This is a hilarious story that’s been making the rounds.
A few years ago, the Oklahoma state legislature approved the erection of a Ten Commandments monument on the State Capitol grounds. The ACLU has since challenged the constitutionality of the monument in court (interestingly, with a Baptist preacher as the lead plaintiff – yay for religious allies who also believe in separation of church and state!). Of course, if one religious group gets to put a monument up, that means any other religious group can as well. Otherwise that would be government promotion of one religion over another, and there’s an obscure law against that.
What law? What do you think I am, some sort of legal scholar?
So who else might want to put a monument up next to the 10 Commandments? Why the Church of Satan, of course! The Satanic Temple, based in New York, submitted a request to the Oklahoma State Legislature to erect a $20,000 monument on the Capitol grounds. Lucien Greaves, a spokesmen for the Satanic Temple, claimed, “We believe that all monuments should be in good taste and consistent with community standards,” and therefore, “Our proposed monument, as an homage to the historic/literary Satan, will certainly abide by these guidelines.”
Equal Protection means me too, bitches!
(Side note: If you love this idea as much as I do, consider donating to their indiegogo campaign.)
Of course the Religious Right and Fox News are going into panic mode trying to find a reason – any reason! – to justify keeping their beloved 10 Commandments monument up while still denying the Satanists equal space. They’re mental contortions cover the entire spectrum from quaintly illogical to mind-bogglingly stupid.
Firstly, the members of the Oklahoma Legislature seem completely blindsided to learn that the legal loophole they opened might be used by someone they don’t like. Sen. Brian Bingman (R) dismisses the whole situation saying, “I think it is a joke.” However, his colleague, Sen. Earl Sears (R) took a different tack.
“This is a faith-based nation and a faith-based state… I think it is very offensive they would contemplate or even have this kind of conversation.”
Apparently Sen. Sears doesn’t think that other religions count as faiths. He might be more accurate (if still somewhat wrongheaded) if it were atheists trying to erect a monument. But of course, Sears doesn’t seem to understand the basic premise of equality. While he’s so busy being offended by a proposed Satanic monument, it never crosses his mind that someone else might be offended by a 10 Commandments monument.
Another Senator, Doug Cox (R – noticing a trend here?), took an even stronger stance, saying, “It is not going to get approved here without a court battle, I can assure you.” Well, lucky for him, that’s exactly what he can expect. See, it’s irrelevant how many bible pounding firebrands they have in their state government. The simple fact is that you can either have no religious monuments on public ground, or you have to invite all of them. That’s what equal protection means, and what the courts have upheld time and again.
But… but… Jesus!
If Sen Cox were my representative, I would be infuriated that he’d be willing to spend taxpayer money on a legal fight that he can’t win
to protect a monument that shouldn’t even be at a government facility in the first place. But then again, the money is coming from his constituents, not his own pocket, so why should he care?
For some more angry rhetoric, we can always count on Fox News to come through. Gretchen Carlson, fiercely honest journalist
who’s always been a proud advocate for atheists
, brought the question of the monument to her religious panel. Panelists included Catholic League President Bill Donahue, author and pundit Rabbi Schmuley Boteach, and President of American Atheists David Silverman. Conversation turned nasty pretty quickly (as it usually does whenever Donahue is involved)…
Now, I’m not going to go too deeply into this, because J.T. Eberhard already did a much better and more thorough
job of it than I ever could. Seriously, click that link, it’s brilliant. I do want to point out, though, that no matter how many times Silverman stressed that equality works for everyone, it seems the other three consistently came back with some variation of the argument, “I don’t like them, therefore they shouldn’t be allowed to do this.”
Pictured: Fox News’ political strategy.
Look, Fox, I get that you guys don’t like Satanists, atheists, Muslims, or any other group who doesn’t want to plaster Jesus on every edifice in the country. Boo-frickity-hoo. The very reason for the First Amendment is to protect those in the minority from people like you. Not to mention having the added benefit of protecting you and your religious beliefs from the many, many, many people out there who believe differently than you do.
The absolute king of stupid arguments, however, has to go to Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association. In his radio show he actually tried to say – and I swear I’m not making this up – that nobody but Christians were entitled to protection under the Constitution because when they framers wrote the First Amendment, they meant the word “religion” to mean “Christianity.” Watch as he absolutely mangles logic and language to try to force this stupid argument to make any sense.
If you couldn’t manage to sit through that (perfectly understandable), here’s some highlights.
“But the point is, by ‘religion’ the founders were thinking of Christianity, so the purpose was to protect the free exercise of the Christian faith. It wasn’t about protecting anything else.”
If you are one of those many religions, Fischer does want to reassure you that even though you don’t have any government protection, you’re still free to believe what you’d like. Just so long as you’re not expecting any legal protection for your beliefs.
“They weren’t providing any cover or shelter for the free exercise of Islam or even Judaism or even atheism. They weren’t saying you can’t do it — I want to be clear on that — they weren’t prohibiting that, they were just saying that is not what we are talking about here.”
Don’t you feel so much better? I wonder if Mormons have protection under the Constitution according to Fischer. I mean, they believe in Jesus, but they did write their own Testament.
Lucky for us, Fischer has no frickin’ clue as to what he’s talking about. The fun thing about law is that words are clearly defined. That why legalese is a thing; so that when a law is written we can know exactly what it means. Also, it’s why we have courts that interpret the law.
Imagine what it would look like if we could just change the legal meanings of words to suit our purposes like Fischer here proposes. Why, I’m not allowed to physically attack another person. But, according to me, when the law uses the word “person”, it means any human that’s not named Bryan Fischer. Clearly the people who wrote the laws against assault only meant to protect normal people, not douchebag presidents of the AFA.
Seriously, it’s like the books you read don’t have any internal logic… oh.
Thankfully, people at Fox News or the AFA don’t get to decide the way the rules work in this country. The Oklahoma State Legislature is about to find themselves on the end of an uncomfortable and costly lawsuit because they decided play religious favorites. The Satanists are making an important point which atheists have spent a lot of time and money trying to get people to understand. It’s not that we want to put up monuments or Christmas displays or anything else on government land; we don’t think anyone should be allowed. But if you let one in, you have to let all in. That’s what fair governance means, nobody is excluded from the table. Or, as Satanic Temple’s Lucien Greaves put it,
“The whole point is that we’re a religiously pluralistic society, so if there’s going to be one, there will be others, or at least we’ll make the effort for such. Or there will be neither. Those are the only real options.”
I say we go with none.