Seventh amicus brief in Selman case now up

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A seventh amicus brief (pdf) in the Selman case has been put up on the NCSE Selman website (www.ncseweb.org/selman – See the previous PT post). This brief is by national and Georgia religious groups (National Council of Jewish Women, Interfaith Alliance, and Georgia Interfaith Alliance), and addresses the question of whether the Cobb County Evolution Warning Label violates the Bill of Rights of the Georgia Constitution:

Paragraph VII. Separation of church and state. No money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, cult, or religious denomination or of any sectarian institution.Bill of Rights of the Georgia Constitution

It is often the case that state constitutions are even stronger on civil rights than the Federal Constitution, so constitutional challenges to policies will often invoke the local state constitution as well as the federal constitution.

The plaintiffs’ brief in the appeal (pdf) is also now available.

19 Comments

The link for the brief is incorrect and leads, instead, to the logo for PDF documents.

Thank you. These things happen to everyone at some time or another.

Wow! That’s in the Georgia State Constitution!? Good for them! The only thing I can’t figure out is why the fundies haven’t had that amended or removed…

You know, it used to be, back in the day, that it was often the fundies (usually Baptists) who understood best that an entanglement between church and state could be a threat to religious liberty that might eventually impact THEM. One needs look only at the history of England, moving between Catholic and Protestant rulers, to see how allowing particular religious ideas to become laws of the land can eventually boomerang back to strike down the very people they were originally intended to privilege. These Baptists understood that and were at the forefront of working to ensure that no official religion–even theirs–would win government endorsement. I believe that a couple of centuries ago, when the Constitution was being written, people had fresher experiences of the horros of theocracy. The people who lie about science are also willing to lie about history. Far from being a Christian nation (though it was certainly a nation of mostly Christians), the most influential leaders at the time of our founding went far out of their way to maintain the United States as a non-theocratic, pluralistic democracy. Any claim to the contrary is of a piece with, “Evolution is impossible because it denies the Second Law of Thermodynamics.”

Not to mention that a few of the founding fathers were Christian by lip service only. Jefferson and Franklin, to name two.

The ID people never cease to cite arguments from inappropriate authority. Our friend Denyse O’Leary carries this to a new dimension in her blog by noting (with glee) that the Hare Krishnas support the Cobb County sticker. Post-Darwinism’s resourcefulness is impressive.

Harrison Bolter Wrote:

Wow! That’s in the Georgia State Constitution!? Good for them! The only thing I can’t figure out is why the fundies haven’t had that amended or removed …

They’d have a lot of removing to do. After all, every state constitution has some clause echoing the principles of the First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution. All of them cover, though the wording varies, principles against establishment and for religious freedom.

IAMB Wrote:

Not to mention that a few of the founding fathers were Christian by lip service only. Jefferson and Franklin, to name two.

Actually, calling them Christians at all would be hard. Both of them, while highly respecting the teachings of Jesus, expressed publicly their doubts of Jesus’ divinity. In fact, their printed views were highly Deist. Jefferson, in particular, had harsh words to say about the Calvinist views of Christianity.

Actually, calling them Christians at all would be hard.  Both of them, while highly respecting the teachings of Jesus, expressed publicly their doubts of Jesus’ divinity.  In fact, their printed views were highly Deist.  Jefferson, in particular, had harsh words to say about the Calvinist views of Christianity.

Sad to realize that Thomas Jefferson would be far too much of a wild-eyed godless liberal to ever get elected to president now…

(Just think of what Karl Rove would dig up on him.)

In fact, their printed views were highly deist.

I seem to have lost my copy of the Declaration’s first draft, but I do seem to remember that the original wording said “Nature and Nature’s gods”, not God. From what I can recall Jefferson had to change it so no poor Christian sensibilities would be offended.

I was thinking more of the “Jefferson Bible”, a simple editing of the New Testament that removed all references to miracles and just focused on the teachings of Jesus.

Of course, there are some historical Christian apologists who have said that the reasons for doing this was to present Christ’s teachings to the Indians, but Jefferson himself stated in his writing that his reason were to remove the mysticism away from Jesus (which he viewed as false).

Thomas Jefferson Wrote:

We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select even from the very words of Jesus, paring off the amphiboligisms into which they have been led by forgetting often or not understanding what had fallen from him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves. There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill. – Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, October 13, 1813, clarifying his desire to strip away the myth introduced by the Gospel writers, as his motivation for constructing his Syllabus of an Estimate of the Merit of the Doctrines of Jesus

The above quote can be found at Positive Atheism’s site. http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist[…]efferson.htm

Steven, I’ve never had a chance to look at the Jefferson Bible other than a perfunctory glance but your last post really got my attention. now I’m going to have to go buy myself a copy. Thanks (and I mean that in all sincerity)

I’m glad you’re interested. Of course, you don’t necessarily have to spend the cash. It is available for free on the Internet.

http://www.angelfire.com/co/JeffersonBible/

It is even downloadable as a Word file or ASCII text.

This is not surprising as Georgia never had an established church and one of its stated purposes as a colony was a refuge for persecuted Protestants of Europe. Georgia’s religious liberty was not unlimited as shown by the following quote from its charter:

“…All such persons except Papists shall have a free exercise of their religion so they be contented with the quiet and peaceable enjoyment of the same not giving offense or scandal to the government.”

Yeah. The Catholics had it rough in the old days…

“All such persons except Papists shall have a free exercise of their religion”…that’s hilarious.

Regarding the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

One of the precursors was the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights. It begins:

Section 1. That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

This puts things in a rather different light than the modern Religious Right would. The Virginia Declaration does itself mention a Creator, but also mentions the Christian justification for separation of church and state:

Section 16. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practise Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.

“All such persons except Papists shall have a free exercise of their religion”…that’s hilarious.

Regarding the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

One of the precursors was the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights. It begins:

Section 1. That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

This puts things in a rather different light than the modern Religious Right would. The Virginia Declaration does itself mention a Creator, but also mentions the Christian justification for separation of church and state:

Section 16. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practise Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.

Wow! That’s in the Georgia State Constitution!? Good for them! The only thing I can’t figure out is why the fundies haven’t had that amended or removed …

They’ve been trying for the last several years. Even with Republicans in total control now, they still can’t get it done. Supposedly vouchers are the impetus in amending the separation of church and state in Georgia’s Constitution.

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on June 15, 2005 7:57 PM.

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