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My Take: Huge win for religious liberty at the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court handed down a landmark religious liberty ruling on Wednesday.
January 12th, 2012
09:58 AM ET

My Take: Huge win for religious liberty at the Supreme Court

By Douglas Laycock, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Douglas Laycock, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Virginia, represented Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in the case the Supreme Court decided Wednesday.

(CNN) - Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision holding that ministers cannot sue their churches for employment discrimination was a huge win for religious liberty. It was unanimous, it was sweeping and it was unqualified.

This decision was about separation of church and state in its most fundamental sense. Churches do not run the government, select government leaders, or set criteria for choosing government leaders.

And government does not run the churches, select religious leaders, or set criteria for choosing religious leaders. The Court unanimously reaffirmed that principle on Wednesday.

Cheryl Perich was a commissioned minister at the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in Redford, Michigan. She taught religion every day; she led prayers and devotional exercises every day; she planned and led chapel services.

She also taught the rest of the fourth-grade curriculum. She was required to complete eight college-level theology courses; she was “called” to her office by a vote of the congregation; and she was commissioned as a “Minister of Religion.”

When she got sick, Hosanna-Tabor carried her at full pay and full benefits for seven months. This was a terrible hardship in a church and school with seven teachers, 84 students and deep financial problems.

In its effort to preserve a job for Perich to return to, the school put three grades in one classroom for a whole semester. It went far beyond the requirements of law in its efforts to accommodate her disability.

Finally, at the semester break, the school reluctantly decided it had to replace her. When she provoked a confrontation at the school and threatened to sue the church, the congregation rescinded her call, for insubordination and for violating one of the church doctrines she was supposed to teach and model.

There was a well developed church grievance process that she could have used, run by the denomination, with hearing officers independent of the local church.

And there was longstanding church teaching that disputes over ministry must be resolved in that process, by Lutherans who understood the church and its faith, and not by the civil courts.

The details of this employment dispute were not the issue in the Supreme Court. Rather, the issue was who decides.

If ministers were allowed to sue for employment discrimination, judges and juries would wind up deciding who is a good minister, worthy of retention, and who is not. These cases end with a jury deciding whether the employer had a good enough reason to justify its decision.

In Perich’s case, a jury would have decided whether she was fit for Lutheran ministry even after she defied Lutheran teaching.

The Supreme Court unanimously said that ministers cannot sue their churches for employment discrimination. It defined “ministers” broadly, to include priests and rabbis and imams and persons with mixed religious and secular duties.

And it said that the church need not explain its decision, because the reasons are none of the court’s business. The selection and retention of ministers is entirely the responsibility of the churches.

Some churches will exercise this authority wisely; some may not. Denominations and associations of churches would do well to establish grievance procedures that really work, like the one that Cheryl Perich failed to use.

But whatever the ratio of wise decisions to bad decisions, it is far better for the American tradition of religious liberty for the selection of ministers to be entrusted to the churches those ministers serve.

Wednesday’s decision also protects the right of churches to define the qualifications of their clergy. Some churches have requirements that are forbidden to secular employers.

Catholics, Orthodox Jews, and some Protestant denominations do not ordain women. Catholics require celibacy, violating laws on marital status discrimination in many states. Some denominations refuse to ordain sexually active gays and lesbians, violating sexual orientation laws in many states.

There are no exceptions written into the discrimination laws to protect these longstanding religious practices. They have been protected only by the constitutional rule that the Court reaffirmed Wednesday – that ministers cannot sue their churches for employment discrimination.

Of course, some members of these faiths would like to change these rules. But who is eligible for ordination is a theological issue to be fought out within each religious tradition, not an issue to be decided by courts or legislatures.

It would be absurd for courts to order an end to Catholic celibacy rules, or to entertain a class action alleging that women are underrepresented in the clergy of some denomination that ordains women but has not ordained as many women as men. The legal rule that prevents such lawsuits is the ministerial exception that the Supreme Court reaffirmed Wednesday.

Both the rules for selecting ministers, and the evaluation of ministers in individual cases, are decisions for the nation’s religious organizations – not the government. That is the welcome meaning of Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Douglas Laycock.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Church and state • Courts • Opinion • Religious liberty

soundoff (541 Responses)
  1. The Central Scrutinizer

    George, what about all the people who believe in your God who are NOT moral? How do you explain them? Are you moral?

    January 12, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • denver2

      I don't know anything about George but if he's evangelical, the standard response is that he tries to be moral but everyone is inherently sinful and falls short of God's expectations and that's OK because he's saved. As opposed to atheists who aren't even trying to be moral and resent God for asking.

      January 12, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • I = rubber, U = glue

      Well obviously the immoral ones are not "true" believers like George is.

      January 12, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • George

      denver2 did a good job of summing it up.

      January 12, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      George, how can one resent something one does not believe in?

      January 12, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • denver2

      Well that's the joke, right Scrutinizer? I lack God belief. If I said otherwise, I'd be lying and I imagine God could see through that.

      There's a meme among believers that atheists essentially understand that God exists and are simply rejecting Him out of petulance, but it's so much simpler than that. I- for whatever reason- lack the capacity to believe that God exists. I remember the moment in my youth when I realized that the supernatural simply wasn't out there.

      And in spite of this, I remain an utterly decent person. Go figure.

      January 12, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I have asked repeatedly for evidence that Christians are more "moral" than atheists or agnostics, and George appears to be at a loss. I have also requested that George prove that atheists and agnostics are immoral and he has yet to produce a thing other than sputtering his outrage at my requests.

      This leads me to believe that George is a fraud and not the person he pretends to be here.

      January 12, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • fred

      TomTom
      The theme of the Bible is that the chosen ones could not get it right even with all their sacrafice and stuff. Sin remained and they continued with moral problems. Even if you do not beleive the Bible just look at what believers and non believers did to Jesus on the cross. Was one of higher moral standard than another?

      January 12, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Sorry, fred, but your post is unreadable. Where IS that idiot translator ring?

      January 12, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Fred..you were quite understandable. Tom is just a twit.

      January 13, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  2. The Central Scrutinizer

    @Denver2

    Denver, are you moral?

    January 12, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Timmy

      Ask Georgie da Judge. "He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake".
      (Never mind that thingy about "judge not".....he is the exception.)

      January 12, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • denver2

      I consider myself to be quite moral and take pride in the fact that I have more or less derived for myself an internally consistent ethos that is logical and moral.

      I'm often baffled by religious folks who claim that "morality comes from God" because that seems to imply that things are immoral only because God says they are. In response I construct absurd hypotheticals ("If God declared that murder was OK tomorrow would you go murder some people?") to demonstrate how ridiculous this view is in the vain hope religious people will reflect for a moment and realize that, no, some things are simply wrong and God saying otherwise wouldn't make them right.

      I usually get an unsatisfying answer like, "God would never say that!"

      January 12, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • I = rubber, U = glue

      Well there was that guy awhile back who claimed God spoke to him and told him to kill a bunch of women. He was "crazy" though. Either that or I'm sure it wasn't George's God that told him to do it.

      January 12, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Denver you seem very centered. I like that about you.

      January 12, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  3. The Central Scrutinizer

    George, I am moral and I don't believe in your God. Please explain how this can be.

    January 12, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  4. The Central Scrutinizer

    George, it is people like you that make people like you look bad.

    January 12, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  5. George

    It seems to me that atheists don't like the fact that most people who live in America believe in God. It kills them that we base our votes on our religious convictions. They would like to see a society where no mention of religion could be made in campaigns, and religious people couldn't endorse candidates. Well, well the First Amendment applies to the religious just as much as it applies to the atheists.

    January 12, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • denver2

      For my part, I'd just be happy to live in a society where adults seeking public office didn't appeal to the desires of an imaginary man when common sense would do just fine.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • denver2

      To go a little further: It doesn't bother me at all that most Americans are religious. I have no use for religion personally, but I understand that it fills a void for a lot of people. That said, I think it is terribly clear that nobody ever intended a particular interpretation of a particular scripture to be enshrined in the nation's laws. Christians who disagree are, in my opinion, short-sighted and seem to take for granted that their view will always be the majority view. It may not always be.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Denver please. George explained it quite well I think.

      What is important when selecting is choosing the one God spoke to and "called" to run. Oh wait, there were 3 of them and they are all out. Big God fail there. Ok then, what is impportant is which religion the candidate has. We can sort out the actual issues facing the country AFTER the election. Oh, and he should be handsome and smell good too!

      January 12, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • I = rubber, U = glue

      @George

      It is a little dishonest to argue that athiest are bad because the majority of America is religious, and then blame athiesm for the downward spiral of morals. If you are still the majority, I believe the majority of the blame should be on you. But what do i know.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Ironicus

      Actually the First Amendment does not address atheism, since it is not a religion but a lack of one.
      A lack of religion is a secular thing to "not have", and we are free to make laws that are secular whereas religious people are also free to make secular laws but have to be curbed from making laws that are religious or biased towards any religion whether in general or particular...because you guys just can't help yourselves. You have no self-control and no respect for other religions in this area as a matter of record.

      That's a big difference. Why is that? It's because we are not religious. Religious people need extra restrictions because they always tend to violate every secular law that they don't like based on religious beliefs.

      Just like you think you can't be moral without a Bible, you also think you are required to invade everyone's privacy and personal freedom to force those religious values on others.

      Such violations are what you religious people constantly seek and have always sought throughout history – which is why we made these laws in the first place. You have a clear criminal bias to invade the rights and freedoms of others because of your religion. You think you are doing "god's work" but you are also violating the rights of others in doing so.

      What do you want as the Supreme Law for all religions? Your religious values? Muslim values? Or do you want equality with all other religions and peoples who do not share your particular beliefs?
      If you want Equality, fight for it. If you want your religious values to be supreme, go form a theocracy somewhere else, for we do not support theocracy here. It is forbidden and the forbidding of theocracy is the basis and foundation of our whole country....so go peddle your values within your church and in public, but do not ask that anyone support you with our government or government money or government resources or legislation. That would be illegal.
      You want to do illegal stuff? Prepare for the consequences. They will be secular, by the way. The criminal and civil consequences.
      Your religion is not a secular thing. It has no support here in this secular world. Go complain to your supernatural god to help you to do supernatural things in a supernatural way.
      When you seek real-world support, you show that your religion has no supernatural support and must seek non-god support instead. You invalidate your religion when you seek special secular treatment when no one else gets that kind of treatment.
      We don't need elitists here. But we sure have a lot of them. White supremacists, too, in that group. Do you want to sit with them? They can use religious values to justify what they do.
      You are no different in asking for what you do not deserve under the Constltution than they are.

      January 12, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Nicely said Ironicus

      January 12, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Ironicus

      Thanks, CS. I get worked up over this stuff and it just pours out of me. If I were better at this I'd try to make money at it.

      January 12, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  6. Puzzled

    "Churches do not run the government, select government leaders, or set criteria for choosing government leaders." Well, when clergy stop endorsing candidates and mega-churches stop functioning as PACs, that statement may be a bit closer to the truth.

    January 12, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Thank you.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • George

      So you're saying that the religious shouldn't have First Amendment freedom of speech rights? You don't get more fascist than that.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Strict seperation when it comes to politics. Stick to the issues. Religion is NOT an issue, it is just a lifestyle based on fairy tales. Keep it out of the process. Anybody can endorse anybody naturally, the issue here is the acceptance of said endorcement in order to get right wing GOP votes from the nutties. How refreshing it would be to actually have qualified people seeking the head office? I can dream.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Puzzled

      George, that was not meant to say that clergy and churches shouldn't be allowed to speak out on political matters, but that they shouldn't claim or be granted special protections when they do so.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  7. The Central Scrutinizer

    Church bad place where bad man go make words to make people dumb dumb. Many old story tell of mean sky man and much burn of flesh. Not good church place.

    January 12, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Grog make laugh

      Huh. Me like your cave. Nice rocks.

      January 12, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Bang rock with stick like Moses. Water no come out rock.

      January 12, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  8. The Central Scrutinizer

    George, what would it take to get you and your friends (if you have any from you KKK club) to move to another country? I will chip in. You tarnish America.

    January 12, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • George

      Well, as I see it people like you tarnish America. Not only tarnish, but debase our moral fabric.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      In what way George?

      January 12, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      George??

      January 12, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • George

      I've been through this many times. Morality comes from God. If you are an unbeliever, you are at best amoral, and most likely immoral, and you want to shove that immorality onto society. Take a look at how the atheists/agnostics in Hollywood have debased our culture. Open your eyes.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      George, I am very moral. How do explain that?

      January 12, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • George

      If you are an unbeliever, you cannot be moral. You might like to think you are, but you are not. There are many people burning in hell who thought that they were moral.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      George, I don't believe in your God George. And I am moral, how do you explain that George? How did this get by your pretendy God George.

      Now you hate Hollywood George? You don't like TV or the Movies or the Theater George? What do you do, just read the Bible and blog? Is that all you do George?

      January 12, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • George

      No, I actually have a job, and I am a political organizer for the churches in my area.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • I = rubber, U = glue

      So George is saying morality= "a belief in George's God"

      Morality is not based on any actions, just the belief in George's God. Sorry, Central Scrutinizer, you might as well quit volunteering and donating to the poor you immoral athiest.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Is this same moral absolutist George who will vote for Newt "the fornicator" Gingrich if Newt becomes the GOP's presidential nominee? Or will likely support a member of the mormon cult?

      January 12, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      George, AGAIN, prove that morality comes from God. Go ahead. I've asked you for such proof over and over, and you are completely unable to provide it. Therefore, it must not be true. There is NO evidence that any god is the sole source of moral behavior. NONE.

      January 12, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      "If you are an unbeliever, you cannot be moral."

      I have to disagree with this. Morality isn't exclusive to religion anymore than being good, bad, loving or being compassionate is. From a Christian perspective....being saved, born again or belonging to the faith is about accepting a certain truth within the faith.

      January 13, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  9. Chiara

    Churches need to tart paying taxes.

    January 12, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • djusmc7229

      You first.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  10. eclectos

    "And it said that the church need not explain its decision, because the reasons are none of the court’s business. The selection and retention of ministers is entirely the responsibility of the churches."
    ...The SCOTUS went on to say that, obviously, the same is true for corporations and so cast down all laws protecting the rights of workers... ...making the world a better place... ...for billionaires.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  11. There. Are. No. Gods!

    I see this as more of a loss for realistic and fair values. The church is a business. That is all it has been for the thousands of years it has been IN business. Doubt me? What are the best maintained buildings in any neighborhood? Rich or poor neighborhoods, the highest maintained building and lawns belong to the churches. Always. No taxes, no fair employer practices, and no one will argue with the word of god! No proof that god or jesus ever existed, yet the churches are allowed to function as a business in OUR neighborhoods without the burden of having to pay for the services that the rest of us use. Religion is the biggest scam our world has had to endure and I am appalled that it has been allowed to continue to exist without any physical proof being brought to the public. There. Are. No. Gods. You should know this by now, when we die we are dead, therefore life is much more precious when you realize it is finite.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Not that I disagree with your conclusion, but what has landscaping got to do with being a business or not?

      January 12, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      You seem a bit confused on your topic. You do not agree that their is a God and such...ok. That is your right of course.

      However, your personal opinions on the faith of a group is irrelevant.
      Also...a religous place tends to look nicer because that is part of their appeal. Ppl do not have to attend a place of worship and it does not cost anything to attend one.
      Unlike a business that can ask you to leave if you are loitering, churches don't make you purchase anything if you do not want to.

      Also...be careful with the Pandora's Box you are opening. If you want to get rid of the separation of church and state...then be prepared to have religious run SuperPacs being conducted right in the churches and there would be nothing you could do to stop them.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • J.W

      They are nicer buildings because the people who use them pay to maintain them. They do not sell a product or service for profit and use that money to maintain the church. It is paid for by the people who belong to the organization.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • djusmc7229

      Let me guess, you are gay.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  12. Neeneko

    Ah, more privileged status for religious organizations. now they are exempt from yet another batch of laws that other organizations are held to. So where does this 'freedom to define their own laws' end? Jeffs was a good example of taking this to an extreme, but with decisions like this, it is plausible that the next child-bride sect could point to SCOTUS and say 'see, you said we have to obey our rules, not federal or state ones, we are exempt!', and legally they will have a point...

    January 12, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Again, this decision would NOT bar prosecution of criminal offences.

      "Held:
      1. The Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment bar suits brought on behalf of ministers against their churches, claiming termination in violation of employment discrimination laws...

      (b) ...This Court’s decisions in that area confirm that it is impermissible for the government to contradict a church’s determination of who can act as its ministers.

      2. Because Perich was a minister within the meaning of the ministerial exception, the First Amendment requires dismissal of this employment discrimination suit against her religious employer...

      (c) Today the Court holds only that the ministerial exception bars an employment discrimination suit brought on behalf of a minister, challenging her church’s decision to fire her. The Court expresses no view on whether the exception bars other types of suits..."
      (http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/10-553.pdf)

      January 12, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • djusmc7229

      You are so right. I mean, if they were a bunch of gays demanding special rights, that would be ok.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  13. Dollars & Sense

    Does the Supreme court send a bill for their services to the church for their portion ... since churches don't pay taxes & all.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • ryvan

      Actually, the church should bill the government for their legal costs. There is no logical reason this should have gotten to the Supreme Court. She should have been laughed out of the courtroom when she initially brought the action. As the court said, employment laws do not apply to religious groups. This isn't new.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      The defendant and the government should send their bills to the plaintiff!

      January 12, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • captain america

      Go screw your self in canada And leave America to its citizens. There's your sign

      January 12, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  14. Harry Wortz

    The government restricts the first amendment for the members of the Ethiopian Zion Coptic church so why is this any different?

    January 12, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • TR6

      ??????!

      January 12, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  15. Whammybar

    Ooh, The Scrutinizer is in the "White Zone"

    January 12, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  16. Sampsonite

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9E3eY94Gu0k&w=640&h=390]

    January 12, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • FreeWill

      A

      b

      c

      d

      e

      f

      g

      h

      I

      j

      k

      l

      m

      n

      o

      p

      q

      r

      s

      t

      u

      v

      w

      x

      y

      z

      1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

      okay what does bacon have to do with court decisions?

      January 12, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Hey it's Newt's head!
      again.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  17. FreeWill

    1973 – Roe vs. Wade

    Courts impose abortion on the unborn babies.

    2012 – court supports rights of religious schools to control hiring and firing decisions and are protecting the beliefs they hold and are to be taught by their ministers (teachers).

    This time, they got it right!

    January 12, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • David

      WGAS....

      January 12, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Reality check

      MOTHERS impose abortions on unborn babies ... no court forces them to have an abortion.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • NOo..oON

      They are feel to appeal the decision... they just have to leave the womb to do it.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • NOo..oON

      'free' not 'feel'

      January 12, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • There. Are. No. Gods!

      Your idea of free will is hampered by your belief in fables. The church is a business plain and simple. Want to prove me wrong, show me a shred of physical evidence that the hundreds of religions out there are right. Show me something tangible that god exists, that jesus did exist and was the son of god. I love to read, but written texts can and will be edited not to mention they are written by humans. Hearsay does not count as actual fact, which is all your religious texts, and biographies on religious people are. Hearsay. There. Are. No. Gods. And it is time for the church to be held to the same standards as any business which includes paying taxes, paying a fair salary, and fair hiring and firing practices. Until you can show me the physical evidence I require that a god does infact exist, I will always feel this way.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      "And it is time for the church to be held to the same standards as any business which includes paying taxes, paying a fair salary, and fair hiring and firing practices."

      You're right....and let them form SuperPacs right there in Church. You'll support that won't you?

      January 12, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Grog make laugh

      As long as they form superPACs for entirely secular goals, then why form superPACs in the first place with religious support?

      They are barred from causing Congress to make laws that respect any establishment of religion, which bars any laws that they would support in the first place.
      Face it, Swain, religion and politics in this country do not mix because this is not a theocracy.
      A religious superPAC would have to confine itself to secular goals, not the imposition of religious values to the exclusion of other religious values. Any superPAC for one religion will always be at odds with all other religions and all other sects.
      We have Equal Rights here. SuperPACs are a way of disenfranchising individual citizens of their representation and reserving it solely for the purposes of rich people and rich groups.
      All bribery and monetary support of every candidate and legislative issue is de facto corruption and should be banned outright in the first place. Get your bribes and go to prison is how it should work, not get your bribes and betray your sacred trust and duty to represent the people as a whole.
      It is the people who have the right to seek redress of grievances and who are supposed to have representation in government, not businesses. There are no provisions for business representation in Congress, and no provisions for religious representations in Congress either. SuperPACs and all such bribery should be re-criminalized.

      January 12, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Grog- "Face it, Swain, religion and politics in this country do not mix because this is not a theocracy."

      I am well aware of that. I was just pointing out the flaw in the twit that posted that you can't impose govt rules and regulations on a religious organization without the risk that the group in question will then use their religious position to raise funds for govt positions.

      While most anti-religious or atheist groups would applaud the govt taxing churches and such...they would be screaming their heads off if the Southern Baptists made their own SuperPac and ran it within their own churches.

      January 12, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • Ironicus

      Swain, what makes you think they have not already done so?

      January 12, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Ironicus- My guess is mostly based on the lack of evidence of such a Pac. Unless their is a Southern Baptist SuperPac that is having their meetings in a church and raising funds during services that I am unaware of.

      Is there?

      January 12, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What a moron. Nobody forces anyone to abort, you dimwitted troll. Keep your d ick in your pants and maybe you'll prevent some poor woman from having to abort your spawn.

      January 12, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
  18. The Central Scrutinizer

    Ode to George

    A darkening room
    Light from a naked bulb swinging as a singular breeze pushes a wavy lock
    Tap
    Tap tap
    Two fingers
    Sweating palms
    Concentrating on those who would reveal his sad truth
    Must reply
    Then, brilliance
    Only to be replaced by mounting despair
    George has got nothing
    George has got nothing he types
    The growing pool of foul wetness grows between his feet

    January 12, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Ironicus

      And will you still pretend you are not hippypoet, CS? Please.
      (nice poetry but a nasty poem there. Did you really seek George's response that badly? Tsk tsk.)

      January 12, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      CS is not HP. Just ask HP.

      I actually wrote that poem for Timothy, but it seems to fit George much better. Tsk Tsk yourself.

      January 12, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • Ironicus

      Well, your poetry is generally better...but that could just be a ploy. You still talk like him and use many of the same supporting frames of reference and expressions. And you are just as spontaneous with your poetry. And you also have some of the same idiot ideas about ignorance, proof, and agnosticism he does. But I'm not saying I know for sure. I'm saying you know but I can't trust you to tell me but can only require proof. You are guilty until proven innocent in this realm of anonymity.

      January 12, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  19. Eric

    I disagree with the initial premise of this article, that churches don't run the government. Yes, they do in some municipalities and states, and they are attempting to on a national level. Note the efforts of Evangelicals and their preferred candidates. And their money. Religious values, morals, quotes, preferences have no place in any level of government, including the election process. Evoking God or Jesus in your platform should eliminate any candidate. The Separation statutes upheld by the Supreme Court work both ways....or they should.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Bill

      You can't stop anybody from running for government or donating money to any candidate they wish. You can't say, "you are religous, you are not qualified to run for office." Religous tests for qualification for public office are specifically illegal in the US and that includes saying only athiests can run for office.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • If horses had Gods ...

      I like that you clarified "Religious values, morals, quotes, preferences ... " differentiating values & morals of the religious from the rest of society. We all know that values & morals come from human societies and that "religious" values & morals are different & tainted by the religion industries agenda.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • ryvan

      I would hate to live in a country run that way. Religious freedom is a wonderful thing. We don't mandate politicians follow any particular religion, including athiesm. Everyone should always be free to worship as they choose. This includes government employees and elected officials.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Zebula

      I agree with you, Eric. The problem with churches is they have no system of checks and balances. Ironic, since they purport to uphold the will of a loving god. Mostly they get away with murder.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • NJBob

      @ryvan– Try getting elected if you're an atheist!

      January 12, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • George

      @NJBob

      Cry me a river. No atheist will ever get elected because we live in a democratic republic and most people believe in God and hate atheism. Surely you wouldn't have us set aside our democratic values so as to elect the immoral?

      January 12, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • TR6

      @George:” No atheist will ever get elected because we live in a democratic republic and most people believe in God and hate atheism.”

      George 60 years ago
      No black will ever get elected president because we live in a democratic republic and most people believe in God and hate blacks.

      January 12, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  20. FreeWill

    .A.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
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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.