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You Got Your God In My Government: The Year In ChurchState
Way to go, America! Looks like we got through one more year without becoming a Handmaid's Tale theocracy, being taken over by sharia law, or rounding up all the Christians and putting them in FEMA camps, so all in all, we'd have to say the state of Church and State is as contentious as ever.
The biggest Establishment Clause case that the SCOTUS has heard in a while, Town of Greece v. Galloway, won't have a decision until 2014. In that case from New York, the town council is being sued for opening meetings with an invocation, almost exclusively given by Christian ministers -- the Court has previously ruled that invocations at public meetings are OK as long as they aren't specifically sectarian, and the current case will determine the lawfulness of Greece's very Jesus-y opening prayers. The possibility that a discussion of pothole repairs might be kicked off by merely invoking "the almighty" instead of "Christ our Savior" led the Southern Baptists to warn that a ruling against Greece would be pretty much the same as forcing all Americans to be Unitarians. And if that happens, there's just no telling whether there will be enough coffee to go around.
The other noisy churchstate brouhaha this year, of course, was the vital question of whether Obamacare Death Panels can force Christians to pay for slut pills. In addition to congressional efforts to repeal coverage for contraception, and some weird state efforts to do the same since women really need to be mommies, there were also the exciting lawsuits by Christian-owned corporations, whose owners objected to subsidizing the lifestyles of people who do not fuck in the ways their employers would prefer. (And of course, this only became an issue when it was included in the ACA -- before that, even the Catholic Church was providing such coverage for secular employees.)
As those cases worked through the courts, there were conflicting decisions -- in September, one appeals court held that even while corporations are people (my friend), they can't go to church, and so they can't claim that contraception coverage violates their religious rights. But then in November the DC Circuit Court of Appeals decided in another case that the mandate did violate the owners' religious freedom to never pay for non-God-approved sexxytime. And so Ombamacare is heading back to the Supremes, albeit just the one part of it. And for folks who want to opt out altogether, there's even a crappy non-insurance option that may or may not pay for your medical crises.
We were thinking of covering the monumentally important SCOTUS decision overturning DOMA next, but then we remembered that, for all the whining from protectors of Jebus and Fambly, that just plain was not a church/state case. It turned out to be a case about you and your spouse filing a joint tax return and getting insurance. Shocking!
There were a smattering of smaller First Amendment kerfuffles, like the hilarious fallout from the Oklahoma Lege's decision to allow a "cultural" monument to the Ten Commandments in front of the Statehouse -- the good folks of the performance-art-as-"religion" Temple of Satan generously offered to erect a cultural monument to the contributions of Satan to the nation's morality and freedom, which is certainly an idea that Mark Twain would have loved.
And Pam Geller continued her lonely struggle against all of Islam, through the can't-fail method of buying bus ads warning that Islam is very bad. Rumors that a Nashville symphony hall would become a mosque and that the military allowed an imam to damn dead Navy SEALS to hell at their own funeral turned out, astonishingly, to be false.
There was also the usual pissing and moaning over oppression of Christians by mean secularists, like the completely nonexistent "discrimination" against a high school runner whose win was disqualified because he broke a rule against "excessive celebrations" by making a “We’re number one” kinda gesture. But then later his dad claimed that the kid had been pointing to God to give Him credit, and yet another bullshit War On Religion story got spread. Similarly, Todd Starnes of Fox Radio was a one-man lie machine for War On Christmas stories, completely fabricating stories about an elementary school banning Christmas cards not true), a suburb being told it could not have Christmas lights (not true), and a V.A. hospital rejecting religious Christmas cards (also not true). And those are just the ones we mentioned on Wonkette.
In electoral churchstate, we were amused by the failed candidacy of Bishop EW Jackson for Leftenant-Governor of Virginia; among other fun stuff, he insisted that it would be unconstitutional for opponents to quote any political statements he ever made as a minister, because the Constitution bars any religious test for office. No, really, he said that. People pretty much ignored his admonition, though, and so they also dug up a 2008 quote about how yoga leads straight to Satan, because seeking Nirvana will empty your soul, causing a giant spiritual sucking sound:
The purpose of such meditation is to empty oneself. . . . [Satan] is happy to invade the empty vacuum of your soul and possess it ... Beware of systems of spirituality which tell you to empty yourself. You will end up filled with something you probably do not want.
Astonishingly enough, this was not followed by any mention of something being crammed down our throats. In an outcome that was good for Virginia but terrible for satire, Virginia voters chose to let Bishop Eww stay in the private sector. Happily, Texas has its choice of several Republican creationists running for Lutefisk Governor, so there should be no shortage of brand-new idiocy for 2014.
There are a lot of other things that happened in church and state this year, and we would love to tell you more about them, but suddenly we are run over by Jesus in a truck.