the loss of someone they cared about. What they can't do is grab passersby and pull them into the memorial, and insist they join in the prayer.

I've discussed religion ad nauseam with friends over the years and in public places, but no one was forced to join in the conversation or coerced. Keep the church in church and out of any gathering where there is the potential for coercion to participate.