Breaking: Michigan House Passes Religious ‘License To Discriminate’ Bill

Michigan House Republicans just passed a religious “license to discriminate” bill, which would allow anyone to refuse service to anyone and claim their “religious beliefs” require them to discriminate.

The Michigan House of Representatives, led by Speaker Jase Bolger (photo, above, left, with Gov. Rick Snyder,) just passed a bill that would allow discrimination to become sanction by the state. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, akin to one that made nationwide headlines in Arizona but was vetoed, appears to merely force the government to step aside if a person’s “deeply-held religious beliefs” mandate they act, or not act, in a certain manner.

Supporters of these bills claim they allow people of faith to exercise their religion without government interference, but in reality, they are trojan horses, allowing rampant discrimination under the guise of religious observance.

For example, under the Religious Freedom law, a pharmacist could refuse to fill a doctor’s prescription for birth control, or HIV medication. An emergency room physician or EMT could refuse service to a gay person in need of immediate treatment. A school teacher could refuse to mentor the children of a same-sex couple, and a DMV clerk could refuse to give a driver’s license to a person who is divorced.

Michigan Speaker Bolger fast-tracked the bill, which passed on partisan lines, 59-50. It now heads to the Michigan Senate, and if successful, to Republican Governor Rick Snyder. It is not known if Gov. Snyder would sign it.

“I support individual liberty and I support religious freedom,” Bolger said today. “I have been horrified as some have claimed that a person’s faith should only be practiced while hiding in their home or in their church.”

MLive reports that Michigan’s RFRA is “modeled after a federal version that the Supreme Court has said should not apply to states.”

“The idea that we need to ‘restore’ religious freedom — rights that are already enshrined in the U.S. Constitution — is a farce created by conservative lawmakers for the sole purpose of appeasing their far-right donors and the religious-right,” Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, said in a statement.

Earlier today a Michigan House committee failed to pass an LGBT non-discrimination bill after a local anti-gay pastor delivered scathing testimony.

“No one from the LGBT community has ever had fire hoses turned on them by the police department, they have never had to drink out of an LGBT water fountain,” Stacy Swimp told the committee. “There is no record of LGBT — homosexuals, lesbians being forced to sit at the back of the bus in an LGBT section.”

Ohio Student Sits Out Pledge of Allegiance, Told He Will Be Punished

(Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2014)—Today the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to officials at East Gurnsey Local Schools in Old Washington, Ohio, and at Buckeye Trail High School in Lore City, Ohio, on behalf of a student who was threatened with punishment when he exercised his right to refrain from participating in the school’s daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

The student, a sophomore who wishes to opt out of the Pledge exercise for religious reasons, was told by his teacher that he was being disrespectful when he attempted to remain seated quietly and non-disruptively at his desk. His teacher also informed him that he would be disciplined if he sat out the Pledge again. The letter states that this is a violation of the student’s constitutional rights.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed the right of students to opt out of the Pledge exercise for any reason,” said Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, in reference to the 1943 case West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. “Doing so is a matter of students’ freedom of speech and freedom of consciousness.”

The letter demands that the school district inform teachers and students that students have the right to refrain from participating in the Pledge of Allegiance for any reason and that teachers be instructed that they should not attempt to persuade students to stand for the Pledge if they choose to do otherwise. The letter also demands that teachers be notified that they are not to direct any disciplinary measures at students who opt out of the Pledge.

A copy of the letter can be viewed here.

Christian Scripture On School Monument Will Be Removed, Says Georgia School Board

(Washington, D.C., Oct. 15, 2014)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center applauds the Madison County School Board in Danielsville, Georgia, for deciding to modify a sculpture located at the Madison High School football stadium that prominently displays biblical references and Christian scripture.

“No public school should be promoting the majority religion,” said David Niose, legal director of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “We are pleased that the school board has decided to respect the constitutional separation of church and state and the rights of religious and nonreligious minorities.”

On September 25, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to the Madison County School Board about the monument on behalf of a concerned citizen. The letter stated that the monument’s prominent inclusion of biblical scripture, combined with the high school’s logo, sent the message that the school district endorses religion, specifically Christianity, in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The sculpture, which was highly visible and incorporated into the pre-game activities of the school’s football team, included religious language and Christian biblical references, such as quotations from Romans 8:31 and Philippians 4:13.

Yesterday evening, the school board voted unanimously to remove or cover the biblical references on the sculpture, according to reports. However, not all attendees at the meeting were pleased with the decision. One individual was quoted by reporters as saying, “It seems as if these groups are here as haters…to remove God from [our society], which means they are the antichrist by definition.”

A copy of the letter sent by the Appignani Humanist Legal Center can be viewed here. The Freedom from Religion Foundation also sent a letter, which can be viewed here.


Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other non-religious Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.

Creationism in New Hampshire: Attacking Science and Undermining Religious Freedom

As the circus that is the Republican presidential sweepstakes pulls into New Hampshire, local legislators seem to be working overtime to shift the political pendulum even further to the right. And by doing so they’re threatening to destroy both religion and science.

Two anti-evolution bills have just been introduced and will be taken up by the New Hampshire legislature in February. The first, the handiwork of Republican legislators Gary Hopper and John Burt, is little more than the standard anti-intellectual attack on evolution claiming that evolution is “only a theory” and thus shouldn’t be presented as fact in science classes. The only thing that makes this attempt to keep students from learning the best science possible different from similar failed attempts elsewhere is the fact that Hopper didn’t hide his motives as well as other legislators have.

As the Concord Monitor noted, “Hopper points to the state constitution and its order that teachers support their students’ ‘morality and piety’ for the justification of his bill.” The article goes on to explain, “He would like to see intelligent design – the idea that a creator controlled how early life on Earth developed – taught in classrooms, but hasn’t been able to find an example of the philosophy being successfully legislated into schools.”

Of course Hopper hasn’t found an example of intelligent design successfully legislated into public schools. How could he? Intelligent design, after all, is nothing more than standard-fare creationism gussied up to look like something it isn’t – and even with its fancy accoutrements, it has never passed legal muster. Simply put, as the courts have determined, teaching intelligent design in public schools tramples on the constitution’s first amendment protection by promoting one particular form of religion in the name of science.

As ridiculous as all of this is, it doesn’t compare to the looniness that defines the second anti-evolution bill. This one, introduced by Republican Jerry Bergevin, also demands that evolution be taught as a theory (as if there’s any other way to teach it), but it goes much further. It would require that public school science classes be dramatically expanded to explicitly include politics and religion. Bizarrely, Bergevin demands that students be taught about the personal opinions, opinions unrelated to science, of the scientists, from Darwin to the present, who are responsible for the theory of evolution. Just so you know I’m not making this stuff up, here’s what the bill requires students learn: “the theorists’ political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism.”

As oddly worded as that is, it’s far more coherent than how Bergevin justified his position to the Monitor. Here, in full, is what he had to say:

I want the full portrait of evolution and the people who came up with the ideas to be presented. It’s a worldview and it’s godless. Atheism has been tried in various societies, and they’ve been pretty criminal domestically and internationally. The Soviet Union, Cuba, the Nazis, China today: they don’t respect human rights. As a general court we should be concerned with criminal ideas like this and how we are teaching it. . . . Columbine, remember that? They were believers in evolution. That’s evidence right there. (ellipsis in original)

It’s all but impossible to know where to begin to set the record straight – or if it’s even worth the effort to do so. Recognizing the hopelessness of the task, let me make just a couple of points.

First, Bergevin is channeling Tom DeLay, the indicted former congressman from Texas, when he points to the Columbine tragedy as a reason to steer clear of evolution. DeLay famously had his own incoherent moment on this topic on the floor of the House when proclaimed that Columbine happened “because our school systems teach our children that they are nothing but glorified apes who have evolutionized (sic) out of some primordial mud.”

Second, Bergevin seems to have no sense of what happened in the Soviet Union when it outlawed the basics of evolutionary theory. T.D. Lysenko, the dominant Soviet voice in genetics from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s, felt that evolutionary theory had too many capitalistic overtones and demanded that genetics research in the Soviet Union conform with Marxist ideology. The result? The loss of an entire generation of agricultural geneticists and the decimation of Soviet agronomy leading to massive wheat shortages.

Third, scientific knowledge must be judged independently of the political beliefs of scientists. Whether an idea has standing within the scientific community should be a result of the data in support of that idea and not whether you like the politics of the scientist proposing the idea. Scientific knowledge, but not the creation of public policy based on science, is independent of politics.

Fourth, evolutionary theory has absolutely nothing to do with religion and it certainly makes no statements about the viability of atheism. As I’ve said so many times before, the very existence of The Clergy Letter Project demonstrates that thousands of religious leaders have absolutely no trouble embracing evolution while remaining true to their faith. Yes, one narrow view of religion, the view that Bergevin seems to be embracing, has a problem with modern science, but we should recognize it for the narrow perspective that it is.

None of this is new – and all of it becomes incredibly tiresome. So why should we care? Simply, it’s important that we consistently resist anti-intellectual, anti-science and anti-religious legislation of this sort whenever it appears because if we don’t, we run the risk of further destroying our scientific infrastructure and limiting our religious freedoms.

The US Supreme Court perhaps said it best in 1968 when it unanimously ruled that Arkansas’s creationism law was unconstitutional: “The antecedents of today’s decision are many and unmistakable. They are rooted in the foundation soil of our Nation. They are fundamental to freedom.”

Forty four years later, those words remain every bit as powerful and every bit as important. Perhaps it would be useful if some legislators spent some time studying history rather than attempting to dismantle science education.

Michael Zimmerman, Ph.D.
Founder, The Clergy Letter Project

Dominionism and Democracy

October 2011 Featured

By Joseph L. Conn

Religious Right Radicals’ Growing Role In The Presidential Election Sparks A Debate Over What Kind Of America They Want

Texas Gov. and GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry is a big fan of the Ten Commandments. In an interview with TV preacher Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network in September, he cited the religious code as a good basis for public policy.

“I tell people that sometimes get their nose out of joint about me being a believer,” said Perry. “I ask them, I say, well, which one of those Ten Commandments out there that’s on the lawn of the Texas capitol bothers you so much? Which one of those is bad public policy? Which one of those is so onerous to how we as a people function?

“Those instructions are good guidance,” he continued, “and, frankly, they’re good values, they’re good policy and at the end of the day, I happen to think, that’s probably good politics.”

Perry’s comment didn’t get much attention beyond the confines of the Robertson broadcasting empire, but it’s one more example of the kind of rhetoric that has ignited a national debate about the role of the Religious Right, including its farthest fringes, in the 2012 presidential campaign.

In August, pundits and political pugilists were suddenly debating “dominionism” and its reach in American religious and political life.

Dominionism is the idea that conservative Christians have the right “and the responsibility” to take dominion over all aspects of life, including the government. The term springs from Genesis 1:26-28, a biblical passage in which God instructs Adam and Eve to “have dominion”over every living thing on Earth.

This dominion mandate has been popular in certain fundamentalist circles for decades, but it leaped onto online debating forums in August in connection with Perry’s Christian-fundamentalists-only prayer-and-fasting rally at Houston’s Reliant Stadium. The Texas governor initiated The Response and then turned to the American Family Association and a host of Pentecostal religious leaders to organize it.

Many of these leaders are associated with something called the New Apostolic Reformation, a Pentecostal movement that features end-times prophecy, spiritual warfare and a religious-political agenda that seeks to gain dominion over government and other centers of influence.

Also fueling the dominionism debate is GOP candidate Michele Bachmann’s relationship with John Eidsmoe, who was a law professor at Oral Roberts University when Bachmann got her law degree there. Eidsmoe’s books emphasize that Christians œmust exercise dominion in the name of God and that the world must be brought under God’s law politically, economically, and in every other way possible.

A recent New Yorker article quoted Eidsmoe as saying that ORU law students were taught that where American law and biblical law diverge, the first thing you should try to do is work through legal means and political means to get it changed.

Reports such as these sparked a heated debate about whether dominionist thinking is an imminent threat to American democracy or a minor movement with little real influence.

Washington Post columnist Lisa Miller took the latter view, calling dominionism the paranoid mot du jour. So did columnist Michael Gerson, who opined that dominionism, though possessing cosmic ambitions, is a movement that could fit in a phone booth.

But other journalists took a much different tack. Adele M. Stan, writing for Alternet, called Miller’s essay insulting and ridiculous.

Observed Stan, The Religious Right was born of a turn toward dominionism among a certain segment of the evangelical population in the 1960s.

So who’s correct? Is the influence of dominionism something that Americans should take seriously? The answer is an emphatic yes. The concept in modern times was spawned by ultra-conservative theologians with relatively small followings, but the idea has spread far beyond those original boundaries.

Today two camps are the primary sources for overt dominionist thinking: the Christian Reconstructionists and the New Apostolic Reformation. Their theological grounding is dramatically different but their radically theocratic impulses are similar.

Christian Reconstructionism is the brainchild of the late Rousas J. Rushdoony. His Vallecito, Calif.-based Chalcedon Foundation is the wellspring of Reconstructionism. Rushdoony’s many books and articles argue for a harsh application of Old Testament law to modern-day America, including the death penalty for 17 different offenses ranging from blasphemy, witchcraft, worshipping false gods and propagating false doctrine to sodomy, juvenile delinquency and adultery.

Rushdoony’s approach is so extreme that he attracted few full-fledged devotees, but his biblical argument for church involvement in politics had a huge impact on the Religious Right when it got started in the late 1970s and early 80s.

Robert Billings, an early Religious Right strategist, said, If it weren’t for [Rushdoony’s] books, none of us would be here. Scholars say TV preachers such as Robertson, Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy were clearly influenced by Reconstructionist notions.

Several Rushdoony disciples have also reached points of influence on their own. Gary North, for example, served as an aide to U.S. Rep. and presidential candidate Ron Paul, even though North holds views quite far outside the mainstream. (He considers stoning the biblically preferred means of execution.)

Another Rushdoony acolyte, Gary DeMar, heads American Vision, a Georgia-based organization that produces books, videos and other materials touting the Christian Reconstructionist approach to religion and government. Although DeMar’s take on things is radical, his annual conferences often draw co-sponsors and speakers from the “mainstream Religious Right.

American Vision’s 2007 Worldview Super Conference was held at a Southern Baptist facility in North Carolina. It was promoted by the Traditional Values Coalition and cosponsored by the Alliance Defense Fund, Michael Farris’s Home School Legal Defense Association; Falwell’s Liberty University School of Law; and World Magazine, Marvin Olasky’s influential evangelical Christian periodical.

Far from shunning the Christian Reconstructionists, these Religious Right outfits seem perfectly happy to work side by side with them.

The second major source of dominionist thought today is the New Apostolic Reformation. This movement draws its religious impulse from Pentecostalism, not the hyper-Calvinism that animates the Reconstructionists. But its heady brew of religion and politics is just as militant and it seems much more capable of drawing a sizeable crowd.

The NAR is a network of self-proclaimed prophets and apostles who purport to be receiving direct prophecies and instructions from God about actions they should take in advance of the second coming of Jesus. They speak in militaristic terms about waging spiritual warfare and identify gay people, Muslims and a host of other Americans outside the Pentecostal orbit as being literally demon-possessed.

Rachel Tabachnik, who has researched the movement for several years, says NAR leaders teach that believers “will defeat evil by taking dominion, or control, over all sectors of society and government, resulting in mass conversions to their brand of Charismatic evangelicalism and a Christian utopia or Kingdom on earth.

Writing at the progressive website Talk To Action, Tabachnik says, The apostles teach that the obstacles to their envisioned Kingdom on earth are literal demonic beings who hold control over geographic territory and specific people groups. They claim this demonic control is the reason why people of other religions refuse to become evangelized and that the demons are also the source of crime, corruption, illness, poverty, and homosexuality. The apostles teach that their followers are currently receiving an outpouring of supernatural powers to help them fight these demons through what they call Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare.

International House of Prayer Pastor Mike Bickle, one of the organizers and speakers at Perry’s Response, is a top NAR leader. Others include evangelist Lou Engle of The Call, C. Peter Wagner, Cindy Jacobs and Dutch Sheets.

NAR clergy are heavily invested in the Seven Mountains campaign an effort to bring government, education, media, arts and entertainment, the family, business and religion under the control of Christians like themselves.

Although the NAR’s theology is foreign to many fundamentalist Christians who shun Pentecostal practices like speaking in tongues and gifts of prophecy, the Seven Mountains agenda has percolated through wide regions of the Religious Right. So has the concept of dominionism.

Chuck Colson, the Watergate felon turned Religious Right elder statesman, has bluntly called for religion-based political action. According to a report in, he told the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors Conference in June 2007 that the purpose of Christians must be “to take command and dominion over every aspect of life, whether it’s music, science, law, politics, communities, families, to bring Christianity to bear in every single area of life.

The late Bill Bright, founder of the Campus Crusade for Christ (recently renamed Cru), was also a Seven Mountains enthusiast.

The goal of a government where theocracy-minded Christians have significant power is sufficiently attractive that mainstream Religious Right activists were willing to work in tandem publicly with NAR clergy at Perry’s Response.

Although the Houston rally was billed as a purely religious event, a political agenda quickly became apparent. As AU staffer Sandhya Bathija reported on AU’s Wall of Separation blog, the Rev. Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association took advantage of the rally to try to enlist voters.

Those who registered for the Response received an email two weeks after the gathering urging involvement in next year’s elections. Wildmon encouraged participation in Champion the Vote (CTV), a project whose goal is to register five million conservative Christians who will vote according to the Biblical worldview in 2012.

The email claimed that only half of the Christians in the United States are registered to vote.

Imagine the impact we could make on the future of America, Wildmon continued, if these Christians made their voices heard in the voting booth!

Wildmon and other Religious Right forces are waging an all-out campaign to forge evangelical, fundamentalist and Pentecostal Christians into a disciplined voting bloc to back sympathetic candidates. The Alliance Defense Fund, for example, is again urging conservative clergy to take to their pulpits this month and endorse or oppose candidates for public office in defiance of federal tax law.

Other voices are urging creation of a voting bloc as well. Evangelist and author Perry Stone in August told Charisma magazine, the leading Pentecostal publication, that God may allow America to face destruction if voters don’t select the right candidates.

The only thing I think Christians can do, Stone said, is to start paying attention to what our leaders are saying and those who are going to run for office, and line up what they say with what you know in Scripture. There are enough Christians in the African-American, Caucasian and Hispanic communities to literally put in office, top to bottom, people who take a stand for what’s right in line with God’s covenant. We could be in serious danger if the Christians don’t wake up.

The Religious Right’s energy and enthusiasm has some opponents looking on in dismay.

“The Christian activist right is the largest, best organized and, I believe, the most powerful force in American politics today, Rob Stein, a Democratic strategist, told the Chicago Tribune recently. No other political group comes even close.

The debate over dominionism notwithstanding, the Religious Right stands ready to have a major impact on American political life over the upcoming months.

Schools Can’t Teach Religion as Science, Even in Texas

Charles C. Haynes

Director, Religious Freedom Education Project
Friday, August 26, 2011

WASHINGTON Texas Gov. Rick Perry needs to get home more often.

On Aug. 11, just days before Perry told a boy in New Hampshire that in Texas we teach both creationism and evolution, the Texas Education Agency sent a memorandum to the State Board of Education finalizing approval of scientifically accurate teaching material for use in Texas public schools.

Perry’s pronouncement notwithstanding, Texas schools teach evolution without any mention of creationism despite years of political pressure from religious conservatives to include creationist ideas in the curriculum. Evolution, dismissed by Perry as a theory that’s out there with some gaps, is presented as sound science in Texas textbooks and supplementary materials.

But even if a majority of the Texas state board voted tomorrow to teach creationism alongside evolution in science classrooms, public schools may not do so without violating the establishment clause of the First Amendment. So-called balanced treatment when you teach one, teach the other was explicitly struck down as unconstitutional promotion of religion in public schools by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987 (Edwards v. Aguillard).

Read more…