I just saw an article on Catholic Online that said: “An atheist group has intimidated a university into removing Bibles from its rooms. The University of Wisconsin Extension, which is an outreach of the state’s public system, has removed Bibles from its rooms after a complaint by atheists.”
Unless every law enforcement officer in the country is in the business of intimidation, then neither is the Madison, Wisconsin based Freedom from Religion Foundation.
The author of that article seems to think that the FFRF is like the mafia, with Dan Barker as the Don. That’s entirely the wrong picture. The real image should be of Wyatt Earp; a sheriff cleaning up a campus that is breaking a fundamental law and jeopardizing the sanctity of religious freedom in America.
In the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, and the Supreme Court has been very consistent in its interpretation of this clause to mean that the government, whether National, State, City, or County, cannot favor one religion over another, or over non-religion. It must stay neutral.
When the University of Wisconsin placed Bibles in their college rooms, they broke the law; period. The University of Wisconsin, a state government entity, was in the act of establishing a government sponsored, sectarian religion, on the grounds of the university. That is illegal.
As Christians, you should be behind this action as it has the effect of preventing any rival religion from eventually gaining power in the University’s administration, and putting their own religious texts there. Government neutrality in religious matters is paramount to the free exercise of all religions.
The reason the Establishment Clause exists in the first place, is not because early atheists put it there, but because early church leaders asked for its inclusion. Those church leaders were very much afraid that the Anglican Church, or some other rival church, would be adopted as the official church of the new nation and would eventually outlaw all the others. They insisted that no government religions be established in the new constitution, and that the government should stay neutral towards all religions.
I can hear some Christians tuning up now and saying that Atheism is a religion, and as such, it should not be allowed to control government establishments in this manner. That is just stupid. Atheism has no deity, no texts, no dogma and no standardized beliefs. It doesn’t even qualify as one of those philosophical religions. Atheism is just a personal answer to one question: “Do you believe in God(s)”. If you say “no”, you’re an atheist. And even if atheism were a religion, we are not trying to get the University to put atheist books into their rooms. We want them, and all government institutions, to stay religiously neutral, as dictated by law.
For those who are now parroting: “But America was founded on Christianity”, please explain to me why every single person in the 1796-97 congress voted to ratify the Treaty of Tripoli (Yes, the same Tripoli as is sung about in the US Marine Hymn), when that treaty specifically stated that “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion”. And since that legislative body unanimously passed this treaty only 20 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence (George Washington was still the President when this treaty was written), it included a great many of the founding fathers.
Nor was it snuck through the senate like so many bills are today:
“The President (by then John Adams) sent the treaty to the Senate in late May 1797. It was, according to the official record, read aloud (the whole treaty was only a page or two long), including the famous words, on the floor of the senate and copies were printed for every Senator.” (It then passed unanimously) “It was only the third time that a vote was recorded when the vote was unanimous! (The next time was to honor George Washington.) There is no record of any debate or dissension on the treaty.” – Ed Buckner, Treasurer, Atlanta Freethought Society
You may not like it, but religious freedom means that all religions get to practice their beliefs without interference from the government. It certainly doesn’t mean that they get to use the government to proselytize for them, which is what the University of Wisconsin was doing. Putting Christian Bibles in students’ rooms, without any other religion being represented, is government promotion of Christianity over all religions, and over no religion. And so is putting “In God We Trust” on our money, but that’s an argument for another day.