The "Freedom From Religion Foundation" is bigoted
Debate Rounds (4)
Round 1: Acceptance
Round 2: Opening remarks and arguments. (No rebuttals)
Round 3: Rebuttals to arguments. (No new arguments)
Round 4: Further rebuttals and Closing statements
My case is built on three main premises, which are:
1.The FFRF"s decision is illogical on the grounds of their personal bias and misinterpretation towards religion.
2. This creates a "slippery slope" in terms of restricting freedom of religious expression.
3. It is a violation of the First Amendment. (This is more debatable than the previous two.)
So with that said, I"ll present these premises in order in the most concise way I can.
"The FFRF"s decision is illogical on the grounds of their personal bias and misinterpretation towards religion."
I"m sure the FFRF has been justified in some cases; there are two sides to every coin, after all. But this recent case seemed more like a demonstration of intolerance to religion than genuine concern of separation of church and state. Sean Hannity and FFRF"s Annie Laurie Gaylor decided to talk it out on national television on his show, Hannity.(1)
"HANNITY: I debated you way back in Alabama, that's right. I'm getting younger every day. Tell me what -- you go to the hotel, you and your husband or any member of your organization. So they have the Bible maybe at a -- in a drawer next to the bed. Tell me how you're so offended by this, that it is so outrageous, those people who would like it would have the choice to open it, forced to open it, doesn't take up space. Why is it such a big issue for you?
GAYLOR: Why would a university place a religious book in a hotel room?
HANNITY: Because they want to. Because they think their customers want it.
GAYLOR: Unless there was a message of endorsement. We think you should be reading this book or we think you would want to read this book. Imagine the outcry if somebody opened up their bedside table at a public supported institution and found Richard Dawkins "God Delusion" or found a Koran."
HANNITY: We're talking about the Bible. If they wanted to put a Koran in there, I would have no problem. You're acting like you're so offended. And you're not offended. I don't believe for a second you're offended. I'm sure your organization will raise money on this, you'll send out letters saying you took on Iowa University.
GAYLOR: Well, I am offended because --
GAYLOR: I don't like to pay high prices to stay in a hotel room to find a book in there that says that I should be murdered, that blasphemers should be put to death, that homosexuals are an abomination, that women are subordinate, that it's OK to abuse children.
HANNITY: Don't open the book. They've got channels on the TV that you don't like. You probably don't like to watch me, usually.
GAYLOR: Well, you said that I am not offended, but I am offended by the Bible because I don't think there is another book where between whose pages life is so cheap, that sanctifies genocide."
And here we see that this had more to do with than just separation of church and state. Apparently, her own personal bias is the main driving force behind this decision. I would like to point out that it"s a blatant misinterpretation of the Bible. The harsh laws in the Old Testament don"t exactly apply to us today mainly because they were only given to the children of Israel; not Christians in general and certainly not Christians today.(2) There is a good reason why those things don"t normally happen. And genocide is in no way sanctified by the Bible; it mentions it happening, but it doesn"t tell us to do it.(3) Jesus died on the cross, but does that mean we have to do it, too? And child abuse to Gaylor, judging from the scripture, apparently means just regular corporal punishment, which takes a number of relatively harmless forms. And what I find interesting is that while FFRF claims to be an organization of free thought and nothing more than enforcers of secularism(4), she compares the Bible to The God Delusion. She is making presupposed assumptions and baseless "what if" arguments merely for the sake of argument and defending FFRF"s position and actions.
"HANNITY: If the Bible is tucked into the drawer next to the bed and you choose not to open it, just like you may not want to watch a channel on TV that is on their channel, maybe even religious channels -- you are saying something that to me just makings zero sense and that I don't believe, and that you are so deeply --
GAYLOR: Well, I would think you would be offended if you found "The God Delusion" and atheistic materials in a hotel that was supported by the government, a public university hotel. Don't tell me you wouldn't be."
Again, it seems her whole argument originates from presupposed assumptions about what we"d be
"offended" by. This gives me no reason to believe they had any genuine concern about separation of church and state and were therefore acting upon their own bias and interpretation towards religion.
"2. This creates a "slippery slope" in terms of restricting freedom of religious expression."
The FFRF demanded that the Bibles be taken out of the lodging at once, calling it "unwelcome religious propaganda by the bedside."(5) However, we see here that Hannity points out the absurdity of the decision, comparing the Bible to the religious programming that is available on cable TV. Now, this can be used in two ways:
If the FFRF decided to take the Bibles out of the hotel rooms on the grounds of it being unwelcome religious propaganda, why not have the hotel block the religious channels, too? Or just disallow well-known pastors? That would have the same religious effect as a Bible hidden in a hotel drawer, wouldn"t it?
If the FFRF couldn"t and won"t have religious cable programming taken out of hotels, why would they take Bibles out of hotel rooms sitting inside drawers? It"s not going to inhibit the supposed advancing of religion on the patrons or guests anyway as they could still be exposed to the Gospel on TV, which is arguably just as effective.
So with both of these arguments in mind, I believe the absurdity of their decision becomes fairly obvious as they might as well try and block religious programming if they take out Bibles, and if they don"t want to block religious programming, there is no reason to take the Bibles out in the first place. The Bibles were donated and it was the decision of whoever ran the lodging to put them there in case they wanted to read them. It does no harm sitting in a drawer hidden away.
"3. It is a violation of the First Amendment. (This is more debatable than the previous two.)"
The legality of the whole issue is actually much more debatable to me than the previous two premises, so I will be brief here. What I also believe is the cause behind FFRF"s decision is a misinterpretation of the First Amendment. They seem to think it means freedom from religion rather than freedom of religion. While that may be true to an extent, Bibles hidden away in drawers is hardly a public display of advancing religion; however, signs that are put inside each hotel room saying to repent or perish or quoting scripture would be public displays, and removal could be seen as justified as the First Amendment says no law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or the lack thereof.(6) However, if people passing by left Bibles in hotel drawers, this law would be voided in this case because the decision to put the Bibles in the drawers would in no way be government-sanctioned, and I don"t believe that the university"s decision to put Bibles in hotel drawers was government sanctioned either. However, no person that I've known who has defended the FFRF's decision has ever demonstrated looking beyond just the legality of the issue. Just because it is legal, doesn't make it morally right. I'm interested in what you may have to offer, though.
So it is my belief that with these three premises that the FFRF made a foolish and unwise decision because:
1.)As stated in the first two premises, there seems to be no obvious justification for their decision to remove the Bibles.
2.)As stated in the last premise, their decision was based in part on a misinterpretation of the First Amendment and what "government sanctioned" means
3.)A decision like this puts atheists in general in a bad light to the Christian community. Because this organization claims to represent free thinkers, decisions like these give atheists in general a bad reputation that is undeserved for most of them, because I don"t think most atheists are like Gaylor.
I look forward to hearing your opening arguments.
(1) http://www.foxnews.com..., http://host.madison.com...,
(2) http://www.biblegateway.com..., http://www.biblegateway.com..., http://www.biblegateway.com...
(4) http://ffrf.org..., http://ffrf.org...?
(5) http://www.prisonplanet.com..., http://www.theblaze.com...
(6) http://www.usconstitution.net..., http://constitution.findlaw.com...
1) Under the First Amendment a publicly funded institution, such as the University of Wisconsin's lodgings and hotel, cannot endorse the use of one set of religious material over the use of another (1). Placing Christian Bibles in a publicly funded institution is in blatant violation of the First Amendment. I fail to see how there is any controversy around this issue: If you run a publicly funded institute you abide by the law which says you cannot be seen to be unfairly endorsing one religion other another. The government is not supposed to interfere with matters of religion - the government is there to protect citizens from religion if they don't wish to practice it, but also to ensure that those who are religious can still practice if they so wish. Removing Bibles from a publicly funded institute protects the rights of the non-religious and non-Christian, whilst also not infringing on the rights of a Christian to still practice their religion. If someone wants to read a Bible in a publicly funded institute, such as the UOW's lodgings, then they must bring their own - Don't expect the government to provide one for you.
2) Therefore the FFRF is completely justified in it's wanting the removal of Bibles at the UOW's lodgings. In fact, the FFRF should be congratulated for helping to uphold the law of the land.
3) I know we said no rebuttals but because you sounded so interested:
The moral argument for this issue is also a simple one. Your praying to a supposed deity does not entitle you to special privileges. You may practice your religion if you wish to, but in the public discourse your voice is no more important than anyone else's. The government is here to protect this realm of public discourse. Therefore if it's seen to be endorsing one group of people's views over another's it is failing to uphold it's responsibilities. Removing religious privilege is fair and is to be desired when in the pursuit of an equal and just society.
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