It’s Friday and time for another quick roundup of stories about church-state separation and the Religious Right you might have overlooked in the media. Let’s get right to it.
- Virginia’s state seal features an image of the Roman goddess Virtus, who is normally depicted wearing a cap and holding a spear – with one breast exposed. Recently, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II decided to give her a modesty makeover. In lapel pins he distributed to his staff, Cuccinelli had Virtus fully covered up with a breastplate. Cuccinelli, a great favorite of the Religious Right, was widely ridiculed. He has since recalled the pins and is blaming the entire flap on the media.
- Some pastors in Chicago are angry because their parishioners have received parking tickets on Sunday. (Yep, Chicago enforces meter laws even on Sunday. It’s hardcore.) They want an exemption from parking regulations for church-goers. Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn doesn’t think much of the idea.
- A group of Pagans plans to hold a festival at the end of the month in Livingston Parish, La. For some reason, this has many people in the community, including local law enforcement, all bent out of shape – even though church groups hold events like this all of the time. News flash to Louisiana: Paganism is a religion, and its adherents enjoy the same First Amendment rights as Baptists, Methodists, Catholics and so on. Bothered by the festival? Don’t go.
- Religion scholar Martin Marty is one of our most thoughtful commentators on the relationship between religion and government. Marty recently gave a lecture at Samford University in Birmingham about the founders and religion. Here’s one of my favorite passages: “In his writings, George Washington used 28 different names for God, such as First Architect, but not one was biblical, Marty said. ‘They were looking for language that would enlarge the context.’” Read more here.
- Texas Freedom Network is sponsoring a May 19 rally to protest recent actions by the state Board of Education to add “Christian nation” propaganda into Social Studies standards. TFN is also running an amusing contest to pick a new logo for the board. If you’re a Texan, try to attend the rally. More info here.
- George Alan Rekers, a longtime Religious Right activist who helped launch the Family Research Council, was recently caught returning from a trip to Europe accompanied by a male prostitute. Rekers says he hired the 20-year-old man from a gay site called rentboy.com just to help him carry his bags. He has since changed his story and posted a comment online reading, “I deliberately spend time with sinners with the loving goal to try to help them.” Really, just how dumb does Rekers think we are? Dude, next time at least make sure your cover story is somewhat plausible.
- Good news out of Illinois: A private school voucher plan that would have subsidized religious schools with tax money has been defeated. The bill, sponsored by Sen. James Meeks (D-Chicago), would have been aimed at Chicago and included 30,000 students. It needed 60 votes to pass but won only 48.