Debate Magazine

T'is the Season to Abandon Reason - The Conservative Christmas War on Freedom and the Constitution

Posted on the 23 December 2015 by Doggone
T'is the Season to Abandon Reason - The Conservative Christmas War on Freedom and the ConstitutionFor those of you who missed me, I'm back after an approximately two months hiatus.
This will serve as my holidays post - covering Christmas and the Solstice.
I am heartily sick this December of two thing - the excessive Star Wars hype, and the false claims about a war on Christmas (or Christians). There is nothing I can do about either, other than vent my vexation here. Star Wars hype will eventually subside in satiation; the effort to continue the manipulation of conservatives and the false and faulty screeches of fake victims will continue. But for the interim, it very much feels as if Star Wars has substantially hijacked the holidays.
There is no war on Christmas or Christians in the United States, and precious little effective war on Christians anywhere else.
There IS, however, something I can do about the Conservative War on Freedom  and their attacks on intelligent, informed thinking. It seems particularly apt as my first returning topic, given a brief browse of faulty claims and sloppy propaganda made by local conservative bloggers as I sit down to my computer to write.
Specifically, I am joining here in the protest against -- where else? -- Texas conservatives and their hatred of our constitution, in spite of all the lip service they give that document. Part of my objection is a continuing pet peeve when it comes to fake sources and especially inaccurate attribution of quotes in support of propaganda.
Hat tip to the Free Thinker for this one, and the Dallas Morning News:

Nativity display created by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which Gov. Greg Abbott demanded removed from the Capitol grounds.

Nativity display created by the
Freedom from Religion Foundation,
which Gov. Greg Abbott demanded
be removed from the Capitol grounds.

Staff at the Texas Capitol on Tuesday removed an exhibit that Gov. Greg Abbott said mocked religion without contacting the organization that sponsored the faux nativity display that replaced baby Jesus with a representation of the Bill of Rights.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an organization that promotes the separation of church and state, said it is reviewing its options to take further action against the state for the move.
“This sort of censorship is inappropriate and illegal,” said Sam Grover, the foundation’s staff attorney. Removal of the exhibit came after Abbott sent the State Preservation Board a letter saying that the display mocked religion and calling for its immediate elimination from the capitol grounds. 

The exhibit, called the “Bill of Rights Nativity and Winter Solstice Display,” was on the ground floor of the capitol building. In it, the bill of rights sat in the manger in place of baby Jesus, and it was surrounded by three founding fathers and the Statue of Liberty, which appeared to be worshiping the document.
...Abbott, in his letter, said the exhibit did not meet the requirements for display at the Capitol because it didn’t promote a “public purpose.”

And as observed by Patheos and subsequently the Freethinker, but sadly neglected by the Dallas Morning News, Texas Gov. Abbot did not merely remove a legitimate display supporting the separation of church and state -- which GENUINELY was a desideratum held by our founding fathers.  He went on to attempt to support his illegal act against freedom with a false attribution to George Washington.  I despise false attributions, particularly when a source is so well known to be false, and when it is so easily verified if they are correct.  When done by a governor, it is clear that the governor is either willfully too ignorant to fulfill the duties of his office, or he is a propagandizing dictator. 
It is entirely possible Abbot is both.
From the Freethinker:
Andrew L  Seidel, Staff Attorney for the FFRF, Freedom From Religion Foundation, said here that Abbott:
Quoted, at length, erroneous history to support his position. The quote comes from a fabricated prayer journal, misattributed to Washington.
In a letter explaining his decision to have the display removed, Abbott called the FFRF’s  Bill of Rights display “tasteless,” a “spiteful message … intentionally designed to belittle and offend” and charged that it is:
Far from promoting morals and the general welfare.
He even likened the Bill of Rights display to:
A photograph of a crucifix immersed in a jar of urine.
Frank Grizzard, an editor of the George Washington Papers at the University of Virginia, wrote of the book from which Abbott pulled the quote:
Tens of thousands of genuine Washington manuscripts have survived to the present, including many from the youthful Washington, and even a cursory comparison of the prayer book with a genuine Washington manuscript reveals that they are not the same handwriting.
Not only are the prayers not in Washington’s handwriting, they were not composed by Washington himself as Abbott claims.
To borrow from Gizzard, “Both claims are patently false”. That prayer book had been “rejected by the Smithsonian Institute as having no value” and even at the time it first surfaced, “others continued to challenge its authenticity.”
Other historians, such as John Fea, chair of the History Department at Messiah College and author of Was American Founded as a Christian Nation: A Historical Introduction, agree that this prayer book is not Washington’s:
It is also far too pious for Washington. In fact … George Washington only referenced Jesus Christ twice in all his extant writings and neither of them were in a prayer …
Seidel said:
All that vitriol, from looking at three founding fathers, the Statue of Liberty, and the Bill of Rights. One wonders how such disrespect for the Bill of Rights comports with Abbott’s oaths of office to uphold that sacred document.
We are a secular nation, and we should be a thoughtful nation which embraces freedom of speech, freedom of and from religion, and most of all we should, in order to remain free, push back at any attempts like this one of Texas governor Abbot to make encroachments that effectively create a state sponsored, endorsed and/or promoted religion.  Because when THAT happens, we ALL are less free than our founding fathers intended.
Oppose the tyranny, and the erosion of constitutionally guaranteed freedom promoted by the worst of conservative evangelicals attempting to impose a state sponsored religion.  Oppose ignorance peddled by conservatives in positions of power; the truth, and facts, are not on their side.

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