April 8, 2008

You have no right to be here!

In West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943), the U.S. Supreme Court heard the Jehovah's Witness' complaint against the then version of the Pledge of Alliance that stated:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Jehovah's Witness argued that their religious beliefs did not permit them to salute any symbols of a "temporal government". In his ruling in favor of the complainants, J. Jackson wrote,

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.

Six decades and a half after J. Jackson's eloquent tribute to the Constitution of the United States, it appears that Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago) needs a refresher course in the First Amendment rights of the citizens of this nation.

Taking exception to the atheist activist Rob Sherman's testimony in the [Illinois] House State Government Administration Committee, Rep. Davis let loose a vitriolic attack on Mr. Sherman's disbelief in gods. Here is the exchange:

Davis: I don’t know what you have against God, but some of us don’t have much against him. We look forward to him and his blessings. And it’s really a tragedy -- it’s tragic -- when a person who is engaged in anything related to God, they want to fight. They want to fight prayer in school.

I don’t see you (Sherman) fighting guns in school. You know?

I’m trying to understand the philosophy that you want to spread in the state of Illinois. This is the Land of Lincoln. This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God, where people believe in protecting their children.… What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous, it’s dangerous--

Sherman: What’s dangerous, ma’am?

Davis: It’s dangerous to the progression of this state. And it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! Now you will go to court to fight kids to have the opportunity to be quiet for a minute. But damn if you’ll go to [court] to fight for them to keep guns out of their hands. I am fed up! Get out of that seat!

Sherman: Thank you for sharing your perspective with me, and I’m sure that if this matter does go to court---

Davis: You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon.

Sherman held his cool, refused to yield, and completed his testimony.

In case you haven't heard, Rep. Davis, I have news for you. It's Mr. Sherman and his fellow citizens who have given you the right to be seated where you are seated, Ma'am, and not the other way around.

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  1. You just gotta love the USA. We air out all our dirty laundry right in the open. To me, Separation of Church and State is the issue here. Religion can be the most invasive and demanding of anything we have to deal with, especially if there is a bully around. Our founding fathers were wise to keep a separation between the church and state, so nobody can get such a strong hold on our lives, and on our beliefs.

  2. I guess the whole problem with trying to engage believers in a rational discussion about God and faith is that it is impossible because they get overtly emotional and sentimental about anything said contrary to their beliefs.
    You have no right to be here, huh, because he doesn't pray?


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