August 2002

What Has Happened to Our Freedom?

Richard Layton’s Discussion Group Report

Summary of Jerry Spence’s From Freedom to Slavery.

Spence says: “As for solutions, there are only two kinds–those from outside of the self and those from within. The first suggests that we destroy our enemies, that we manipulate or neutralize them, that we discover detours around them, that we suffer their impositions against us, or, at last, that we even love them. In any event, the solution acknowledges the existence of outside forces that deter our progress and impede our happiness. On the other hand, there persists the idea–one with which I am in agreement–that solutions are mainly matters of the self, that power vested in others is often irrelevant to our freedom, that the only change essential for the human condition is to change within, that we are the fountainhead of power, and that, therefore, we need not free the world–we need only free ourselves…

“The danger, of course, is that we have become only the purchasers of the fable of freedom. When we vigorously argue to our neighbors that Americans are free, our neighbors will likely assert that they “buy” that. Having thought the fable, it belongs to us, and we fight to keep it like howling apes protecting their trinkets and their tinfoil…

“Today there are, as indeed, there have always been, insidious, enslaving forces at work in America. Today’s tyranny emanates from a New King, from a nonliving power center composed at its core of monolithic corporate entities encased and protected by endless layers of governmental bureaucracies. The primary strategy of the New King is to convert all rights, all human energy, all goals, and at last, all humans into fungible commodities, for the New King exists solely for commerce and its life’s blood, its green blood, its money-and its singular mission is profit. The new King’s principal means of control is the media that sells us the myths of freedom, that, when we doubt, reassures us we are free, and that programs us and our children to accept the notion that all human function, all human desires, indeed even immortality itself can, at last, be satisfied at the marketplace…

“If the churches have anything to do with it, those who offer solutions outside the scriptures will be condemned to eternal hell. If government has anything to do with them, any sound idea will be condemned in the bureaucracy, and if the idea should somehow escape the grinding teeth of its machinery, the author will be labeled an enemy of the state and disemboweled in one fashion or another. If corporate America has anything to do with it, any ideas that threaten its power will be branded as leftist, or commie, or un-American, and the author of such reform banished as a heretic against the most sacred of all religions in America, Free Enterprise…

“I would rather visit with the corpse than exist with the breathing dead, with those who have never considered a new idea, who worship the same God and vote the same party of their fathers, whose friends believe the same, look the same, and say the same things that they say. I would find a conversation with a corpse more engaging than one with the breathing dead, whose next words are as predictable as the liturgy of the priest and who, on pain of death, cannot recall the last book they read. All creativity is dead. Feeling is dead. Yet, as we observe, they breathe…

“Every large corporation should be required to seat on its board an equal number of ordinary people, people who have no pecuniary interest in the corporation’s activities, who will act as the corporation’s conscience and who are selected at random from the tax rolls of the community in which the corporation carries on its principal business. These ‘conscience members’ of the corporate board will see that the rights of the corporation’s employees are preserved, that their pension funds are not raided, that the workers receive fair wages, that their benefits are equitable, and that the corporation acts in accordance with every standard of good citizenship.”

Bush Sets Religious Litmus Test For Judges

(Washington, DC–June 28, 2002) Yesterday President Bush denounced the common sense San Francisco court ruling that decided children should not have to feel coerced to give false statements of sectarian belief in public school. With this decision by the court, there is now a hope that the Pledge of Allegiance can be returned to its original form, without the “under God” wording that the Knights of Columbus lobbied successfully for in the 1950s.

Bush then went on to establish a criterion of particular religious belief for judicial appointments, saying, “I believe that it points up the fact that we need common sense judges who understand that our rights were derived from God. Those are the kind of judges I intend to put on the bench.”

“Bush’s public statement of intent to discriminate on religious grounds makes a mockery of the US Constitution,” says Tony Hileman, executive director of the American Humanist Association (AHA). Article VI of the Constitution states “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

Hileman continues, “Bush ignores the 30 million Americans who identify with no religion, as well as faithful Buddhists, Hindus and others who do not subscribe to his monotheistic test for judicial competency.

“We have begun to mobilize the Humanist community across the nation to speak-out against this outrageous violation of our rights as American citizens. Not only are we activating our network of 62 AHA chapters and 18 affiliate groups, we are also reaching out to the broader community of reason, made up of atheists, skeptics, agnostics, freethinkers and others.

“‘One nation under God’ is clearly an unconstitutional endorsement of religion,” states Hileman. “While the US Supreme Court has ruled in the past that it is not a requirement of public school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, students without sectarian faith were placed in the intimidating position of either refusing in front of their peers to recite the Pledge or being forced to pledge to something they do not believe.”

“…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

–Article VI, U.S. Constitution


Vouchers For Religious Schools

ARL Leader Fears Pandora’s Box Opened

Contact Information: Edd Doerr 301-260-2988
(Washington, D.C. – June 27, 2002)

Today’s 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in favor of school vouchers “is a serious setback for religious liberty, public education and our American constitutional principle of separation of church and state,” declared Edd Doerr, president of Americans for Religious Liberty, a 20-year old watchdog and research organization.” Today’s Court majority set aside more than 50 years of its own precedents and thumbed its nose at the vast majority of Americans who, in 25 statewide referendum elections from coast to coast over the last 35 years, have registered 68% to 32% opposition to school vouchers or their analogs,” Doerr added.

“The Court has blithely ignored the pervasively sectarian and discriminatory nature of most nonpublic education and has shown contempt for the basic right of all Americans who wish not to be compelled through taxation to contribute involuntarily to religious institutions, their own or someone else’s,” continued Doerr, a former teacher in public and private schools and a graduate of church schools.” This Court has opened a Pandora’s box,” Doerr added.

“From this day forward every session of Congress and every state legislature will be torn by demands of sectarian special interests for direct or indirect support of what is, frankly, denominational indoctrination. Vouchers or their analogs will greatly weaken public education, fragment our school population along religious, ethnic, class, ideological, and other lines, while greatly increasing school costs and reducing quality.”

Americans for Religious Liberty is a nonprofit public interest educational organization dedicated to preserving the American tradition of religious, intellectual, and personal freedom in a secular democratic state.

Gay and Lesbian Pride

AHA Leader Writes President Bush

July 1, 2002
The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of the members of the American Humanist Association, I would like to thank you for taking a step in the right direction. Your decision to sign the bill allowing death benefits to be paid to the domestic partners of firefighters and police officers who die in the line of duty is praiseworthy. By supporting this new law, you have shown acceptance toward societies’ increasingly accepting attitudes concerning same-sex couples and recognition that they deserve the rights heterosexual couples have.

However, your refusal to recognize June as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month is particularly disappointing. Your staying silent on this issue, while others in your office have spoken is disheartening for American homosexual citizens as well as those of us who accept them as worthy citizens. Especially during this time of tragic events, it is necessary to show acceptance for all people of different race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. You have signed proclamations for Black History Month, Women’s History Month and Irish-American Heritage Month. By refusing to recognize Gay Pride Month, you are pointedly excluding a large group of Americans. If we are to stay united as a country, we must remember that America is a diverse nation, celebrating freedom, peace, and prosperity. We commend your appointment of Scott Evertz, who is openly gay, to head the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, and hope that such actions will continue.

Mr. President, on behalf of the American Humanist Association, the oldest and largest organization promoting Humanism in the United States, I ask you to continue showing support for same-sex couples and support the diversity of mainstream America. It is necessary for the United States to show foreign nations how accepting we are of all people, regardless of their religious background, race, gender, and sexual orientation.

Tony Hileman
Executive Director
American Humanist Association

“…with liberty and justice for all.” *

* Except non-Caucasians, women, gays, lesbians, mentally or physically challenged, middle class or poor, atheists, humanists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and all other adherents of minority creeds, religions, belief systems or political philosophies or other attributes distasteful to wealthy, white, Christian males.AHA Commends Return to Original Pledge of Allegiance

(Washington, D.C. – June 26, 2002) Today the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the 1954 act of Congress which modified our Pledge of Allegiance. “This is a recognition, after nearly fifty years, that requiring the recitation of the phrase ‘One nation under God’ is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion,” states Tony Hileman, executive director of the American Humanist Association (AHA).

Hileman continues, “This ruling shows that the court is willing to strengthen religion-government separation and that it will leave the teaching of religion where it belongs, with parents and in houses of worship. The court now recognizes that this is not the language of patriotic ceremony, but rather, governmental sponsorship of sectarian religion.

“While the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in the past that it is not a requirement of public school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, students without sectarian faith were placed in the intimidating position of either refusing in front of their peers to recite the Pledge or being forced to pledge to something they do not believe.”

With this ruling the Court of Appeals has acknowledged that the current Pledge imposes a religious belief on those without such faith. “The First Amendment does not require hostility towards religion, but mandates government neutrality toward religion,” explains Hileman.

The AHA applauds the court for upholding the United States Constitution and preventing public schools from endorsing conformity to a particular religious position.

Restorative Justice

Kathy Elton presented the following ideas regarding “Restorative Justice” to the July general meeting of the Humanists of Utah:

Crime consists of more than a violation of the criminal law and defiance of government authority.

Crime involves disruptions in a three-dimensional relationship of victim, community and offender.

Because crime harms the victim and the community, the primary goals should be to repair the harm and heal the victim and the community.

The victim, the community, and the offender should all participate in determining the response to crime; government should surrender its monopoly over that process.

Case disposition should be based on the victim’s and the community’s needs-not solely on the offender’s needs or culpability, the dangers he presents, of his criminal history.

What the research shows:

Victims of crime who meet their offender are far more likely to be satisfied (79%) with the justice system response to their case than similar victims who go through the normal court process (57%).

After meeting with their offender, victims are significantly less fearful of being victimized.

Offenders who meet their victims are far more likely to complete their restitution obligation to the victim (81%) than similar offenders who did not participate in a victim offender mediation session (58%).

Considerably fewer and less serious crimes were committed by offenders who participated in victim offender mediation (18%) when compared to similar offenders who did not meet with their victim (27%)

Through the Looking Glass

Some days I feel like I fell down a rabbit hole and woke up in 21st century America. How do we live in such surreal times?

I don’t worship flags, eagles, songs or uniforms. Instead, I affirm compassion, reason and creativity.

I cannot believe that all political and social positions fit neatly on the one-dimensional continuum of left to right; I live in a three-dimensional universe, moving and evolving through time.

I will not resign myself to the exploitative puppetry of parties, sects and corporations. I am more than a vote, a prayer or a purchase. I don’t have to wear a label to know who I am.

I have also learned that contemplation can become inertia, and that activism can become militancy. These realities do not obscure the present crisis: America, and the world, need, more than ever, thoughtful action, real reform, honest dialogue.

Bumper stickers, bombast and bullshit are not enough.

–Richard Garrard