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Why we need to reject the Istook Religious Freedom Amendment

There simply is no reason to amend the Constitution to provide religion with any more protection than it already has. It is fairly easy for an individual to start up a church if he feels the need for one.

In spite of the misinformation spread by the Theocratic Right, school kids are allowed to pray in school. They may conduct prayer and bible study groups, carry bibles, and wear religious jewelry and t-shirts. Their only limitation is that they may not force their views on others. Religion can be discussed in public school classrooms, as long as the information is presented objectively.

The separation of state and church has allowed Americans to live in relative peace and harmony for over 200 years. In many places around the world, diversity leads to armed conflict.  In America, our diversity has proven to be an enormous asset both socially and economically. We need to retain laws that protect religious minorities from the tyranny of the majority.

The Religious Freedom Amendment would nullify the First Amendment:

The RFA would end the protection of religious minorities. It would allow any one group to overwhelm all others by sheer numbers. As it is, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment protects you from having your kids brainwashed into Christianity at school. The RFA would allow schools to give religious groups free reign in interfering with the educational process. For example:

  • An assembly is called in which the students hear misleading information about condoms. They are told that condoms cannot stop the AIDS virus because the holes in the latex are too big. Then they are told that sex is bad.
  • A guest speaker is asked to visit a suburban high school honors biology class. The guest speaker is a creationist, and he intends on speaking out against some of the most important findings in modern science.
  • A group of students is allowed to use the school PA to say prayers during morning announcements. The prayers are exclusively Christian.
  • A student bible club is allowed to cover the office window with their religious t-shirts. The effect is to give Christianity an official look.
  • A science teacher tells her students that a soul exists, and that it lives on beyond the death of an individual.
  • A pregnant teenager considers an abortion.  A group of Christian teachers take her into a small room and pressure her at length to turn to their god.
  • A guest speaker tells a group of kids that abortions are bad, and cause physical damage to 25% of women having them.
  • A science teacher refuses to teach evolution because it conflicts with her personal beliefs.
  • A teacher applying for a job is asked about his religion.

These stories are real. Many of them were resolved because the First Amendment was invoked. If the Religious Freedom Amendment passes, all of this and more will change. Without the First Amendment, the majority religion will be unstoppable.The Religious Freedom Amendment will allow churches and individuals to establish a de facto Christian theocracy. In theory, this amendment would seem to support any religion. In practice, it will be evangelical Christianity. Religious schools would be eligible to receive tax money, without having to meet state requirements for teacher certification, class sizes and nondiscrimination.

The “Santa Claus” effect:

I have heard it said by other atheists that allowing the RFA to become law would make the “god” concept legitimate. The reasoning is based on the movie Miracle on 34th Street. Santa Claus was considered real because the US Post office delivered letters to him, and the Post Office wouldn’t lie about his existence now would they? If this seems like a stretch, think about the number of times religionists have told you that America must be a Christian country because it says In God We Trust on our money.

Atheist Community of Austin

The Atheist Community of Austin is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting positive atheism and the separation of church and state. The ACA serves the local Austin community through outreach programs, providing informational resources and various volunteer activities. In addition, the ACA serves the community-at-large through free online portals including informational wikis, regular audio/video podcasts and interactive blogs.

We define atheism as the lack of belief in gods. This definition also encompasses what most people call agnosticism.

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