Monday, April 07, 2008

Atheists have no rights

When an atheist, Rob Sherman, tried to testify before the Illinois state legislature opposing a grant of a million dollars to a local church, Rep. Monique Davis cut him off, shouting, "Get out of that seat! You have no right to be here!"

Sherman is an activist atheist who is not content to quietly sit by and allow pandering politicians to chip away at the wall of separation. He had a previous run-in with the Illinois legislature when he and his daughter sued over a law requiring public schools to observe a moment of silence in the classroom. The law was called the “Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act.” In response to his suit, the legislature removed all references of prayer from the bill and changed it from a mandatory moment of silence to a voluntary one. At his most recent appearance before the legislature, Rep. Davis appeared to still be nursing grudge over the suit (she was one of the sponsors of the bill).

Chicago Tribune writer Eric Zorn brought up the incident of Davis' ordering Sherman out of the legislature with the hypothetical, "consider what the outcry would have been if a lawmaker had launched a similar attack on the beliefs of a religious person." (Zorn's transcript at the link is slightly abridged. I corrected it using the state's MP3 file to which he links.)
Davis: So, I don’t know what you have against God, but some of us don’t have much against him. We look forward to him and his blessings. And it’s really a tragedy--it’s tragic--when a person who is engaged in anything related to God, they want to fight. They want to fight prayer in school. I don’t see you fighting guns in school. You know? I’m trying to understand the philosophy that you want to spread in the state of Illinois. This is the Land of Lincoln. This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God, where people believe in protecting their children. We don't want --In my opinion-- What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous, it’s dangerous--

Sherman: What’s dangerous, ma’am?

Davis: It’s dangerous to the progression of this state. And it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! Now you will go to court to fight kids to have the opportunity to be quiet for a minute. But damn if you’ll go to school to fight for them to keep guns out of their hands. I am fed up! Get out of that seat!

Voices: Amen! Amen! (scattered applause)

Sherman: Thank you for sharing your perspective with me, and I’m sure that if this matter does go to court--

Davis (voice rising to a shout): Get out of that seat! You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying!

Voices: That's right.

Davis: You believe in destroying what this state was built upon.

At this point, the chair interrupted telling Sherman he could not respond to her comments and that he should direct his testimony only to the business he had come to testify about.

Davis' ignorance of, or contempt for, the Constitution and especially the First Amendment is appalling. In recent years, this sort of freewheeling revision of the founding principles of the United States has been the stock and trade of the religious right and its allies in the Republican Party. Davis, I'm sad to say, is a Democrat. I suppose she's proof that no party has a lock on ignorance or virtue. And Amy Sullivan says Democrats aren't doing enough to attract the religious bigot vote.

Let's take a look at exactly what Davis is trampling.
Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Not only does Davis imply an official state religion, she also denies free speech and the right to petition the government. If she had told Sherman he couldn't meet with other atheists, she would have had a clean sweep of the whole amendment. This is from a legislator with multiple degrees in education.

Rob Sherman is currently running as the Green Party for the state legislature from a district in Chicago. Unfortunately, he isn't running in Davis' district.

No comments: