Category Archives: Government

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 presidents and their ladies

There’s been a temptation on the part of the opposition for the last couple of decades to make as much hay as possible when it’s discovered the US president has a mistress, or had one.  This hasn’t always been so.   Presidents of the past venerated by those finger-pointers and accusers have frequently had their affairs during a time when such matters were left for gossip columnists and rumor mongers.

Lucy Page Mercer Rutherfurd was one of two women believed to have been FDR’s mistresses. Lucy has the distinction, though, of being the only certainty. Eleanor found her letters to FDR. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_Mercer_Rutherfurd

Then there was Ike.   Commander of Allied Forces in Europe during the invasion, and Republican president after Truman.

All those years Ike was in office I never knew anyone to criticize him about that particular issue.    If they hated him at all [and the rabid right wingers certainly did] they didn’t bring his private sex life into the conversation.

Then of course there was LBJ and his shenanigans too numerous to bother mentioning except one.

As far as I know Ford, Carter, Reagan and both Bush presidencies were either adultery-free, or discrete enough to keep it out of the public eye.    As was Obama.  Goes to prove some presidents have the good sense to either keep their peckers zipped up safely inside their pants, or go the extra mile to keep it out of the headlines.

And there’s no point even discussing Bill Clinton….. that one’s the record Trump is trying to beat with Stormy Daniels.

Maybe it’s time, really time for a woman president so we can put all this sexual scandal to rest.

Old Jules

The Social Security Entitlement Adventure

What with the Congress and prez conducting a war against Social Security now in 2018, I was surprised to find this in my blog posted back during 2012. After reading through it I find my perspective hasn’t changed all that much, but my dependency on SS has. Old Jules

So Far From Heaven

Good morning readers. I’m obliged you came by for a read.

I got an email yesterday from an old acquaintance who’s carrying a serious chip on his shoulder about somebody calling the Social Security pension he lives on an ‘entitlement’. He raged on about how he paid into it fifty years, and his employers matched everything he paid. So, he says, it’s not an entitlement.

Sheeze. I wonder what else a person would call it. He’s entitled to it. What the hell is it but an entitlement?

But I think he’s concerned that because ‘entitlement’ has become a buzzword for something else he doesn’t like.  Namely a whole range of government payouts to bank owners, automobile companies, multi-national corporations, all manner of people bleeding the US budget dry with bailouts and payoffs.  I think he figures they might quit paying him his pension because they called it an entitlement.  Putting him down…

View original post 219 more words

These youngsters and their ‘March For Our Lives’

I suppose you have to have buzz words and jingles if you want to turn out the masses for your demonstrations.   I’ll confess I’m a bit ambivalent about the anti-assault weapon frenzy and don’t believe for a minute any lives will be saved by taking them out of the hands of civilians.    I wouldn’t lift a finger to support an issue I consider a meaningless gesture.

But on the other hand, it’s an inconvenient fact the same folks who rally for the 2nd Amendment and want to wave their assault rifles around also want to rape Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.    And these youngsters in the streets waving signs wouldn’t lift a finger to keep them from doing it.

So what a lucky coincidence!   The flood that’s going to sweep away assault rifles [I couldn’t care less about] will carry with it the people who want to rob senior citizens of their livelihood, health care, and keep them from having to live under bridges [which the anti-gun youngsters couldn’t care less about].

Just imagine it!    800 places all over the US, thousands of people in the streets inadvertently working to throw the people out of national elected office in 2018 and 2020 who want to destroy Social Security, Medicare and Medicade.

March 24, 2018, March of our Lives locations in the US. People inadvertently marching and demonstrating to save Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/03/22/us/politics/march-for-lives-demonstrations.html

Well friends, I might just have to get me a sign and join them.

If I had to take away every assault rifle in the US to save my SS pension and Medicare, I’d be out there carrying signs pretending to believe that confiscating every assault rifle in existence would stop those school shootings.

Nobody ever demanded the two issues had to ride in the same boat, but once it happened I favor torpedoes to sink the ship and making sure any lifeboats carrying them don’t reach a safe harbor.   They haven’t left any room in the equation to call themselves a loyal opposition.    They are the enemy who happens to like guns and hate letting old people have a means to live.

What a lucky coincidence the same politicians who pander to gun lovers want to rob seniors of their Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Sooooo you can have my Social Security check when you pry it from my cold dead fingers,

You can have my Social Security check when you pry it from my cold dead fingers, I reckons.   Me and my kiddos who want to take your guns away and incidentally protect my livelihood are going to sink your ship.

Old Jules

Disturbing insights

This ignorant cracker entered the US Army in 1961 during the Berlin Crisis [when the Berlin Wall went up]. Given the similarities of patriotic rhetoric between countries he’d as happily taken the orders of an Adolph Hitler as John Kennedy.

Yesterday I was down at the laundromat, which was a bit crowded with the lower-end of the socioeconomic scale of Leavenworth, Kansas.   But because of the time of day, most were senior citizens or younger wives with kiddos.   Several old Vietnam era vets and a couple of granny-ladies.

When it’s that crowded in the place it forces people to become social instead of just staring at the clothing tumbling in their washers or dryers.   And when strangers discuss anything these days it will be sports, television, politics, or Muslims, for the most part.   Some of which inevitably leads to confessions of some nasty hatreds and deep biases.

I was a bit shocked when the discussion centered almost entirely on the president and the enthusiasm shared among the ones who were vocal on the subject.    These people, senior citizens who obviously rely on Social Security pensions and Medicare, are still devoted and determined to to see this president and the Congress with intentions to destroy their Medicare and Social Security remain in office.   Increase their power.

I’ll confess to have been quietly dumbfounded.   They sneered at the class of people who are openly critical or have doubts about the prez and the Congress that’s likely to put them out on the streets cold an hungry.  And the old vets were noisy about the opposition being expressed in some quarters to a proposed military parade somewhere.   Which I couldn’t care less about one way or the other.

But I’ve digressed somewhat.    All that got me remembering, wondering just what sort of people we veterans are, on the whole.   Obviously we aren’t deep thinkers.    And while many spout patriotic rhetoric and indignation, as nearly as I can tell most have remained the ignorant crackers most of us were back when we entered the military 50 years or so ago.

But what’s more disturbing than our lack of growth and acquired wisdom over the decades, is the fact so many of us evidently are using our stupidity as a launchpad for active participation in the political process.

To demolish our own livelihood.

Figure that one out.

Old Jules

It’s no Disney World, but it still draws a lot of business

federal prison gated community

Hi readers.   Thanks for coming by.

A lot of you have probably never been to a federal prison, so I thought you might enjoy seeing one of our more famous local attractions.   A lot of people come here to see it and decide to stay a while.  It seems almost majestic to me, but of course I have a biased view, being a resident of the town.

People come from all over the country to see this place and hobnob with like minded residents.

Of course, there are five, or more prisons in this community [nobody seems sure] including one other federal one.   In addition to providing food and shelter for hundreds, maybe thousands of individuals, it’s a source of employment for multitudes.   In my coffee group meeting twice a month at the Council on Aging more than a fourth of the 20+ old guys who attend are retired from prison careers.    Interestingly, no long-time released inmates are part of the group.

Five gated communities in a single small urban environment might seem a lot for those accustomed to Santa Fe, Santa Barbara, or Tuscon.   But around here it feels just about right.    After all, there’d be no place for all those inmates to stay if we had fewer gated communities.

Old Jules

Worth losing Medicare and Social Security to Make America Great?

the american way
I confess I don’t understand the logic, but around here eavesdropping on conversations between folks of SS pension age, they think losing their SS pension is going to be just ducky.

Not to say they’re mentioning Social Security, or Medicare, or Medicaid. But they’re obviously receiving it, and they’re tickled pea green with the politicians who have every intention of taking away that part of their livelihood.

They love this man in the White House now and considered the State of the Union message ‘inspirational’. Not one dissenting comment I’ve overheard yet.

Well, heck. As a man who relies on Social Security for my only source of income, and on Medicare for a substantial piece of my medications, I’d just like to say, I don’t think America is likely to become great by causing greater hardship for anyone at all in the population. And I’m a bit appalled to see so many people expressing their glee that a bunch of wealthy politicians of both parties are going forward with deliberate plans to do precisely that.

Fact is, if there was ever anything to admire about this country it was the claim that as a people we wanted to make life better for everyone among us.

And in my opinion only human scum would take any joy out of trying to make it worse for any of us.

Old Jules