Persecuted? Puh-leese

Imagine you and three friends rent a house together. You all pay your shares of the rent, maintenance, utilities and food costs. One of your roommates is vegan, and insists that no food can be purchased or brought into the house that does not meet strict vegan requirements.

If you protest, saying that you are happy to keep your preferred foods separate, but that as an equal contributor to the household, you have a right to eat in accordance with your own dietary preferences, he whines that you are persecuting him.

Most of us would say that the roommate is being an unreasonable bully. Yet his argument is no different from that of the “Christians” who demand laws that privilege their beliefs while ignoring the rights of those whose beliefs differ.

Hemant Mehta over at The Friendly Atheist has a perfect example.

The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) has a simple rule when it comes to reciting Christian prayers over the loudspeakers before football games: Don’t do it. It’s a fair policy considering it echoes what the U.S. Supreme Court said more than 16 years ago.

Last year, two Christian schools made it to the championship game, which would be played in a government-owned arena, the Citrus Bowl. The coach of one of the teams asked to say a prayer over the arena’s loudspeaker. Because the Citrus Bowl is a public facility, the FHSAA refused, and a Christian “defense” group sued. As Mehta noted,

The state didn’t do anything wrong. They didn’t block kids from praying. They merely said a public loudspeaker in a public facility couldn’t be used to broadcast prayer during a state event. This isn’t hard to understand unless you work for a Christian legal group, and your paycheck requires you to scream “Persecution!!!” three times a day…

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits government from endorsing or sponsoring religion. The Free Exercise Clause prohibits government from interfering with private religious expression. As Mehta quite accurately explained,

This game was overseen and managed by the state, even if Christian schools were involved, and that meant following state law. Both teams were obviously allowed to pray before the game, and after the game, and during halftime, and silently whenever the hell they want. They could pull a Tebow during the game if they wanted to. And because they were private schools, the coaches could legally join in.

The lawsuit argued that just giving the schools this expansive right to pray wasn’t enough:

By denying access to the loudspeaker,” the suit states, “the FHSAA denied the students, parents and fans in attendance the right to participate in the players’ prayer or to otherwise come together in prayer as one Christian community.”

Evidently, prayer only counts when it’s Christian, and done publicly and loudly.

A couple of quotes from representatives of Freedom From Religion are worth sharing:

Their right to their own religious prayer practice ends where the rights of non-adherents begin, especially as it involves students. To think that the government should be required to concede to this demand is arrogance of highest order. Would they sit still for Muslim or Hindu prayers over the loudspeakers should such a group field a championship football team? Would they want the government to effectively endorse those religions through such largess?

Cambridge Christian is within its rights to force prayers on students and parents over its own loudspeakers, but not at a state-sanctioned high school championship. We hope the court will see that this is not a matter of censorship, but the appropriate use of a public facility for a secular sporting event and not a religious revival.

The libertarian principle that underlies our Constitution gives each of us the right to “do our own thing,” so long as we do not thereby harm the person or property of others, and so long as we are willing to give an equal right to others.

Forbidding government from privileging certain religious beliefs over others is not censorship, and demanding respect for the “equal right” of all citizens (or roommates) is not “persecution.”

It’s time for religious bullies to get over themselves.


  1. Prof said
    “It’s time for religious bullies to get over themselves.”
    Amen to that
    it is time that we TAX them, the income, the property…. all of it

  2. Telling any sort of bully to just get over themselves almost never works. A bully must be stood up to, even if hurts…..even if it means punching the bully’s nose……even if you’re likely to be punched back. Its not this time that’s so important….it’s all the ensuing times. If they get away with it, whatever it is, they’ll do it again and again. If you stand up to them….punch them in the nose literally or figuratively…..but punch them….they’ll be much less likely to let there be a next time. Turning the other cheek just gets the other check slapped as well. Progressives and Democrats especially need to learn this. Apologies to the Obamas.

  3. I’m 71 and this has been going on since I was a boy in school. In high school there was “The Good News Club” which was a Christian organization that held meetings in public schools after regular school hours. The active members were always recruiting other students – I guess the ones who obviously needed salvation (I must have been one). I think I attended one meeting and never returned. I also think that is about the time I realized that “God” was a figment of someone’s imagination that the Christian Marketing Department could use to make money. It’s apparent that they wanted the money to buy political influence, not so much to save my wretched soul.

    If there were a god, she would be ashamed of what some people do in her name.

  4. It seems to me that the Establishment clause would be enough to prevent these people from forcing their beliefs on non-believers. Even a lawyer, whose job is to be an advocate, should realize that and point out to his clients that they are wasting their time and money.

  5. This is nothing new. The “Christians” have been suing for their right to shove their religion down our throats far longer than they have been passing bills in state legislatures outlawing Sharia law.

  6. Most disturbing of all these public displays of religiosity on government property are those demonstrated at local, state and national legislative assemblies. An invited member of the clergy is allowed to invoke God over the gathering usually using words of “humbleness” and sincere devotion to the tenants of Christianity. With that “blessing” out of the way the legislators proceed to cheat, rob, and rule over the less powerful always in new and imaginative ways. Most recently here in Indiana it has been to “rob investors in solar energy to give dirty coal a profit”, “cheat women out of their right to their own bodies”, and “deny gerrymandered voters a way toward equality in the voting both”.

    Perhaps if those legislators, Christians all, would carry their religion in their hearts instead of wearing it on their sleeves, there would be a unity of the people to do good and fewer people fleeing the pews in disgust.

  7. Thank you, Theresa! The beginning of all levels of government meetings is with a prayer but there are laws against any form of religious recognition banning displays on all government property. Formal federal government gatherings end with, “God bless you and God bless the United States of America” I asked before and will ask again – WHOSE God?

    The cross is the most often fought against; someone wisely pointed out that legal removal of religious symbols on government property could/would include Arlington Cemetery where our members of the military, heroes all, including President John Kennedy, are buried with their personal religious symbols mark their grave sites. Is that national cemetery the only place where all religions are peacefully gathered?

  8. I have been a proud member of FFRF for over 30 years. Despite the Establishment clause they are continually fighting the same battles over and over again trying to keep public schools from being bullied by Christians. Kids have tried to establish free thought clubs and have often been denied. I fear what is going to happen to public schools under the new Sec of Education.

  9. We’re still fighting the idea that religion is one of the things that binds a ‘nation’ together. Established churches and religions have done it since time immemorial. As a general rule polytheistic societies are the most tolerant. And next to that, England and the other European nations with established churches.
    WHY – you ask? Well, established churches drive people out of the church quicker than anything else can — especially in the modern era.
    So, if we want to put an end to this, let them establish their denominations as “The Established Church of the United States of America”.
    There will be civic prayers on certain occasions, but nobody will pay any attention to what that church does or says, and yes, we’ll have it both ways, and ALL will be happy.

  10. We have had this tension between church and state for centuries, even before the Roman emperor Constantine threw in the towel and declared himself a Christian. Indeed there are points in history where the church was the state (see the pope’s coronation of Charlemagne as emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1,000 A.D., an artificial state which, as Voltaire later noted, was neither holy, Roman nor an empire). History has also been replete with wars between Christians, notably the Thirty Years War of 1618-1648 in Europe in which Catholics and Protestants killed one another by the thousands, more than some of the recurring plagues that killed off huge swaths of Europeans. Our country was settled in part by religious refugees from England who could not abide the perceived excesses of the Church of England.
    Our forefathers were confronted with Quaker and Puritan minorities and wisely came up with a constitutional provision which they probably thought or hoped would settle religious controversies by throwing all religious factions a bone (the Establishment Clause) in order to keep the peace. Our problem today is how to define and implement such a provision in keeping the peace in our attempts to divine just what Jefferson and Madison had in mind when crafting such provision and adding, as we must, the views of a growing component of atheists and agnostics to the mix who view religion at best a mere social construct.
    I think that our forefathers (many of whom were Deists) thought in terms of live and let live, that there should be strict lines of demarcation between the duties of a citizen and a believer as publicly expressed and that, if they were around today, would oppose prayer in public settings. Those who eschew religious expression as a mere social construct would doubtless agree.
    We don’t need another Thirty Years War and I think the long ago pope’s choice of Charlemagne was ill-fated in any event since Charlie couldn’t read or write, a situation reminiscent of our recent choice for the Oval office in the here and now.

  11. This will go on as long as humans live. “I am right and you are wrong” is the basis of religion and the result of ego, which is necessary for an individual survival instinct. Unless more than a minority of us evolve to a higher level of intelligence before destroying ourselves, which seems unlikely.

  12. Wingnuts simply have their prayers confused with their homosexuality. They keep their Gays in the closet their lord told them to use when they pray in solitude. Since the closet is pre-occupied wingnuts pray in public in direct violation of their lord and saviour’s command.

    Many of these so called kristians don’t appear to have any natural fear of the consequences of violating ‘HIS’ words. Maybe a little fire and brimstone would straighten them out.

  13. The USA has several thousand service clubs that meet practically every week of the year and include a prayer at every meeting. Most prayers are Christian in nature, even though many of the clubs have an abundance of non-Christian members … thereby creating a weekly opportunity for non-Christians to operate their I-phones.

    You’ll note that none of these clubs is tied in with local, state or federal governments. The members are at liberty to create their own brands of religious fervor … or lack thereof. It seems to me this is an opportunity for Fake President Donald Trump to solve this dilemma. It would be nearly impossible to screw up this situation any more than it’s already screwed up.

  14. I read today’s posting and comments with much interest. Also saw a commercial by Ron Reagan Jr., including the fact that he isn’t afraid of going to hell (not My preference not to capitalize) because he doesn’t believe there is a Me. I fully concur with Sheila despite her similar stance.


    (Personal pronoun preference: He, She…..both alternatively…..”It”…not so much)

  15. Separation of church and state isn’t a moral imperative but purely sensible. People who believe that an all mighty Almighty Being is speaking through them are extremists. They have to be fully motivated by what they were taught He will say through them. It’s not at all unusual for many people to give up their own lives in service of their God. They are fearless in the promise of eternal heaven.

    Extremism never works. It is dysfunctional and that’s why effective government has to be fully separated from Faith.

  16. Historian David Bebbington provides a summary of evangelical distinctives, identifying four primary characteristics of evangelicalism:

    1.) Conversionism: the belief that lives need to be transformed through a “born-again” experience and a life long process of following Jesus
    2.) Activism: the expression and demonstration of the gospel in missionary and social reform efforts
    3.) Biblicism: a high regard for and obedience to the Bible as the ultimate authority
    4.) Crucicentrism: a stress on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as making possible the redemption of humanity.
    The issue with this is the evangelicals want a captive audience to listen to them at the public schools and public school events. The Bible Thumpers have an arrogance that they are right and anyone who disbelieves their message is wrong and must be saved.

  17. The true extremists are those that use the law to keep people from observing any religion at all. How far will we go to beat up on those that have for decades wanted to say a prayer by pointing out that people who observe religious rituals are people. Some standards need to be set but everytime you hear of the anti religion groups who mean well from their own perspective telling some coach they can no longer pray with kids by leading them in a prayer, you wonder who the real bully is. I understand that the alternative religion of secular humanism is using its void of any prayer stance to position itself in changing a culture and provide society with changing values that not only for the sake of inclusivity also are intolerant of those wanting to practice religion of any sort. How many times will the ACLJ have to come to the defense of those students from Christian families who get told they cant put a Bible on their desk or bow their heads before lunch to simply say a prayer. I know that the argument provided is one of how publicly we have to policies that are best overall and follow the Establishment Clause, but what I have seen is that people are rarely wanting to be tolerant of others especially if it does not follow a liberals guidelines. Fair is only fair and tolerance is only observed if those who espouse tolerance get their way. Keeping one sect from becoming the state sponsored religion is a far cry from what we have today, remove religion whenever possible and find arguments to support our cause. Remember what Lenin stated, “Religion is the opiate of the people” and then a communist Russia sent millions to the Gulags splitting up families in the effort to repatriate them into a world of secular humanism.

  18. John – It was Marx who said religion was the opiate of the people and separation of church and state are not decided by liberal but rather by constitutional guidelines as interpreted by the Supreme Court. We can be secular citizens and religious people at the same time without encroaching on the rights of those who are or are not religious, and secular humanism is not the only alternative to religion. I, for instance, am a Lutheran but a believer in separation of church and state. We have seen what happens when such separation is not observed as in the undue influence ayatollahs exert in Iran and how papal consent was necessary to the crownings of kings and emperors in Western history. No, thanks. I prefer government via the consent of the governed. It’s called democracy and doesn’t depend upon some pope or preacher to O.K. The church has no more business in how government is to be run than the government has in telling churches how to run their businesses. They are mutually exclusive enterprises, and let’s keep it that way.

  19. A little over 55 years ago, I was a fifth grader in the Indianapolis public school system. I don’t remember how frequently it was but the Christian kids were allowed to attend a prayer session at the Presbyterian church across the street from our school. Being Jewish, another student and I were kept back in our classroom, supervised by our teacher. I recall that the Christian kids would come back having colored religious pictures and being generally happy to have a bit of freedom from the rigors of our classroom. I hope this is no longer the practice. The school was #70 at 46th and Central.

  20. who said……as long as there are math tests, there will be prayer in school? Right on, patmcc… those leaches.

  21. TAX THE CHURCHES and get their beliefs off my body and FREEDOMS.

    Christians are the worst humans with their holier than thou attitudes. Just read comments from a story about trans or someone that has a car accident. Just read the comments. Not an empathetic bone in their bodies.

  22. I just cringe at how students at my (rural Indiana) high school who realized they were atheists years before I did must have felt. The “spontaneous” (read: completely planned, but not in the program) Christian prayer at graduation, being asked to bring “your Bible from home” for an English class, on and on. Just awful. And I (and probably “we”) had no idea how exclusionary and awful we were being. We were brainwashed into thinking this was normal.

  23. Yes, Cynthia and I was one of them too. I grew up eventually but it took many years of re-brainwashing to achieve it. lol.

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