My father got a far-right solicitation in the mail today, from an organization called ADF. The envelope boasted several thumbnail photos of stern-looking religious men and said something like “Stop the ACLU from undermining your family values!” When I looked at the material inside, I was somewhat disgusted.
The basic gist of this particular mailing (though I suspect the group has many more points of argument in their ideology) is that the ACLU, by filing lawsuits to remove displays of The Ten Commandments from courthouses and government buildings, is an evil organization with evil purposes. The letter makes several erroneous or misleading points:
The Bible (and hence the Ten Commandments) are inherent to our legal system.
From the ADF website:
In the words of Rabbi Daniel Lapin, the founders modeled themselves “upon God’s ancient people” and “wrote what they considered to be a modern-day interpretation of the basic biblical principles of government.”
The founders didn’t base their constitution upon anything but the English Bill of Rights, and then attempted to correct the errors that England had made (read: head of state and head of religion as one person).
While it’s true that religion, especially Christianity, has played a definite role in our nation’s history, to assert not only a religious dogma’s purposeful inclusion into a judicial code and that said legal code is incapable of existing without said religious influence is silly. It would surprise most conservative Christians to learn that many of the nation’s founding fathers or proponents (Jefferson, Franklin, Paine) were not Christian at all, but rather Deist, and not at all pleased with Christianity. There are a number of chain emails stating, in effect, “OMG THER ARE RELIGIOUS INSCRIPTIONS ON GOVERNMENT BILDINGS TAKE THAT ACLU LOL!1!!” The debunker naturally brings into account, for instance, Jefferson’s many thoughts on the subject.
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.
Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.
By filing these lawsuits, the ACLU is attacking “religious freedom” (or “religious liberty”).
By “religious freedom”, of course, the ADF means “mainstream Christianity’s integration into secular government.” When Christians want religious freedom, they only want it for themselves, not for Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Cultists, et al, to whom the Ten Commandments are nothing but a western curiosity. Is it religious liberty for a nation populated by multiple creeds and faiths to have a government that (superficially, at best) endorses one particular piece of “history” or “culture,” as the ADF calls it? No, religious liberty would be a lack of endorsement of any one particular religion. That, or besides the Ten Commandment plaques, you’d have to have a monument by any religious group that wants one. Perhaps Utah’s Supreme Courthouse should hold a monument of a Mormon man porking all five of his wives. Isn’t that an important piece of Utah’s “history” and “culture”?
What? No, not that religion!
The inability of religious groups to ally themselves with or promote themselves through the government is directly equatable with religious repression (i.e. “praying in the public square”).
This is probably the most patently absurd argument that the ADF puts forth. Not only does their “answer” to this “frequently asked question” fail to cover this point at all, but it would be virtually impossible anyway. The government is allowed (and the ALCU has fought battles for) the equal use of the “public square” for religious as well as secular activities.
The ADF website lists “Churches and other religious organizations should have no access to public facilities.” as a popular myth. Who really believes this?
The ACLU, despite what they say, are extremely “hostile” towards religion.
Here’s what the ADF says:
The ACLU opposes equal tax treatment for religious bodies with other charities.
Possibly because religious organizations aren’t true charities?
The guide states, “The insertion of the words ‘under God’ into the pledge of allegiance is a violation of the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.” (This is not a new policy in light of the pending Supreme Court case. This refusal to acknowledge God is contained in board minutes from 1954!)
It isn’t a violation? Perhaps they’ve been against it since 1954 because that’s when the phrase was inserted into the pledge.
The guide states, “Freedom of religion does not extend so far that parents may withdraw children from classes which they feel conflict with their religious principles, even when they cannot practically avail themselves of the right to send their children to private schools.” (In other words, they oppose an “opt out” for people of faith.)
So, the ADF would like parents to be able to take their kids out of a science or history class because they teach things that contradict their faith? And then we’d have what? An abundance of uneducated religious radicals? I imagine the ACLU, like most normal parents, want their child to have a full education, and if aspects of it differ from their faith, they can set it right again at home or at church. Isn’t that what those places are for?
While the ACLU states parents should be unable to remove their children from classes that are in direct conflict with their religious beliefs, they do believe anyone can “opt out” of patriotic displays: “Although a salute to the flag and oath of allegiance are commonly accepted practices in school assembly exercises, exemptions should be granted to a student whose religious scruples or other principled convictions lead him or her to refuse to participate in such exercises.” (This double-standard reveals the ACLU’s hostility toward religion.)
A public ritual is akin to a science class?
In other cases the ACLU, which claims to be a great advocate of free speech, in reality advocates censorship of free, open, and public expression of America’s heritage, faith traditions, and holidays.
I love this, I really do. Groups like this love to substitute “religious dogma” with “heritage,” “history,” or “culture.” See above for a debunking of this. In other words, this last sentence, like the rest of the ADF’s far-right propaganda, is total nonsense. They can’t distinguish between public and private ownership, expression, and endorsement. Nor can they bear the thought of religious and secular worlds being separate in fairness to the diversity of the country.
What a sad, sad little organization.