Church and State: June 2005 Archives

June 27, 2005

It's a fundie thing

United States: A South Carolina Druid couple have filed a complaint against a police officer who used a traffic stop as an excuse to try and convert them to Christianity.

Accompanying Cpl. Gilbert Lozada in his vehicle was reserve officer Tony Stewart, an unpaid volunteer, according to police spokesman Lt. Cris Varner.

Debra Gainey said during the traffic stop, Stewart began talking with her about his religion and told her she should come to Bible class.

In her letter complaining of a civil rights violation to Reynolds dated Wednesday, she said, Officer Stewart overstepped his bounds in witnessing during a traffic stop.

She also wrote in her complaint that he followed up by sending a letter to their home, which further violated our rights and invaded our privacy.

The officer drew attention to a bumper sticker on the couple's car which read It's a druid thing, and investigators are trying to determine whether the presence of that sticker caused the officer to stop the car, rather than any suspicion that an offence had taken place. According to Debra Gainey, one of the couple:

The interesting part of this incident happened at the back of our car. Officer Stewart asked us if we had put the bumper stickers on or if the car had come that way. I of course told the truth and said I had put them on. The officer wanted to know what they meant so I explained that I was an ordained minister of the Emerald Sanctuary Druidic Church. The conversation continued and then Officer Stewart asked me if my church supported me? I asked him to explain what he meant by support and he clarified it as meaning ‘spiritually fulfilling’. He then begins witnessing to me and my husband... At the police station he continued to witness to me...

...Officer Stewart never mentions a reason for being pulled over, such as weaving, speeding, wrong plates or anything like that. He does mention the bumper stickers.

A full account of the incident is given on the Emerald Sanctuary Druidic Church web site, including the fill text of Officer Stewart's letter, where he admits he is only works for the Police because of the witnessing opportunities it provides.

Two claim reserve officer violated their rights - The Greenville News, 23rd June 2005; How a Greer, SC Police Officer witnessed for the Baptists - Emerald Sanctuary Druidic Church web site, not dated.

June 24, 2005

Get the T-shirt

United States: Bobby Henderson felt moved to write an Open Letter to Kansas School Board after he learned of a hearing to determine whether creationism intelligent design should be taught in the state's schools. His worry? that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design:

Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.

After presenting a more thorough exposition of this startling hypothesis, and an explanation of the importance of piratical regalia, he offers something that Biblical creationists can't: hard data.

You may be interested to know that global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of Pirates since the 1800s. For your interest, I have included a graph of the approximate number of pirates versus the average global temperature over the last 200 years. As you can see, there is a statistically significant inverse relationship between pirates and global temperature.

(via The Magician).

June 11, 2005

Old myth, even older clothes

England: Josie Appleton has written an interesting article about the reaction to the conviction of three people for abusing a child they believed to be witch. In particular she questions the racist assumptions made by the media, social services and the police about the case. It quickly begins to sound as if something very familar indeed is going on.

The case quickly became a careering bandwagon, on to which police, social services and the media leapt. This was understood not as the criminal actions of one woman, but as a sign of the barbarity of Africans in general. Articles speculated about the dozens, even hundreds, of African children being subjected to mystical abuse behind the closed doors of north-east London. The Metropolitan Police has set up a special six-person team, 'Project Violet', to tackle ritualised child abuse in London's African communities.

MP Diane Abbott quickly established a claim to take over the ecological niche left by the late Geoffrey Dickens:

Because the defendants attended an evangelical church in Hackney, their crime apparently implicated the whole African spiritual infrastructure. 'Ban these witchcraft churches', called Diane Abbott in the London Evening Standard on 7 June. According to the Abbott, MP for Hackney North, churches should be registered, opened up for monitoring, and shut down 'the minute any child connected to their congregation is abused'.

Yet there is little hard evidence to justify these wild claims. It seems to be the accusers who are possessed with ideas of mass, ritualised child abuse—not London's immigrant communities.

Appleton then reports on some more familiar-sounding hyperbole:

June 10, 2005

Read all about it, while it's still legal!

United Kingdom: The Daily Telegraph has inadvertantly demonstrated one of the few good points about the proposed law on incitrement to religious hatred, by printing exactly the sort of inflammatory article which would send the editor to jail.

Extremist religious groups that advocate child abuse will be given protection under a Bill published by the Government yesterday...
The article then notes the protection which would be given to extreme fundies who beat 'demons' out of children, and then observes, suddenly, with no added context:
Satanists, pagans and atheists would be protected.

Having good reason for making insulting comments that could provoke hatred of a particular religious doctrine would be no defence, nor would the fact that they were true.

The paper then quotes an interesting point made by shadow attorney general Dominic Grieve:

Dominic Grieve, the shadow attorney general, said: We are likely to see religious groups trying to get other religious groups prosecuted, which will inflame community tensions rather than make them better.

He said members of groups such as the British National Party could set up religious sects to articulate white supremacist theologies, then demand the prosecution of those expressing outrage at their views.

Such theologies are seen among white supremacists in the US and, unless we want the government deciding what is, or is not, a religion presumably deserve the same level or respect as other belief systems such as Christianity, Islam or belief in the Tooth Fairy.

Now you face jail for being nasty to Satanists - Daily Telegraph, 10th June 2005.

Thou shalt not bear false witness, for it is the law.

United Kingdom: New laws against incitement to religious hatred have received strong criticism, some of it hypocritical. The Racial and Religious Hated Bill would create make incitement to religious hatred an offence, but the definition includes words and behaviour which is likely to stir up religious hatred too.

Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris is concerned that the plans will stifle freedom of expression, and that it is too broad a measure for dealing with what is essentially race hatred. He has put forward an amendment to the Bill with narrows its remit to specifically to outlaw reference to a religion or religious belief or to a person's membership or presumed membership of a religious group as a pretext for stirring up racial hatred against a racial group. The amendment as written makes no provision for dealing with sectarianism - which is analogous to racism as it is really hatred of somone on the basis of the perceived religious beliefs of their parents.

The Conservatives are expected to support this amendment, although their reasons for opposing the legislation are different - it would prevent fundies from lying about minority faiths! Conservative shadow Home Secretary David Davis started off well enough when he pointed out that law would seriously undermine freedom of speech and be massively counter-productive. But he then noted:

Whilst this new law would technically prevent what many people may regard as reasonable criticism of devil worshippers and religious cults.

And presumably prevent reasonable criticism of barking mad fundies who use their religion as an excuse to spread hatred about minority faiths, pooves etc.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Church and State category from June 2005.

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