In line with Burstiner's excellent article, "The Bully Pulpit," about Mayor Jager and the separation of church and state, Bill Moyers (Moyers and Company, KEET) interviewed author Susan Jacoby about her book The Great Agnostic. I encourage everyone to watch this on line. The agnostic is Robert Ingersoll (1833-99), a man much ahead of his time. I think Jager would do well to read this book.
Jacoby points out that the constitution deliberately doesn't mention God. Of this Ingersoll said, "They knew that the recognition of a deity would be seized by fanatics and zealots as a pretext for destroying the liberty of thought."
The founders saw the violence and war in Europe about religion and didn't want that for America. It was not till the 1980s that politicians started saying God bless America in speeches. In a 1947 Supreme Court decision against religious education and prayer in public schools Justice Black said, "The First Amendment rests upon the premise that both religion and government can best work to achieve their lofty aims if each is left free from the other within its respective sphere."
I think that the Pew Forum data cited by Burstiner is conservative since atheism is demonized in our society. I think the numbers are much higher.
Jager needs to learn that when he wears the mayor's hat he must separate Mayor Jager from citizen Jager. Otherwise he brings the office down to the lowest common denominator.
Ingersoll said, "We reward hypocrisy and elect men entirely destitute of real principle, and this will never change until the people become grand enough to do their own thinking." Having leaders who impose their righteous attitudes and thinking on the people does not foster independent thought. A good leader doesn't need to do that.
Sylvia De Rooy, Westhaven
Dear Mr. Jaeger: Please review your First Amendment and the McCollum decision. Please note
that it does state clearly that church and state are separate.
Please keep your religion out of Eureka city government. It is unconstitutional.
Ginni Hassrick, Bayside
The lawsuit being brought to stop prayer breakfasts and sectarian invocations at city council meetings is very affirming for those of us who oppose government promotion of any religion. Thanks are due to Ms. Beaton, the ACLU and the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
Regardless of how one may interpret the establishment clause of the First Amendment, it is clear that the founding fathers saw that the only way to safeguard religious freedom was for the government to stay out of it. Mixing state and church can only exclude a significant number of citizens whose belief is other than the presumed predominant Christian faith and others who are agnostic or atheist.
Presumably, prayers need not be spoken aloud. The only reason for doing so is to identify the purveyor as promoting a particular religion -- invariably Christianity. When the purveyor is a public entity, their religious promotion can only have a stifling effect on those who do not share that belief, and it implies that they have lesser standing under that entity.
According to polls, the numbers of people professing no religious belief are increasing. And religious extremists of various faiths continue to use their beliefs to justify hate crimes against certain segments of the population. As a result, more of us have become more assertive in exercising our right not to have religion imposed on us, our public institutions or our fellow human beings.
Some misinterpret enforcement of separation of state and church as an attempt to deprive believers of their right to believe and pray to whatever supernatural being they may choose. Everyone has that right and anyone can pray at any time and at any place they choose. But they do not have the right to insert religious practice into governmental functions which apply to all citizens.
Robert C Van Fleet, Burnt Ranch