Street Preacher, Electronic Dance Artist, Bull Rider Walk Into Bar, Sue DC For 'Black Lives Matter'
For decades now, Christians who would very much like to live in a theocracy have been engaged in a dance, of sorts, with those of us who would really prefer not to. They try to figure out ways to get taxpayers to fund nativity scenes, plaques featuring the Ten Commandments, prayer in schools, and each time they get slapped in the face by the establishment clause of the Constitution.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...
They really, really, really hate that clause.
But now, a few of them think they're finally going to get their oh how the tables have turned moment, by suing Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser over the Black Lives Matter mural painted on the street that leads up to the White House — along with the renaming of part of that street Black Lives Matter Plaza.
What does that have to do with religion? Absolutely nothing whatsoever! Except that three kooky Christian dudes think that they can argue that Black Lives Matter is a religion, despite the fact that it is obviously not a religion. Let's meet them, shall we?
From the complaint:
(1) Pastor Rich Penkoski, founder of the DC chapter of Warriors For Christ and DC street preacher, (2) 1LT Chris Sevier Esq, former Judge Advocate General and Founder of De Facto Attorneys General DC Division, Congressional liaison between the House and Senate on Constitutional Legislative Affairs, and outspoken Electronic Dance artist, and (3) Tex Christopher, former bull rider, community organizer, and registered DC lobbyist.
Well, if a former bull rider isn't an expert in First Amendment law, I will eat my cowboy hat. Conveniently, I do not own a cowboy hat and thus my promise to eat one is about as grounded in reality as this lawsuit.
Hemant Mehta of Friendly Atheist gets into greater detail about Penkoski and Sevier's background:
The plaintiffs include Pastor Rich Penkoski of the "Warriors for Christ DC Chapter," last seen on this site throwing a hissy fit after his son was accidentally handed a flyer in school advertising free birth control… and attorney Chris Sevier.
Sevier may ring a bell because he's known for his baseless lawsuits in the name of Christian bigotry.
In 2013, he sued Apple for making computers that let him access pornography. In 2016, he filed several lawsuits because he wanted to marry his computer — because if two gay men can get married, why not a man and a machine? (CHECKMATE, ATHEISTS!) And in 2017, he sued four Democratic members of Congress for having a rainbow flag outside their offices because they apparently established the religion of homosexuality.
So this is not their first time at the Claiming People Follow A Religion That Obviously Is Not A Religion Rodeo. Get it? Because of the bull rider? I'll see myself out.
The trio claim, more specifically, that Black Lives Matter is a sect of "Secular Humanism," "Secular Humanism" not being actual Secular Humanism but a whole weird thing these people have made up in their own minds. Actual Secular Humanism is, of course, not a religion.
From the complaint:
In early June 2020, Defendant Bowser painted a permanent massive "BLACK LIVES MATTER" banner in bold letters that spanned two blocks of 16th street, a central axis that leads southward straight to the White House to show respect for the Black Lives Matter cult orthodoxy. At the same time, Defendant Bowser also changed a nearby street name to Black Lives Matter Plaza to pay respect to the Black Lives Matter liturgy at the taxpayers expense. Defendant Bowser's paramount objective was to convey to the Plaintiffs and all other taxpayers the Black Lives Matter cult, which is a denominational sect of the religion of Secular Humanism, is the favored religion of the city and the Nation and that another who disagrees with their gospel narrative is a second class citizen. [...]
Under the totality of the circumstances, Defendant Bowser's policy decision to display the Black Lives Matter banner and to change a street name in the manner complained of violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution by failing all the three prongs of the Lemon test by (a) constituting a non-secular sham that (b) cultivates an indefensible legal weapon against non-observers of the Black Lives Matter religion and (c) serves to excessively entangle the government with the the religion of Secular Humanism.
Shockingly enough, you cannot just say something is a religion that other people belong to and then have the law go along with you. It is actually not even that easy to get something declared a religion when you belong to that religion. Scientology was not recognized as a tax-exempt religious organization until 1993.
However, to back up their non-existent case, they have listed what they claim are the tenets of the Black Lives Matter religion, which make about as much sense as you think they would:
(a) Black lives do not matter to the Black Lives Matter cult unless a black person was killed by a white police officer in the line of duty;
(b) Black lives would be safer if Article II was sponteneously [sic] gutted from the Constitution and the government lost its policing powers;
(c) Segments of law enforcement purpose to systematically and endemically marginalize and oppress certain citizens because of their skin pigmentation without probable cause due to racial animus that the members of Black Lives Matter claim to not suffer from ad nauseum
d) By encouraging self-help criminal acts of vandalism and assault against innocent people, the justice system will ensure outcomes desired by Black Lives Matter cult in criminal trials involving defendants they disfavor; and
(e) The gay civil rights movement should be treated equal to the race-based civil rights movement, even though the race-based civil rights movement was actually based on genetics and immutability, whereas the gay civil rights movement is based on faith-based self-identification and unproven religious theories; (see www.disentanglementact.com);
(f) Disrupting disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure is a moral virtue;
Wow, these people sure do seem to know what Black Lives Matter is!
Of course, two can play this game. I have decided that these three fools belong to a religion I am calling The Church of Dumbassery. I will prove they are a religion by listing the tenets of said religion, which I definitely did not just make up while typing this.
(a) Completely misunderstand literally everything about the Establishment Clause
(b) Be super racist and stupid and file lawsuits that are also super racist and stupid
(c) Declare everything you don't like to be 'Secular Humanism'
(d) Smell funny.
There! Now those dudes are a religion and believe the things I said they believe. Ta-da!
Now, this lawsuit is not going to be successful, on account of how very stupid it is — but the really interesting thing here, I think, is that in their efforts to smear the Black Lives Matter movement these three men have to make absurd and disingenuous claims about what the Black Lives Matter movement stands for. That would mean that they do not feel they can refute the actual things that people who support Black Lives Matter say and believe.
So I suppose it is a small blessing, in a way, that we never have to go to that well — because there actually is not anything we could come up with that would be half as ridiculous as shit like this.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse