Clearing the Fog
in the
War of Words


  logomachy--1. A dispute about words. 2. A dispute carried on in words only; a battle of words.
logomachon--1. One who argues about words. 2. A word warrior.



Bishops Sue for "First Amendment" Rights

(Howling Ether News Service, Washington, D.C.) The National Conference of Catholic Bishops has filed suit in Federal District Court to force the government to abide by the First Amendment’s “freedom of religion” clause.

The bishops' lawyer, Eustachian Hazmat, described the action as “an attempt to have the third most ignored clause in the Bill of Rights given the recognition it deserves”. Hazmat charged that government at all levels, especially the courts, was ignoring the “plain intent of the proscription that ‘Congress shall make no law . . . prohibiting the free exercise’ of religion”.

In their suit, the bishops say the Constitution requires the courts to dismiss out of hand suits to "remove prayer or references to God or religion" from "government building, documents, proclamations, and ceremonies". Suits like those of atheist Michael Newdow to change the Pledge of Allegiance and to block the inclusion of prayer and the Bible in Presidential inauguration ceremonies, said Hazmat, “ask the courts to act in a way that is prima facie unconstitutional”.

(The “religion clause” of the First Amendment reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .”.)

“Secular activists like atheists and the ACLU claim they are keeping government from establishing religion”, continued Hazmat, “but that is irrelevant to the First Amendment.

“The ‘establishment’ phrase that the secularists depend on is moot, since there hasn’t been an establishment of religion in the United States in 150 years”, he claimed. “That means that there is no basis for rulings that citizens must refrain from any religious expression in the conduct of their civic life, or any activity touched by the state. Such suits are just attempts to turn the people’s government into a vast wet blanket smothering religion in America.

“That sounds like a ‘hostile environment’ to me”, Hazmat asserted.

“What’s next?”, he asked rhetorically. “Banning rosaries and St. Christopher medals from rear view mirrors because the driver is licensed and the vehicle is registered by the state? At the very least, I should think you would have to remove them during the annual state inspection.”

The Anti-Christian Litigation Unit and the People against the American Way announced that they would file petitions to have the suit thrown out.

“This is desperate attempt to turn back the clock”, said Maurice Borkmeister of the ACLU. “We aren’t going to just sit this one out. Not after 50 years fighting the forces of mediaeval religious repression to ensure that seekers and skeptics can go anywhere they want with no risk of being reminded that some people still believe in God.”

Borkmeister scoffed at Hazmat’s reading of “free expression”.

“Look”, he said. “We have dozens of rulings on ‘free expression’ in arts and sex cases—and art and sex aren’t even mentioned in the Constitution. It’s a settled matter! ‘Free expression’ means you can coat yourself with Ovaltine and dance naked at the Super Bowl halftime show. It means that guys can wear nun costumes and commit gay acts during Communion at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.”

“But”, he added, “it doesn’t mean the Founders meant to allow religious symbols or religious expression on public property, unless they are covered with excrement. And even if they did, our developing understanding of the living Constitution has developed beyond that.”

Borkmeister added “Only a fanatical religious ideologue would suggest anything different.”

Borkmeister rejected the idea that there is any freedom of speech issue. “They’re completely different, speech and religion. I mean, we all know what speech is. I’m speaking now. It doesn’t have anything to do with prayers or other mumbo-jumbo and rigid, empty rituals.

“Speech and religion are even dealt with in separate parts of the Amendment”, he said.

“Religion is a profoundly personal and private experience”, Borkmeister went on, “and it should be kept personal, behind closed doors, the way we used to deal with sex, which is a profoundly personal experience on whose expression—public or private—the government cannot place any restrictions”.

Borkmeister was asked a hypothetical question: If a public school administration should ban a painting from a student art show on “establishment” grounds if it portrayed the Prophet Muhammad eating a pork chop with a Christmas tree stuck in his anus. Borkmeister dismissed the question as “hypothetical”. He went on the characterize it as “the sort of divisive, insensitive exaggeration that right-wingers always use to frighten people.

“The next thing you know”, he continued, “the town council wants to engrave Ann Coulter’s post-9/11 column in letters of flaming gold on the walls of the National Guard armory.”

(Coulter, a controversial right-wing syndicated columnist, wrote of the mostly Islamic background of the 9/11 hijackers: “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity!”)

Howling Ether News Service—When you can’t find it anywhere else, it’s in the Howling Ether.



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