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Scott Lloyd

What is a secular nation?

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10 hours ago, Scott Lloyd said:

It cannot force students in a public school, for example to engage in prayer or Bible reading, but neither can it forbid groups of like-minded people at that school from gathering under their own volition and auspices to engage in such religious activity. It cannot force students under threat of a poor grade to read religious texts, but neither should it, for example, prohibit a student from reporting on the Book of Mormon for a class assignment that permits the student to choose his own book to fulfill the assignment.

This is exactly how it works in the high school where I teach. There are multiple religious clubs that meet together: Jesus Lunch (yes, that's the club's name), Christian Athletes, etc. I am currently teaching a unit on American origin myths so we have read multiple native American myths and are currently reading Genesis. I am forcing them to read religious texts but we are not reading them as religion, but as myths that help us understand a culture. Next we will read a chapter from Darwin's Descent of Man to check out a scientific origin myth.

Our AP English program requires summer reading, including excerpts from the Bible. Again, this is not to force religion, but to have the students learn the stories so they can catch and understand the allusions in literature. We also make them read Greek mythology for the same reason. I tell the students I'm not asking them to believe in the God of the Bible, just like I'm not asking them to believe in Zeus. In the last 15 years we've only had 1 complaint that has been brought to my attention and that was from a Jewish family that didn't want their son reading the New Testament (the Old Testament, of course, was fine...)

I require my students to do independent free choice reading and have had a few students pick the Bible over the years. No Book of Mormon yet. One kid wanted to read Mein Kempf, which I allowed after talking to his parents.

10 hours ago, Scott Lloyd said:

The example was brought up in this thread of a creche display on public property. Under the definition highlighted here of a secular state or a secular nation, private groups should be allowed access to public property for such displays. To forbid them is hostile to religion and tends to favor irreligion, which the secular state, being purportedly neutral, must not do.

In theory I agree with you. The concern is the appearance of state supported religion. I was quite surprised the other day to see this Texas license plate:

undergod.png

The "one state under God" phrase is from the state's pledge of allegiance. I don't find that bothersome, just like "one nation under God" or "In God we trust" isn't bothersome. However, the clear reference to Calvary and Christianity, combined with the phrase, on an officially state issued plate, surely makes it seem like Texas is not only advocating Christianity but claiming to be a Christian state. I think this has crossed the line and shows that those who support such things really do want the government to be Christian.

10 hours ago, Scott Lloyd said:

Furthermore, forbidding people of faith to unitedly engage in public dialogue regarding affairs of government, be they members of a political action group or of a church, while irreligious people and groups are permitted to do so, is hostile to religion and favors irreligion, contrary to the theoretical definition of a secular state or a secular nation.

I believe that any group that has come together because of religious issues (believers and atheists) and wants to influence government should have the right to do so but should not have tax exempt status. "Atheists for Democracy" should be able to advocate, just like "Christians for Morality," but both should pay taxes and be transparent. 

Edited by MiserereNobis
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2 hours ago, MiserereNobis said:

This is exactly how it works in the high school where I teach. There are multiple religious clubs that meet together: Jesus Lunch (yes, that's the club's name), Christian Athletes, etc. I am currently teaching a unit on American origin myths so we have read multiple native American myths and are currently reading Genesis. I am forcing them to read religious texts but we are not reading them as religion, but as myths that help us understand a culture. Next we will read a chapter from Darwin's Descent of Man to check out a scientific origin myth.

Our AP English program requires summer reading, including excerpts from the Bible. Again, this is not to force religion, but to have the students learn the stories so they can catch and understand the allusions in literature. We also make them read Greek mythology for the same reason. I tell the students I'm not asking them to believe in the God of the Bible, just like I'm not asking them to believe in Zeus. In the last 15 years we've only had 1 complaint that has been brought to my attention and that was from a Jewish family that didn't want their son reading the New Testament (the Old Testament, of course, was fine...)

I require my students to do independent free choice reading and have had a few students pick the Bible over the years. No Book of Mormon yet. One kid wanted to read Mein Kempf, which I allowed after talking to his parents.

In theory I agree with you. The concern is the appearance of state supported religion. I was quite surprised the other day to see this Texas license plate:

undergod.png

The "one state under God" phrase is from the state's pledge of allegiance. I don't find that bothersome, just like "one nation under God" or "In God we trust" isn't bothersome. However, the clear reference to Calvary and Christianity, combined with the phrase, on an officially state issued plate, surely makes it seem like Texas is not only advocating Christianity but claiming to be a Christian state. I think this has crossed the line and shows that those who support such things really do want the government to be Christian.

I believe that any group that has come together because of religious issues (believers and atheists) and wants to influence government should have the right to do so but should not have tax exempt status. "Atheists for Democracy" should be able to advocate, just like "Christians for Morality," but both should pay taxes and be transparent. 

Should a church have its tax-exempt status threatened because certain of its members, under their own volition and not officially representing their church, choose to combine as a group of political activists or as an advocacy organization?

Edited by Scott Lloyd

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12 hours ago, Scott Lloyd said:

I appreciate all of the contributions to this thread so far. There have been some well-developed thoughts expressed.

As a springboard for giving my view, I will cite this definition of "secular state" from Wikipedia.

Going by this definition, then, a secular state or, if you will, a secular nation, must be neutral on matters of religion. Ponder carefully what this means. It cannot support or promote any particular religion, but neither can it be hostile to religions in general or in particular. To do so is to support and favor irreligion.

The government in a secular state must maintain a hands-off attitude when it comes to religion. It must allow citizens to engage in the free exercise of religion, whether it be in privately owned houses of worship or on the public square.

It cannot force students in a public school, for example to engage in prayer or Bible reading, but neither can it forbid groups of like-minded people at that school from gathering under their own volition and auspices to engage in such religious activity. It cannot force students under threat of a poor grade to read religious texts, but neither should it, for example, prohibit a student from reporting on the Book of Mormon for a class assignment that permits the student to choose his own book to fulfill the assignment.

The example was brought up in this thread of a creche display on public property. Under the definition highlighted here of a secular state or a secular nation, private groups should be allowed access to public property for such displays. To forbid them is hostile to religion and tends to favor irreligion, which the secular state, being purportedly neutral, must not do.

Furthermore, forbidding people of faith to unitedly engage in public dialogue regarding affairs of government, be they members of a political action group or of a church, while irreligious people and groups are permitted to do so, is hostile to religion and favors irreligion, contrary to the theoretical definition of a secular state or a secular nation.

"Secular Nation" is a bi-annular magazine of the Atheist Alliance of America: https://www.atheistallianceamerica.org/secular-nation-magazine/

I would think a secular state would need to show neutrality in balancing competing interests for use of its public property and political systems for religious expression, and not in balancing competing interests in preventing its use for religious expression or by a particular religion.

It is interesting to me that in the area of public and private employment, the EEOC considers proselyting a valid form of free religious expression and has guidance on terms for accommodation and undue hardship: https://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/qanda_religion.html

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7 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

Should a church have its tax-exempt status threatened because certain of its members, under their own volition and not officially representing their church, choose to combine as a group of political activists or as an advocacy organization?

I certainly don’t think so, since the church is not involved. 

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21 minutes ago, MiserereNobis said:

I certainly don’t think so, since the church is not involved. 

We are certainly of one mind on that. 

But what if the contention is made that the church is indeed involved because the advocacy group espouses values and teachings promoted by their church?

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31 minutes ago, CV75 said:

"Secular Nation" is a bi-annular magazine of the Atheist Alliance of America: https://www.atheistallianceamerica.org/secular-nation-magazine/

I would think a secular state would need to show neutrality in balancing competing interests for use of its public property and political systems for religious expression, and not in balancing competing interests in preventing its use for religious expression or by a particular religion.

It is interesting to me that in the area of public and private employment, the EEOC considers proselyting a valid form of free religious expression and has guidance on terms for accommodation and undue hardship: https://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/qanda_religion.html

I think atheists have appropriated the phrase “secular nation” for their own purposes, which is part of the reason I wanted to establish what the phrase really means, that in theory, atheists don’t stand to be favored in a secular state any more than religionists do. 

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31 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

I think atheists have appropriated the phrase “secular nation” for their own purposes, which is part of the reason I wanted to establish what the phrase really means, that in theory, atheists don’t stand to be favored in a secular state any more than religionists do. 

As a probably-atheist now, but also as a believing Mormon previously, a secular nation meant a construct for us all to form a social contract for the common good. What protects my right to believe in Mormonism or not be Baptist also protects my right to believe in neither. The social contract can be a wonderful way to shore up inter-ideological support for common values.

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6 minutes ago, Meadowchik said:

As a probably-atheist now, but also as a believing Mormon previously, a secular nation meant a construct for us all to form a social contract for the common good. What protects my right to believe in Mormonism or not be Baptist also protects my right to believe in neither. The social contract can be a wonderful way to shore up inter-ideological support for common values.

Agreed, so long as it is recognized that it protects one’s right not to “believe in” atheism, if we may put it in those terms. 

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7 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

Agreed, so long as it is recognized that it protects one’s right not to “believe in” atheism, if we may put it in those terms. 

Sure. Perhaps the essential piece of it is having a minimum core set of values and process that is agreeable for all. Obviously, some epistemological methods won't work in setting common the values or process. 

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1 hour ago, Scott Lloyd said:

I think atheists have appropriated the phrase “secular nation” for their own purposes, which is part of the reason I wanted to establish what the phrase really means, that in theory, atheists don’t stand to be favored in a secular state any more than religionists do. 

The IRS regulations seem to deny atheism "church" status: https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/churches-religious-organizations/churches-defined. And atheists typically do not like their belief characterized as a religion. This leaves them an appeal to the freedom of speech in the State's balance of competing parties' interests for use of its public property and political systems when the "separation of church and state" argument fails, which it generally should.

Of course there are grey areas, such as religious themes in public artwork where religion played a role in the jurisdiction's larger national and state history and culture, but there is plenty of secular public artwork to be had as well in striking that balance.

Edited by CV75

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Would the Civil Right Act violate secularism - neither supporting/promoting religion or no religion?

This subchapter shall not apply to an employer with respect to ... religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, educational institution, or society of its activities.

 

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5 minutes ago, Meadowchik said:

Sure. Perhaps the essential piece of it is having a minimum core set of values and process that is agreeable for all. Obviously, some epistemological methods won't work in setting common the values or process. 

I think one possible way of accomplishing that balance is not to jam the inter-ideology frequency by forcing "equal but separate" expression, but by demonstrating how the expressed value is actually common and promotes the common good. It has to be on some other basis than "I don't believe in the religious source of that value" or "That value is religious and therefore should not be expressed." Of course, the First Amendment would need to be honored as among the most fundamental of values.

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Would seem under secularism, Religious Freedom Restoration Act would violate secularism as such laws create religious exemptions to other laws.

 

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3 minutes ago, CV75 said:

I think one possible way of accomplishing that balance is not to jam the inter-ideology frequency by forcing "equal but separate" expression, but by demonstrating how the expressed value is actually common and promotes the common good. It has to be on some other basis than "I don't believe in the religious source of that value" or "That value is religious and therefore should not be expressed." Of course, the First Amendment would need to be honored as among the most fundamental of values.

And it can't be, "We must agree on it because God said so," either.

I think the principle of individual value and rights can be constructed reasonably.

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7 minutes ago, Meadowchik said:

And it can't be, "We must agree on it because God said so," either.

I think the principle of individual value and rights can be constructed reasonably.

Substitute "atheist" for "religious" and you'd have it. This is an example of atheist bias against being considered religious in a practical (or majority, ordinary or populist) sense. Sorry for using you as the guinea pig! :) This is why the First Amendment is so fundamentally important in relation to free speech; it protects everyone despite their preferred terms.

 

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4 minutes ago, CV75 said:

Substitute "atheist" for "religious" and you'd have it. This is an example of atheist bias against being considered religious in a practical (or majority, ordinary or populist) sense. Sorry for using you as the guinea pig! :) This is why the First Amendment is so fundamentally important in relation to free speech; it protects everyone despite their preferred terms.

 

Can you clarify? Do you mean, "replace atheist for religious" in the statements you made? Which statements do you mean?

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33 minutes ago, CV75 said:

Substitute "atheist" for "religious" and you'd have it. This is an example of atheist bias against being considered religious in a practical (or majority, ordinary or populist) sense. Sorry for using you as the guinea pig! :) This is why the First Amendment is so fundamentally important in relation to free speech; it protects everyone despite their preferred terms.

 

Yes speech is protected. But should protection of speech be extended to collective enforcement based on what any particular deity is claimed to said.

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1 hour ago, provoman said:

Would seem under secularism, Religious Freedom Restoration Act would violate secularism as such laws create religious exemptions to other laws.

 

Was RFRA enacted in order to privilege religion over nonreligion, or was it enacted to counter (or at least to guard against) the privileging of nonreligion/secularism over religion?  You may disagree (Vive le difference!) but I believe a colorable case can be made that the law's intent was to do the latter rather than to do the former.

Edited by Kenngo1969
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1 hour ago, Meadowchik said:

Can you clarify? Do you mean, "replace atheist for religious" in the statements you made? Which statements do you mean?

"I don't believe in the religious source of that value" or "That value is religious and therefore should not be expressed." 

"I don't believe in the atheist source of that value" or "That value is atheist and therefore should not be expressed."

The attitude underlying these sentiments/expressions is not conducive the inter-ideology frequency which locks in on that which is a common value and promotes the common good. The basis for agreement upon a "minimum core set of values and process that is agreeable for all" as you put it is in my mind good faith and civic virtue (identifying common values and regardless of source and living peaceably regardless of outcome) and the secular state's constitutional law (the time-proven process).

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1 hour ago, provoman said:

Yes speech is protected. But should protection of speech be extended to collective enforcement based on what any particular deity is claimed to said.

Yes, because the same protection would be afforded no matter who came up with it, or is claimed to have come up with it. It's a good value and practice.

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31 minutes ago, CV75 said:

"I don't believe in the religious source of that value" or "That value is religious and therefore should not be expressed." 

"I don't believe in the atheist source of that value" or "That value is atheist and therefore should not be expressed."

The attitude underlying these sentiments/expressions is not conducive the inter-ideology frequency which locks in on that which is a common value and promotes the common good. The basis for agreement upon a "minimum core set of values and process that is agreeable for all" as you put it is in my mind good faith and civic virtue (identifying common values and regardless of source and living peaceably regardless of outcome) and the secular state's constitutional law (the time-proven process).

Yes, that's why I tried to make some inclusive statements on my own, and then attempted balance to yours ;)

There are imo principles that may grow out of various sources, but then can also reasoned out as well, thus their epistemology is non-esoteric and more accessible.

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1 hour ago, Kenngo1969 said:

Was RFRA enacted in order to privilege religion over nonreligion, or was it enacted to counter (or at least to guard against) the privileging of nonreligion/secularism over religion?  You may disagree (Vive le difference!) but I believe a colorable case can be made that the law's intent was to do the latter rather than to do the former.

Hence the word “restoration” in Religious Freedom Restoration Act, implying the intent to replace that which has been lost or eroded away. 

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1 hour ago, CV75 said:

"I don't believe in the religious source of that value" or "That value is religious and therefore should not be expressed." 

"I don't believe in the atheist source of that value" or "That value is atheist and therefore should not be expressed."

The attitude underlying these sentiments/expressions is not conducive the inter-ideology frequency which locks in on that which is a common value and promotes the common good. The basis for agreement upon a "minimum core set of values and process that is agreeable for all" as you put it is in my mind good faith and civic virtue (identifying common values and regardless of source and living peaceably regardless of outcome) and the secular state's constitutional law (the time-proven process).

Yes. 

The First Amendment is based on the concept of tolerance, that we can’t realistically expect to agree on everything, but for the common good, we try to live peaceably with those with whom we disagree. 

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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52 minutes ago, CV75 said:

Yes, because the same protection would be afforded no matter who came up with it, or is claimed to have come up with it. It's a good value and practice.

So does this mean you support morality police that enforce the morality of the popular religion...because that is what I meant

Person A can say "My deity said certain gender cannot vote" 

Ok that speech is protected, but do you really want to live under a government that prohibits a specific gender from voting because a deity said so?

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2 hours ago, Kenngo1969 said:

Was RFRA enacted in order to privilege religion over nonreligion, or was it enacted to counter (or at least to guard against) the privileging of nonreligion/secularism over religion?  You may disagree (Vive le difference!) but I believe a colorable case can be made that the law's intent was to do the latter rather than to do the former.

Will have to read the legislative intent.

However, it does not treat religious and non religious as equals. 

Marijuana use because you want to...well the government has a low standard to met in order to punish possession and/or consumption.

Marijuana use because you are of the Rastafarian religion, the government has to met the highest standard to met in order to punish possession and/or consumption.

Can any law which gives preference or privilege to the religious but not the non-religious met the definition of secular as set forth in this thread.

 

Side note: I tend to doubt the Federal Government would prevail under the RFRA against a religious polygamist. But could the United States be long united if religious polygamy were legal but not non-religious polygamy?

Edited by provoman

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