Timothy Sandefur posted Entry 1828 on December 23, 2005 12:31 AM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1823

Some kind of trophy for the most absurd reaction to the Kitzmiller decision must go to Richard Land, of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics And Religious Liberty Commission. In this article in the Washington Post, Land is quoted as saying:

“This decision is a poster child for a half-century secularist reign of terror that’s coming to a rapid end with Justice Roberts and soon-to-be Justice Alito,” said Richard Land, who is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and is a political ally of White House adviser Karl Rove. “This was an extremely injudicious judge who went way, way beyond his boundaries–if he had any eyes on advancing up the judicial ladder, he just sawed off the bottom rung.”

I’m not sure what being “a political ally of White House advisor Karl Rove” means (doesn’t that refer to all registered Republicans?) but Land’s comments are absolutely indefensible, and, if they come from a man of significant official power, are wildly irresponsible. Remember what the Kitzmiller decision holds: it holds that the government is not allowed to put its seal of approval on a religion. If people want to propagate a religious view, they are free to do so on their own time and with their own money: but they may not use my money, or use the government’s coercive power to do it. This principle, of course, is the very bedrock of religious liberty itself–the liberty which Mr. Land’s Commission uses as its title. The concept of religious liberty is fundamentally based on the idea that government should not go around teaching people that a particular religious belief is true. One of the great founders of religious liberty, John Milton, explained that the state should

leave the church to its own government, and relieve [it]self and the other public functionaries from a charge so onerous, and so incompatible with [its] functions; and…no longer suffer two powers, so different as the civil and the ecclesiastical, to commit fornication together, and by their mutual and delusive aids in appearance to strengthen, but in reality to weaken and finally to subvert, each other…; [it should] remove all power of persecution out of the church, (but persecution will never cease, so long as men are bribed to preach the gospel by a mercenary salary, which is forcibly extorted rather than gratuitously bestowed, which serves only to poison religion, and to strangle truth)….

Was Milton part of the great atheist conspiracy to against religion? But Kitzmiller says nothing more than Milton does: that the state must not use forcibly extorted taxes, or the state’s official authority to preach the gospel. And this is the principle that Mr. Land describes as a “secularist reign of terror.” That’s what he said: America inflicts a “reign of terror” on religious people.

Today, under this “reign of terror,” Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and believers in other faiths are freer to practice their faiths than they have been in any nation, or in any era in human history. Religious citizens are free to pray, preach, proselytize, and publish, anywhere they wish onany subject they wish, without government interference. Nobody is threatening these liberties. Nobody in the American government is confiscating bibles, censoring religious publications, or illegalizing marriages (well, I guess there’s one group that’s out there illegalizing marriages…), the way common law England persecuted Catholics. Nobody is putting people on trial for their religious beliefs, arresting and torturing dissenters, proscribing religious enemies, the way Catholic nations once persecuted Protestants. No American official is arresting preachers and nationalizing church property the way Communist governments have done to religious groups throughout the twentieth century…. For Mr. Land to use the phrase “reign of terror” for a people and a time that enjoy greater religious liberty than any other people and time have ever had, is not only an utterly irrational exaggeration, but also a profound insult to those of Mr. Land’s predecessors who experienced and still experience genuine persecution.

And what is this about Alito and Roberts? I strongly suspect that Mr. Land knows no more than I do about Chief Justice Roberts’ or Judge Alito’s views about evolution or Intelligent Design or their constitutional status. One hopes, at the very least, that these two distinguished judges will consider their public utterances more seriously, and will reserve words like “reign of terror” for appropriate instances. And one is tempted to say that a better example of persecution is provided by those who issue veiled threats against the future careers of judges whose decisions they disagree with! Land gives a good reason for fearing, as C.E. Petit said a few days ago, that Judge Jones, by doing his job wewll, has blown any chance he may have had of getting to the Supreme Court.

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Comment #64324

Posted by Gerry L on December 23, 2005 1:16 AM (e)

Well said, Timothy. The only “reign of terror” going on here is the one being conducted by self-righteous bigots who think that “freedom of religion” refers to their god-given right to force their beliefs on everyone else.

Comment #64325

Posted by Registered User on December 23, 2005 1:19 AM (e)

Mr. Sandefur – you mean Judge Jones in that last sentence.

Comment #64326

Posted by Piggy's got the conch on December 23, 2005 1:21 AM (e)

“… Judge Roberts, by doing his job wewll, hasas blown any chance he may have had of getting to the Supreme Court…”

You mean Judge Jones I think.

Comment #64327

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on December 23, 2005 1:23 AM (e)

“Land gives a good reason for fearing, as C.E. Petit said a few days ago, that Judge Roberts, by doing his job wewll, hasas blown any chance he may have had of getting to the Supreme Court.”

Judge Jones, you mean (and he might have difficulties getting on the appeals court, let alone the Supreme Court). Judge Roberts is now Chief Justice Roberts of course.

Comment #64328

Posted by Registered User on December 23, 2005 1:37 AM (e)

Looks like all the anal retentive folks are up late reading Panda’s Thumb at the same time. ;)

Comment #64332

Posted by Andrew McClure on December 23, 2005 1:49 AM (e)

Fascinating that he talks about Alito as someone who will change the status quo on separation of church and state. I thought the Republican party line was that Alito was a “moderate”, “mainstream” judge who wasn’t going to change anything?

If a Democratic congressman were to make a similar statement about Alito– that Roberts and Alito would “bring to an end” the current status of separation and church and state– what kind of response do you think they’d receive? How would Fox News react, or the blog crowd? Of course, this is just a hypothetical question, since (though the Democratic base is howling) the Democratic leadership have been alternately silent and fawning on Alito, and I’ve yet to see a congressional democrat suggest that Alito will change the judicial state of things on any subject except abortion… Except, here a high-ranking SBC official makes a baldfaced statement that Alito will “bring to an end” things such as the Dover decision, and nobody is batting an eyelash. Does this strike anyone as a bit… odd?

Comment #64337

Posted by Milo Johnson on December 23, 2005 2:12 AM (e)

Um, don’t you mean “Judge Jones” instead of “Judge Roberts” in the final sentence?

Comment #64343

Posted by Fernmonkey on December 23, 2005 3:01 AM (e)

As a Damn Pinko, I respect Judge Jones for handing down an opinion that he knew his party wouldn’t like much more than I’d respect a liberal judge who handed down the same opinion.

He had a choice between standing up for what was easy (he could have handed down a narrow verdict but not blown ID out of the water) and standing up for what was right.

I find it sad that it’s come to this. The Republicans were traditionally the science and technology party.

Comment #64358

Posted by the pro from dover on December 23, 2005 6:35 AM (e)

I guess it’s time for Mr. Land to use his considerable resources and political connections to begin a groundswell movement to pass a constitutional amendment to redefine science. This is the way the godfearing Christian majority he believes is behind him can protect themselves and their children from the “tyranny of the minority” of materialistic Darwinists.

Comment #64360

Posted by a maine yankee on December 23, 2005 6:47 AM (e)

There is a plan to re-settle South Carolina by born-again-and-again christians and establish a ‘religious’ state. This becomes a model for the USA. Don’t laugh too much. You are seeing the first skirmishes in this most un-civil of ‘crusades’ to end the Enlightenment. To paraphase: If there is an intelligent designer (proximate or ‘foundational’), I tremble at the future of my country.

Comment #64365

Posted by Apeman on December 23, 2005 7:53 AM (e)

I’m far from sure that Judge Jones has damaged his career by his decision in the Dover case - let’s hope not. His verdict (well, the court’s) has been widely admired by us rationalists, and no doubt by many of his fellow lawmakers. A courageous, coherent, and absolutley correct decision surely can’t hamper his progress - it would be outrageous to think it would. Speaking as a non-American this case had shown me absolutely that at least some of the time the USA really does deserve its position as leader of the free world. Judge Jones has become an unlikely hero. We will hear more from him.

Comment #64367

Posted by Steve LaBonne on December 23, 2005 8:36 AM (e)

The sad thing is that, before the takeover of the denomination by batshit-crazy fundamentalists like Land, the Southern Baptist Convention was once a leading standardbearer for the defense of church-state separation.

Comment #64370

Posted by W. Kevin Vicklund on December 23, 2005 9:17 AM (e)

Judge Jones may be temporarily blacklisted, but only so long as the fundies can actually keep him on the blacklist. Get a new president, and that might move him off the list.

Comment #64377

Posted by Ed Darrell on December 23, 2005 9:58 AM (e)

Richard Land’s remarks are at best injudicious. But they also raise a spectre that there is an unspoken plot to reform the Supreme Court to ignore the Bill of Rights and other provisions of the Constitution.

Is anyone from Arlen Specter’s staff listening? The erstwhile newspaper Washington Times just said Judge Alito is part of a subversive plot against the Supreme Court. He should be asked about that directly, and all his contacts with Karl Rove and Richard Land need to be probed. This shouldn’t delay his confirmation by more than another month or so – but let’s be sure that Richard Land is just talkin’ crazy before we cave in, okay?

Comment #64378

Posted by Ed Darrell on December 23, 2005 10:01 AM (e)

Oooh, I reread. Not the Washington Times, but the real newspaper, The Washington Post. Surely Land knew which paper he was speaking to. It’s worse than I had thought.

Comment #64379

Posted by Ed Darrell on December 23, 2005 10:04 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'i'

Comment #64381

Posted by Mr Christopher on December 23, 2005 10:18 AM (e)

He was on Hannity and Colmes last night. So was Behe. Both of them are crazy nutjobs.

Comment #64382

Posted by Stephen Elliott on December 23, 2005 10:26 AM (e)

Posted by a maine yankee on December 23, 2005 06:47 AM (e) (s)

There is a plan to re-settle South Carolina by born-again-and-again christians and establish a ‘religious’ state. This becomes a model for the USA. Don’t laugh too much. You are seeing the first skirmishes in this most un-civil of ‘crusades’ to end the Enlightenment. To paraphase: If there is an intelligent designer (proximate or ‘foundational’), I tremble at the future of my country.

I read about that on some creationist site.
Some people probably will think that it is a good idea.
It would actualy be awfull to live in a country where your government claims to speak with the authority of God.

Comment #64391

Posted by steve s on December 23, 2005 11:03 AM (e)

Actually, I support that group. It’s called Christian Exodus.

http://christianexodus.org/

I’m an atheist, and I want them to succeed. And secede. If the fundamentalist wackos want to take the worst state in the union, South Carolina, and create Christistan, an independent political entity where they can outlaw abortion and stone gays to death or whatever, I think it would improve America.

Comment #64399

Posted by harold on December 23, 2005 11:52 AM (e)

I’m neither an atheist nor a fundamentalist, just a freedom- and honesty-loving American, but I, too, strongly support Christian Exodus.

It’s very simple. I want to live in a free society. A minority, but a decent-sized, well-funded and troublsome minority of Americans, want a Taliban-style theocracy, but Christian fundamentalist rather than Islamic fundamentalist. These people have undue influence in the Republican party, and are able to inflict all sorts of “irritation” level things on the rest of us, such as interfering with stem cell research funding, birth control, science education, supreme court nominations, etc.

Getting them out of the US and into a nation of their own would benefit everybody. It would allow the rest of us, whatever our religions, to get back to being full-fledged members of the free world. And it would allow fundamentalists to live out their fantasies, rather than being restricted to half-measures and failed court cases.

A potential danger is that a fundamentalist Christian nation, in South Carolina or elsewhere, might be irresponsibly aggressive, and would quite possibly attack the remaining US. Another problem would be that fundamentalists would almost certainly turn against each other in a civil war, eventually, possibly provoking a crisis that would force US taxpayers to fund “humanitarian” intervention. I think the benefits of allowing fundamentalists a place to move to outweigh these risks.

As the Christian Exodus site makes clear, they don’t overtly speak of “enforcing our version of Christianity with violence” but rather of “saving Christians from persecution”. I’m sure that’s what the Taliban said, too. “We are saving Muslims from persecution at the hands of a secular government”. There can be no doubt that what the fundamentalists really want is to force others to outwardly follow their particular religion (the fact that people forced to “follow a religion” by threats may be inwardly humiliating and seething is of little importance to them). Since we can’t persuade them of the self-destructive and immoral nature of this idea, giving them a place where they can do it, and leave the rest of us alone (one hopes), is the second best alternative.

Comment #64404

Posted by WatchfulBabbler on December 23, 2005 12:02 PM (e)

Land is one of the most fundamental (if you’ll excuse the pun) figures in the new conservative (post-takeover) Southern Baptist Church. He was literally educated by the SBC right-wing in the 1960s as a scholarship student and became one of the most established members in the religious right. His theological credentials are impressive, and he’s been politically active for decades. Believe me, if he uses phrases like “half-century secularist reign of terror,” he’s already weighed the political benefits and consequences of doing so.

Comment #64405

Posted by yellow fatty bean on December 23, 2005 12:13 PM (e)

Remember, to these guys “Freedom of Religion” = “Freedom of me to push my beliefs on your children when they are in public school”, under the guise of wanting to protect “their” children.

I assure you, the children of these fundie types are getting more than their USRDA of OTR (old time religion)…it’s YOUR kids they are trying to reach.

Comment #64406

Posted by Leon on December 23, 2005 12:13 PM (e)

Hm, my first thought in response to Mr. Land is “Liar liar pants on fire!!!” Is that too immature for me to post?

An “injudicious judge”? Oh my! Is that anything like an “unpreachy preacher”?

I would like to say for the record that at this point, I have nothing but the utmost respect for Judge Jones as a man of courage and integrity.

Comment #64408

Posted by Leon on December 23, 2005 12:30 PM (e)

I assure you, the children of these fundie types are getting more than their USRDA of OTR (old time religion)…it’s YOUR kids they are trying to reach.

You go that right. These people are dangerous–hazardous to the liberties of all who don’t agree with them.

Comment #64410

Posted by steve s on December 23, 2005 12:33 PM (e)

Comment #64406

Posted by Leon on December 23, 2005 12:13 PM (e) (s)

Hm, my first thought in response to Mr. Land is “Liar liar pants on fire!!!” Is that too immature for me to post?

No. You might be surprised to learn that the Discovery Institute actually has a full-time intern whose job is to run around with a fire extinguisher, putting out pants fires.

Comment #64411

Posted by steve s on December 23, 2005 12:37 PM (e)

Sadly Harold, I don’t think it’s going to work. When I heard about Christian Exodus a year or so ago, I was excited and read everything I could about them. I was disappointed to learn that they have very few supporters committed to moving.

Comment #64414

Posted by Leon on December 23, 2005 12:43 PM (e)

Sadly Harold, I don’t think it’s going to work. When I heard about Christian Exodus a year or so ago, I was excited and read everything I could about them. I was disappointed to learn that they have very few supporters committed to moving.

Damn! I was starting to hope.

Comment #64417

Posted by Greg H on December 23, 2005 12:48 PM (e)

Perhaps if we, the stalwart supporters of freedom, offered to fund their exodus? I’ll gladly kick in my buck-oh-five.

Comment #64420

Posted by lhomer on December 23, 2005 12:49 PM (e)

I think we have a serious problem with our culture wars, and it will not disappear by pushing fundamentalists into ghettos. People who feel unfairly treated, besieged, and marginalized turn to violent means of venting their frustrations. Witness we have already seen the emergence of terrorist activities on the abortion issue. I wish I did know what to do. I don’t, but I am fairly certain that the correct solution is not to dehumanize them in our minds and to further isolate them. The Cobb county board of education did not find the right solution, but I believe they were trying sincerely to include rather than exclude their troublesome minority. Between battles (which we must continue to fight), we could try to remind ourselves of the bad things that happen when majorities totally reject minorities as being heman.

Comment #64432

Posted by Engineer-Poet, FCD, ΔΠΓ on December 23, 2005 1:17 PM (e)

They’re self-ghettoizing.  What we need to do is attack the Orwellian aspects of their leaders’ rhetoric, so skillfully traced above.

They may not appreciate being called liars.  I expect many of them to take violent exception to it.  But the truth of the accusations will peel away thinkers layer by layer, and eventually leave the nutcases neutered.

Comment #64436

Posted by Steve on December 23, 2005 1:22 PM (e)

I, too, am a little leary of the “help them all move to South Carolina” strategy, but only because I don’t think we ought to wish that on our fellow countrymen who live in South Carolina and aren’t religious bigots. But I don’t see the Exodus movement as being about rejecting Christians fundamentalists as human. Of *course* they are human. Support for an exodus seems to me to come more from a feeling that if fundamentalists can’t live in peace with those who believe differently than they do, can’t live with respect for the rights of others, can’t tolerate the freedoms granted by the Constitution that protect the rest of us from their jihad, then they have no business living in America. They are most certainly human. They are also most certainly very bad citizens.

Comment #64454

Posted by buddha on December 23, 2005 1:53 PM (e)

Steve LaBonne wrote:

The sad thing is that, before the takeover of the denomination by batshit-crazy fundamentalists like Land, the Southern Baptist Convention was once a leading standardbearer for the defense of church-state separation.

Ah, back in the days of biblical segregation and slavery? The SBC may once have supported church/state separation but it was not for the sake of liberty or justice.

Comment #64459

Posted by Tice with a J on December 23, 2005 1:56 PM (e)

Putting all the fundamentalists in their own poor little country would only make our troubles with them worse. Imagine a surge of Christian terrorists into our country. We have enough troubles as it is. And think of what they’d try to do to Europe!

We got our current batch of terrorists from not taking Islamic fundamentalists seriously. Let’s not repeat that mistake.

Comment #64460

Posted by Stephen Elliott on December 23, 2005 1:57 PM (e)

I find it hard to rationalise how anyone who can believe in what the New Testament claims, can justify being dishonest.

These people are very weird.

How can anyone seriously claim:
1, God created everything.
2, God created mankind as a special species.
3, God is perfect and makes no mistakes.
4, God wants them to lie, cheat and kill part of God’s creation?

The lack of logic is astounding and hard for me to understand.

Comment #64461

Posted by harold on December 23, 2005 1:58 PM (e)

Steve -

“Support for an exodus seems to me to come more from a feeling that if fundamentalists can’t live in peace with those who believe differently than they do, can’t live with respect for the rights of others, can’t tolerate the freedoms granted by the Constitution that protect the rest of us from their jihad, then they have no business living in America. They are most certainly human. They are also most certainly very bad citizens.”

Exactly. They aren’t victims. They CREATE victims. No-one is dehumanizing them or ghettoizing them, they’re just being asked to live by the same rules of decency as everyone else, and they find it intolerable.

We are all, in fact, their victims. The Dover trial had a good end, but it was ultimately an enormous waste of economic resources, in the sense that American citizens had to spend time, energy and tax dollars to STOP someone from egregiously violating their rights by dishonestly presenting one particular religious “dogma” as “science” in public school. These people want, among other things, not only to be allowed to brainwash our children, but to do so at taxpayer expense. They don’t just want to violate your basic rights, they want you to pay the bill for having your rights violated.

For many years, I have thought privately that only a “pseudo-Christian Iran” would satisfy these people. I say pseudo-Christian because their actions, beliefs and fantasies are actually in sharp violation of the ethical teachings of the biblical Jesus. And in fact, to satisfy them, life would have to be a good deal harsher, on a day-to-day level, than it probably is in Iran. I have long thought that what they need is an independent state of their own, so that they can set up a brutal, hypocritical theocracy, and repress each other to their hearts’ content.

South Carolina may or may not be realistic. True, it has honest citizens, who may not want their state to be an independent theocratic dictatorship of the pseudo-Christian far right. On the other hand, South Carolina is small, and is said to have a high percentage of fundamentalists. It’s as realistic as any other place I can think of. It may be just a dream, but I continue to support the exodus movement. As they mention, they wish to criminalize the no-fault divorce. The first step to making that a real possibility is a divorce between them and the rest of US society.

Comment #64463

Posted by Hyperion on December 23, 2005 2:04 PM (e)

Actually, the absolute worst thing that could happen to Christian Fundamentalism would be if they were to actually make serious political gains. This is because what is often referred to as the “fundamentalist movement,” “religious right,” “Evangelical politics” etc is actually a fairly loose association of several different religious movements. They can certainly often agree on some specific issues such as abortion or church-state separation, but the reality of the situation is that the instant that they actually begin to gain any serious political capital, they will fracture. The Southern Baptist, Pentecostal, Disciples of Christ, etc groups will each go their separate ways as they begin to find differences amongst each other.

This is similar to what you see in the middle east, where originally Sunni and Shia Muslim groups were willing to work together against their common enemy of Israel, but are now fracturing and turning on each other.

Comment #64471

Posted by Timothy Sandefur on December 23, 2005 2:32 PM (e)

This “Christian Exodus” thing is a terrible idea, for several reasons. The first is that the seeds of civil war are sown when a group isolates itself geographically as well as ideologically. Political society, Aristotle tells us, is a conversation between people about good and evil, and it must be based on a shared vocabulary of right and wrong–that is, society is a people who share the same fundamental principles, although they differ on practical matters. When a group rejects those principles thoroughly, they’re no longer the same people. When such a group is geograpically united as well as philosophically united, then you’re running a real risk of war. This is one reason Jefferson warned that the Missouri Compromise of 1820–by drawing a boundary around slavery–was “the knell of the union.”

Although, obviously, if people want to leave, they should leave, I think that as fellow citizens, we owe it even to those fundamentalists who so strongly disagree with us on so much, to reach out to them, over and over and over again, as long as it is within our power, in an effort to persuade them of the errors of their views, and to reconcile the nation as much as possible. If the famous blue/red map becomes a straight dividing line cutting off one frouop from the other, then this nation is ultimately in serious jeopardy. If separation is the inevitable outcome of the increasing hostility between the religious right (and left) and the more secular parts of the nation, then that will be very sad. But we should not accept its inevitability until we have absolutely no choice. A nation is like a family, and we should not consider divorce until our differences are truly irreconcilable. We must teach, and teach, and teach, and explain, and explain, and explain, and we must respect each other’s rights.