Posts Tagged ‘separation of church and state’
When initially blogging on the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School shortly after it happened, this observation was made:
No doubt there will be lots of people using these stories to make their own points. Gun control. Godless society. That there is no god. That human nature is evil. That this is just too much to bear. That in the darkest hour a community can come together. More armed security. Better mental health care in the community.
It was inevitable that these points would be the rallying call on social media, before the facts are clarified. Where anyone can post anything, you will find something to offend you. Possibly someone will go out of their way to find you to message you personally. Even that someone that agrees with you posts something that offended them so you can share in being offended.
Just some examples that appeared on my twitter feed.
The result hysteria, name calling, mud slinging. When the focus should be on helping a small community get back on it’s feet, with the time and resources it needs, and a serious conversation how we reduce the likelihood of these events happening again. President Obama was right in saying this concerned his office now, before meaningfully trying to tackle the issue of gun violence. That is where it is at, not sneaking a way to use the tragedy as a sounding drum for a particular cause.
It has nothing to do with the god/no god outlook on life. Saying that those children dying shows there is no god that created the earth is as balmy as saying we should rejoice that they get to spend Christmas in heaven this year.
After mentioning condolences and how some people had used the incident to have a go at the separation of church and state, the American Humanist Association made that same call:
… We hope that all Americans, religious and secular, recognize the foolishness and opportunism that underlies such statements, and we also hope that, rather than focus on divisive theological matters, Americans can come together to mourn and heal.
With the growing number of significant gun-related tragedies in recent years, it’s time to have a serious conversation about reason-based efforts to reduce such violence in the future.
A shame that they felt the need to say “reason-based efforts” rather than public policy.
Hopefully though something effective will be done. It is already much too late as it is.
Follow up blog: Crazy talk on Sandy Hook, and a heroine
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog
Eddie Tabash spoke of the importance of the Presidential election in the USA being about one vote – that of the new Supreme Court Justice that will replace 88 year old Justice Stevens when he retires. At the moment the Supreme Court is finely balanced 5-4 for those that uphold the secular constitution as envisaged by the founding fathers. With one appointment that legacy would be undone, from abortion, religious establishment of prayer, state religion. A move towards a theocratic state where the separation of God and State no longer exists and the state regulates faith in public life.
That is the reality, and it may mean some decisions that secular activists may not want to make. My take on the situation (and I want to make it clear what follows is my own opinion) is this. Obama is the only candidate that the Democrats can choose that stands a chance at defeating McCain. Not least a poll that has Obama winning by 5% and Clinton loosing by 5%.
That however is not enough. The Democrats are loosing ground with the bitter campaigns that are splitting the party down the middle. Even the story that McCain’s people have twice talked to the Democrats about defecting seems like the kind of speculation I had about Obama being McCain’s running mate. It sounds like an idea of bi-partisanship to change the country for the better but it will not only never work but never happen.
However I think that any lead that the polls suggest Obama has will be inflated by two key factors. One is that those who are not strongly inclined to vote will be more likely to choose Obama as their man – and may be less likely to vote. The second is that some Republicans, not least because of the recent press coverage about McCain’s team flirtation with the other side in the past, may be more inclined to suggest they are not voting – but come polling day they will vote for McCain.
This, together with the margin of error in polling of 3% variation suggests to me that in the 4 weeks before Polling Day Obama needs 10% to be certain. Let there be no mistake – McCain is the dream candidate and he is a better candidate than President George Bush Sr. or Jr. His experience, and story together with policy on key issues like national security and health will I believe come into it’s own towards the end of the campaign. There will be a McCain bounce that would be enough in a close race let alone one that misrepresents just how close the two candidates are.
This will be tight with Obama, and a 5% lead may even not be enough – I believe the margin of error could be as high as 6% variation. So to be home and dry you are looking at 10%, because I think McCain can claw back good percentage points in the course of a well run campaign and that also his vote will be underestimated by the polls while Obama’s will be overstated.
What can Obama do? With Clinton fighting to the bitter end there is not much he can do on that score but making bridges with the Super delegates that are behind Clinton will be crucial not least for him to have a Democratic Party that would give him 100% motivated support.
The second is that he needs to keep the margin at least to 6% to win. The key states where voter turnout is low and the State crucial need to be identified and the vote got out. Every vote will matter because the McCain bounce is very real let alone what I consider will be McCain’s underrepresented intended voting.
The third is that Obama must play the one trump card he certainly has over McCain – his youth, energy and having party willing to make reform and change happen. That can only happen if the Democratic Party can unite around him quickly, but also get election fund that they need – already wasted on a Primary between the one that stands a chance and the one that has none.
Finally Obama must not believe the hype that surrounds him. McCain is a real threat even if loosing by 5% points in the last few weeks. Every single vote will count, every activist contribution will matter, the result will be closer than the polls suggest. The future of the United States as a nation of freedom based on principles that defend liberty on a secularist constitution is under threat. This is further confounded if McCain as an over 70 year old candidate chooses either Romney or Huckabee as his running mate.
Not only must the American people realise the danger to the historical legacy of their country, and do the right thing come polling day – the Democrats must do the right thing now as activists. The vote on the nominee to the Supreme Court will have lasting implications. It is for this reason and if one of the two above become McCain‘s running mate, that I have decided that Obama should be the next President of the United States.
My analysis need not hold true if Obama can run an effective campaign achieving the goals I mentioned above. But a bitter campaign between Clinton and Obama, together with a situation that one has the popular vote and the other the delegate count (unlikely – Obama should hold both) let alone super delegates having the final say kiss the White House good bye.
Unforgettable if it means loosing the White House – the race will be tighter then the polls suggest. Unforgivable if it changes the constitution of the nation. One only hopes that Obama is moved by his principles and not his former Pastor Wright, whose rather inflammatory opinions are a further reason to show that when the founding fathers thought that religion and state went against the liberty and freedom of citizens they hit on an idea that is timeless.
My previous blog on faith schools resulted in an e mail from someone very hurt that their fond childhood memories at a faith school were not only being insulted, but they felt under attack due to my passion on this issue. As someone that is concerned about the separation of church and state you have to appreciate where I am coming from on this; I am not belittling your experience or diminishing you because you went to a faith school.
You must understand that you had a good educational experience at a faith school; I on the other hand due to faith nearly had my life chances ruined because faith was considered by the government an acceptable reason for me to be taught at home. But that is not the principle that matters here. I am not saying that educational experiences cannot be wonderful in a good (faith or none) school. Of course they can. My own secular school after being taught at home lacked character or inspiration. Given the choice between the school you went to and my old one, hands down I would go for yours.
If you look carefully at the blog I am attacking the selection of pupils on the basis of religion. That for me is more crucial then the religious character of a school. I do not think that a tax paid institution of education should be able to select pupils on the basis of faith. It provides a public service and as such should not discriminate places on the basis of religion.
That is my contention as well as with more faith schools covering more religions we are actually not promoting social cohesion. Rather, we are deepening and widening the social divisions that already exist. The future is that these will become fault lines – misunderstandings and intolerance will be reinforced by never having known people outside your circle. The curriculum itself of religious education is not the same as being with people from different backgrounds.
If faith schools did not use the faith of parents as the basis of selection in a state school I would still have concerns that not all faith schools would be as well run as many are – but at least what I regard as an inappropriate way to select children for an education placement in a tax paid institution would be negated. Not to mention less segregation.
The simple maths – segregation reduces social cohesion, and the earlier in life that happens the worse it is.
If you disagree with that argument then by all means state why I am wrong, that children born of Islamic parents that go through the whole of their educational life in a Muslim school, live in a Muslim area of town, will be just as socially cohesive as one where the local kids go to a state school open to all regardless of faith? Or that in Northern Ireland the fact that children grew up in segregated schools did not add to tensions during the troubles that lasted over many generations?
Where parents make the choice out of educational opportunity, I understand that. When it is done out of religious conviction I am concerned, but the education on offer is what matters. My concern is public provision that is limited based on religion I find abhorrent – children should not be turned away on the basis of faith.
Social cohesion and use of tax payers money where children are excluded based on faith would therefore be my two greatest concerns. For more on that, people may want to look at the following links: