Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

04/19/2010 (1:17 pm)

American Anti-Christians Win Skirmish in War Against Christianity

prayerxA flap developed at the end of last week over President Obama choosing to cancel a White House ceremony surrounding this year’s annual National Day of Prayer, scheduled this year on May 6. Liberals and progressives noted that the President had to do it, you see, because a Wisconsin federal judge ruled that the National Day of Prayer violated the Establishment clause of the Constitution. They somehow missed the fact that the judge immediately stayed her own decision pending expected appeals, so the President was not required by the court to change anything. It hardly matters, though, because it is entirely consistent for this President to use progressive-generated smoke screens to do what he would have chosen to do himself were he not attempting to keep part of the populace fooled into thinking him a centrist Christian. He does not have to cancel the ceremony; he wants to.

Atheists and leftists continue to pretend that their war against Christianity is nothing but an attempt to maintain the neutrality demanded by the Constitution. One need look only at the results of their “neutrality” to determine that it is anything but. Coaches, fired for praying with their teams before games. Historic monuments all over America being threatened with removal. Graduating high school seniors instructed that they may not mention Jesus in their commencement speeches, and classes told they may not pray. Military chaplains told they cannot pray in the name of Jesus. History textbooks about the Pilgrims altered to avoid saying they gave thanks to their God. Kindergarteners told they cannot pray over their lunch. Teachers forced to pray in a closet for the sick children of co-workers, lest they be jailed for contempt of court. If this is neutrality, I want somebody to tell me what hostility looks like.

The very name, “Freedom From Religion Foundation,” tells the tale all too clearly. These people are not looking for neutrality, they want to scrub the public square clean of any mention of Christianity (their ardor burns much less brightly against Islam, for reasons I’ll address elsewhere). Their hostility is apparent on the face of things. They’ve been trying wedge cases for decades. They actively recruit students to sue their schools, and pursue their claims long after the recruited students have graduated. Whenever a religious parent wins the right to free exercise guaranteed by the Constitution (at enormous personal expense,) these haters of Christianity just look for another municipality in which to persecute yet another innocent citizen doing what they thought they had a protected right to do, hoping to find a friendly judge who will join them in scrubbing the public square of Christianity.

The anti-religionists found a reliable friend in Judge Barbara Crabb of the US District of Western Wisconsin, a Carter appointee. Last Thursday’s decision in Wisconsin, like all such decisions, is a masterpiece of judicial activism aimed at changing the Constitution into a progressive manifesto. Such decisions have to engage in semantic mayhem, since there is no honest way to conflate “establishment” with “endorsement” or “encouragement.” Those are different words in English, denoting very different acts, and all the government is enjoined from doing is “establishing.”

In every court decision that articulates some principle that says a government entity is not permitted to mention anything concerning religion (other than “it’s not welcome here”), the activism is the same: they all invent a right to feel welcome — a right that somehow applies only to the non-religious. Listen to how US District Judge Barbara Crabb frames the legal debate in her decision:

Decisions under the establishment clause are controversial and difficult in part because of the competing values at stake in each case. Religious freedom under the First Amendment contains two components, the right to practice one’s religion without undue interference under the free exercise clause and the right to be free from disfavor or disparagement on account of religion under the establishment clause. (p. 12)

According to Judge Crabb, there exists a Constitutional “right to be free from disfavor or disparagement.” She claims that this right exists in the First Amendment, but no such right gets articulated there. Where the First Amendment addresses religion, it simply identifies two powers that Congress lacks: the power to inhibit the free exercise of religion, and the power to establish a national religion. These are not in conflict, they are the same. Only one right inheres to citizens here: the right to worship as they choose. A declared National Day of Prayer that does not specify which type of prayer, does not inhibit this right in any way; on the contrary, it upholds the right openly.

Crabb cites at length from a legal textbook that engages in a bit of sociological pseudo-science (Eisengruber and Sager, Religious Freedom and the Constitution,) claiming that a declaration of a day of prayer creates “in” groups and “out” groups in the community. That people may feel such things is likely; but I’m looking in vain for how this becomes a legal principle in the absence of specific legislation. Crabb illustrates this “legal principle” with the following example:

Eisgruber and Sager ask the reader to imagine citizens who are erecting a large sign at the entrance to their town. One potential slogan is “Fineville: A Nuclear-Free Community”; another possibility is “Fineville: A Christian Community.” Although both signs could create heated disagreements among the citizens of the town, it is unlikely that the first sign would be construed as a message of disparagement by those who believe in nuclear power. In contrast, the second sign would almost certainly be viewed by non-Christians as a message that they are not welcome in the community or that they are simply a tolerated minority that does not have equal status to Christian residents of the town. Id. at 124-25.

Judge Crabb, who I infer lives in the Liberal Paradise of Wisconsin, obviously has never been on the receiving end of such political disparagement. As a conservative living in Massachusetts, I can assure her that the first sign is viewed as being precisely as disparaging as the second — and in fact, that the first sign is no less religious than the second.

More to the point, though, nobody who understands the US Constitution would consider that anything in it prevents a community from making such a declaration, if that’s the sense of the community. The Constitution protects me from sectarian laws demanding that I violate my conscience; it does not absolve me of my responsibility to stand courageously for what I believe in the face of a popular majority that believes otherwise. There is no Constitutional right to feel like I’m accepted.

Where the Constitution does not protect anyone against having to feel like they’re different, it does protect citizens against official government sanctions that have the effect of banning their religious practices. Judge Crabb, who goes to such lengths to protect those poor atheists from the horror of hearing that most people disagree with them, should be made to explain how she thinks the woman feels who faced contempt charges over her husband’s prayer at a private function, and who has to pray in a freaking closet. Do you think maybe she feels disparaged, a little?

Michelle Winkler, a clerical assistant, earlier faced contempt charges after her husband read a prayer at a private banquet held at a Naval base to honor noninstructional school-district employees. The judge eventually found that Winkler’s husband’s prayer at a voluntary gathering outside of school did not violate any court order.

During her recent testimony, Winkler broke down on the witness stand as she told a story about how her coworker sought comfort from her after losing her 2-year-old child.

The two hid behind a closet door to pray, for fear they would be seen and held in contempt of the court order.

This woman is not made to feel like she’s an outsider; she’s made to feel like she’s an outlaw. I wonder if the Constitution has anything to say about that? In what way is this not “law … prohibiting the free exercise [of religion]?”

prayerclosetindeedJudge Crabb cites a number of decisions decrying a slippery slope that leads from “government endorsement of one religious group against another” to the outright suppression of the non-endorsed group. This is, in fact, the historical context in which the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses were conceived; think about the French Catholic suppression of the Huguenots in the 17th century, or the Anglican suppression of the Puritans. However, she goes out of her way to find those cases where, in order to further the secular war against Christianity, some judge or other has added the incorrect “or religion against non-religion,” as though to say something positive about religion generally is somehow the same as to favor one sect over another. They are not the same, as I’ll explain next; but even if they were, the Constitution prohibits the establishment of a national religion, not an expression of a favor toward religion generally.

The claim that the Constitution arbitrates an ongoing conflict between “religion” and “non-religion” is logically incoherent. There is no sect called “religion.” Religion describes the common practice of mankind to congregate in sects that hold different views of what are the central duties of humankind, and how they should live as a result. The attitude that posits an ongoing public struggle between “religion” and “non-religion” is nothing but the special pleading of a particular religious group, a group whose religion deifies the political and social aspirations of Mankind. “There is no god,” says this group, “but we have the power to make of ourselves whatever we choose.”

That such a statement is religious is evident simply by examining a sound definition of religion discussed elsewhere on this blog. To recap:

…“theism” is not a useful definition of religion: there are major, recognized world religions that contain both many gods (Hinduism, Shintoism, Buddhism) and no gods (Confucianism and Taoism.) A better definition of religion would be “a dogmatic set of cohesive ideas purporting to explain the nature and purpose of the universe, and from that to derive how Man should live.” By that robust definition, Humanism is clearly a religion, as are versions of Strong Atheism (the positive belief that there is no god or gods, as opposed to weak atheism, which just ignores the god question altogether) and many major philosophical schools, like Rationalism, Existentialism, Nihilism, etc.

The outcome of the Court’s ongoing attempts to prevent endorsements of religion generally is to establish this secular religion as the national religion. Judge Crabb, with her dishonest reading of the law, is doing precisely the thing prohibited by the US Constitution: she is making a national secular religion that can be legally enforced against other religions. This is why Christians are now forced to pray in book closets, and have to go to court to secure their right to pray over a meal.

David Limbaugh’s excellent book Persecution cites hundreds of cases in America from the past decade in which religious people have been forced to go to court to defend their right to practice their religion in public, a right clearly articulated in the First Amendment. The religious people usually win these cases, and that’s a good thing; but the point is, they should not have to spend their life savings defending their right over and over again. They have to because the secular religion is finding allies in progressive judges like Judge Crabb, who think “Congress cannot establish a national religion” means “Congress can’t say ‘religion generally is a good thing.'” Their goal is to make the Constitution say, by dishonest rendering of clear words, “The Courts can stamp out Christianity.”

The Wisconsin case offers us the irony that it is Barack Obama who is the defendant, and is defending the National Day of Prayer as constitutionally proper. It remains to be seen whether the Holder Justice Department will appeal Judge Crabb’s legal abortion of the Constitution. I suspect it will not. But I could be wrong. Stranger things have happened. This is still a very religious nation, and Barack Obama is still a politician. But make no mistake: there will be no White House celebration of the National Day of Prayer, because President Barack Obama does not want one.

09/15/2009 (1:26 pm)

TFJR: Sebastian Castellio and the Origin of Liberty of Conscience

tfjr-final-21In this installation in the series exploring the theological foundations of a just rebellion, I depart for a moment from considering political sermons of the American revolutionary period to highlight the originator of the notion of Liberty of Conscience among European Protestants. The originator was a little-known writer named Sebastian Castellio, a student of John Calvin who later became one of his adversaries.

John Calvin, one of the most influential forces in the Protestant Reformation (his Institutes of the Christian Religion remains to this day a mainstay of Reformed theology,) established a unique Theocratic government in the city of Geneva in 1541, using his theology to guide the city’s political leaders until his death in 1564. Calvin considered it a Christian’s duty to conform to civil government regardless of how oppressive; he also considered all possible governmental forms (which, to him, included monarchy, autocracy, and democracy) to be consistent with scripture, which he considered the final rule of all questions.(1) Within his city, citizens were required to attend weekly sermons; dancing, lewd songs, theater, and inordinate displays of wealth were forbidden; and adultery, blasphemy, and heresy were punishable by death.

It was the execution of a famous heretic named Michael Servetus in 1553 that first prompted Castellio to oppose Calvin. Servetus, a forerunner of Unitarianism, apparently felt that the doctrine of the trinity, in particular, prevented Jews and Muslims from accepting Christianity, and since it was both incomprehensible logically and not particularly well-supported by scripture, ought to be abandoned. For this and other innovations, he was accused of heresy by Catholics and Protestants alike. Fleeing from a trial in France where he stood accused by Catholic leaders, he stopped in Geneva and was recognized while attending a sermon by Calvin; he was detained there and tried on a bill of particulars listing 40 separate charges by the city of Geneva. Though he was not a citizen of Geneva and thus technically not under their laws, the government, in consultation with governments of surrounding districts, found him guilty of heresy and burned him at the stake. Calvin himself plead that Servetus be beheaded rather than burned for mercy’s sake, but was rebuffed by the Geneva Council.

Calvin explained the then-common sentiment that heretics should be killed in these terms:

Whoever shall maintain that wrong is done to heretics and blasphemers in punishing them makes himself an accomplice in their crime and guilty as they are. There is no question here of man’s authority; it is God who speaks, and clear it is what law he will have kept in the church, even to the end of the world. Wherefore does he demand of us a so extreme severity, if not to show us that due honor is not paid him, so long as we set not his service above every human consideration, so that we spare not kin, nor blood of any, and forget all humanity when the matter is to combat for His glory.

He published a defense of his burning of Servetus in February of 1554. A few weeks later, a well-known publisher in Basel, Switzerland released a pamphlet entitled De haereticis, an sint persequendi (“Whether heretics should be persecuted,”) 180px-sebastiancastelliocontaining excerpts from 25 Christian writers both ancient and contemporary — including Calvin himself — defending the notion that differences of theological opinion should be tolerated. It was published under the pseudonym Martinus Bellius, but it was soon determined that the collector and author was Sebastian Castellio.

Castellio had already introduced the notions that filled De Haereticis in the dedication of his Latin translation of the Bible to Edward VI, the young, Protestant king of England. In it, Castellio had argued that religions make slow progress, and that in the pursuit of change, Christians accuse each other of outlandish heresies mostly for the sake of gaining ground — while at the same time, they accept Turks and Jews, who disagree with the faith in far greater severity than any heretic. This mild ironic criticism is now considered the very first manifesto to religious toleration.

Castellio’s pamphlet De Haeriticis begins with a benediction addressed to Duke Christoph of Württemberg, in which he argues forcefully that the energy of Christian disputation constitutes disobedience to Christ and is spent on unimportant things:

If thou, illustrious Prince, had informed thy subjects that thou wert coming to visit them at an unnamed time and had requested them to be prepared in white garments to meet thee on thy coming; what wouldst thou do, if, on arrival, thou shouldst find that instead of robing themselves in white they had occupied themselves in violent debate about thy person – some insisting that thou wert in France, others that thou were in Spain; some declaring that thou would come on horseback, others that thou would come by chariot; some holding that thou would come with great pomp, others that thou would come without train or following? And what especially wouldst thou say if they debated not only with words but with blows of fist and strokes of sword, and if some succeeded in killing and destroying others who differed from them? ‘He will come on horseback.’ ‘No, he won’t; he will come by chariot.’ ‘You lie.’ ‘No, I do not; you are the liar.’ ‘take that’ – a blow with the fist. ‘You take that’- a sword-thrust through the body. O Prince, what would you think of such citizens? Christ asked us to put on the white robes of a pure and holy life, but what occupies our thought? We dispute not only of the way to Christ, but of His revelation to God the Father, of the Trinity, of predestination, of free will, of the nature of God, of angels, of the condition of the soul after death, of a multitude of matters that are not essential for salvation, and matters, in fact, which never can be known until our hearts are pure, for they are things which must be spiritually perceived. (2)

Castellio described a general evil in the Church wherein Christians engage in all manner of personal sin, but dispute with each other over matters of theology: questions of baptism, or free will, or the nature of God. He argued instead for Christians to look to their own character, and amend their moral conduct, and to stop shedding the blood of those who disagree — most notably, of heretics. He spends a great deal of time discussing what a heretic is, exactly, noting that in many cases a heretic is merely one who disagrees. However, he concludes that heretics do exist, and he calls them “obstinate ones,” men who cannot be persuaded of the truth. He cites the parable of the tares in Matthew 13:24-30, in which the master advises his servants not to attempt to separate the wheat from the tares (weeds that look like wheat in their earlier stages of growth) lest they root up good wheat along with the weeds, and says that the angels will come at the end and separate them. He cites St. Augustine, who concluded on the basis of that passage that “…the office of collecting the tares to be burned belongs to another, and no son of the Church should think it his business.” And he quotes Calvin from the 1536 edition of his Institutes, advising that excommunicated Christians should be persuaded with “…exhortation and teaching, clemency and mildness, [and] prayers to God” rather than with violence, even as non-Christians should be persuaded:

Far be it that we should approve of the means which many have employed hitherto to force them to our faith by denying them fire and the common elements and all the offices of humanity, and [by] persecuting them with the sword and arms. (3)

Castellio concludes that it is better for Christians to reach each other by means of persuasion and love, to downplay their differences, and to set aside squabbling over non-essentials.

Let us who are Christians not condemn one another, but, if we are wiser than they are, let us also be better and more merciful.

These ideas all seem obvious to the modern mind, but they were striking and astonishing notions at the time, and a number of clerics reacted to his ideas harshly, including Calvin. So Castellio published another book anonymously, entitled “Contra libellum Calvini in quo ostendere conatur haereticos jure gladii coercendos esse” (“Against the book of Calvin which calls for coercion of heretics by the sword.”) In this, Castellio presents what may be the first argument for separating the power of civil enforcement from the offices of the Church.

Castellio wrote:

To kill a man is not to protect a doctrine, but it is to kill a man. When the Genevans killed Servetus, they did not defend a doctrine, they killed a man. To protect a doctrine is not the magistrate’s affair (what has the sword to do with doctrine?) but the teacher’s. But it is the magistrate’s affair to protect the teacher, as it is to protect the farmer and the smith, and the physician and others against injury. Thus if Servetus had wished to kill Calvin, the magistrate would properly have defended Calvin. But when Servetus fought with reasons and writings, he should have been repulsed by reasons and writings.

Castellio’s argument seems to me to introduce three separate claims that are noteworthy:

  1. That Christians ought to meet differences of opinion regarding religious matters with reason, kindness, and mercy, and persuade rather than coerce;
  2. That matters of personal vice, like covetousness, greed, slander, hypocrisy, lying, foolishness, or unchastity, are at least as damaging to one’s Christian practice as are errors in doctrine concerning baptism, justification, faith, and so forth;
  3. That the state should not carry the sword to carry out the opinions of religious leaders.

The second of these is still a matter of dispute when one encounters modern disciples of Calvin. The first and the third, however, are the earliest precursors I have seen in the Western world to the modern notions that men should be free to speak their mind without fear of retribution by the government, and that government should not carry out the express opinion of the Church. We owe to Castellio a debt of gratitude for articulating, even pseudonymously, Christian notions essential to human liberty.


(1) Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, Volume 8, chapter 13, http://www.bible.ca/history/philip-schaff/8_ch13.htm, 1910 edition reproduced and edited by the Electronic Bible Society, Dallas, Tx, 1998. See http://www.ccel.org/s/schaff/history/About.htm for a complete table of contents.
(2) Excerpted from “Spiritual Reformers of the 16th & 17th Centuries,” by Rufus Jones, published in 1914. Found at http://www.christasus.com/History/SebastianCastellio.htm.
(3) Quoted by Curley, Edward, “Sebastian Castellio’s Erasmian Liberalism,” University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, at http://www.sitemaker.umich.edu/emcurley/files/castellioerasmianliberalism.doc.

11/26/2008 (4:20 pm)

Thanksgiving Proclamation

By the President of the United States of America–

A Proclamation

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor–and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their Joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be–That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions–to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us–and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington

Prepared by the Division of Cultural History,
National Museum of American History,
in cooperation with the Public Inquiry Mail Service,
Smithsonian Institution

04/20/2008 (7:01 am)

Fundie LDS Case Trips Libertarian Alarm

I wrote earlier this month about the fundamentalist Mormon sect whose ranch was raided by Texas authorities on suspicion of child abuse. Libertarians have been up in arms regarding what they regard as “police state tactics” on the part of Texas, holding more than 400 children separate from their parents on the basis of a single, anonymous phone call alleging that an underage girl was forced to bear children and needed the state’s protection.

Developments in the story prompt me to come down on the side of the alarmists.

During the hearing regarding whether the children should remain in the state’s custody pending further investigation, child psychologist and state witness Bruce Perry testified that the group’s belief system is abusive.

Earlier Friday a cult expert told the judge in the West Texas polygamous sect child custody hearing that the group’s belief system is abusive.

Psychiatrist Bruce Perry testified that teen girls don’t resist early marriages because they are trained to be obedient and compliant.

Perry took the stand in a hearing concerning 416 youngsters removed this month from a polygamist compound near Eldorado and placed with Texas Child Protective Services.

Perry, who’s an expert on children in cults, says while the teen girls believed they were marrying out of free choice, it’s a choice based on lessons they’ve had from birth.

This is a matter of concern to me. Who wants the state to have the right to decide which beliefs are “abusive” and which are not? Crimes usually address behaviors, not beliefs. The state has every right to investigate abusive behaviors. But abusive beliefs? I’m sorry, we’ve just stepped over a line that civil liberties cannot tolerate. How long will it be, do you suppose, before the state decides that teaching that homosexuality is offensive to God constitutes an abusive belief? Should the state be able to declare a belief system “abusive” if a church teaches that wives should be submissive toward their husbands? Is it possible that the state may eventually decide that to teach teenagers that premarital sex is wrong and that adults should refrain from sexual activity until marriage, constitutes an abusive belief system? Keep in mind, I’m not asking if you think that’s abusive — I’m asking if the state should be permitted to make that assessment.

The psychologist in question acknowledges that the individuals he interviewed seemed psychologically healthy. He just thinks the beliefs are abusive. Too authoritarian, you see. I’d probably agree, but if the state can take my children away because they dislike my beliefs, liberty is an illusion.

Members of the sect have reportedly been evasive about who is married to whom, so it’s unclear to whom specific children belong. The court has ordered the children held for genetic testing so they can determine whether the law was broken. If you’ll recall, the law in Texas says that young women may not marry before the age of 16, with or without their parents’ consent. Furthermore, the legal age of sexual consent in Texas is 18 outside of marriage. Consequently, girls who are pregnant before they turn 16 constitute prima facie evidence that a crime has been committed. I have no libertarian objection to the state of Texas proceding in this direction; they have appropriate probable cause that a crime has been committed, and they’re exercising due diligence.

Also in the “due diligence” department, Texas Rangers are investigating the possibility that the original distress call might have come from a disturbed individual who has a history of calling in false alarms. They’re seeking a “person of interest” in Colorado Springs who may have been the source of the original complaint. Police originally received a call from someone who claimed to be Sarah Jessop Barlow, a 16-year-old who was beaten and forced to cohabit with an older man. Police have not located anybody of that name, and members of the Fundamentalist LDS church claim that she does not exist.

This is a difficult arena. Cult groups push the envelope of what behaviors the state can tolerate, while hiding behind a completely appropriate shield of religious liberty. The massacre of the Branch Davidians in Waco, back in 1993, marked a sort of extreme reaction we all want to avoid. Today, Texas is skirting the edge of allowable law enforcement; we need to speak up about which parts of their conduct are appropriate, and which cross libertarian alarm wires.

04/09/2008 (11:36 am)

Public Madrassa

Scott Johnson at Power Line reports that a Madrassa has been operating in the Twin Cities area as a Charter School, meaning that it receives its funding from the public as part of the state’s education system. The Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA) in Inver Grove Heights, a suburb of St. Paul, MN, shares a building with the Muslim American Society, and with a mosque. It serves grades K-8 what appears on paper to be a standard, non-sectarian curriculum, but the atmosphere sounds clearly sectarian. The school attracts high demand, largely from the areas Somali residents. Karen Kersten of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports:

Journalists whom Zaman has permitted to visit TIZA have described the school’s Islamic atmosphere and practices.

“A visitor might well mistake Tarek ibn Ziyad for an Islamic school,” reported Minnesota Monthly in 2007. “Head scarves are voluntary, but virtually all the girls wear them.” The school has a central carpeted prayer space, and “vaguely religious-sounding language” is used.

According to the Pioneer Press, TIZA’s student body prays daily and the school’s cafeteria serves halal food (permissible under Islamic law). During Ramadan, all students fast from dawn to dusk, according to a parent quoted in the article.

Minnesota state charter school law bans non-public sectarian schools or religious institutions from incorporating charter schools, so it’s likely that the school itself is illegal. However, they couch their brochures in non-sectarian language, and advertise after-school religious instruction sponsored by “non-profit organizations,” which makes the religious instruction (and the school) legal. From Power Line:

According to a document filed by TIZA with the Minnesota Department of Education, it provides after-school (religious) instruction “conducted by various non-profit organizations” that is the main reason given by 77 percent of parents for sending their children to TIZA. The after-school instruction is overwhelmingly the primary reason given by parents for sending their children to TIZA…  Muslim activists have found a workable seam in the purported separation of church and state in Minnesota.

Personally, I favor state money going to any school that the community wants, including religious schools, impartially. Neutrality toward religion should mean that the state doesn’t ask and doesn’t care, not that the state scrupulously avoids it, which is in fact the opposiste of neutrality. So long as any religion gets identical treatment, there should not be a problem.

In this case, though, the religious school is sponsored by an organization, Islamic-Relief USA, that Israel identifies as a supporter of Hamas. The Muslim American Society that founded the school is a front for the Muslim Brotherhood, the organization that founded Hamas. Consequently, the school not only skirts Minnesota’s church-state separation laws, but also the nexus between religious liberty and national security.

I asked a couple of days ago whether the states would enforce the law against Muslims attempting to establish their own laws in enclaves within the state. Minnesota appears to be letting this happen. Except for the connection to known terrorist organizations that should have the FBI interested, I think perhaps we should get used to living peacefully beside Muslims. I just want to know when public money is going to support charter schools teaching Christianity.

04/06/2008 (7:55 pm)

Religion vs Law, a Precedent

Early this morning, local and state law enforcement officers in Eldorado, TX raided a ranch serving as the temple for an aberrant sect of extremist Mormons accused of violating Texas law regarding marriage of underage women. One hundred eighty three women and children were removed from the ranch over the weekend after a sixteen-year-old girl alleged that she’d been sexually abused and bore a child while underage. The ranch, considered a temple by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, had been converted to a retreat by polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, who is now serving a jail sentence in Utah for being an accomplice to rape.

Aside from evoking images of the massacre in Waco in 1993, this story is important because it highlights the official position of at least one state toward religions that attempt to operate outside state law. With Islam establishing Sharia in clear opposition to local and national laws all over Europe (see also this article), the willingness of states in the US may soon be tested by Muslim enclaves attempting to assert the right of their own religion to enforce behavior as they see fit.

Islam differs from Judaism and Christianity in that it recognizes no division between religion and the state. Jews and Christians generally regard the law of the land as the law of God, so long as the state requires nothing of them that violates their conscience; Christians are perhaps more apt to attempt to change national law through peaceful means. Extreme versions of Islam, however, regard the state and the law as the province of religion, and Muslims have set up enclaves in which Sharia is enforced by the community, sometimes in opposition to local and state ordinances.

There’s a difference between enforcing the law against a few hundred wild-eyed Mormons living together on a large ranch, and attempting to enforce state law in a community where the residents intend to enforce a different law. It remains to be seen whether law enforcement in the US will show the same resolve against extreme Muslims that they’re showing today against extreme Mormons. Let’s hope the law remains the law, regardless of who’s breaking it.