A few weeks ago, someone brought to my attention a bizarre little web site, Christian Exodus, whose mandate is ... well, let's just let them speak for themselves, shall we?
ChristianExodus.org is coordinating the move of thousands of Christians to South Carolina for the express purpose of re-establishing Godly, constitutional government. It is evident that the U.S. Constitution has been abandoned under our current federal system, and the efforts of Christian activism to restore our Godly republic have proven futile over the past three decades. The time has come for Christians to withdraw our consent from the current federal government and re-introduce the Christian principles once so predominant in America to a sovereign State like South Carolina.
To which my initial response was, that would be most excellent. Give the religiously-devout lunatic fringe their own territory, let them rename it "Jesusland" or something, and maybe they'll fuck off and leave the rest of us alone to, say, learn some science in peace and quiet. Then I stopped thinking about it since I prefer to spend my intellectual time in the land of the moderately sane.
More recently, though, I ran across the site again and figured I'd give it a closer look just to see what these folks were carping and whining about. Apparently, their major complaint relates to how badly Christians are treated in modern-day America. And I'm sure that, when you give it some thought, like me, the first word that comes to your mind when you think of American Christianity is "persecuted". (HAHAHAHAHAHA! Sometimes, I crack me up.)
But wait, I says to myself, let's be fair here, and see if they have a point. So I decided to look into some of their alleged examples of egregious mistreatment to see if they really are that hard done by. Short answer -- they're completely full of shit. But, hey, let's not take my word for it, let's let the record speak for itself, shall we?
If you go to their home page, you can scroll down until you find the bullet point, "Children who pray in public schools are subject to prosecution", and follow the footnote link "", at which point you find a list of apparent religious persecutions and generally tawdry treatment of the religiously devout. So, just for the entertainment value, let's take a closer look at them, shall we?
In Missouri, when fourth-grader Raymond Raines bowed his head in prayer before his lunch in the cafeteria of Waring Elementary School in St. Louis, his teacher allegedly ordered him out of his seat, in full view of other students present, and sent him to the principal’s office. After his third such prayer "offense," little Raymond was segregated from his classmates, ridiculed for his religious beliefs, and given one week's detention.
Man, that's pretty shoddy treatment. Or, it would be if it were true, which is where the magic of Google comes in. If you do the appropriate Google search, you get several hundred hits and, buried in the middle of all of that, you actually get someone writing about what really happened. By all means, read the whole piece, but concentrate on this part:
School officials and the school's attorney have declined to elaborate on exactly why the boy was punished because they are required by law to protect his right to privacy. Superintendent David Mahan responds, however, that the boy "was disciplined for some matters that were totally independent of silent praying. We did a very thorough investigation. We talked to teachers, administrators, and also to some students, and we could not find any evidence of the allegations that the parent and the student made." Rev. Earl E. Nance Jr, a member and former chairman of the St. Louis school board, adds "I don't think the child was prevented from praying over lunch. I think the child was probably instructed in another matter and mistook that for understanding he couldn't pray over his lunch, and went home and told his parents." Nance is the pastor of Greater Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church. He characterized the lawsuit as simply "frivolous."
And one has to ask how probable it is that a school district with a minister on its board would really forbid silent, individual praying? Chalk another one up for the Christian Disinformation Troops.
The Rutherford institute claims that it is working on over 500 similar cases of abuse of religious liberties. One wonders if the claims in them are all so questionable.
Whoopsie, it must be really annoying when facts get in the way of a good fairy tale but, let's face it, when you're talking modern fundamentalist Christianity, you're pretty much talking fairy tale city, aren't you?
(A couple side notes about this story. First, it apparently originated years ago with Republican nutbar Newt Gingrich, he of the upstanding morals and total hypocrisy. Gingrich has a nasty habit of just making shit up, so why should this story be any different? On top of that, this myth dates back to 1994, for crying out loud! If Christians really have a litany of persecution woes to lament, you'd think they wouldn't have to go back over a decade to find examples.)
Anyway, one fairy tale sent swirling down the bowl. Next.
In New York, kindergartner Kayla Broadus recited the familiar and beloved prayer – "God is great, God is good. Thank you, God, for my food" – while holding hands with two students seated next to her at her snack table at her Saratoga Springs school early last year. But she was silenced and scolded by her teacher, who reported the infraction to the school’s lawyer, Gregg T. Johnson, who concluded that Kayla’s behavior was indeed a violation of the "separation of church and state."
Once again, the story is so implausible on its face that one is reluctant to waste the time in refuting it. But, what the hell, here at CC HQ, we're all about rigour, and once again, Google comes to the rescue:
The Supreme Court decision was that it couldn't interfere with Kayla's rights since it would be deciding a religious matter, violating the Separation Church and State and her First Amendment rights. In other words, the school was on its own to defend its position not to let Kayla continue this practice. The school stated it would allow Kayla to continue her practice of reciting "grace," as long as it didn't interfere with the teaching curriculum.
Naturally, you might want to read the whole article but, in short, while the teachers did in fact initially stop Broadus from saying a prayer, they were pretty quickly smacked down and the school rescinded its policy. But you can see why the religious right might still be upset from this 2002 case -- it's gotta be really annoying when a federal judge takes your side. Don't you just hate it when that happens? Not surprisingly, Christians are still pissing and moaning about this example to this day.
But here's my favourite example from the loons at Christian Exodus:
"Separation of church and state" was used to deny a little, handicapped girl the right to read her Bible on the bus on the long trip to school.
Seriously, at this point, do you actually think there's any chance that someone took a Bible away from a studious, handicapped girl on a school bus? Once again, Google comes through and we can go to the official record, where the first thing you notice is that there's no mention of any kind of handicap. (In fact, I've exchanged e-mail with the reporter who confirmed that there was no "handicap" involved. In short, liars making stuff up for the sympathy value.)
But here's the money excerpt:
Last week, a Laidlaw bus driver told Samantha not to read her Bible on his bus.
The bus driver, who since has been suspended and removed from the bus route, was told by Laidlaw officials the girl may read whatever she wishes on the bus.
Superintendent Dennis Craft agreed.
"The little girl brought the Bible on the bus to read to herself," he said. "That's perfectly fine, and she has that right to do that."
Yes, you read that right. The driver did in fact tell Wilson not to read her Bible on the bus. Within a day, the situation had been fixed, and the bus driver had been "suspended and removed from the bus route." And another one bites the dust.
Starting to see a pattern here? What was all that Christian nonsense about not bearing false witness? Or something like that?