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Ben Carson Attacked By Atheists – OpEd

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Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson opened a recent Cabinet meeting with a prayer, noting that separation of church and state “doesn’t mean that they cannot work together to promote godly principles.” No one but a maniacal religion hater would find fault with such a conventional observation. But two atheist groups did.

Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an extreme atheist organization that I recently branded as “haters,” blasted Carson for saying something he manifestly did not say.

Annie Laurie Gaylor of FFRF accused Carson of saying that religious believers have a “monopoly” on positive values. Nonsense. What he said was that secular government agencies and religious church bodies can work together for “godly purposes.” Atheists would not be expected to know what “godly purposes” means, but it is a term that has been commonly used by civil rights leaders to refer to “civil duties.”

Rachel Laser is the head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, an organization founded as an anti-Catholic institution after World War II. She alleges that Carson, and the Trump administration, want to “privilege a narrow set of religious views above all others.”

There is nothing “narrow” about the religious views the Trump administration is promoting: our Judeo-Christian tradition is rich and broadly based. But should religion be privileged? Of course. It has been from the beginning of the Republic.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority in a religious accommodation case in 2015, noted that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act “does not demand mere neutrality with regard to religious practices…it gives them favored treatment.” He added, “Title VII requires otherwise-neutral policies to give way to the need for an accommodation.”

That settles the matter.

To show how wildly out-of-touch the atheist organizations are, consider the following statement. “Freedom of religion is essential—and so is access to health care.” So how should the law address these sometimes competing ends? “Current law tries to accommodate both.”

Who said that? The words are taken from a New York Times editorial published last year. That puts Americans United and FFRF way out in left field, falling off the bleachers. Thus have they discredited themselves yet again.

William Donohue

William Donohue

William Donohue is the current president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights in the United States, and has held that position since 1993.

3 thoughts on “Ben Carson Attacked By Atheists – OpEd

  • Avatar
    October 27, 2019 at 9:28 am
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    Two points:
    1. If the meeting would have been opened with a Wicca prayer, or a Hindu prayer to Vishnu or Brahma, I doubt that you would have found it OK as an official government activity.
    2. Your comment of “Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an extreme atheist organization that I recently branded as haters,” is completely bogus. They are simply a legal organization working to keep this a secular government that does not favor one or any religion, as our constitution demands. They are not extreme or haters at all.

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    • Avatar
      October 30, 2019 at 9:09 am
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      Well said and pertinent points, Wayne. Of course I don’t expect Donohue to consider your simple method of assessing bias. Considering the scenario of a government official abusing their authority for Scientology, Islam, or Satanism would highlight the hypocrisy of his position.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    November 1, 2019 at 3:10 pm
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    No, a public official cannot ‘share their faith’ while on the job. Do you really want the clerk at the DMV wasting your time trying to convert you to Scientology when you’re just trying to renew your license? Do you want public schoolteachers indoctrinating your children with beliefs that contradict your family’s beliefs? Do you want the deputy who pulled you over for speeding to determine whether to give you a ticket or a warning on the basis of your reaction to a religious sermon he pontificates at roadside? Of course not.

    While in the course of carrying out their official duties, public officials ARE the government. (This is why prosecutors are immune from the bribery statutes when they offer something of value (a reduced sentence) in exchange for sworn testimony at trial.)

    Thus, during the course of carrying out their official duties, public officials are forbidden from doing anything that government is forbidden from doing. Since the Establishment Clause forbids the government from promoting religion, it also forbids government officials from promoting religion while they’re ‘on the clock’. The only acceptable stance of government toward religion, the only stance which respects everyone’s religious liberty, is a stance of strict neutrality. Government can neither promote nor prohibit religion. Government can neither endorse nor enjoin any particular religious practice qua religious practice, nor promulgate nor persecute any religious tenet or belief as either ‘officially correct’ or ‘officially blasphemous’. Any of those things would violate our right to Religious Liberty – a right which includes freedom from ‘Government Religion’ in any way, shape, or form. Since government cannot do those things, then government officials cannot do those things during the course of carrying out the official duties of their office. (yes, yes, I know – the government has been violating our rights in this respect from the time of very first Congress. But ‘tradition’ does not trump our rights. Slavery was ‘traditional’ too.)

    As the Justice Black of the Supreme Court wrote: “The ‘establishment of religion’ clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever from they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa.” (330 US 1)

    Further, as James Madison wrote:
    “The establishment of the chaplainship to Congs is a palpable violation of equal rights, as well as of Constitutional principles: The tenets of the chaplains elected [by the majority] shut the door of worship agst the members whose creeds & consciences forbid a participation in that of the majority. To say nothing of other sects, this is the case with that of Roman Catholics & Quakers who have always had members in one or both of the Legislative branches. Could a Catholic clergyman ever hope to be appointed a Chaplain? To say that his religious principles are obnoxious or that his sect is small, is to lift the evil at once and exhibit in its naked deformity the doctrine that religious truth is to be tested by numbers. or that the major sects have a right to govern the minor.” (Detached Memoranda – circa 1817)

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