My Take: O'Donnell's and America's First Amendment ignorance
October 20th, 2010
09:43 AM ET

My Take: O'Donnell's and America's First Amendment ignorance

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

It’s time for our politicians to take the religious literacy quiz.

In a debate on Tuesday with Democrat Chris Coons, Republican Senate candidate from Delaware Christine O’Donnell seemed to be learning, in real time and reluctantly, that the First Amendment prohibits the establishment of religion.

As Coons was arguing against the teaching of creationism in the public schools on the grounds that the First Amendment mandates the disestablishment of religion, O’Donnell said, “The First Amendment does? Let me just clarify: You’re telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?”

Coons, who seemed surprised by the question, responded by quoting chapter and verse:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” To which O’Donnell, channeling Homer Simpson, asked, “That’s in the First Amendment?”

As the author of Religious Literacy and adviser to the recent Pew Forum U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey, each of which demonstrated the ignorance of Americans about most things religious, I am not surprised that candidates for the U.S. Senate seem as surprised to learn about the Bill of Rights as I am by the latest plot turns in "Glee." (Emma? With John Stamos? Really?)

In fact, in a quiz I gave Boston University students a few years ago, only 41 percent were able to name the free exercise clause, only 23 percent the establishment clause.

And in the recent Pew Forum religious literacy survey, American adults demonstrated that they had about as much of a grip on what the Supreme Court has said about religious establishment as does O’Donnell. Only 36 percent knew that public schools could offer comparative religion courses and only 23 percent knew that public school teachers could read from the Bible as an example of literature.

A few years ago, as I was traveling around the country arguing for religious studies courses in the public schools, I challenged journalists to start asking political candidates basic questions about religion. I don't care whether Mitt Romney is a Mormon, I said, but I do care whether he knows which religion predominates in Indonesia, and in India.

I also said that, if politicians are going to invoke Christianity and the Bible to support their positions on abortion and immigration and stem-cell research, then voters have the right to know whether they know anything about that tradition and that scripture.

Far less controversial than that stance is this: voters have a right to know whether candidates for the U.S. Congress have even a passing acquaintance with the Constitution.

“That’s in the First Amendment?” She Who Would Be Senator asked. Yes it is, O’Donnell, yes it is.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Christianity • Church and state • Delaware • Education • Opinion • Politics • Polls • Religious liberty • United States

soundoff (209 Responses)
  1. Mike Sr

    An interesting point is......There are a LOT of areas where evolution have been PROVEN wrong. But there has never been anything proven wrong about creationism.

    October 22, 2010 at 4:27 pm |
    • Q

      If there were "LOTS" of areas where the theory of evolution had been "proved" wrong, then I'm sure you would have actually listed them, however, I suspect you'd simply reference arguments of incredulity founded in arguments of ignorance. On the other hand, literally creationism is refuted in the simple progression of the major classes of life in the fossil record. Intelligent design proponents themselves confess they can't distinguish between "actual design" and "apparent design" and all of Behe's examples have been shown not to conform to their definition of "irreducibly complex". Technically, you're correct that creationism can't be "proven" wrong, however, this is exactly why it fails, i.e. one cannot test for magical interventions. Contrarily, evolution can be falsified by simply uncovering that human fossil perched atop a dinosaur fossil but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for this discovery...

      October 23, 2010 at 5:23 am |
    • Mike Sr

      Absolute Scientific Proof the Evolutionary Theory is Dead

      A story about two friends from day one.

      Once upon a time there was a Polonium 218 element of the family of radioactive isotopes. Nuclear chemists classify Polonium 218 as radioactive because the nuclei of the atom continually emit alpha, beta and gamma radiation. This radiation loss causes the atom to disintegrate or decay into a smaller atom. Eventually the material will become lead, which we commonly use for fishing weights and lead-acid batteries in our cars.

      Polonium 218 would be classified in elementary school as being "hyperactive." It can't sit still very long. In only three minutes, half of the atoms decay into a lighter element, and in only one day it is all changed.

      Polonium 218 can be created by the decay of a parent atom such as Uranium 238 or some other element below Uranium 238 in the chain. It can also be created as the parent without having come from the decay of a heavier atom. This is very important, so remember this fact.

      Once upon a time there was granite rock. Granite is a very unique rock but at the same time is very common and plentiful. It can easily be found in mountain areas such as the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Granite is easily identified by its hard crystalline structure and light color. The crystals are large enough to be easily seen with the eye. It has an interesting structure with a mixture of light-colored quartz and feldspar crystals, and darker crystals of mica and hornblende. Granite is solid and hard without cracks or seams, and it is very strong.

      Granite has another very unique property in that it cannot be created by scientists. It is considered to be an "original" material in the Earth. When melted and allowed to harden, it does not return to the original granite crystalline structure. The new smaller crystalline material is called rhyolite. Granite cannot be made by cooling the initial molten materials. This is very important, so remember this fact.

      Granite never contains fossils such as are found in sedimentary rocks. All of these properties have led many scientists to refer to granite as a creation rock, since it could not have solidified from molten material according to the evolutionary theory.

      Evolution cannot explain the presence of granite in its present structure. And where is this granite? Everywhere. Granite is the bedrock shell which encloses the entire Earth. Its exact thickness is unknown, but scientists have speculated that it forms a layer about 4.35 miles (7 km) thick, and in some areas possibly 20 miles (32 km) thick. It occurs on every continent.

      These are the two friends from day one. We know they were friends because they lived together. The Polonium 218 lived only a very short time (3 minutes), but he left his mark on his friend, granite, in that short time. Polonium emitted alpha particles which left a very distinct mark in the granite. These marks are called Polonium halos. These halos are tiny colored concentric circles which must be viewed with a microscope. The concentric circles are actually concentric spherical marks which appear as circles after the rock is cut open. "How many halos are there?" you may ask. One trillion times 10 billion are present on every continent around the world. They are everywhere.

      The Polonium 218 was the parent radioactive isotope because other distinct halos which are created by other isotopes are not present. The Polonium halos are not accompanied by Uranium 238 halos.

      One minute there was nothing. The next minute there were parent Polonium 218 radioactive atoms locked in the center of solid granite. The granite rock could not have formed from cooling molten rock. Granite will not form that way. In fact, scientists cannot make granite by any method. They can make diamonds but not granite. Granite is solid. The Polonium could not penetrate existing granite because it is not porous or cracked. This was day one.

      These friends are absolute scientific proof that evolution is dead. First, the granite could not have been produced by evolutionary theories, the Earth cooling, etc. Second, the Polonium locks the entire time period into an instantaneous event proven by nuclear chemistry. The time is not "millions and millions and millions" of years. The granite was produced as a solid with the Polonium parent elements inside at that instant. Within the first three minutes, half of the Polonium had decayed into a lower element.

      October 25, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
  2. Nonimus

    Theism defended,
    "i don't think anyone in America is for ... the government endorsing any one religion." Unfortunately, you are in the minority here, I think. Many people support government endorsement of Christianity such as, teacher led prayer, creationism in science class, and ten commandments shrines in our courts.

    As for the source of knowledge, it doesn't really matter, but the accuracy does. If the knowledge is verifiable then its source is irrelevant. So "if God gave Moses the multiplication tables" they should absolutely be taught in school because multiplication is verifiable. On the other hand, according to the Bible, 'I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.' (Matthew 18:19), which has yet to be verified, as far as I know.

    So, since God didn't see fit to provide His 'children' with a decent education, we must pursue that on our own the hard way, by observation, hypothesizing, and testing.

    October 22, 2010 at 3:33 pm |
  3. kyle

    theism defended- dead on. it doesnt matter about who thinks what about ANY religion, its about WHAT ARE THE FACTS. plain and simple. maybe we should all read the first amendment and see where it DOESNT say "the seperation of church and state" is in there.... IT DOES NOT SAY IT, READ IT! now, i do not believe in god, i am in the whole evolution crowd and i think conservatives have to back off of the whole ID thing. But the fact is, christine O'donnel was right, IT DOES NOT SAY there is a seperation of church and state in the first amendment.... go read it for yourselves you dunkoffs

    October 22, 2010 at 11:26 am |
  4. Theism defended

    hi David and hi Raison. you guys are in the like every discussion thread. haha...i love it.

    October 22, 2010 at 2:41 am |
  5. Theism defended

    it's funny to me how atheists or agnostics consider people who are "believers" are automatically categorized as "delusional" and you are "objective". the question is not separation of church and state. i don't think anyone in America is for a state sponsored religion or the government endorsing any one religion. but the real question is what is knowledge? but for scientific naturalists only consider what is natural or of nature only as in the realm of knowledge. so if God gave Moses the multiplication tables then could we not teach that in school? it doesn't matter where the source of knowledge is but what is considered knowledge in a society.

    October 22, 2010 at 2:40 am |
    • NL

      The bible says pi = 3 (1 Kings 7:23). Imagine what kind of circles we'd be drawing if we took that bit of math seriously. Point is, the bible gets more wrong than we would even expect from folks living at that time. It reflects backwater folksy education, then and now.

      October 22, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
  6. Iqbal khan


    October 21, 2010 at 9:30 pm |
  7. Mark

    I see so many intelligent, articulate explanations of the scientific process here. Thank you all for that. But what I'm really wondering is why objective people would spend their precious time arguing with delusional people. Although they are clearly incapable of comprehending such a simple concepts as "evidence" and "logic" and "proof", we continue to frustate ourselves trying to explain.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:43 pm |
  8. John Gaunt

    Oh and by the way, your 'expanding earth theory' example is a bit obtuse. In science class, students ARE occasionally taught demonstrably false historical theories (Borh-Rutherford Atrom, or Raisin Bun atom, for example), but this is done as a way to demonstrate how the science of atomics progressed, step by step. It is used to show them how, while scientific theories can be wrong, scientific method is infallable, and in every single case, it is always science that disprioves and improved upon science. What possible benefit could be gained in geology class by spending a couple days discussing the 'mind-opening possibilities' that the world is actually swimming through the void on the back of a giant turtle, as the Iroquois believed? How does that further our understanding of science?

    Teach science in the science classroom, teach comparative mythology in the religious studies classroom.

    Oh and by the way, if you want to get technical, the words 'theory' and 'scientific theory' are in fact quite different, with very different meanings, thus further demolishing your somewhat specious contention.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:20 am |
    • Shane

      I never said they were different. I'm just saying on a basic level they are the same. Not "fully" proven. There is a big difference between theory and fact. On is proven the other isn't "fully".

      With the class room situation, Showing how we have progressed through our ideas on how things work is needed. I'm just saying it won't hurt to take 15 minutes or so to go over other areas of thought.

      "hey we just talked about this subject which is accepted by the scientific community even though its not proven ( yes it has scientific merit ) but at the same time some people believe this."

      Also the comment on "expanding earth theory" was ment to be obtuse, thank you for getting it. Too bad you were unable to get the sarcasm in it which and realize I did that on purpose. :/

      October 21, 2010 at 6:50 am |
    • John Gaunt

      I assume your first sentence is a typo, either that or you have taken to completely contradicting yourself.

      I have explained this several times now Shane. Your semantic attachment to the word 'theory' is as inaccurate as it is singleminded. I have demonstrated, with concrete examples, that some of what we refer to as 'scientific theories' are in fact proven fact, and I have explained (twice) why the nomenclature does not reflect this. Did you decide to post without reading, or was there something in the explanation you didnt understand?

      I have also explained why it WILL hurt to go over 'other areas of thought' in a science class, if those 'other areas' are based entirely in religious mythology and have no foundation whatsoever in science. We have plenty of classes for those discussions: domparative religion, history, philosophy, sociology, etc. But Science class is and should be reserved for (gasp!) science.

      Do you really think we should take a break from geology class and discuss how some people thought there was no geology, and the world sat on the back of a space turtle? And thats just one segment of native belief, we can hardly leave out all the others. What do you think,. half an hour per creation myth? There are several thousand of them in human mythological history, so thats about 500 hours total. Oops, thats more than the school year in science. well, I guess you can learn the actual 'science' next year.

      There is NO REASON WHATSOEVER to bring mythology into the science classroom. Thats not what it is for, thats not what universities look for or teach, thats not what any other antion in the first world does, and it risks misinforming and misleading children.

      October 21, 2010 at 8:57 am |
    • Shane


      The Different comment was referring to your comment and all the others. Did I every say that all of you are wrong about your definitions on what Scientific theories are????????????????????????????????????????????? Yes I could have clarified that better, but I did.

      All I've been saying is scientific theories are not proven. To another post, I'll repeat my response here also.. A scientific theory starts out with the word theory in it. At times, when a theory is proven, the said theory does continue to have the word theory in it. But by definition it is no longer a theory. Its a proven fact.

      A theory about anything in a scientific community is just a belief by someone that they have evidence proving their theory. That doesn't mean their evidence is correct. Its just a theory at the moment. And yes they do go through more to get too their theory. I never said they didn't. I was just comparing theory to scientific theory in a very BASIC level. As they are not both proven.

      Then I added, an opinion I have. Now, you all keep on going and going on and on about what Scientific theory is. Ok cool.

      But are Scientific Theories proven? Yes / No

      Also just because the name of a theory that has been proven to be a fact still has theory in the name. Doesn't mean they are still a theory by definition.

      October 21, 2010 at 9:16 am |
    • John Gaunt

      Yes, you hjave been saying 'scientific theories are not proven'. Again and again and again and again. You keep saying that no matter how often you are demonstrated to be flat-out wrong. many examples of what we know as 'scientific theories' are in fact proven fact, but tradition and nomenclatyure have not caught up. I demonstrated this with concrete examples, such as germ theory and atomic theory.

      You assert that when a theory is proven, the word 'theory' is removed from the description. By who Shane? What central science pope issues decrees about scientific terminology worldwide? Thats just absurd. It took DECADES after germ theory was proven to be absolute fact for the word 'theory' to largely fade out of common use, and it is still used in some textbooks today, because that has traditionally been the name.

      As I have said before, and you keep ignoring, your singleminded dedication to the word 'theory' is both inaccurate and unreasonable. That does not alter the simple fact that many of what we know of as 'scientific theories' are in fact well established and well proven facts: evolution among them.

      It also does not alter the fact that random mythology has no place whatsoever in the science classroom.

      October 21, 2010 at 9:29 am |
    • Shane

      Ok Define,


      Scientific theory

      Scientific Fact

      Now what you and everyone else is saying. Is Scientific theory and Scientific fact is one and the same...... IS THIS TRUE?

      October 21, 2010 at 9:39 am |
    • John Gaunt

      Shane, how old are you? Honestly?

      Please dont be quite so deliberately foolish if you can help it. I have explained this time and time and time and time again, and each time you completely ignore the arguments and evidence proving you wrong, and restate the same assertions, sometimes trying to rephrase them, or rework them into another fascile black and white answer which is patently inaccurate. Its getting a bit sad.

      How many more times can I explain the exact same thing to you Shane? If you are unwilling or incapable of reading what i type, what is the point of continuing this fruitless effort to educate you?

      Many of the things we currently know as 'scientific theories' are in fact long established and proven facts. Period. If you dont understand some of the words I have used, or my terminology, please ask and I shall be hap[py to educate you on the vocabulary. Otherwise, read that sentence a few times until you start to grasp it. Yes, they are still referred to as 'theories', such as 'germ theory' and 'atomic theory' and Evolutionary theory' (though this last is used less and less frequently, in favour of 'evolutionary science'), they are called those things because of traiditon and because of the lack of a central recognised authority to change them. But the name aside, they are long-established, proven FACTS. period.

      So, to grade-5 it for you again (as that is the only thing you seem to comprehend), some of what we know as 'scientifi theories' are actually proven scientific facts, the naming conventions have simply not caught up with the science.

      Get it yet?

      October 21, 2010 at 10:26 am |
    • NL

      I think you're failing to see how the weight of evidence plays out here. The evolution vs ID/ creationist arguments are completely different in structure. One is based on physical evidence whereas the other is based upon an emotional plea grounded in little more than a character reference.

      Imagine you are the judge of a civil suit over the ownership of a winning lottery ticket. On one side you have a guy who has the ticket in his possession, with his name written on the back. He has records of his playing the exact same numbers going back for decades. He has store video surveillance footage placing him in the store, buying a ticket when the winning ticket was sold at that exact same store. He also has the store clerks who will also all testify to his habit of playing those numbers, signing every ticket he ever bought, and remember him buying his usual ticket on that day.

      On the other side you have a little old lady who claims that her son bought her the ticket. There is no record of her ever having a son, but she insists that he is real and that he has never lied to her, so she KNOWS that the ticket is actually hers.

      Who would you award the ticket to?

      October 21, 2010 at 10:36 am |
    • Kate

      i haz a theory

      My theory states that any post where the topic of education and evolution comes up, creationists are guaranteed to jump in and start nitpicking the semantics of the words "theory" and "fact" and "evidence".

      Now, if you go back through posts here (and elsewhere) on the topic, my theory seems to be proven in 100% of threads (sampling margin of error +/- 3%), so does that mean my theory is now a scientific fact, and can be taught to school kids?

      Since they probably already know it anyways 😛

      Just theorizin'i haz a theory

      My theory states that any post where the topic of education and evolution comes up, creationists are guaranteed to jump in and start nitpicking the semantics of the words "theory" and "fact" and "evidence".

      Now, if you go back through posts here (and elsewhere) on the topic, my theory seems to be proven in 100% of threads (sampling margin of error +/- 3%), so does that mean my theory is now a scientific fact, and can be taught to school kids?

      Since they probably already know it anyways 😛

      Just theorizin'

      October 21, 2010 at 10:41 am |
    • Kate

      Wow, the 'net deities must have liked my post so much it doubled! Neat!

      October 21, 2010 at 10:42 am |
  9. thinkpoint

    Separation of Church and State?


    October 20, 2010 at 10:54 pm |
    • Raison


      You can't just say a few words to tell us your opinion? Take your link and shove it where you get your ideas...!

      October 20, 2010 at 11:05 pm |
    • Q

      Where are your Jefferson or Madison quotes? Or the numerous SCOTUS rulings confirming separation in practice? Or perhaps Reynolds v United States which way back in 1878 found, "Coming as this does from an acknowledged leader of the advocates of the measure, it [Jefferson's letter] may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the Amendment thus secured." The literal phrase "wall of separation between church and state" is clearly not within the Establishment Clause, however, the Jefferson/Madison intent most certainly is.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:24 am |
    • Kate


      I'm not entirely sure the link would fit ... maybe if they used bit.ly first ... ?

      Just grinnin'

      October 21, 2010 at 11:18 am |
    • thinkpoint

      Raison: Brilliant! \
      Q. The Jefferson/Madison intent has been taken differently. Shouldn't build a case on it.
      Kate: cute, but that's all

      October 21, 2010 at 4:59 pm |
    • Q

      Your argument was the O'Donnell argument that the phrase "separation of church and state" is not in the Establishment Clause and by default, that the concept is a myth. This is very clearly and demonstrably incorrect evidenced in both the SCOTUS rulings and in the writings of the framers. The only manner in which it can be "taken differently" is via apologetically-driven denial and the associated attempts at historical revisionism.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
  10. Raison

    @Stephen Prothero

    This is one of the best articles I have seen you write, but maybe that is because of what you are saying? lol 😛

    October 20, 2010 at 10:06 pm |
  11. JohnQuest

    This sounds like The Peter Principle, for all that are unfamiliar please look it up, you may learn something about the governments and business.

    October 20, 2010 at 4:06 pm |
  12. TheRationale

    It's pathetic that there are people who are stupid enough to give this woman traction. She shouldn't even be on the radar; her inability to even know the First Amendment is a whopping red flag. She's entirely unqualified for her job. This is absolutely ridiculous.

    October 20, 2010 at 2:57 pm |
  13. JohnQuest

    Does anyone seriously want her and the her party (TeaBag) running the country, I don't want her running my local grocery store?

    October 20, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
    • Kate


      The only tea party O'Donnell et al should be allowed to be part of is one attended by a guy with funny head gear, a sentient rabbit, and a cat with teeth that shine brighter than the Osmonds'

      Just sayin'

      October 21, 2010 at 2:06 am |
  14. Frogist

    @Luke, NL, Doc Brown: Please. I'd love a reading list from you guys. I want to learn more. Help!

    October 20, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
    • Luke

      Love to post some more, but looks like the theists, ID proponents and creationists quit on us. Sad face.

      October 20, 2010 at 9:43 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Luke... awww... I am seriously lacking in knowledge that you guys have about history of the founding fathers etc. So I wasn't really being facetious about a reading list. I'd love it if you guys could recommend a good place to start.

      October 21, 2010 at 11:58 am |
  15. ADK

    I doubt moderators will be able to keep themselves from moderating the last thing I wrote.... Because eit is true.

    October 20, 2010 at 1:25 pm |
    • Some_Truth


      If you want your post to show up anytime soon, you will go back and reword it... fixing the 'trick' words that the auto-filter flags, eg., const_itution, doc_ument, and some others...

      October 20, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
    • Doc Brown

      Confirmed – it's auto-flagged a couple of mine as well – It seems to adhere to a list of "Warning Words" and not anything regarding the actual content of the message. Change the wording around a bit and repost it and it should go through fine.

      October 20, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
    • Kate


      You're right, it's a badly written regexp filter that flags for moderation. It's hit and miss if anyone will review the moderation queue or not any time soon.

      Reality actually has a useful paste of a list of words that will trip, but the biggest part to remember is that the filter will trip if the letters of a bad word are included in the bigger word.


      Just sayin'

      October 21, 2010 at 2:05 am |
  16. NL

    Assuming that the first amendment does not separate church and state and, had the Supreme Court allowed the establishment of state religions, would America have had religious freedom? Would evangelicalism be as wide-spread as it is today? Which states would have become Catholic, and which would have remained Anglican?

    Wouldn't history have played out against the very people who argue for this today?

    October 20, 2010 at 1:13 pm |
    • Mike

      you do make an excellent point for the question you propose. But I think the agruement is how did separation become exclusion and suppression of all beliefs, except the beliefs of atheists

      October 20, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
    • Doc Brown

      Mike; It never has. We still hold Freedom of Religion to be one of the base values upon which this country was created. Nobody is stopping you from worshiping your god in any way you want – What HAS been stopped, is your ability to compel others to worship with you against their will. It never ceases to amaze me that you equate the inability to force others to convert to your own religious practices with 'suppression'.

      October 20, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
    • Some_Truth


      Have you ever been to a meeting where snacks were not served? Is this an instance of anti-snackism? There is a place for snacks and a place for not snacks.

      October 20, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
    • Luke

      Mike – Well, that sealed it. I used to enjoy your banter. You are officially done. Fail. Complete and utter nonsense. I am about the most strident atheist you'll come across and I'm active in the community and guess what? I do not believe in supressing beliefs nor do I want exceptionalism for my own ideas in government. As for other leaders of what they call the New Atheist Movement; they don't want it either. Their goals are to advance secular ideas, to educate and advance rational thought. Nothing else.

      October 20, 2010 at 1:25 pm |
    • NL

      Well, if governments posted large plaques declaring "There is No God" then we would be living in an atheist country, but they don't, do they? I'm an atheist, but I sure wouldn't want to live in a country where the government was influencing everyone to become an atheist. Personally, being an atheist would be meaningless were I not free to choose this for myself.

      A secular state, then, is not one that promotes an atheist position, but one where religious beliefs are politely kept from the political discussion out of fairness to everyone's freedom to believe as they wish. Should branches of the government display parts of one faith's creed to the exclusion of others, as is the case of the 10 commandments, then that serves as a government endorsement of just that faith, to the exclusion of all others. Is that fair? Of course not, so unless you wallpaper every courthouse in the land with excerpts from every scripture, creed, ideology, and philosophy out there the most fair thing to do is not display any at all. Keeping it secular, meaning without any reference to religion. Everyone then is on the exact same level and we all have the exact same individual freedom of belief, right?

      If we apply this same principle to politics, would it be fair for one party to have it's logo carved in stone within a government building? Wouldn't that be the exact same situation?

      October 20, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
    • Guest

      You are wrong NL-

      Why does our secular government promote abortion with our taxes, is this a atheist position or secular? Where is the fairness to everyone’s freedom if we kill the innocent, and why isn’t the same amount of money spent on educating the mothers to be? Fairness?

      Keeping it secular, freedom of religion or of any one religion is what our founding fathers intended. Gov’t promoting self worship or atheism is wrong also (you got that right NL). It’s not freedom from religion, it’s freedom OF, why do atheist twist the language?

      It’s true atheists do know plenty about religion, but can a Catholic know more about atheism?

      October 20, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
    • NL

      Had you studied the various religious positions on abortion you would find views ranging from total prohibition to conditional acceptance. Some atheists are also against abortion as well so, in reality, it is too simplistic to make a blanket statement that abortion rights are a religious vs. atheist issue. Would you force conservative sanctions upon those with more liberal religious views on abortion? How would that be freedom of religion?

      No, freedom of religion would be your individual right to choose abortion, or not, and it's the government's obligation to maintain the opportunity open for those who do wish to employ this option by keeping it legal. Governments that would not protect this right would be favoring one religious position over another, and would then be limiting the freedom of religion, see?

      October 20, 2010 at 11:19 pm |
    • Frank

      You could also say that by allowing legal abortion, you are also trampling on the rights of those who are pro-life.
      That argument doesn't work to me.

      October 20, 2010 at 11:30 pm |
    • NL

      How so? You still have the right NOT to have an abortion. What rights do you see being trampled upon? The right to prevent somebody else from getting a procedure which is legal, and not against their beliefs? Try applying that to anything else, like hunting, or smoking. Remember, there is no religious or atheist consensus on abortion being OK, or not.

      October 21, 2010 at 12:40 am |
    • Frank

      Pro-life people believe the right of the unborn child to live is being trampled upon. So it doesn't settle anything. What about tax payer-funded abortions, as well?
      I think your argument holds. It just spirals off.

      October 21, 2010 at 12:51 am |
    • Kate


      You're wrong. The idea of rights are for the individual. For example, your right to free speech might offend me, might even go against my beliefs, but i can't turn around and deny you the right to freedom of speech as a result.

      in legal terms, your position is invalid because you wouldn't have "standing". Someone else's right doesn't impinge on your rights, therefore you're not "party".

      You can't impose your morality over someone else's freedom – else they become conditional rights, which is an oxymoron. Conditional rights are more properly known as privileges subject to the whims of whoever happens to be in power.

      Now you might think that's a good thing when it comes to your morality being imposed on everyone else – what happens when the power changes and someone imposes their morality on you?

      You won't be able to say a damned word about it – and you'll have to suck it up because what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

      Freedom belongs to the individual, to live their lives as they wish – not to impose their lives on other people, which is exactly what you're proposing.

      Fortunately, the Constitution was written with people like you in mind and specifically bars you from getting away with it.

      and there's a whole bunch of us have that pesky second amendment right to enforce it.

      Sorry, but that's how it works.

      Just sayin'

      October 21, 2010 at 2:02 am |
    • Kate


      "Tax-payer funded abortions" – interesting. i ask you this – should Jehovah's Witlesses be able to have medical procedures all banned because it goes against their faith?

      if not, why not? Health care is tax-payer funded, they're tax-payers, their beliefs say no to many medical procedures – your point is equally as valid applied to that idea, so what say you – would you allow such a ban to come into force to support their beliefs?

      or are you only interested in your own – and if so, what makes you any different than a dictator?

      Just wonderin'

      October 21, 2010 at 2:11 am |
    • Frank

      Kate, I love how you think I'm such a threat to freedom and that I have such political power. Honestly, I hate politics and hate 'the system'. I'm just pointing out that there's a kink in that argument. Just like what you're saying, I can claim that the mother is bulldozing over the rights of her child by having their brains sucked out and the child ripped to pieces. This can go in circles all day long. It just comes down to where you stand on it and no matter how emotional either side gets, that's all it's going to come down to. You're either for legal abortion or against it completely.
      As for the JWs: They don't believe in taking part in the political process so I'm not sure how I would answer your question either way.

      October 21, 2010 at 2:42 am |
    • Frank

      Abortion is a general issue with people from all backgrounds on all sides reaching their conclusions differently. So you can claim that making abortion illegal again is taking the right of the mother away. Whereas a pro-lifer would say that having abortion legal takes the right of the child to life away. And both could sling heated insults like 'dictator' and making veiled threats on a person's life (yeah, I caught that one) all day long. Just another day and other political debate.

      October 21, 2010 at 2:48 am |
    • Frank

      Religion doesn't necessarily have anything to do with it. Are we not allowed to dissent anymore and have opinions of our own? I mean, I thought the Const!tution protected me, too. Maybe it doesn't after all. Civil liberties are going down the toilet minute by minute, anyway. But I disgress.
      Politics to me is just a SHOUT LOUDER AND INSULT HARDER contest.

      October 21, 2010 at 3:00 am |
    • Frank

      One last thing: I don't understand you comparing me to a 'dictator' because usually dictators believe they have power over life and death. That's the opposite of my beliefs. So I don't understand the an@logy.
      And I'm not a part of the religious right, either.

      October 21, 2010 at 3:11 am |
    • Raison


      Maybe she thinks your junk is shaped like a potato. XD

      October 21, 2010 at 3:24 am |
    • Frank

      Wow. I'll definitely need s@xual reassignment surgery there. I'm a transpotato! 😀

      October 21, 2010 at 3:27 am |
    • Raison

      lmao XD

      October 21, 2010 at 3:33 am |
    • Frank

      That would be a harsh life. It wouldn't be able to fit into anything...maybe a coffee can. But I digress. Lol.

      October 21, 2010 at 3:38 am |
    • Raison

      I think you've done more than just digress, buddy. You've completely fallen off the turnip truck! LOL (just had to get that one in)

      October 21, 2010 at 5:01 am |
    • NL

      You said "I can claim that the mother is bulldozing over the rights of her child "

      Yet, who has the legal right to make all decisions regarding their pregnancy if not the mother? If she has the right to direct tax payer-funded medical aid with regards to her pregnancy then why should this exclude the termination of that pregnancy? Women also have rights. The right to be a mother, or not, being one of them. You could argue that she is infringing on the unborn's right to live, but what if you had the only kidney that would save somebody's life? Would it be right to force you to endanger your life to save theirs? Pregnancy is risky, remember?

      October 21, 2010 at 8:42 am |
    • Kate


      Oh don't be so melodramatic, it wasn't a thinly-veiled threat against your life, it was a very unveiled general statement of fact to all pro-birthers. Let me make it a little more clear for you.

      Anyone who puts their religion over my right to abort the product of a rape, or incest, or puts my life at risk if i continue a pregnancy to term – i've got that second amendment right to work as a counter-balance if all else fails. So does everyone else.

      It's the same if someone puts their religion over my right to dress how i please, either to force me to wear specific clothing, or banning me wearing clothing.

      It's the same if someone puts their religion over my right to worship what/who i want, where i want, how i want (as long as those things don't infringe on someone else's rights, like human sacrifice).

      It's the same if someone puts their religion over my right to say what i want to say, where i want to say it.

      It's the same if someone puts their religion over my right to go where i like, and be with who i like.

      It's the same if someone puts their religion over my right to protection under the law.

      The true hypocrisy of the arguments so far is that the pro-birth contingent are all about their rights, and trampling over the rights of anyone who feels differently – but in no cases can pro-birthers adequately elaborate on their opinion as to whether or not the religion they say should trump the rights of others is solely their own, or if their new rule would apply equally.

      The point you've so adroitly failed to respond to is equally as blunt: You can believe what you like, but your beliefs do not trump the rights of anyone else – and i bet you'd be up in arms just as strongly if someone else's religion started trumping your rights.

      I call hypocrisy because you wriggled right past the Jehovah's Witlesses reference and avoided having to answer the question i put to you with sophistry. The question still stands: Since they don't believe in medical treatment, should all medical treatment be abandoned as a result, under the same rationale and logic you (and i use you in the general sense) propose?

      And that's where a Dictator would come in. if you're going to claim that only one specific religious viewpoint should be allowed to trample over the rights of others, then it's no different than KSa or the Taliban or North Korea – you aren't saying religious beliefs should be allowed to override people's rights, you're simply saying your religion should be allowed to.

      And that's precisely the sort of situation that was a factor in the creation of the United States to begin with.

      The logical result of the arguments you put forwards is becoming a theocracy, where the opinions of one religious sect are placed over the rights of everyone else.

      You're just trying to avoid having to answer what you'd do if that religious sect wasn't yours.

      Just clarifyin'

      October 21, 2010 at 10:32 am |
    • Kate


      I'm just waiting for a press release from the Turnip Liberation Front claiming responsibility for pushing Frank off the turnip truck as a heretic to come out 😛

      Just sayin'

      October 21, 2010 at 10:35 am |
    • Mike

      "You are officially done." not sure why or who you think gave you such authority, oh no wait that is the common american enlighten/enti-tlement att-itude which is destroying this country. Good job setting such a clear example.

      Tell me great athetist if you don't "believe in supressing beliefs nor do I want exceptionalism for my own ideas in government"

      Why couldn't a graduation be held in a building large enough to hold the students, their parents, their friends just because it also happens to be a church. How is that not suppression? Why were they not allowed to give out, not rent out, there space like every other hall?

      October 21, 2010 at 10:45 am |
    • Mike


      It's the same if someone puts their religion over my right to dress how i please, either to force me to wear specific clothing, or banning me wearing clothing. - Like thong bikinis at work... oh so you dont have a right to dress as you please. Ent-itlement.

      It's the same if someone puts their religion over my right to worship what/who i want, where i want, how i want (as long as those things don't infringe on someone else's rights, like human sacrifice).– But even you have started to put restrictions on your own rights

      It's the same if someone puts their religion over my right to say what i want to say, where i want to say it.– FIRE oh so you dont have a right to say what you please. Ent-itlement.

      It's the same if someone puts their religion over my right to go where i like, and be with who i like.– try entering an air force base. Ent-itlement.

      It's the same if someone puts their religion over my right to protection under the law. - I can't even think of what you are referring to

      The true hypocrisy is that you confuse religion with morality. You do not go after the laws of the land that cause you as much "shame" as you blame religion for. Your ent-itlist att-itude has made you your own authority.

      October 21, 2010 at 10:59 am |
    • Kate


      I'm one of the ones who put on a uniform and risked their lives to guarantee those freedoms. i'm just as entitled to avail myself of those freedoms as you are.

      If you want to call it entitlement, then i'll simply note if you didn't put your life on the line for those same freedoms, then it's your "entitlement" – i earned them. Why haven't you?

      Just notin'

      October 21, 2010 at 11:05 am |
    • Kate


      As for the rest – work saying no thong bikikis isn't the same as the government saying it, and you know it – false argument. Try again.

      Practicing human sacrifice would be putting my religion over someone else's rights – i'm not like the pro-birthers and a hypocrite, and you know it – false argument, try again.

      The "Shouting fire in a crowded theater" analogy has been revised in the freedom of speech legal corpus, and it now reads "speech likely to cause an imminent threat of harm", which you probably don't know, but it's still a false argument, so try again.

      I can walk onto an air Force base. i can walk onto most Federal Reservations in fact, and carry my sidearm in the process, which you just assumed otherwise, but it's a false argument, so try again.

      You totally miss the point – i don't have any shame about the laws of the land – it's ensuring those laws that guarantee freedoms stay in place instead of being torn down by a bunch of religious nutjobs in the name of putting their religion over my rights i fight against.

      Why don't you?

      Just sayin'

      October 21, 2010 at 11:16 am |
    • Nonimus

      "Anyone who puts their religion over my right to abort the product of a ra.pe, or inc.est, or puts my life at risk if i continue a pregnancy to term – i've got that sec.ond amendment right to work as a counter-balance if all else fails. So does everyone else."

      I'm not sure that the sec.ond ame.ndment was put in place as a way for ind.ivid.uals to en.fo.rce their rights. I would have thought that was what the co.urts are for. I think the sec.ond ame.ndment talks about the right to bear ar.ms; using them is totally different matter...

      October 21, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
    • Kate


      On an individual level you're right, but i wasn't referring to the individual level, i was referring to the level if the religious zealots get into power and change the law of the land and the freedoms and rights enshrined in the Constitution in a way that places a specific religion over people's rights.

      Which is what the second amendment was created for.

      No to islamic Sha'ria – and no to Christian Sha'ria either.

      Just clarifyin'

      October 21, 2010 at 1:02 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Thanks for the clarifyin'.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:44 pm |
    • Mike

      stop splitting hairs to aviod the issue
      thong bikikis isn't the same as the government saying it, - its also called indecent exposure

      The "Shouting fire in a crowded theater"– you stated you wanted the right to say anything. Try and re-define yourself again.

      I can walk onto an air Force base.– again if you can it is only because of clearance not because you want to so therefore you have the right to and "you know it"

      But everyone's beliefs are all over the laws, if it wasn't then they would not be beliefs that they chose to inact.

      As for you believing you earned something, well that is the defination of enti-tlement. While your career may be patriotic or a great example of servatude but to say the freedoms you fight for make them more available for you negates exactly what you are fighting for.

      October 21, 2010 at 2:17 pm |
    • Raison

      Wow, dude, you are seriously messed up in the head. Your beliefs about the definition of "entltlement", about the First Amendment, and about some other things as you express them in your replies gives me this opinion of you.
      You are one of those "first time caller/long-time listener" people that like to call in to Rush or one of the other hate-and-fear-mongers' shows.
      I truly hope that you could see your way clear to doing some actual studying of these words we use and the actual rights and freedoms given to every American by the Constltution.
      If you want me to respect your views, you've got to know what you are talking about, otherwise you only get the "basic" package of respecting your rights as a fellow American, not respect of your words-which are whacked.

      October 21, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
    • Mike, not me

      I say this to edify not to hate but do not get a career in profiling. I have never called a radio station as you well know this is not my first comment. I do not like Rush/oriely/ beck or any of the others. I like CS Lewis, Matt Chandler, Mark Driscoll, John Piper. I am not a hateful fear monger, that one please explain. I have stated several times that I only participate, and trying to less and less to edify.

      You state that my defination of ent itlement is wrong and you say you hope I find a "clear way" but do not contribute?

      some good material for you would be
      And the series on Ultimate Authority
      best of luck to you.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:32 pm |
    • Frank

      "Women also have rights. The right to be a mother, or not, being one of them."

      Mmhmm. But the question is whether that right trumps the right of the baby to life. That's the million dollar question, I suppose. And of course a pro-life person would say that the right to live trumps her right to end the pregnacy. I mean, if she really can't handle being a mom, she could give the child up for adoption or find a way to care for it. Or she could've avoided the situation all together by abstaining or using birth control correctly.
      I know some people don't want to give up their child for adoption because of how hard they believe it might be. But it is better to be given up for adoption or be killed? I know I'd choose the former.
      I'm just saying that the rights of the unborn child should be considered. The child isn't just a part of the woman's body, after all.

      "You could argue that she is infringing on the unborn's right to live, but what if you had the only kidney that would save somebody's life? Would it be right to force you to endanger your life to save theirs? Pregnancy is risky, remember?"

      Well, the thing is, even if abortion is illegal, people could still find a way to break the law as they did before and still do now with a number of issues. (Many abortions before Roe V. Wade were actually forced on women by family, significant others and employers as they are now.) So really it would all come down to the choice the person wants to make. Either the person will make a well-informed moral (or ethical) choice or they won't. Because there is physical risk one way, but emotional and mental (spiritual, if you believe in it) risk the other way. Pregnacy risks aren't what they used to be, though. If you have good healthcare, which is another issue.

      This isn't a religious issue. Sure, some pro-lifers, even pro-choicers, reach their conclusions from their religious beliefs. Not all do. This is a general medical ethics issue. I don't recall the Const!tution saying that no one could reach a certain opinion if it comes from their religion. But with the world the way it is, they're going to have to remove the religious overtones of it, since not everyone is the same religion, and make it general enough that it wouldn't matter what religion you are, you would be able to stand behind the argument. It's just common sense. Same as how pro-choicers are trying to appeal to religious people, as well. Somewhat, anyway. When they're not yelling things like 'get your Rosaries off my body'. But that's another topic.
      When it comes to r@pe and incest: Barring the fact that those situations make up only a very very small percentage of the total number of abortions, it comes down to whether you think it's right to punish the child for the way they were conceived, something they had no choice in. Sure, it's a sticky and difficult situation but there's been women who have chosen to have the child in those situations and they've gotten on with their lives. Again: You have to factor in the child's right to live. I don't recall there being a law saying that we have a right to be comfortable or never be in a risky situation in our lives.
      As for the JWs: I still say it's a bad example since JWs don't eschew all medical treatment and they don't take part in politics but if we were going to ban medical treatments because of them, they would have to present their arguements in a general non-religious way that everyone, regardless of background, could be able to get behind and then get enough support for them. They would have to find the common ground in their arguments and then back it up accordingly.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:59 pm |
    • Sum Dude (aka Raison)

      @Mike, not me
      What's with the "not me" thing?
      Anyway, I apologize for not explaining everything. I only have so much time in the day. I remain convinced that your view of the world is skewed, but apologize for lumping you in with people you do not identify yourself with.
      Have a nice day, whoever you are....

      October 21, 2010 at 6:40 pm |
    • Kate


      I never said anything about those freedoms being more available to me because I went and fought for them – I'm simply pointing out that they should be equally available to me as they are to someone who hasn't, and your feeble attempt to dismiss me as somehow being another freeloader looking for entitlements is wrong – it is in fact you who's the freeloader when it comes to rights

      Now you're perfectly entitled to those rights thanks to people like me – but really, your choice in implications in deflection have kind of backfired on you.

      You can't delegitimize my views by trying to lump me in with the liberals, cos I ain't one. You can't delegitimize my views by lumping me in with the atheists, cos I ain't one. You can't delegitimize my views by lumping me in with the freeloaders, cos I ain't one. You can't delegitimize me by calling me an elitist, cos I ain't one.

      Pretty soon you're going to have to face the questions themselves because you can't dismiss me out of hand with the usual insinuations and implications that are designed to divert and distract.

      I'm the worst nightmare for people like you – I'm a conservative, religious, educated, intelligent, questioning, debating, veteran, working woman, mother, and happily married wife.

      sorry to not be the stepford wife you'd prefer.

      The closest you've come to the Jehovah's Witlesses question is noted, but you're still trying to qualify it ad absurdium. Just answer it straight – Why should one christian cult get to impose its morality and views over top of other people's rights, but not all? What makes yours "better" than theirs that you believe that only yours should take precedence, but not theirs?

      As for rape and incest, you say

      it comes down to whether you think it's right to punish the child for the way they were conceived, something they had no choice

      No, it comes down to whether you think it's right to punish the woman for being raped by forcing her for nine months to carry a constant reminder of that, for her friends and family and neighbours to see every day for nine months a victim, when she had no choice.

      Yes, many women go ahead with it. That's their choice. Many women don't and get an abortion. That's their choice. People like you want to remove that choice from them entirely to begin with, and force them to be victims over and over again solely to fulfil your morality, regardless of their feelings, their pain, their suffering, and by doing so people like you become accomplices to rape. And that's where the line gets drawn.

      Just sayin'

      October 21, 2010 at 8:12 pm |
    • Frank

      Kate, you're only a victim if you allow yourself to be one. That's why people have been r@ped or otherwise abused prefer to be called survivors these days.
      I stand by what I said about it not being right to punish the child for the circ_umstance in which it was conceieved.
      But that's pretty much what it's going to come down to. You're not going to change my mind and I'm most likely not going to change yours. That's just how it ends. And the world keeps turning.

      October 21, 2010 at 9:40 pm |
    • NL

      Well, if the embryo isn't part of the woman's body it ought to be easy to remove, but it isn't, is it? It's attached pretty good, deep inside, consuming nutrients, and basically taxing the woman's health and the rest of her life pretty heavily. Having a baby is also risky. The U.S. maternal mortality rate rose to 13 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2004, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Originally, half of it was once a cell of the mother's. So, it may not be a full part of her body, but it's hardly a splinter or a heavy Thanksgiving dinner either, is it?

      Does the embryo's rights trump the woman's? Well, we can go through the usual eighth grade debate points but, when it comes down to it, no. Having it your way with them having equal rights what right does the embryo have to endanger the woman's life against her will? Would an adult be able to force a someone to give blood, bone marrow, or an organ against their will, even if it were to save an actual person already alive. The woman is an actual person whereas the embryo is only a potential person, protected under the law only if it's the woman's decision to let the pregnancy continue to full term. Sorry if you feel differently, but that's the way the law sees it.

      I find your argument that the woman should have abstained or used birth control 'correctly' very telling, 'Frank'. Women don't get pregnant all by themselves, so some man is equally guilty of not abstaining or using birth control effectively. DNA testing being what it is today, would the woman be within her rights to have the father identified and have the courts force him to take his responsibility for it? Face it, 'pro-life' positions are inherently one-sided against a woman's right to control her own body, which make them unfair.

      I asked, but you never really answered, but if you had the only kidney that would save someone's life, would it be OK to just take it from you? I want an answer.

      October 22, 2010 at 8:56 am |
    • Mike, not me

      The not me thing is left over from yesterday when Luke was going back and forth with another person named Mike and though he was talking to the same Mike that he has in the past.

      CNN needs accounts like Yahoo, who would have ever though two people named Mike would ever visit the same site. It would also help tracking conversations.

      October 22, 2010 at 9:20 am |
  17. Mike

    Darrell Thomas Jefferson may disagree with you as he converted to enlightenment thinking which lead to the ent-itlement att-itude we see today, but I doubt Madison the author of the 1st amendment would disagree with you.

    October 20, 2010 at 12:44 pm |
    • Doc Brown

      Mike: No, Madison disagrees with him as well: "The civil Government, though bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability, and performs its functions with complete success, whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people, have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the State" (Letter to Robert Walsh, Mar. 2, 1819).

      October 20, 2010 at 12:53 pm |
    • Doc Brown

      Correction: STRONGLY Disagrees: "Every new and successful example, therefore, of a perfect separation between the ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance; and I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed together" (Letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822).

      October 20, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
    • Luke

      I'm pretty sure Madison disagrees too, actually. Try again.

      October 20, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
    • Doc Brown

      In fact he Most Emphatically disagrees: "Congress should not establish a religion and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contary to their conscience, or that one sect might obtain a pre-eminence, or two combined together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform" (Annals of Congress, Sat Aug 15th, 1789 pages 730 – 731).

      October 20, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
  18. Darrell

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" & the "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" do not equate or can reasonable be defined as "separation of church and state". It can be rationalized to mean that if it fits into one's agenda. Currently under the guise of seperation of church and state, the courts have established a national belief or faith, atheism.

    October 20, 2010 at 12:19 pm |
    • Doc Brown

      Darrell: The people who wrote that particular amendment, tend to disagree with you: "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof", thus building a wall of separation between Church & State." – President Thomas Jefferson, 1802 to Baptists from Danbury, Connecticut.

      October 20, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
    • Luke

      Thomas Jefferson and John Adams would disagree with you, Darrell. Go do some reading before posting.

      October 20, 2010 at 12:27 pm |
    • john

      Jefferson it seems, proposed that government could not influence religion. He did not say religion could not influence government.

      October 20, 2010 at 12:57 pm |
    • Doc Brown

      John, a question: Do you, even bother trying to fact-check statements before shoveling them out?

      History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose. (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Baron von Humboldt, 1813; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 370)

      The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man. (Thomas Jefferson, as quoted by Saul K. Padover in Thomas Jefferson on Democracy, New York, 1946, p. 165, according to Albert Menendez and Edd Doerr, compilers, The Great Quotations on Religious Liberty, Long Beach, CA: Centerline Press, 1991, p. 48.)

      In every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is easier to acquire wealth and power by this combination than by deserving them, and to effect this, they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer for their purposes. (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Horatio Spofford, 1814; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 371)

      I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another. (Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry, January 26, 1799. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 499.)

      October 20, 2010 at 1:15 pm |
    • john

      Doc Brown.......................U have not disproven my point. You give no evidence where religion can not influence government. Government is there to protect religion and not suppress it as you suggest. This is strait forward in the 1st admendment.

      October 20, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
    • Doc Brown

      John, which of ANY of these quotes gives you the idea that he thought it was just fine for Religion to assert control over government?

      October 20, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
    • john

      Sorry but Christianity has controlled our government for most of its existance. Fact is in the pudding.

      October 20, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
    • Doc Brown

      John: Again, do you fact-check any of what you say before dumping it out?

      Congress should not establish a religion and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contary to their conscience, or that one sect might obtain a pre-eminence, or two combined together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform (Madison – Annals of Congress, Sat Aug 15th, 1789 pages 730 – 731).

      "I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life I absented myself from Christian assemblies."
      [Benjamin Franklin, in _Toward The Mystery_]

      Jefferson, Washington, Adams, etc etc etc the list goes on and on – the United states was in no way founded on Christianity, nor was it controlled by it for any but a brief period in the 1950's. If you wish to assert otherwise, you will need to come up with some facts to back up your claim, and I have not found anything by any of the founding fathers stating that the united states was deigned to be a Christian nation – Quite contrarily, as a matter of fact, as all of the other quotations I have posted directly preclude that assertion.

      "It's just fact because I say so" Is not really a valid argument, I'm afraid.

      October 20, 2010 at 1:56 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
      (US Consti-tution, Article VI)
      Not sure if this satisfies your criteria of church influence of government, but it does prevent the church from controlling who holds a public office. This might be view as the other side of wall.

      October 20, 2010 at 4:00 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      I don't think there is any doubt that religion has an effect on the government. I don't think it's direct (yet – things will likely change if the Tea Baggers get their way!), but it is there. Look at how many presidents (claim to) pray – surely that is an indication that religion has some influence. Also, it has been stated (here and elsewhere, maybe on Bill Maher's show) that an atheist has zero chance of getting elected. If all the government's representatives are from the "believer pool", I suspect religion would have an undue influence on policy. Again, maybe not overt, but influence nonetheless.

      October 20, 2010 at 7:21 pm |
  19. john

    Why does the Federal Government take advantage of addicts?

    October 20, 2010 at 12:09 pm |
  20. john


    October 20, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
    • Luke

      Ok, so townships of 700 people are on their own to build schools, buy materials, hire teachers, buy books, etc. How do they compete with cities? How do they adhere to federal guidelines? Fail.

      October 20, 2010 at 12:13 pm |
    • john

      Thats Lukes Hypothesis on Local Education. LOL

      October 20, 2010 at 12:47 pm |
    • Luke

      john – I don't get it.

      October 20, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.