Tag Archive: Freedom From Religion Foundation

An Atheist in the Land of Jesus: Living a Compartmentalized Life

compartments

I live in rural northwest Ohio. I have spent most of my life living in rural communities. I am, in every way, a country boy; that is, in every way except my politics and religious beliefs. It is a well-known fact that it’s rural people who put Donald Trump in the White House and delivered solid Republican majorities to Congress and state legislatures. Here in Ohio, virtually every major state office is occupied by right-wing, pro-life, anti-same-sex-marriage, white Christians. Go to the major cities and college communities and you will find progressive/liberal/Democratic/socialist political beliefs. Drive ten miles outside of town, and everything quickly turns from red to blue. Here in Defiance County, almost three out of four voters vote Republican, and in the last presidential election, Donald Trump won by a sixty-four percent to twenty-nine percent margin. (Seventy-three percent of registered voters voted in the 2016 election.)

Religiously, Evangelical (and conservative Catholic/Lutheran/Methodist) Christianity rules the roost. In the four-county area where I live, there are roughly 140 thousand people and 400 Christian churches. Christian belief and practice colors every aspect of local life. It is assumed that everyone is Christian. Over the past decade, I have witnessed countless church-state violations. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) could spend months here dealing with schools and other government agencies that don’t have a clue about the First Amendment, the establishment clause, or the separation of church and state. It’s not that local leaders deliberately set out to violate the law. It’s just that giving Christianity preferential treatment is very much part of the ebb and flow of life around here. It is just how it is.

hicksville high school christian materials

Let me give an example. Recently, nearby Hicksville High School gave its 2018 graduates bags of Evangelical literature and DVDs. Here’s what FFRF had to say on the matter:

A concerned student reported that during Hicksville High School’s commencement practice on May 30, a guidance counselor handed every graduating student a package that contained Christian materials. The package included a copy of “Evolution vs. God,” an anti-evolution film created by Christian evangelist Ray Comfort, “Rich in Christ: A Dead Dog at the King’s Table,” a religious tract titled “Are you a Good Person,” and a religious pamphlet that “explains the plan of salvation in easy-to-understand terms” called “Life’s Most Important Question.” FFRF’s complainant reports that this package was put together by a science teacher at the school.

This package included a letter titled “Hicksville High School Class of 2018,” which reads:

Congratulations 2018 Graduate!

As you look ahead to your future with excitement and great anticipation, may you also come to discover God’s very best for your life. God loves you so very much that He sent His Son Jesus to earth to die for your sins so that you may have a personal relationship with God, and be assured of an eternal home in Heaven.

Rich in Christ is filled with hope and encouragement for you. It contains dozens of wonderful promises from the Bible, that God wants you to understand and claim as your very own. May you find God’s richest blessings as you follow His leading and His blueprint for true success. Enjoy your riches!

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”  II Corinthians 8:9

The letter indicates that a number of local individuals and businesses, including Hicksville Exempted Village School Superintendent Keith Countryman and his wife, sponsored the gift package.

“It is a fundamental principle of Establishment Clause jurisprudence that a public school may not advance, prefer, or promote religion,” FFRF Legal Fellow Chris Line writes to Countryman. “As a public school, Hicksville High School cannot promote Christian religious doctrine by distributing proselytizing materials to students as part of graduation rehearsal, a school function. This violates the principle that ‘the preservation and transmission of religious beliefs and worship is a responsibility and a choice committed to the private sphere,’” to quote the U.S. Supreme Court.

The school district has an obligation under the law to make certain that “subsidized teachers do not inculcate religion,” to again quote the U.S. Supreme Court. When faculty use school time to proselytize to students, whether it be through distribution of literature or through religious statements, they are taking religion out of the private sphere and violating parental trust.

Religion is a divisive force in public schools, FFRF emphasizes. When a school distributes sectarian religious literature to its students it entangles itself with those religious messages. As well as alienating non-Christian students, teachers, and members of the public whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being promoted by the school, these practices estrange the 24 percent of Americans, including 38 percent of young adults, who identify as nonreligious. prri.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/PRRI-Religion-Report.pdf

“It is a violation of the duties and responsibilities of public school staff to proselytize students,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Imagine the uproar if a staff member was propagating atheism or Islam.”

Gaylor calls the school officials’ actions “bizarre,” saying that it is particularly concerning that a science teacher had a hand in distributing anti-evolution propaganda to graduating seniors and that the superintendent sponsored the unconstitutional distribution.

FFRF insists that to avoid constitutional violations, any future graduation “gifts” distributed by Hicksville Exempted Village School staff as part of a school function not contain religious materials.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with 33,000 members and several chapters across the country, including more than 800 members and a chapter in Ohio. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

According to the latest issue of Freethought Today, the Hicksville school district agreed to stop distributing sectarian religious materials to its students. Did the school administrators deliberately ignore the law, choosing, instead, to evangelistically promote Christianity? Of course not. They just did what has always been done. It is assumed that everyone is Christian.

I am an atheist and a humanist. I am a political liberal who aligns himself with the Democratic Socialist party. I generally vote Democratic, but many local Democrats, thanks to their religious beliefs, skew to the right. This is especially true for those who are forty-five and older. Even local mainline Christian churches — which are historically liberal — tend to be conservative politically and socially. True liberals such as myself are as rare the ivory-billed woodpecker. We exist, but there aren’t many of us. We tend to lurk in the shadows, pining for the day when progressive values prevail. The good news is that younger locals are far more liberal than their parents and grandparents. I see a better day ahead, but in the short-term, people such as myself must bite our lips, hold our tongues, and silently swear.

Last month, Polly and I attended a tractor pull at the Fulton County fairgrounds. The event was sponsored by the National Tractor Pullers Association. Events such as this one are gaudy displays of American exceptionalism, nationalism, and conservative Christianity. Imagine sitting through nine minutes of masturbation to the Christian God and the American flag. First, the crowd was asked to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Second, the PA announcer read a four-minute monologue set to music about the greatness of America and its military, reminding everyone that REAL PATRIOTS stand and honor the flag. Then it was time to sing the Star Spangled Banner. And last, but not least, the preacher/announcer prayed a sectarian prayer in the name of Jesus, amen.

By the time all this nonsense was over, I was ready to scream. My son asked me, Dad, why do you subject yourself to this stuff? I replied, because I love watching tractor pulls. I endure the religious/nationalist nonsense because I know what waits on the other side of the Amen.

I willingly choose to live in rural Northwest Ohio. Twelve years ago, Polly and I returned to this part of the state so we could be close to our children and grandchildren. We do not regret doing so. We love the slowness of small town life, and when we want to experience big city life, Toledo and Fort Wayne are but an hour away. Applebee’s is considered “fine” dining around here. When we want to enjoy a meal at an upscale restaurant, we drive to Fort Wayne or Findlay. In every way, we have a good life. That said, choosing to live in a place where Jesus and the GOP are joined at the hip requires us to practice the fine art of compartmentalization.

I own a photography business: Defiance County Photo. I shoot many of the local high school’s sporting events. I don’t advertise my politics or lack of religious beliefs. It is hard enough to make a few meager bucks off my photography work without limiting my business opportunities by being an in-your-face atheist and socialist. I don’t hide my beliefs, but I don’t talk about them either. Recently, I had a job interview where the business owner tried three times to goad me into a religious discussion. He really, really, really wanted to share his “testimony” with me, but every time he mentioned God/Jesus/faith, I said nothing. That was my way of telling him, I AIN’T INTERESTED! Polly has a similar problem at work. She’s a pro at ignoring attempts to drag her into discussions about this or that Christian belief.

I have one compartment that contains my business. I am sure some locals know I am an unbeliever and a political liberal. I suspect these facts cost me business. As an atheist, I want to live and conduct my business in such a way that Christians around me will be perplexed by my good works. I know doing so confuses some of them, as they have been told by their preachers that atheists are Satan worshipers, baby killers, and lovers of sin. Much like Jesus commands Christians to live, I want people to see that you can live a good, meaningful life without God or the Bible. I want to “let my little light shine!”

I have another compartment that contains Bruce Gerencser, the father and grandfather. I attend a number of school events every year. Ten of our twelve grandchildren attend three different local school districts. Many of them play summer sports, and several of them play junior high and high school sports. I always have my camera with me, shooting this or that event or game. Thanks to my white beard, ruddy complexion, and portly build, I look like Santa Claus. The school mates of my younger grandchildren wonder if I am the “real” Santa. Of course I am! I enjoy playing the role.

In this compartment, it’s all about family. I don’t talk about politics or religion. When people extol the virtues of the Tyrant King, I outwardly smile and say nothing. Why? I don’t want my politics or godlessness to negatively affect my grandchildren. Believe me, I would love to be a fire-breathing atheist. I would love to eviscerate those who blindly and ignorantly support our Toddler-in-chief. However, for the sake of my family, I say nothing.

Finally, I have a compartment where I am a vocal, outspoken atheist, humanist, and Democratic socialist. This blog is home to my writings on religion and politics. Few locals read my writing, though I suspect more than a few have done a Google search on my name and have come across this blog. I make no apologies for the subject matter of my writing. It is here that I can be open and honest. If locals stumble across this site and are offended, that’s their problem. This is my “ministry,” so to speak. The Bible spoke of Jesus not being able to do mighty works among his own people because of their unbelief. I understand Jesus’ plight; the difference being, of course, that I can’t do many mighty works among my own people because of their religious and political beliefs. I am, in every way, a stranger in a land I dearly love. That’s not to say that there are not other atheists or socialists around here. There are, but due to family and employment concerns, they, too, keep a low profile. From time to time I will receive emails from local heathens thanking me for my writing. They often say they wish they could be an out-of-the-closet atheist such as myself. Fear keeps them in the closet. Maybe someday we will be more in number, but for now, we choose to keep our heads down, knowing that being a vocal atheist would be social and career suicide. It’s not fair, but I learned long ago that little in life is.

Do you live in rural America? Please share your experiences in the comment section. Are you forced to compartmentalize your life? How do you balance your unbelief with societal and familial norms?

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Why Penny Nance is NOT a Good Choice for Women’s Ambassador of Global Affairs by Annie Laurie Gaylor

penny nance

Penny Nance

There will be a lot more “concerned women” in America if Trump’s purported pick for women’s ambassador of global affairs at the State Department is confirmed. Penny Nance, Trump’s rumored choice, happens to be president and CEO of Concerned Women for America, a virulently anti-feminist, anti-abortion organization whose purpose is to “bring Biblical principles into all levels of public policy.”

Nance is such a cartoon that she actually criticized Disney for supposedly undercutting traditional notions of masculinity by creating what she regarded as overly spunky princesses in “Frozen.”

Frozen is the operative word. We’re frozen in some kind of time warp out of the imagination of the most extreme leaders on the Christian Right. In Trump’s quest to produce a “fox for every chicken coop in Washington,” as the always quotable Gloria Steinem put it at the Women’s March, he has found the perfect foil for this ambassadorship. Planned Parenthood’s Dawn Laguens compares it to “putting an arsonist in charge of the fire department.”

The position of the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues at the State Department was started by the Obama administration. Its mandate is to “promote the rights and empowerment of women and girls through U.S. foreign policy.” Its priorities are gender equality, including gender-based violence, women’s economic empowerment, women’s participation in peace and security, and adolescent girls.

Nance is a longtime critic of the Violence Against Women Act. In an op-ed for The Christian Post, she urged women impregnated by rape to carry such pregnancies to term, revealing the depths of her religious fanaticism: “As Christians, we live every day in a fallen world and must deal with the painful consequences of evil acts such as rape, murder, theft, and deception. No, sin was never God’s intention. But the creation of a life that might one day be used to spread the Gospel or show God’s love by helping others is still a miracle that deserves our reverence and protection.”

It’s a snub to us truly “concerned women of America” for Trump to even shortlist Nance, a handmaiden for the radical Christian Right, for this position intended to further women’s rights.

—  Annie Laurie Gaylor. Co-President Freedom From Religion Foundation, Trump’s Pick for Women’s Ambassador Extremely Disturbing

Freedom From Religion Foundation: Not Afraid of Burning in Hell Social Media Campaign

bruce gerencser not afraid of hell

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is running a new interactive social media campaign called Not Afraid of Burning in Hell. If you would like to participate in this campaign and get your very own digital billboard, please check out FFRF’s website for more information. And if you are not a FFRF member, I encourage you to join today.

How NOT to Talk to Someone With Chronic Pain or Debilitating Illness

new pain schedule

Several days ago, I received an unsigned letter from a sixty-four year old atheist woman. After reading my member introduction in the September 2017 Freedom From Religion Foundation newsletter, Freethought Today,  and rooting through my blog looking for personal health information, this woman decided to send me a typed two-page letter detailing her uneducated, ill-founded opinion of my weight and health, along with numerous paragraphs detailing what I should do to regain the Bruce of the 1970s.  At the end of her deconstruction of my physical being, she spent thirty-eight words complimenting me on my beard and thanking me for my story in the newsletter.

I sat on this letter for several days, waiting for my anger to calm before answering it. Yesterday, I talked to my counselor about the letter and why it is that people who don’t know me and don’t know my health background think it is appropriate to send me letters such as this one. It would be one thing if someone who was close to me talked to me about this or that health matter, but even then, no one, not even my wife, knows the depth and complexities of my health problems. People only know what I tell them, and trust me, there is a lot I don’t talk about. That I am willing to talk about my struggles with chronic pain and debilitating illness at all is deemed by zealots and nuts as an opening for them to preach their gospel — complete with shaming me for “sin” and using my children and grandchildren as bait to attract me to their particular way of life or “cure.”

I have received numerous letters from people offering unsolicited medical and lifestyle advice. Over the years, I have been told that the following will “cure” me or transform my pain and illness to a mere afterthought: essential oils, chiropractic care, magnets, acupuncture, reiki massage, homeopathic remedies, meditation, getting my chakras aligned, drinking magical shakes, and taking this or that supplement — more times than I can count. According to many of the people offering advice, Western medicine is evil, drug companies are out to kill me, and medical professionals are deliberately withholding care and treatment  that would cure me because they want to make money off my pain and health.

My latest letter writer takes a more simplistic approach, albeit she is every bit as ignorant of the latest science related to my health as the purveyors of the woo mentioned above. She contends that if I would just exercise more, lessen calorie intake, and not drink soda pop my life would be transformed. She assumes, of course, that I am NOT already doing these things, choosing instead to look at my photograph, seeing that I am fat/overweight/obese, and conclude that I am not following her prescription for having a born-again experience. The letter writer assumes that what worked for her will work for everyone else. She ignores the fact that human bodies are complex and what may work for one person won’t work for others.. She also ignores genetic and environmental factors, choosing instead to focus on my body size. In many ways, she is much like Evangelicals who attempt to deconstruct my life, refusing to allow me to tell my own story. Instead she takes her atheistic religious health experiences and uses them as a standard by which to judge me.

Simply put, the letter writer is not in the position to make ANY judgments about my health or offer ANY advice as to proper treatment. I have a primary care doctor, along with medical specialists who provide me necessary and adequate care. I am satisfied with their care, knowing that the health problems I have, for the most part, cannot be cured. All my doctors can do for me is try to improve my quality of life and lessen my pain. I have told my primary care doctor several times that I don’t expect him to fix what can’t be fixed. I have accepted that this is my life — live with it, Bruce! I know that my health problems began when I was a slim, trim athletic fourteen-year-old teen. Genetics, exposure to dangerous chemicals that landed me in the emergency room, and communicable diseases set the stage for how things are for me today. A near-death experience with mononucleosis in 1991 and two bouts with pneumonia left my immune system wrecked beyond repair. The letter writer understood none of these things, choosing instead to just see a fat guy who, she thinks, eats too much.

The letter writer is offended by my stoic, matter-of-fact approach to my life and health. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia twenty years ago, and with neurological problems in 2007. For a time, doctors thought I might have multiple sclerosis. The symptoms fit, but the tests, so far, are inconclusive. Over the past two decades, osteoarthritis has slowly marched its way through my skeletal system. A visit to an orthopedic specialist last year revealed osteoarthritis in my hands, knees, feet, lower spine, neck, and shoulders. In other words — everywhere. The combination of these three diseases (and joint injuries) has left me disabled — another word the letter writer hates. Tough shit. That’s what I am: d-i-s-a-b-l-e-d.  Most days, I walk with a cane, steadying myself so I don’t fall and break something. Sometimes, I use a wheelchair — a sign to the letter writer that I am giving up. (Want to guess how many times I wanted to say go fuck yourself as I read her letter? You will need all your fingers and toes.)

The letter writer spends most of her sermon preaching about my weight. Evidently, she doesn’t care for fat people, nor does she understand that body shaming is no longer considered acceptable conduct in polite company. Friends accept people as they are. I know I would never, ever write someone a letter like the one this woman wrote to me. Perhaps she thinks that because she is in her sixties, she has earned the right to say whatever she wants. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt, but it is hard to do so when I view her letter as a personal attack — an assault on who and what I am.

The letter writer reveals that she really doesn’t understand current scientific evidence about body weight and weight loss. She wrongly says that weight loss is as simple as reducing caloric intake. This thinking is patently false, and can, at times, be dangerous or even life-threatening. She also assumes that I don’t manage caloric intake and eat healthily. I do, about ninety-five percent of the time. Since last November, I have lost forty pounds. Massive bowel movements? Fluid loss? I don’t really care. I try to eat healthily, and when I do not, I don’t lose one moment of sleep over it. Life is too short. If eating ice cream is going to be the end of me, so be it. Praise Jesus, I will leave this life with the sweet taste of rocky road ice cream on my lips!

The letter writer tells me in capital letters, DO NOT EAT IN RESTAURANTS. This must be one of her religion’s commandments, and if it is, NO THANK YOU. Polly and I spent the first twenty-five years of marriage rarely eating out. We couldn’t afford it. Now we can, and me and the Mrs. plan on enjoying as much good food (and wine) as we possibly can. At home, my wife is a first-rate gourmet cook. She has the pans, knives, oven and cookbooks to prove it. Only food zealots would have a problem with what we eat.

The letter writer also shows a lack of understanding about pain and how narcotics work — wrongly believing that narcotics make pain go away. Sorry, but that’s not how it works. Massive amounts of narcotics might take pain away, but they also render people unable to do much of anything but sleep. I have been on a pain management regimen for twelve years. The goal is to break the pain cycle so I can have a better quality of life. Pain levels, rise and fall, but the pain never goes away. I haven’t had a pain-free day in years.

The letter writer tells me that a pain-free life is overrated, that I shouldn’t take narcotics (take aspirin or ibuprofen instead), and that since I AM taking narcotics I shouldn’t need to use a cane or wheelchair. According to her, if I would just lose weight, exercise more, all would be well and I would no longer have to use my cane or wheelchair. Calling my pain medications a crutch, she implores me to let pain have its way with me. This woman has serious health problems herself, including a major bout with cancer. I wonder how she might have felt had I come into the room after her surgery and told her what she had told me about pain. No need for morphine! Own your pain! Just take Aleve!

I am of the opinion that there is little value in ignoring pain or embracing it because there is some sort of nobility gained from not taking pain medications. Sorry, but I choose to live as pain-free of a life as possible. I choose to embrace my pain, but I am sure as hell not going to let it ruin my life by reducing me to an old man curled up in a fetal position wishing he could die. By properly managing my pain (and other aspects of my health), I have the ability most days to do the things I want to do. Some days, the pain meds simply don’t work. On such days, I endure, knowing that surely better days lie ahead. And if they don’t? Then I will embrace the present as my new normal.

you can do it

Finally, the letter writer should have plumbed the depths of my personality before sending her sermon my way. Had she done so, she would not have taken the motivational YOU CAN DO IT, OH YES YOU CAN approach. I loathe such approaches to life, and when someone tries to “motivate” me this way, their attempt always fails. I am a rationalist who approaches life in a matter-of-fact way. I don’t need anyone to cheer me on. I am quite capable of determining for myself what I need to do, and then doing it. And if I do ever need a bit of Richard Simmons-like motivation, I look to my wife, children, and grandchildren for reasons to get up in the morning and keep moving. I drove my ex-daughter-in-law crazy (as did her husband) because I wasn’t happy as a seal with a ball at parties and family events. I tend to be quite reserved emotionally, choosing to show my gratitude or praise with words such as fine, that’s good, good job, thank you, or I appreciate it. I don’t get all wide-eyed and slap-happy. People who know me understand that when I say something is fine, that is a high praise coming from me (except when I say fine when answering, How are you doing? Then, I am usually lying). I, for one, am quite tired of being treated as if there is something wrong with me if I don’t have excitable emotional outbursts when expressing my approval of people or events. Who decided that being all jacked up on Mountain Dew is the only proper way to respond to things?  (Please read Bright-sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America by Barbara Ehrenreich.) Fuck that. I am who I am, and I am quite happy with being the one and only Bruce Gerencser on planet earth. Woo! Hoo! Ain’t I a special snowflake!

Let me be clear, when it comes to my health and the medical treatment I receive, please keep your thoughts, opinions, sermons, and dogma to yourself. You may have stayed in a Holiday Inn, but you are not my doctor. I’m fine with close friends or family members sending me links and asking me if I have read this or that report or study. Most often, since I am an INFORMED sufferer of chronic pain and debilitating illness, I have already read the report/study. I appreciate that they genuinely care about me and hope that something will come along and improve my lot in life (money, lots of money – that will work). For everyone else? Please don’t. Don’t email me, don’t write me letters, and don’t post on my Facebook wall whatever it is you think will transform my life. Chances are it won’t, or I have already tried it without success. Love me as I am and when you hear of my demise, be it today, tomorrow, or ten years from now, I hope you will remember me for the good I have done. Like everyone else, I want acceptance and respect from others. This letter writer demonstrated neither.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Quote of the Day: The Danger of Constitutional Absolutism by Sam Grover and Andrew L. Seidel

gun control

Cartoon by David Granlund

All of us at the Freedom From Religion Foundation fall somewhere between being fearful and constantly mindful that a disgruntled maniac with an assault weapon could come into our office building and murder us. In our line of work we regularly come up against angry religious extremists who wish death upon us and all others who advocate for the constitutional separation of religion and government. As the recent lone gunman in Las Vegas—who singlehandedly murdered more than 50 people and injured hundreds more—has reminded us, in the United States this type of mass shooting is far more common than it needs to be.

Believe it or not, as a constitutional issue this debate has a lot in common with the attempts to redefine religious freedom.

Data that predates the shootings in Orlando and Las Vegas shows that the United States is home to more mass shooting events than any other country. With only 5 percent of the world’s population, we were home to 31 percent of all mass shootings between 1966 and 2012. And the rate of mass shootings in our country has tripled since 2011, even as the overall rate of gun violence has declined.

There is compelling evidence suggesting that common-sense gun control laws would go a long way toward preventing mass shooting events in the United States. They worked in Australia, which passed a law to remove semi-automatic weapons from civilian possession in 1996, after 35 people died in a mass shooting in Tasmania. In the 18 years before the gun law reforms, there were 13 mass shootings in Australia. In the 11 years after? None. Australia has also enjoyed an accelerated decline in firearm homicides over that same period.

While one could quibble about how best to interpret the complex data coming out of Australia—and gun lobbyists do—the more fundamental question is: “Why not try this in the United States?” Why won’t Congress take steps to ban the sale of assault-style weapons—a step that could dramatically reduce the number of mass shootings? What are the “cons?” Why, instead, do politicians limit themselves to tweeting out their “thoughts and prayers” while taking no action?

The answer to these questions lies in how the “gun rights” lobby has pushed a particular view of the Second Amendment. That transformation is the reason FFRF is talking about this, the reason it’s relevant to state-church separation. “Religious freedom” advocates are currently trying to do to the First Amendment what the gun lobby did to the Second.

In 1977, the National Rifle Association experienced the “Revolt in Cincinnati,” where extreme gun rights advocates took over the NRA and converted it from an organization that primarily advocated for firearm safety education, marksmanship training and recreational shooting into a lobbying powerhouse focused nearly exclusively on Second Amendment advocacy. One excellent summary of this transformation includes this note: “The NRA’s new leadership was dramatic, dogmatic and overtly ideological. For the first time, the organization formally embraced the idea that the sacred Second Amendment was at the heart of its concerns.” Sound familiar?

Since the Revolt in Cincinnati, the gun rights lobby has successfully pushed an absolute right to gun ownership in courts and legislatures, culminating in the 2008 Supreme Court decision District of Columbia v. Heller, which established for the first time a dramatic reimagining of the Second Amendment as creating an individual right to own a gun. This dramatic reimagining is exactly what groups like Liberty Institute are trying to do with the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. They are trying to turn free exercise into an absolute right that must be protected even when it infringes on the rights of others.

To hear those seeking to redefine religious freedom tell it, any action motivated by religion is permissible, no matter what its impact. If they deny an LGBTQ citizen a cake because of sexual orientation, that’s their god-given right. Logically, that means they could deny atheists, Jews or even discriminate on the basis of race, though they would be unlikely to say so out loud.

People can believe whatever they like. They are free to believe the voices they’re hearing are God, that thetans and evil spirits make us sad, or that the Earth is only a few thousand years old. But the right to act on those beliefs is by no means absolute. This is best illustrated with the example that the Supreme Court used more than 130 years ago: human sacrifice.

Hearing a command for human sacrifice is fairly common in the bible and the story of Abraham almost sacrificing his son Isaac is often held up as a measuring stick for how deep one’s faith should be. But people who, like Abraham, hear God ordering them to kill their children do not have a right to do so. Once someone is committing murder, religious freedom is irrelevant.

Somewhere on the spectrum of religiously motivated action, civil law can step in. That line should be drawn where the rights of others begin. As Thomas Jefferson put it, “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” But if religion mandates picking pockets and breaking legs, it comes under the purview of our secular law. And no belief, no matter how fervent, should change that.

Second Amendment rights are not absolute: You can’t bring your gun on a plane or into a school, felons can’t own them, and some states regulate concealed carry or unlicensed gun sales. (Incidentally, the states that regulate guns more strictly have lower incidents of gun-related homicides.) The reason common-sense, data-driven gun laws cannot make it through Congress is because the idea that Second Amendment rights are absolute has been deliberately foisted on American legislatures and courts.

“Religious freedom” advocates are working to achieve the same sleight of hand with the First Amendment and their claimed right to act on their religious beliefs. It began with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, made a huge gain with the Hobby Lobby case, and is set to be decided by the Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop very soon.

The absolutist view of the Second Amendment is killing Americans. To adopt that same absolutist view for the Free Exercise Clause “would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and, in effect, to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government could exist only in name under such circumstances,” as the Supreme Court wrote in 1879.

There is no constitutional right to act out one’s religious beliefs in a manner that infringes on others’ rights, including the right to equal protection under the law. Discrimination in the name of religion is still discrimination. We cannot accept an absolutist interpretation of the Constitution. Instead, we must look at how the First and Second Amendments are being used—and abused—to amass power and to achieve results that range from nonsensical to lethal. (And yes, an absolutist view of the Free Exercise of religion will lead to lethal consequences too).

The political nonresponse to mass shootings in this country has become a tragic pattern, ripe for parody. We cannot continue to accept inaction based on a vague appeal to an absolute constitutional right. At the Freedom From Religion Foundation, we fight every day against political overreach by “religious freedom” advocates, who cloak their discrimination in constitutional language. We must reject their attempts to take a page from the NRA playbook by foisting an absolutist reimagining of the Free Exercise Clause onto the legal landscape. The right to act out one’s religious beliefs must end where the rights of others begins.

— Sam Grover and Andrew L. Seidel, Constitutional Attorneys, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Gun Control and Religious Freedom: How Thinking in Constitutional Absolutes is Killing People

On the Road Looking for God’s True Church

As Polly and I travel the roads of Northwest Ohio, Southern Michigan, and Southeast Indiana, we are always on the lookout for God’s True Church®. Here are a few of the churches we stumbled upon during our travels.get right with god us hwy 127 2 2017 get right with god us hwy 127 3 2017 get right with god us hwy 127 2017

Get Right with God. Which God? Which standard of right?

harvest field church scott ohio 2 2017 harvest field church scott ohio 2017

Harvest Field Pentecostal Church of God, Scott, Ohio, Terry Martin, pastor. Harvest Field has a ministry called Firehouse Youth Group. Its mission is to:

Firehouse Youth Group is the student ministry of Harvest Field PCG. Firehouse Youth is passionate about reaching the students in grades 6th through 12th. We are focused on igniting this next generation on fire for Jesus Christ by sharing the gospel and leading them in a life-changing personal relationship with Him.

 

in god we trust scott ohio police car 2017

Scott, Ohio police car. The In God We Trust on the back bumper is most certainly a violation of the U.S. Constitution. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has litigated several cases dealing with such slogans. They generally win such cases. Government has no business promoting sectarian religion (and the GOD in question is without a doubt the CHRISTIAN God). More info on Scott, Ohio — population 286.

victory church of god van wert ohio 2017

Victory Church of God, Van Wert, Ohio. Ernie Long, pastor. Victory’s tag line — where victims are made victorious — is one the most offensive church advertising slogans I have ever seen. Imagine the church congregation doing door-to-door, asking locals if they are “victims.”  Victims of what, exactly? Sexual abuse? Substance abuse? Spousal abuse? Spiritual abuse? Pastoral abuse? Child abuse? Is Victory Church really a one stop shopping place for all those who have been abused?  Is the church trolling for victims so they can be further victimized by Jesus and his followers?

Christians Upset Over Satanist Christmas Display

boca raton satanist display

“Tis the season for Christians to be upset over things that they feel profane the “true” meaning of Christmas — the birth of Jesus Christ. A recent scuffle in Boca Raton is case in point. CBS News reports:

A 300-pound metal sculpture of a satanic pentagram, erected as an atheist protest to a public park’s Nativity scene, was severely damaged on Tuesday when it was pulled to the ground by vandals.

Atheist Preston Smith’s 10-foot tall sculpture lay broken in Sanborn Square at noon. Tire tracks led from the twisted metal to the street.

It appeared vandals had attached a chain from a vehicle to the sculpture and yanked it down, dragging it several feet. As local television reporters prepared live broadcasts, two passersby stopped and pushed the sculpture back onto its base before walking away.

The sculpture sits about 20 feet from a traditional Nativity scene of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus, and is backed by a banner from an atheist group reading “Keep Saturn in Saturnalias,” a reference to the belief that the early Christian church substituted Christmas for a Roman pagan holiday.

It is the latest Florida protest against manger scenes on public property, mirroring earlier battles inside the state capitol in Tallahassee.

Boca Raton police officer Sandra Boonenberg said the overnight strike was the third attack on Smith’s sculpture and its explanatory banner since he erected the display earlier this month. Someone painted the once-red sculpture black on Monday. Earlier, someone damaged the banner. Detectives are investigating.

Smith, a middle school English teacher, said that as an atheist, he does not believe in God nor Satan, but is using a symbol often associated with devil worship to highlight his belief that religious displays have no place on public property, because they make non-believers “feel like second-class citizens.”

“We are here to call out Christian hypocrisy and theistic bias in taxpayer-funded public arenas while advocating for the separation of church and state,” he told The Associated Press Monday night, before the latest act of vandalism. “Our ultimate goal is to return the government to its viewpoint neutral stance so that when an atheist takes a stroll through the park we aren’t assaulted by Bronze Age mythology.”

He could not be immediately reached Tuesday, but called the earlier acts of vandalism “examples of mob mentality toward minority faiths.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that government agencies can allow religious displays on public property, but if they do, they cannot discriminate. Both the Nativity scene and the Pentagram were installed with city permits.

A group of local religious leaders — 14 ministers, two rabbis and the president of the local mosque — placed a banner next to Smith’s sculpture criticizing its placement.

“The use of satanic symbols is offensive and harmful to our community’s well-being,” the banner reads. “We find it a shameful and hypocritical way to advocate for freedom from religion.”

The city issued a statement saying that while it respects Smith’s free-speech rights, it doesn’t support his message.

“In years past, the seasonal, religious displays in Sanborn Square have contained messages projecting the themes of peace, forgiveness and harmony,” it said. “This display appears to be more about shock value, attention and challenging our commitment to constitutionally protected free speech rather than promoting goodwill, respect and tolerance during the holiday season.”

Passerby Judy Hill, a retired information technology worker, decried the vandalism but didn’t think Smith should have erected his sculpture next to the Nativity scene.

“I know there is freedom of speech, but there is a time and place for everything,” said Hill, a Methodist. “He just wanted to get publicity and he got it.”

Tina Yeager agreed.

“It is a very precious season and for someone to come and almost make fun of that, to just really negate the time of year, it’s inappropriate,” she told CBS Miami.

In 2013 and 2014, atheists erected protest displays in the Florida capitol after a Christian group placed a manger there. Those displays included a Festivus pole made of beer cans, a depiction of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a mock god popular among non-believers, and one showing an angel falling into flames with the message “Happy Holidays from the Satanic Temple.” The latter was damaged by a vandal.

The quotes in this story reveal what I have known for a long time: that most Christians do not understand the freedom of speech and freedom of religion protections afforded to Americans by the U.S. Constitution. Most Christians wrongly think that their beliefs and practices should be protected from attack, ridicule, and mockery. This is why Christians get upset over things such as secular, atheist, or Satanist Christmas displays. Thinking that Christianity deserves protected, preferential treatment, followers of Jesus expect non-believers to defer to and respect their beliefs and practices. When non-Christians refuse to genuflect before the One True Faith, Christians often become what millennials call “butt hurt.”  How dare atheists mock Jesus, Christians sayHow dare Satanists put up a sacrilegious display right next to a crèche. How dare you heathens offend the sweet baby Jesus.

Video Link

How dare we indeed.

In the aforementioned article, a Methodist woman by the name of Judy Hill stated, “I know there is freedom of speech, but there is a time and place for everything.” What Hill really means is that there is a time and place for displays of Christianity — anywhere, any time. Other expressions of faith or godlessness? Only when Christians say it is okay. I wonder if Hill has bothered to consider that perhaps there is a time and place for expressions of Christianity too. Atheists – and indeed, all Americans – live in a culture where Christianity is frequently shoved in their faces everywhere they go. Atheists endure these public displays of Christianity because that’s the price of admission for living in a country that values freedom of religion and speech. If Hill truly wants public discourse regulated by “time and place for everything,” then how about Christians restricting their overt displays of love for Jesus to their homes and houses of worship. If Christians want atheists to stop hurting their feelings, then shouldn’t non-believers received reciprocal treatment? After all, the inerrant words of the sweet baby Jesus say, do unto others as you would have them do unto you!

The faulty premise of Boca Raton Christians is that Christmas is a sacred Christian holiday. It isn’t. Take a drive through any American community and what you’ll primarily find are Christmas light displays celebrating Santa Claus and generic winter holiday scenes. Yes, there will be crèches here and there, but most displays are secular in nature. Based on the evidence at hand, it is clear that Christmas is mostly a secular (capitalistic) holiday. Christians are certainly free, on their own properties and private spaces, to set up displays that scream to all who will listen, JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON! Ironically, most  Santa displays are put up by Christians themselves. It seems that it is really only a small percentage of Christians (mostly Evangelicals and other religious conservatives) who think there is some sort War on Christmas® or concerted attacks on religious freedom.

Secularists want governments to strictly enforce the separation of church and state. This means NO sectarian religious endorsement. If government entities are going to have invocations, benedictions, and public displays, they MUST — according to the U.S. Supreme Court — allow non-Christian groups to participate. This is why Satanists put up Christmas displays and humanists give invocations at government meetings. This is also why Satanists and secular groups are helping students to set up after-school meetings.

The goal is to expose hypocrisy and the preferential treatment given to Christianity. If Christians don’t want secular holiday displays next to their crèches, then all they need to do is take down their displays. Don’t want prayers to Satan or Mother Earth at council meetings? Stop having Christian ministers offer prayers to Jesus. Let’s all agree that government meetings and schools are no place for prayers of any kind, and that government property should be free of ANY displays of religion.

The separation of church and state means just that….a walled separation between government and religion. While government officials may freely live according to their religious beliefs, when it comes time to do the work of the people, religion has no part.  President John F. Kennedy said it best:

These are the real issues which should decide this campaign. And they are not religious issues — for war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barriers.

But because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected president, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured — perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this. So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again not what kind of church I believe in — for that should be important only to me — but what kind of America I believe in.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew— or a Quaker or a Unitarian or a Baptist. It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you — until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.

Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end; where all men and all churches are treated as equal; where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice; where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind; and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.

That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of presidency in which I believe — a great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group, nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation, or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.

I would not look with favor upon a president working to subvert the First Amendment’s guarantees of religious liberty. Nor would our system of checks and balances permit him to do so. And neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test — even by indirection — for it. If they disagree with that safeguard, they should be out openly working to repeal it.

I want a chief executive whose public acts are responsible to all groups and obligated to none; who can attend any ceremony, service or dinner his office may appropriately require of him; and whose fulfillment of his presidential oath is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation.

….

But let me stress again that these are my views. For contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.

Whatever issue may come before me as president — on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject — I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.

But if the time should ever come — and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible — when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same.

But I do not intend to apologize for these views to my critics of either Catholic or Protestant faith, nor do I intend to disavow either my views or my church in order to win this election.

Christians also need to understand that America is not a Muslim country where freedom of speech is limited, nor do we have religious blasphemy laws as do some European countries. Americans have the right to hold beliefs that others might find silly, stupid, ignorant, profane, or hateful. Some Americans believe that the Moon landing was a hoax, the earth is flat, and the sun revolves around the earth. Other Americans believe that aliens have visited earth, global climate change is a myth, and Caucasians are a superior race.  And still others believe the earth is 6,021 years old, the earth was destroyed by a flood 4,000 years ago, and giant angel-human beings once roamed the earth. Throw in Christian beliefs about the virgin birth of Jesus, his miracles and resurrection from the dead  –  why, if some were so inclined, they could spend their waking hours doing nothing but mocking fantastical, ignorant beliefs.

As long as the U.S. Constitution stands, non-Christians have the freedom to mock, ridicule, and disparage Christian beliefs. They also have the freedom to attack, critique, and discredit such beliefs. While most non-Christians would never violate Christian homes or places of worship (unlike Evangelicals who invade homes to proselytize non-believers), once followers of Jesus engage in public speech (and crèches are public speech) then they should expect their utterances to be challenged. If Christians don’t like people saying things about their beliefs, then they should keep their religion to themselves. As long as Christians continue to demand preferential treatment and attempt to bulldoze the wall of separation of church and state, they should expect pushback from secularists, skeptics, atheists, humanists and those who value freedom of religion and speech.

UPDATED: Village of Archbold Removes Christian References From Their Website and Logo

archbold-ohio-seal

Before and After

After the publishing of my recent letter to the editor, I found out that the correspondence from the Freedom From Religion Foundation about the village of Archbold’s logo and website went to former mayor Jim Wyse, not Jeff Fryman. I apologize for making this factual error.

Bruce

Please see my correspondence with Mayor Fryman at the end of this post.

Letter submitted on November 23, 2016 to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News.

Dear Editor,

I write in response to the recent Crescent-News article about the Village of Archbold removing Christian references from their website and logo. Contrary to what Mayor Fryman has stated publicly, Archbold did not remove the offending references until they were contacted by the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF). I am a member of the FFRF and I know for a fact that Mayor Fryman was sent several letters about this issue. He chose to ignore the letters until it became likely that FFRF would initiate legal action against the village if they failed to remove the Christian references from their logo and website. Does anyone really believe that Mayor Fryman would make these changes without being forced to do so? I know I don’t.

Mayor Fryman wisely acted, knowing that a failure to do so would result in legal action that would most certainly be decided in the favor of FFRF.  In losing, the village of Archbold could be required to pay damages and attorney fees. Perhaps the village’s legal advisors told him that the law is clear: government entities are not permitted to endorse or support sectarian religions. By using Christian imagery in its logo and saying Archbold is a Christian community, Archbold officials are specifically endorsing Christianity. Such endorsements are against the law.

It matters not that most of the residents of Archbold are Christians. The idea that because a community has a religious majority, its government should have the right to endorse and support that particular religion is not only unconstitutional, it’s dangerous. Imagine, for a moment, that the majority of Archbold residents are Muslim. Would an Evangelical/Mennonite minority be okay with the mayor and village council endorsing and supporting Islam? Of course not! Imagine the outrage if the village’s website said Archbold is a Muslim community.

Even more absurd is the notion that communities should govern according to majority rule and that controversial decisions should be decided by putting the issues on the ballot. Let the people, decide! zealots say. Majority rule is mob governance. We elect leaders who we hope will act fairly, justly, and in accordance with the law. And the law is clear on government support and endorsement of religion — it is illegal. If Christians don’t like this, they are free to amend the Constitutions and change the law.

Bruce Gerencser
Ney, Ohio

Note:

Here’s one of the responses I allude to in this letter:

Dear Editor,

It was with great distress that I read in the Nov. 17 edition that the Village of Archbold has capitulated to the Freedom from Religion group to remove from the community seal the picture of the church, and Christian community from all signs, letterheads and the village’s seal.

I use the word capitulate because as I read the Bill of Rights and Constitution, nowhere in these documents does it say our nation is to be free from religious expression. Archbold, as a community of American citizens, has the constitutional reaffirmation to call themselves a Christian community, and or place a picture of a house of worship on their seal. And I challenge anyone, up to and including the justices of The Supreme Court of the United States, to show me where in the foundational documents and Constitution they have a right to demand this nation’s citizens, whether singular or a community, give up it’s freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Amendment 1: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceable to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Nowhere in this document does it sate, “separation of church and state.” This discussion came along much later and was taken from a private conversation and was bastardized by those like the Freedom from Religion group! No court anywhere in the United States has the right to alter the meaning of the First Amendment. No court, not even Congress which has the power to make laws.

So why do the officials in Archbold capitulate to a subversive group such as the Freedom from Religion group, even over the objections of the people of Archbold? At the very least this should have been discussed and then voted on by the people of Archbold. Then the officials of Archbold have the audacity to replace the statement, “A Christian Community” with “A Community with Integrity!”

Sorry, I don’t think so.

Rev. Alvia McEwen Martis (pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, Ridgeville Corners, Ohio)
Ridgeville Corners

Here’s the press release from the Freedom From Religion Foundation

An Ohio village has removed a religious seal and declaration after objections from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national state/church watchdog organization.

The seal of the village of Archbold contained a church at its center, nestled within images of education, farming, forestry and industry. The seal was featured in a number of places, including government buildings, street signs, village forms and documents, such as utility bills, and on the official website. The website also contained on its history page a declaration that Archbold a “Christian community.”

Such a seal and statement were unconstitutional, FFRF informed the village.

“The inclusion of a church on the official village seal and declaration that the village ‘is a Christian community’ violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,” FFRF Legal Fellow Madeline Ziegler wrote to Archbold Mayor Jim Wyse last year. “Federal courts have ruled that similar seals violate the Establishment Clause.”

FFRF suggested to the village that changing the seal would make sense in other ways, as well. Nearly 30 percent of Americans are non-Christian, including 43 percent of Millennials, practicing a minority religion or no religion at all. To have a religious seal and declaration alienates and ostracizes this huge portion of the population.

It took a lot of time and three follow-up letters, but FFRF has been able to persuade the village of Archbold. The seal has been changed to remove the cross. (The Christian declaration was removed from the website immediately after FFRF’s first letter.)

FFRF is gratified at its ability to change minds.

“We’re happy that we were finally able to persuade the village,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The church symbol and the declaration of Christian heritage were blatant endorsements of a particular religion.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 23,000 nonreligious members across the country, including 600-plus in Ohio.

Here’s a link to the original letter sent to the village of Archbold.

Update

Archold mayor Jeff Fryman contacted me about my letter to the editor. This is what he had to say and my response.

Mr. Gerencser, you don’t know me, but referred to me in a recent letter to the editor. I have been Mayor for only 11 months in Archbold. You made a statement that you know for a “fact” I have received several letters from the FFRF. That statement was totally untrue. I received one that was handed to me by the former mayor and was addressed to him. I never received any correspondence from the FFRF or any member. Furthermore, I was unaware that any other correspondence had ever been received by the Mayor at the time he gave me that letter. It is true that as a group we decided not to respond.

Looking at your background, it’s unfortunate that you would make statements like this regarding my credibility and character when you haven’t done your research. But this is what I have come to know about groups like the FFRF. Little on facts. Big on fear. I think you are better than this.

Respectfully, Jeff Fryman

Jeff,

I based my statement on the reports in the Archbold Buckeye. I was not aware until after I wrote my letter that a different mayor received the FFRF contacts.

The fact remains that you bear the burden of the previous mayor’s actions. I apologize for erring in getting the name of the mayor right. I don’t apologize for challenging your assertion that the logo and website changes were in the works prior to contact with The FFRF. If you can provide evidence to the contrary, I’d love to see it. If these changes were discussed prior to the FFRF contact, surely there are minutes or committee reports that reflect this. If not, I will assume that my statements are correct.

The fact also remains the logo and website violated the law. This matter has been litigated thousands of times over the years. In almost every instance, the courts have sided with those demanding a strict separation between church and state.

As the mayor of Archbold, you represent all its citizens, not just Christians. You are duty bound to maintain the secular nature of government regardless of the religious beliefs of your constituents .

I will attach our discussion here to my blog post on the matter, correcting the mistake I made concerning who received the FFRF correspondence. I will also let the Crescent-News know of the correction.

Instead of taking cheap shots at FFRF, I hope you will consider how breaching the wall of separation of church and state harms our democracy. Having spent my entire life intimately connected to Evangelical Christianity, I know for a fact that if you give theists an inch they will take a mile. FFRF demands may seem petty to you, but better to kill the theocratic baby in the cradle than watch it grow into a monster that demands fealty to the Christian God.

I wish you well. If you feel I have not adequately addressed your objections, please email at brucexxx@gmail.com

Bruce Gerencser

 

Faith Memorial Church and their Illegal Involvement in Fairfield County Public School Bible Clubs

wall of separation of church and state

As a pastor, when we are doing our best at the request of others to be of assistance in the lives of others, it’s frankly repulsive where we are today — that an individual can bring such undue and unfounded criticism.

Jonathan Morgan
Pastor, Faith Memorial Church, Lancaster, Ohio

As many readers of this blog might remember, I spent a number years in central and southeast Ohio, pastoring congregations in Somerset and Buckeye Lake. In 1983, I started the Somerset Baptist Church, a congregation I would pastor for 11 years. During this time, John Maxwell pastored Faith Memorial Church in nearby Lancaster, Ohio. Faith Memorial, affiliated with the Churches of Christ in Christian Union, was, at the time, considered one of the fastest growing churches in America. Maxwell, a charismatic, winsome speaker, attracted large crowds of people wanting to hear him preach. Committed to the church growth principles of the 1970s and 1980s, Maxwell established a large bus ministry that brought hundreds of people to Faith Memorial.

I started Somerset Baptist Church using the same principles Maxwell was successfully using at Faith Memorial. The goal was to use whatever means necessary to attract people to the church. Once there, the gospel would be preached, and attendees given an opportunity to become Christians. The bus ministry was the single most effective method to get large numbers of people under the sound of the gospel. This is why virtually all the megachurches of the 1970s and 1980s had large bus ministries.

first church bus somerset baptist church 1985

Our first church bus, purchased from Faith Memorial Church, Lancaster, Ohio in 1983.

The first bus we purchased at Somerset Baptist Church came from Faith Memorial. We paid $400 for the bus, an astronomical sum for a small, struggling church. This bus would provide many years of service until one day an inattentive driver failed to notice that the engine had zero oil pressure, resulting in engine failure. We junked this bus and bought a replacement, also from Faith Memorial.

John Maxwell would later leave Faith Memorial, becoming pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, California. He is now some sort of positive thinking guru, far afield from his days as a Fundamentalist pastor. After Maxwell left, Faith Memorial’s attendance began to decline. Today, as with virtually every church that bought into the church growth hype, Faith Memorial is a shell of what it once was. Few churches have bus ministries, and most of the churches that do are Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches that refuse to admit that this method of growing a church no longer works. Having heard IFB guru Jack Hyles implore them to NEVER, EVER QUIT, these preachers refuse to let go of their bus ministries. To quit means to admit failure, and if there is one thing IFB preachers are not known for doing, it is admitting failure.

I haven’t had a thought about Faith Memorial in many years; that is, until today. Evidently, Faith Memorial Church finds itself in a bit of a pickle over their involvement in various Fairfield County public schools Bible clubs. According to a February 22, 2016, Columbus Dispatch report:

Student Bible clubs in at least two Fairfield County schools have been temporarily suspended after administrators received a complaint that area religious leaders were heading the groups.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a non-profit group that serves as a watchdog over issues involving separation of church and state, sent letters to four school districts regarding Bible studies held in eight high schools, junior high schools and middle schools before class or on lunch breaks.

Such groups violate protections of separation of church and state if they are led or regularly attended by local pastors, said Ryan Jayne, a legal fellow at the Wisconsin-based foundation.

“Public school districts must ensure that student religious groups are genuinely student-initiated and student-run, and that outside adults do not regularly participate in the clubs,” said a letter from the group to Lancaster City Schools Superintendent Steve Wigton.

Similar letters were sent to the Bloom-Carroll Local School District, Fairfield Union Local Schools and Liberty Union-Thurston Local Schools.

Jayne said a community member, whom he declined to identify, saw the Bible clubs posted on the website of Fairfield Memorial Church in Lancaster. A screenshot of the now-removed web page said the groups are “led by volunteers or community youth pastors.”

The Rev. Jonathan Morgan, Faith Memorial pastor, said the complaint is “much ado about nothing” and that the Web page, along with some local church newsletters, was improperly worded.

Pastors do not lead the groups but have been invited to attend at times by students, he said, and there have been no concerns from administrators, principals, parents or students.

Attorney Sue Yount of Bricker & Eckler in Columbus has responded to the foundation on behalf of all four school districts.

“The districts are meeting with building principals and reviewing the parameters of the federal Equal Access Act,” Yount wrote in an email. “This Act provides for the right of students to hold religious activities on school grounds during non-instructional time, so long as the activities are student-initiated and student-led, with non-school persons not directing, controlling, or regularly attending.”

….

Morgan said the clubs have been “incredibly beneficial and longstanding” programs in the schools and that discrediting them would affect the well-being of students.

“As a pastor, when we are doing our best at the request of others to be of assistance in the lives of others, it’s frankly repulsive where we are today — that an individual can bring such undue and unfounded criticism,” he said.

According to Pastor Morgan, his church’s involvement in the supposedly student-led Bible clubs is little more than one of the students inviting someone from Faith Memorial to club meetings. And the statement on the church’s website that stated their involvement was leading the clubs? A poorly worded statement, say Morgan. According to Morgan, pastors who attend these clubs are there at the “request of others” to “be of assistance in the lives of others.” What I want to know is exactly what assistance did Faith Memorial, Pastor Morgan, and other Fairfield County pastors provide to local public school students?

Here is what I know. Faith Memorial is a Fundamentalist church pastored by man with Evangelical beliefs. I assume the Bible Clubs in question are Evangelical in nature. While I certainly support the right of Evangelical public school students to have their own clubs, when churches like Faith Memorial and pastors such as Jonathan Morgan actively participate in these clubs, they have crossed the line and are in violation of the principle of separation of church and state. Morgan would have us believe that he and his fellow pastors are just passive participants in student-led Bible clubs. Does anyone really believe this to be true? Are Evangelicals ever passive about anything? Of course not.

Evangelical pastors go to these clubs to steer students towards the right beliefs and practices. I am sure there are discussions about how to effectively evangelize non-Christian students. I am sure there are also discussions about the culture war hot buttons: abortion, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and premarital sex. And I am sure that Morgan and his fellow passive pastors would be outraged if students of a Satanist or secularist persuasion started a Godless club and began having local Satanists or secularist leaders materially participate in the clubs. In fact, I suspect these passive pastors would strongly oppose the very existence of these clubs. After all, Evangelicals are not known for tolerance of competing worldviews.

While Fairfield County Evangelicals will likely see the Freedom of Religion Foundation’s (FFRF) actions as much to do about nothing, supporters of FFRF rightly understand that if you give Evangelicals an inch they will take a mile. Let Faith Memorial, Pastor Morgan, and his merry band of passive pastors actively participate in these Bible clubs, and they will only want more access to students. Remember, the goal of men like Morgan is the conversion of every Fairfield County public school student to Evangelical Christianity. Fueled by their belief that the Bible is an inspired, inerrant, infallible text  — a text that commands them to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature — these proselytizing Fundamentalists will not rest until every student is singing What a Friend we Have in Jesus. And it is for this reason, they must be stopped.

Memo to Christians: Atheists Really Don’t Care if You Put God Bless America Signs on Private Property

wall of separation of church and state

Last week, CHARISMA reported:

An atheist organization targeted a small-town post office to demand they remove their “God Bless America” banner, but that’s not the whole story.

“Employees are free to ask God to bless America all they want on their own time. The problem comes when they ask their government employer to endorse their personal religious beliefs by plastering them on the side of the federal building,” Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Madeline Ziegler said of their campaign.

Though the Pittsburg, Kansas, post office complied with the atheist organization’s demands, residents took Ziegler’s words to heart.

According to The Morning Sun, a local fireworks shop printed 1,500 yard signs and banners, which residents plastered across the city.

“Obviously, we’re among the majority that didn’t agree with the decision to take the sign down (at the post office),” Jason Marietta, retail sales director, told The Morning Sun.

Instead of one big sign at the post office, Pittsburg  now has 1,500 across the town, marking the area for God.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation rightly objected to a God Bless America sign adorning the Pittsburg, Kansas post office. Post offices are government buildings staffed by government employees, and as such they are not permitted to promote religion. It is time for Christians to understand that the wall between church and state defined in the Establishment Clause of the Constitution forbids government from endorsing Christianity. This is the law. Don’t like the law? Work to change it. The fact that violations of church and state have gone unnoticed for years doesn’t mean they are in some inexplicable way legal. Just because drivers routinely break the speed limit and not get caught doesn’t mean that speed laws are invalid.

Supposedly, U.S. congressmen know the Constitution, so it is baffling to hear U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) say:

It is outrageous that some would aim to divide a community over a banner that has been proudly displayed since Sept. 11, 2001. I commend the Pittsburg community for rejecting this decision and I stand with them. The Constitution guarantees a right to freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. This banner is not only an expression of faith, but of love for country.

Expressions of patriotism, faith, and community should be welcome in our society and I have contacted USPS officials to express my concerns about their decision and to request their reconsideration. If the local post office branch is unwilling to display the banner, then I would be proud to hang it at my own office in Pittsburg.

and U.S. Representative Lynn Jenkins (R-2nd District Kansas) say:

This banner has been proudly displayed in the Pittsburg community for nearly 15 years. Should all the owners (who bought the banner) agree my office would be a fitting place to move it to, I would be honored to hang it outside of my office on Broadway Street. Since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, this banner has been a patriotic symbol in the Pittsburg community and I would be proud to continue this great tradition.

Since these Kansas government officials and many of the residents of Pittsburg, Kansas seem to lack basic reading skills and have never taken a civics or American government class (maybe they slept through the class), let me illustrate the issue at hand with pictures:

pittsburg kansas post office

This is the Pittsburg, Kansas Post Office, owned and operated by the U.S. Government. It is illegal to hang sectarian religious banners on this building.

handing out god bless america signs pittsburg kansas

This is a private citizen handing out God Bless America signs to be displayed on private property. This is legal.

jakes fireworks god bless america sign

This is a God Bless America sign hanging inside Jake’s Fireworks, a private Pittsburgh, Kansas business. This is legal.

god bless america sign on pittsburg kansas post office

The former is illegal, the latter is legal, thus the sign on the Post Office has to come down.

Atheists do not care in the least what signs people put on private property. Woo! Hoo! Pittsburg Christians put up 1,500 God bless America signs on private property. I don’t know of one atheist who objects to this. In fact, I suspect groups like the Freedom From Religion FoundationAmerican AtheistsAmericans United for Separation of Church and State, American Humanist Association, and the ACLU would oppose any attempts to restrict the free exercise of religion on private property. What these groups and the atheists and Christians who support them object to is the breaching of the wall of separation of church and state. The Pittsburg post office violated the law and this is the ONLY reason the sign had to come to down.

I wonder what offended Pittsburg Christians would do if these signs were hanging over the local post office:

allah bless america

baphomet bless america

I have no doubt Christians in Pittsburg would demand the immediate removal of these signs. Representative Jenkins and Senator Moran would issue press releases calling for the swift removal of these anti-American, anti-Christian signs. There is one word for such behavior, HYPOCRISY. If it is okay for a Christian sign to hang over the post office, then it should be okay the signs of other religions to hang there too. If there is no separation of church and state, then shouldn’t any and every religion have the right to adorn government buildings with their signs?

The real issue is that Christians wrongly think that their religion deserves preference and special treatment. Decades of illegal government endorsements of Christianity are now being called into question. Christians do not like being treated in the same manner as adherents of other religions. Christians think, due to a poor understanding of American history and the U.S. Constitution, that they should be permitted to adorn public buildings and lands with sectarian signs and crèches (along with opening sessions of government with Christian prayers). It is time for Christians to realize that their religion is no longer the tail that wags the dog. The United States is a secular state, and the sooner Christians realize this the better. The separation of church and state protects not only atheists and non-Christians from government encroachment, it also protects Christians. It is this wall of separation that protects all Americans from the theocratic tendencies of many of the world’s religions. History is clear: once the wall between church and state is breached, freedoms are lost and people die. We dare not trust any religious sect, including the fine Christians of Pittsburg, Kansas, with the keys to our republic. Too much is at stake to let even an innocuous act such as hanging a God Bless America banner on a government building to go unchallenged. Our future freedom depends on us beating back every sectarian attempt to scale the wall of separation between church and state.

 

The Wadena, Minnesota  Nativity Scene War

wadena nativity scene

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) asked the city of Wadena, Minnesota to remove a nativity scene from government property. FFRF told the city that such displays are unconstitutional. Adena officials, fearing legal action, removed the nativity scene. As is often the case in these kinds of stories, Wadena-area Christians quickly voiced their outrage over what they consider a satanic, atheist, commie, liberal attack on Christianity. Offended Christians quickly established a Facebook page to voice their disapproval of Wadena City Council’s decision to remove the nativity scene. Local Christians rallied, intent on beating back the godless horde at the city gate, and soon over a thousand nativity displays were erected on private property in Wadena.

Wadena Christians think they have one-upped FFRF and their atheist supporters, but they seem unable to understand that the issue was NEVER nativity scenes on private property. The singular issue was the city of Wadena’s violation of the establishment clause . The courts have repeatedly ruled that it is unconstitutional for government entities to erect nativity scenes on public property. Since the nativity displays are explicitly Christian in nature, their erection on public property is considered government sponsorship of (sectarian) religion. Unfortunately, it seems that many Christians, especially Evangelicals, are woefully ignorant about the First Amendment, the establishment clause, and the separation of church and state. What follows are comments left by Christians on the Wadena Nativity Display Facebook page. (page administrator have deleted hundreds of comments left by atheists in support of the removal of the nativity scene)  I would say enjoy, but I suspect readers of this blog will collectively sigh and shake their heads over the David Barton-esque ignorance displayed in many of the comments.

Each paragraph is a different comment. All spelling and grammar errors in the original.

Well honestly, if you’re an atheist and don’t believe in any of it anyway, then seeing a nativity scene should have no effect on you whatsoever. Any more than seeing a santa & reindeer. Just sayin’… Our country was built on Christian principles, whether you like it or not. What everyone has distorted is the meaning of the words which say ‘freedom OF religion”, not “freedom FROM religion’… I’m so sick of political correctness, and everybody being offended by everything. This kind of crap offends ME! I do notice that everyone (atheists included) have no problem celebrating the holidays, like Christmas and Easter… everyone likes a day off work, eh? Sorry for the rant, but I’m just tired of it…

Kudos to the citizens of Wadena for showing solidarity in your faith and 1st Amendment rights..Your elected officials…not so much. They need to grow a pair and stand up against the threats and bullying tactics of the unpatriotic, unconstitutional “Freedom” from religion liberal hacks. (I thought liberals were supposed to be “tolerant” of other peoples’ beliefs?)

We are a CHRISTIAN Nation. Fight it all you want. it wont change . Stand proud and stand up for the Savior ! he does it for us daily.

We Need to stand for GOD!! I’m tired of all this stuff about how, We as Christians can’t do this and can’t do that and we will offend this person. I have a relationship with CHRIST!!! No one can take that away from me. I do not push my beliefs on anyone, if they have a question, I answer. We are to spread the good news of the Lord.

Why not? You atheists get special treatment because you whine like little babies. If YOU don’t like something…then don’t look at it! Grow up and stop trying to force your NON-BELIEFS on everyone else!

See, Tom..that the lib mentality…rights for JUST them and what they believe in or don’t believe in. They are lonely, sad, bitter people who were never hugged enough as children.

No the atheists dont want to stop people from celebrating Christmas, but they sure do have an agenda. They want their voice to be heard loud and clear and they want us to shut up and be quiet. WELL we have a voice too and we will be heard – just like ALL the atheists who loudly proclaim they dont like “religious” stuff sitting around in public places. Its just bunk. Listen, the Christians will fight and our voices will be heard. We dont care who likes it.

A Nativity Scene is NOT an ENDORSEMENT of RELIGION but of an IDEAL and the SOURCE of an IDEOLOGY NOT A RELIGION! Christianity and being a Christian is NOT a RELIGION, IT is an IDEOLOGY! Catholicism IS a RELIGION, Baptist is a RELIGION!, Pentecostal is a RELIGION! ISALM is a so called RELIGION, The Jewish faith and culture is THE RELIGION on which the tenets of Christan IDEOLOGY is based and all the RELIGIONS based on Christian IDEOLOGY! WAKE UP AMERICA YOU ARE BEING HAD BY COMMUNIST PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL TRASH! (this comment is my favorite)

Twisting words and meanings to suit their own devilish divisive plans! Merry CHRISTmas to ALL

By putting up Nativity Scenes on private property, you’re letting the atheists (and the constitution) win!!! Moving displays of Religious faith from public spaces to private ones is EXACTLY what the atheists are trying to accomplish!!!

Christianity is about a relationship, not a religion, and Christianity is The Freedom from Atheists Foundation! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

You are my heroes Wadena!! I am proud to be an American and a Christian and I applaud your actions!! WWJD

Great job Wadena! God bless your efforts! They removed one display, and gained hundreds. Thank you atheists, for bringing this community together, in Christ’s name!

I am of Christian faith and I think this is wrong for Atheist to make Christians take down something of our belief and faith. We have to watch violence every day from ungodly people so why can’t we support our God?! I will be praying for everyone who was not supportive of the display. God Bless you all!

What holiday is that Youre talking about? my plastic jesus offends you and your lifestyle offends me. No one is forcing jesus on you….but you are forcing me to accept homos…You’re a bigot.

I live in Oregon and can’t attend your events or supporting person. But I believe in you and am a nativity scene lover, Jesus follower. Keep your head up and protect you constitutional rights FREE SPEECH and EXPRESSION.

A big THANK YOU from our family to all those who are holding the line against those who desire to clean our history and life in America from Jesus, the actual cause and center of this season and life. Thanks for helping keep CHRIST in CHRISTmas!

Well done all from me in Australia , They will never take away the christmas spirit and what the foundation of our countries stand for , This PC crap has to stop, I am not a religious person yet I am definitely not offended by this , they are saying it’s atheists but I really think it’s something else, Just saying , Anyway proud of you all xo and Merry Christmas

“But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. Matthew 10:33 NAB God Bless the town of Wadena for acknowledging that Jesus is the Reason for the Season.

I just want to say that I’m proud of y’all for standing up for the Lord and for the holiday. With everything going on, it makes me sad that God is slowly being taken away in our country. Its good to know that there are still people that will stand up for Him. God bless y’all and Merry Christmas!

Somehow Separation of church and State has been misinterpreted through the years. Jefferson meant for it to protect the church from the state or govt interfering in the church’s affairs. In other words- not a state-run church as England and other countries had at the time our forefathers came here to escape this type of persecution. Let’s not let a group like Freedom from Religion become a dictator over our lives!!! Also contact Wallbuilders – David Barton.

God is with you! Stand strong! So wish I could give you a hug! My heart is so heavy for our nation, but you have made my burden a little lighter through your bold faith!

Would to God more people would stand up to the devil this way. We could win this battle if only Christians would take a stand. I would only add this, when you election comes around, I would make this a campaign issue and vote out every city counsel member and the mayor and vote in members that will put it back and stand up to the Freedom from Religion and the ACLU. If people would just stand up, they can’t fight everyone. I find it hard to believe they would waste resources on this lawsuit when they have larger fish to fry. This is called Green Mailing and up until now, it has been mainly used on schools, not small townships. Thank you.

Greetings and Merry Christmas from Missouri!! Just read the story about your city council voting out their Nativity scene, and how the town rallied and put up HUNDREDS of nativity scenes. Listened to one lady’s interview, how she felt the city was trying to “bully” people. I think that describes alot of people’s feelings about having to constantly defend their Christianity, we are nearly bullied into giving in, giving up. Soooo glad you all didn’t do that! Jesus is alive, and his birth is a wonderful thing to celebrate as a family. THANK YOU for standing firm in your faith, may God bless you all richly this season, and always!

Hi! I just heard about what you guys are doing. I am a senior in high school, and I am an active member of the Foreman First Baptist Church, here in Foreman, Arkansas. I think what you are doing is great! It really goes to show how many people still stand for what is morally right. I have a great respect for you all. It’s a bit out of your way, but my family, as well as community, completely and totally, 100% back you up! Keep on keepin’ on!!

We here in wadena Thank you so much. As for those who don’t want nativity scenes up I say what Jesus said long ago forgive them they know not what they do.

I received an email today from a lady named Sharon from Branson, MO. She said: They used to live in Grand Forks, ND. They were so excited that we decided to bring Christ back to Wadena. So glad people took a stand. Guess it is hard to understand how 1 person has so much power to remove the manger scene. God bless those who took a stand.

Time they learn This is my Fathers world and it will always be and someday they will stand before him to answer for their rejection

I don’t necessarily blame those who are grieved but complied to avoid lawsuits. I’m sure the hearts of the council members are rejoicing at what the people did. But those who THREATENED with the lawsuits… oh, don’t get me started!

Just saw your post.. We have a family owned business in Florida,I always put on the sign that is on a main thoroughfare “JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON ” or CELEBRATE JESUS..But I have someone in family who is a nonbeliever and really thinks we should advertise more about the business.Instead of JESUS ..Well you just inspired me… to yes.. Put up on the sign”CELEBRATE JESUS..I know there will be some words to me about this.. This has always been my heart..Thank You…

Everyone needs to go to the freedom from religion page and post holiday greetings and Manger scenes on their posts. Let’s spread good cheer!

Absolutely wonderful! I have a small nativity in my living room, but you can be assured, if my town had a problem like that we would build the biggest and brightest nativity all the Scrooges would have a hard time not seeing. Way to stick it to people that have such a thin skin!

I love what you guys are doing! I was so distressed to read about this attack on free speech and freedom of religion in the newspaper. I contacted Alliance Defending Freedom, a wonderful legal group, about the article I read. They got back to me and said that if anyone who LIVES in Wadena would like to contact them about the issue, they could possibly help. I believe this ban is not constitutional and that the intimidation and threat that was made is not right – perhaps they can help. But the proliferation of nativity scenes everywhere in town is a great way to stand up and demonstrate the truth. Awesome!

Telling the squeaky wheels enough’s ENOUGH! If you don’t like it..don’t look. GOD BLESS!

Merry Christmas, Wadena, from Louisiana!! Had to come visit your site after seeing your Facebook post!! LOVE this idea!! Stand strong, fight the good fight, finish the race!! It’s our 1st Amendment right that some interpret wrongly–it’s Freedom OF Religion (the right to practice our Religion–express our Faith) NOT Freedom FROM Religion!!!

God Bless you all! They haven’t taken our Nativity from the Courthouse yet but when and if they do, I hope people in my town will stand up for what is right like you guys have. If it makes Christians happy and doesn’t hurt anyone else, then how can something be offensive? If it were a Menorah that was forced to be taken down then that would be prejudice. Not that I would have any issue at all with a Menorah. As Christians need to be strong now more than ever. Political correctness is killing our country! I support separation of church and state but you lose me at Christmas decorations or any other religion’s holiday decorations.

God bless you Minnisota….remember a vote for Trump will put an end to government suddenly taking everything Christian from the United States….why is it only Christians are being attacked, hmmm?

I’m going to say this… I see a lot of trolls on pages with Christians in it… and best believe they need to stop harassing those who keep to themselves. They need to stop trying to start a war trying to come on here like we are going to stand down our faith. Remember if the Christian crusades never stop the battle, what would they even think we would stop? Amen! Keep going with your faith in Jesus christ.

Thank you, Wadena!! You are taking America back into the hands of God – where our forefathers placed us for the greater good!! May God bless all of you for your great actions!! GOD bless America!

Hey Wadena…this Pillager family stands with you! The world needs Jesus and we are proud of your town taking a stand. This is not the hour in history to back down from adversary. People are dying around us without salvation, this broken world needs Jesus and we love the nativity and all it stands for. God sent as a man to die for our sins to break the bondage of Hell and the grave for our salvation! We’re proud of you! Jesus is coming soon so for the atheists who are fighting against the faith we are praying for you, it’s not too late…
Just a reminder of how our right to religious freedoms as Christians are being squashed by people who have no right to control whether people celebrate their faith. Thank you for reminding us the Reason For The Season.

Wadena, I hope people all over the country follow your example of how to defeat the enemy. Score: Satan 1, Wadena 1000+

Whatever it took. If it was any other religion, it wouldn’t have been an issue. The “freedom from religion” people, by their own admission, only go after Christian issues. They admitted they were afraid of Muslims!

Support from Ireland! It iritates me so much that others want to hijack our Christmas celebrations! They don’t want to give up the holiday; gift giving, partys etc., but they want to cut Christ out of it!

As a pastor and preacher of Gods word …. Amen wadena “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 10:33 KJV

Thank you for standing up to the haters, Wadena. I grew up thinking we all had rights. But I guess my right to celebrate isn’t as important as someone’s who doesn’t want to. *smh* We need to take our rights back and yours is a good first step.

God used that Atheist Group to being the Good News of Jesus’ Birth to even more People like He used Cyrus to bring His Chosen People back to the Promised Land. Geaux Wadena!

Here’s the issue that people DO NOT understand about the “Separation of Church and State” (simplified version) It DOES NOT mean the state, city, or municipality cannot display a Nativity scene! It means the state cannot establish a Religion! I say display it and quit being wimps! They will not be successful in any tort action, and because the particular group only consists of 4 people just going around pushing their perceived weight on small naive communities! Stand up for your God given rights!

STAND STRONG ! THIS IS WHAT OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS NEED TO HAVE HAPPEN ! …….. KEEP pushing back and don’t give up till you have that display put back up by your town !!! AMERICA was built on BLOOD, SWEAT, AND TEARS not Free phones, hurt feelings, and handouts !

Thank you Wadena for standing up to Christian bullying!! Separation of Church and state means the state can’t make you take down your nativity. Shame on people for complaining. God Bless you Wadena for all your nativities!!

I’m just curious, has any Christian (or Christian group) ever taken an Atheist-Group to court for “Not” displaying a Nativity scene? I doubt it. Can you see the silly hypocrisy in all of this? It’s sad and deeply rooted in something less than love. We need to pray for those who’s minds and hearts are filled with exhausting thoughts of contempt towards those of us who love our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are able to display that love freely during this beautiful season of Joy. Please pray also for Peace on Earth.

We have a nativity set up on our property. Way to go Wadena! Stand up for Christ. Christmas is about Christ. Separation of church and state doesn’t mean what these people think it means. They are just bullying Christians, but Jesus died for them and loves them too! Merry Christmas Wadena!

So Atheist can put a display on government property but religious ppl can’t …how f☆ck up is that

Great job! We The People have to stand up and say “enough is enough” for those atheists and others who are trying to keep pushing God and Christians out of our society.

I applaud you for standing up to these bullies who want anything related to Christianity removed from our lives!

I absolutely Love it, the Atheists never are bothered by these Nativities, they just like to cause trouble and hate. Hallelujah that your town has stood up for Religious Freedom, nowhere in the Constitution does it say a state cannot have God. Separation of Church and State is merely a sick interpretation by a proud bunch of men. God will straighten this out one day. Thank you for this.

I’ve said this for years. There should be tens of thousands of nativity scenes put on public land by private citizens. Let’s see how many lawyers, judges, and police it takes to get rid of them all or how many of them really have the resolve and/or desire to enforce really stupid judicial rulings

Great job Wadena! This is what America is about. Tyranny can never take hold if We The People do not allow it. In no way does a public display of an historic event, and the very reason we celebrate Christmas violate the Constitution. I’m proud of you!

Saw the Fox News segment. Why do people have to be like this. I live in Elkhart Indiana where one student made Concord High School take out the live nativity. These people make me sick. Keep putting them up. We have rights that we need to stand for.

End of comments

Some Glencoe, Alabama Christians Upset City Took Down Christian Flag

glencoe rally for the flag

Recently, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) demanded the city of Glencoe, Alabama remove the Christian flag flying outside the local police department. Andrew Seidel, staff attorney for the FFRF wrote:

…”It is unconstitutional for a government entity to fly a flag with a patently religious symbol and meaning on its grounds,You must take immediate action and refrain from hoisting this flag up the flagpole at the city hall building.”…

…“The display of this patently religious symbol on city property confers government endorsement of Christianity, a blatant violation of the Establishment Clause. The cross on the flag pole of Glencoe’s city hall building unabashedly creates the perception of government endorsement of Christianity.”…

…“It conveys the message to the twenty-six percent of the U.S. population who are not Christians that they are not ‘favored members of the political community,’”…

Fearing a lawsuit, Glencoe mayor Charles Gilchrist had the flag taken down. His action infuriated local Bible thumpers, leading to a protest last week outside of Glencoe city hall. Christian News Network reports:

Gilchrist said that the threat of a suit is what ultimately resulted in the removal of the flag.

“That would just about ruin us,” Gilchrist stated. “I have to look out for the best interests of the city.”

He said that he believes that the threat of suit is how the group strong-arms cities into compliance with their wishes.

“That’s what they do, they pick on these smaller towns that can’t defend ourselves,” Gilchrist said, noting that he personally did not want to remove the flag.

It was later given to local restaurant owner Jeff Word, who raised the flag outside of Big Chief Restaurant.

The Etowah County Chapter of First Responders for Christ soon decided to organized a rally in support of the flag’s original presence at Glencoe City Hall. Approximately 100 people turned out for the event on Saturday, which featured Rep. Mack Butler and state Sen. Phil Williams, as well as Thom Harrison, pastor of North Glencoe Baptist Church.

“We weren’t called to sit back and watch and not say a word. We’re called to go out and proclaim the gospel among all nations,” Williams declared.

Williams pointed to the Christian heritage of the nation, such as the daily presence of a Congressional chaplain since 1789 and the motto “In God We Trust,” first printed on currency in the 1800’s.

“This country and our laws were founded on Judeo-Christian principles that are literally written in stone at our nation’s Capitol, and that history cannot be overlooked or undone,” organizer Samuel Lowe told the Christian Post. “They can remove the flag from the pole, but the Christian roots of our nation’s origin can never be denied.”

“On the surface, the flag removal appears to be a battle over the fictitious separation of church and state,” he said, “but the underlying reason the flag was removed was due to the separation between God and man because of the sin that’s in man’s heart.”

big chief drive in christian flag

I am at a loss about why Christians have a hard time understanding the establishment clause and the separation of church and state. Jeff Word, the owner of Big Chief Drive-In and the man who took ownership of the flag, understands, in part, that there is a difference between government endorsement and private freedom. Word stated:

“I think our freedoms are leaving us gradually, as we once knew them. It was one person that took prayer out of school. I felt like I needed to be that ‘one person’ in this case. I feel like I’m a private businessman and it’s my right to fly the flag.”

rally for the flag glencoe

Correct, as a PRIVATE citizen, any American may fly any flag they wish, including the Christian or Communist flag.  The protestors, standing on a public sidewalk, the freest piece of real estate in America, have every right to protest and wave the Christian flag. No one stopped them from exercising their constitutional right to freedom of religion. What Christians in Glencoe find upsetting is that they no longer have a seat at the head of the cultural table.  They pine for the 1950’s, failing to realize that most Americans have moved on.

One hundred people showed up for the Rally for the Flag.  ONE HUNDRED  out of 5,000 Glencoe residents. Thom Harrison, pastor of North Glencoe Baptist Church was there, yet most of his church members didn’t show up. What’s clear is that, even in the middle of Baptist country, Evangelicals no longer draw large numbers of people to their cause; especially when it has to do with a sectarian flag illegally flying in front of a government building. While several Republican state politicians showed up for the rally, I highly doubt either of them will be offering up legislation any time soon “legalizing” the flying of the sectarian Christian flag on government property. Such an attempt would be quickly ruled unconstitutional by the courts. I suspect  Representative Mack Butler and Senator Phil Williams attended the rally because of the optics and both are up for election in 2016 and 2018. Both Butler and Williams are Baptist.