Category Archives: 2015

Seven decade tug-of-war between organized religion and the 1st Amendment

Nobody paid a lot of attention to issues of the ‘Separation of Church and State’ between Reynolds v. the United States in 1789 [upholding federal bigamy laws], and Everson v. The Board of Education, 1947 ruling it was okay for Catholic parents to be reimbursed for sending their kids to Catholic schools on buses, same as for public school kids using buses.

Those of us who attended public schools prior to Engels v. Vitale in 1962 managed to survive prayers coming over the intercom each morning without any permanent damage and the only eyebrows raised were in response to boredom.   In one school I attended, popular kids were selected each day to give the prayers and they seemed to compete with one another to add dramatic emphasis, but generally I’d count it all harmless.

Around that time Madalyn Murray O’Hair entered the picture and atheists became militant and vocal.   Maybe it was something in the water.    The Murray v. Curlett Supreme Court decision in 1963 ending religious study in public schools became a harbinger for a long series of religion versus state legal battles.

Maybe it was the times…. the fact is, a person declaring himself to be an atheist prior to the 1960s would have been asking for all manner of difficulties.   My granddad got a visit from the FBI out on his hardscrabble farm around 1953, because one of his neighbors reported he was an ‘atheistic Communist’.   In those times that was serious invective indeed.

But though I’ve spent almost all my adult life not subscribing to any organized religion, which in some circles damns me as an atheist, I’ve often thought the church/state religious battles that emerged to the US Supreme Court were mostly petty embarrassments.     If those were the worst infringements accusers could come up with insofar as the separation of church and state, it would have been better left alone than hold them up as evidence atheists were a lot of nit-picking whiners about nothing.

But that’s roughly what we’re left with.    Lawsuits filed, court time wasted about nativity scenes on courthouse lawns and plaques containing the Ten Commandments.

Ironically, now we see the Christian fundamentalists trying to establish a foothold as a state religion to protect the US from Islamics and scary Sharia Law.    While splinter groups of Mormons drift back into polygamy and assortments of Asian religious establishments creep into suburbia.

Keeping in mind that no legal battle arrives at the door of SCOTUS until it’s been through lower courts and appeal courts.    So the list below really doesn’t convey just how much legal time and money has found its way into the pockets of lawyers as a consequence of the determination of people who don’t want religion anywhere in their lives, and those who want their own religion to be implied as valid by display at public expense:

U.S. Supreme Court Decisions
(arranged by date)

Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1879)

Court finds that the federal antibigamy statute does not violate the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion.

Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947)

Court finds that a New Jersey law which included students of Catholic schools in reimbursements to parents who sent their children to school on buses operated by the public transportation system does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

McCollum v. Board of Education Dist. 71, 333 U.S. 203 (1948)

Court finds religious instruction in public schools a violation of the establishment clause and therefore unconstitutional.

Burstyn v. Wilson, 72 S. Ct. 777 (1952)

Government may not censor a motion picture because it is offensive to religious beliefs.

Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 (1961)

Court holds that the state of Maryland cannot require applicants for public office to swear that they believed in the existence of God. The court unanimously rules that a religious test violates the Establishment Clause.

Engel v. Vitale, 82 S. Ct. 1261 (1962)

Any kind of prayer, composed by public school districts, even nondenominational prayer, is unconstitutional government sponsorship of religion.

Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963)

Court finds Bible reading over school intercom unconstitutional and Murray v. Curlett, 374 U.S. 203 (1963) – Court finds forcing a child to participate in Bible reading and prayer unconstitutional.

Epperson v. Arkansas, 89 S. Ct. 266 (1968)

State statue banning teaching of evolution is unconstitutional. A state cannot alter any element in a course of study in order to promote a religious point of view. A state’s attempt to hide behind a nonreligious motivation will not be given credence unless that state can show a secular reason as the foundation for its actions.

Lemon v. Kurtzman, 91 S. Ct. 2105 (1971)

Established the three part test for determining if an action of government violates First Amendment’s separation of church and state:
1) the government action must have a secular purpose;
2) its primary purpose must not be to inhibit or to advance religion;
3) there must be no excessive entanglement between government and religion.

Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39 (1980)

Court finds posting of the Ten Commandments in schools unconstitutional.

Wallace v. Jaffree, 105 S. Ct. 2479 (1985)

State’s moment of silence at public school statute is unconstitutional where legislative record reveals that motivation for statute was the encouragement of prayer. Court majority silent on whether “pure” moment of silence scheme, with no bias in favor of prayer or any other mental process, would be constitutional.

Edwards v. Aquillard, 107 S. Ct. 2573 (1987)

Unconstitutional for state to require teaching of “creation science” in all instances in which evolution is taught. Statute had a clear religious motivation.

Allegheny County v. ACLU, 492 U.S. 573 (1989)

Court finds that a nativity scene displayed inside a government building violates the Establishment Clause.

Lee v. Weisman, 112 S. Ct. 2649 (1992)

Unconstitutional for a school district to provide any clergy to perform nondenominational prayer at elementary or secondary school graduation. It involves government sponsorship of worship. Court majority was particularly concerned about psychological coercion to which children, as opposed to adults, would be subjected, by having prayers that may violate their beliefs recited at their graduation ceremonies.

Church of Lukumi Babalu Ave., Inc. v. Hialeah, 113 S. Ct. 2217 (1993)

City’s ban on killing animals for religious sacrifices, while allowing sport killing and hunting, was unconstitutional discrimination against the Santeria religion.

https://infidels.org/library/modern/church-state/decisions.html

If you believe this isn’t over yet, you are probably correct.   Because even though religious affiliation in the US is evidently dropping somewhat rapidly, the strength of the fundamentalist right, the Latter Day Saints, the Jews, and the Islamics is gaining, rather than losing momentum.

There’s cause to suspect we’ll see at least another half century before any of the parties involved are powerless.    It’s a crapshoot who will be the last man standing.

Old Jules

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The man who couldn’t cry

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

Loudon Wainwright wrote and performed The Man Who Couldn’t Cry without making much of a splash.  Fairly typical of Loudon Wainwright, despite the fact he’s always had my vote for president or anything else he might want to do.

However, Johnny Cash is another man who has always had my vote and I’ll confess he does about as fine a job on the song as Wainwright.  As far as I know those two are the only people who’ve ever performed it.

Think about it.  We live in this amazing time.  The oldest, most musically astute of us probably couldn’t name more than a couple of 19th Century singers.  We know they sang and people loved their singing, Lola Montez, Lillian Langtry.  But we’ve never heard them do it.

For we 21st Century folks, though, Al Jolson’s still alive out there singing Mammy, Waiting on the Robert E Lee and Anniversary song.  In two part harmony with Lee Marvin singing I Was Born Under a Wandrin Star in Paint Your Wagon.  The Kingston Trio are their young selves being the Cumberland Three singing Civil War Songs, or as themselves rendering another South Coast and Seasons in the Sun.

It isn’t just the listening, either.  Incredibly, we can wander around on YouTube and watch young Lonnie Donnegan sing Jack of Diamonds and Chuck Berry perform Se La Vie Say the Old Folks.

A briefly popular song from 1961-62 used to run through my head, Dear One, by the Ravens.  I asked lots of people through the years if anyone remembered it with never a soul answering they did.  But there it is on YouTube.  Horrid song.  I can’t believe I loved it back when then was then.  But there you are.

But I’ve digressed.  I was listening to MP3 shuffling through songs, passing the time, and heard Johnny Cash singing The Man Who Couldn’t Cry.  I never recalled hearing it before.  Laughed and snorted, looked it up on YouTube to watch him sing it.  When Jeanne got home between jobs I played it for her to provide a laugh.

“Who’s that singing it?  That’s a Loudon Wainwright song!”

“Eh?  No, that’s Johnny Cash.”

“I know it’s a Loudon Wainwright song.  Look it up!”

Okay, spang robbed my macho.  Hell, until we met Jeanne had never heard of Loudon Wainwright.  [Nor a lot of her other favorite performers, I hasten to brag]  But here she is thanks to it being the 21st Century when all the singers of the 20th Century are still alive and young if they wanted to be, here’s Jeanne instructing me on whether that’s a Johnny Cash song, or a Loudon Wainwright song.

And the cool thing about that is the day is coming when nobody who loves Johnny Horton singing Miss Marcy will have been alive when Johnny Horton sang it.  People will probably dance to Al Jolson singing Anniversary Song and be as moved as they were in 1950.

At least as long as the Internet lasts.  Probably around December, this year.

Old Jules

Cats can’t sing either

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

Old Hydrox has become a frequent singer in his dotage.  Jeanne described the ones happening several times per night lately as ‘annoying’.  And I haven’t found a way to discourage him doing it, nor thought of any explanation.

I tend to think he misses being around several cats, possibly [especially] Niaid, his litter-mate who went on permanent mouse patrol slightly over a year ago in Andrews, Texas.  We were all together 17 years, so I’d imagine if a cat’s capable of ‘missing’ another creature Niaid is one of his night songs.

On the other hand, it’s clear Shiva is a part of all this.  He’ll walk over and sit on the floor in front of the chair where she’s sleeping and begin the serenade until he runs out of lyrics.  Sometimes it’s Sweet Betsy from Pike, other times Otis Redding or Roy Orbison.  Fortunately that usually happens during the hours of daylight.

The night songs seem to be triggered by dreams, or by Shiva creeping through the living room where Hydrox and I bed down.  She has to go by here on the way to the litter box, a few laps of water, or to check out the food dishes.  And there’s no way she’s getting past here without the keen ears of Hydrox detecting it, head jerking around to stare.

Usually he’ll contemplate what he’s seen until she passes on her return trip.  Then he’ll jump to the floor and follow her with his immortal prose or a few stanzas of Pretty Woman Walk on By.  Or My Girl.

If he had a better command of English and had ever shown any signs of being susceptible to reasoned argument or persuasion I’d try it.  But a whispered 2:00 am yell at him only results in a brief pause and stare.  Getting up and chasing him around also only gets me back under the blankets with my teeth chattering and him carrying on where he left off.

Maybe I misinterpreting the song.  Hydrox might just be saying, “This getting old is hell.  I surely do miss ambition.”

Cyrano de Bergerac remembering the moon.

Old Jules

 

Immigration reform

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

Later this year when the petrodollar crashes and burns most of you will probably be hoping the Mexicans will revise their immigration laws.  Likely you’ll recall the last time the US economy fell on really hard times how US workers drifted to Mexico and further south looking for work.  It wasn’t a lot better there, but there was less English speaking competition for jobs.

Here’s an example from the Bogart movie, Treasure of Sierra Madre:

Things haven’t really changed much, have they.  Except the guy doing the hiring and cheating them out of their pay is a gringo in Mexico instead of a gringo in the US.

I’m betting those Mexicans will be tickled pea-green to have gringos coming down to work.

Old Jules

Shredded ginger in oatmeal

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

I’ve told you plenty of times the lengths I go to finding miniscule sodium or no sodium food products to prepare for myself.  I’ve found a good many more since the last time I talked about it.

For instance, cranberries were on sale for a buck per bag during the holidays and knowing how heavily I use cranberries I loaded up Jeanne’s freezer.  Every day I put a handful into my breakfast oatmeal.  Adds zest.  But even that gradually becomes ho hum.

Naturally there’s a lot of ginger nodules around here because both Jeanne, and I cook with ginger.  She’s careful and skins hers before grating it.  I just chunk mine into the blender, fill that blender up with shredded ginger, then flatten it so’s it’s easy to break off inside the baggie when frozen.  [Gallon freezer bags work best]  So spang, pull it out of the freezer, break off a piece, and you can put a hefty ginger flavor to anything you please.

This morning I’m having ginger-cranberry oatmeal.  It hits the taste-buds a bit hard the first spoonful, but after that oatmeal becomes a someone you’d like to get to know better.

I’ve come up with a number of other items I’m planning to tell you about, even though there’s probably not anyone else here who’s fanatic about keeping salt ingestion below 2000 grams per day.  There’s stove top pizza, stovetop wheat buns, green chili Swiss cheese omelets [amazingly low sodium] huevos ranchero style.

And so on.  I’m going to try to remember to post some ingredients and methodology as the year rolls out and I find more of them or run new trials on the ones I’ve already invented.

I’ve got to find a replacement for Hatch green chili, by the way.  They had it in the grocery stores [outside them] here during harvest time, and I bought a few pounds to run through the blender and freeze.  But I’m running dry on them.

These were only partly roasted, but Jeanne’s son, Michael, roasted them in an outdoor barbeque for me.  I debated on peeling them and decided it’s time the world found a way to get loose from green chili skins without anything labor-intensive.  So I blended the bejesus out of them and turned out to be right.  They’re great.

Old Jules