By now most of you have undoubtedly heard about the case of Martin DeShawn McCullough, better known (before a Tennessee judge ordered a name change for the seven month old) as Messiah. The case has drawn national attention this past week as the boy's mother, Jaleesa Martin, went public with the outcome of the hearing in the Cocke County Chancery Court that was meant to determine Messiah's/ Martin's last name. The hearing was brought forth due to the inability of the mother and the "baby daddy" to agree on who got to pass on their family name. Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew clearly overstepped her authority in the case by ordering the first name of the baby boy changed and then made it worse by stating her reasons for changing Messiah's name. In Ballew's explanation it was made clear that her religious views were at the heart of the order.
While it should be obvious that ordering the first name changed was an abuse of power, this will be overturned, (Messiah's mother is appealing), not on the merit of judicial overreach but instead on the very clear violation of the First Amendment. When Magistrate Ballew expressed her reason for changing Messiah's name she was in fact using her position in the judicial branch of government to force her religious beliefs on everyone in this case. In effect, in regards to this case, this was an attempt by Ballew to establish a religion (her religion).
It should come as no surprise that the ACLU of Tennessee quickly announced that they would be assisting Ms. Martin in her appeal of Ballew's ruling. This is after all the kind of abuse of government power that the ACLU was originally formed to fight. Born of the high minded, well intended idea of protecting the civil rights of those without the means to stand alone and fight in a court of law. But then, another group decided to steal some press coverage by interjecting themselves into the mix, The Freedom From Religion Foundation.
If you haven't already heard of The Freedom From Religion Foundation then I have no doubt that you soon will. This group of atheists and agnostics have been interfering in local matters all over the country with the sole purpose of removing any and all signs of religion or faith from public view. As an example, this group has threatened and pursued a law suit in Lenior City, Tennessee because the official patch of the local police force included the word religion.
This group, like most organized atheists, prefer to call themselves "freethinkers" and insists that they are more intelligent than the masses of believers because they rely on reason and logic in their thinking. There is no room for faith in a higher power in the lives of these "freethinkers". This group, while claiming to be an educational organization, is also a judicial action committee fighting against what it defines as violations of the separation of church and state. The Foundation's definition, however, is far broader than that of the Supreme Court's on the matter of what constitutes the church and state separation. In fact, their actions do not seek to protect against the establishment of a national religion (the true purpose of the First Amendment) but instead to remove all reference to faith of any kind from the daily actions of all levels of government. What's the difference you ask? Simply put, not all expressions of faith are inappropriate in context to the government activity that may be in question. Starting a city council meeting with a prayer, having a nativity scene in a city park, even opening a high school football game with a prayer are all examples of "government" activities that this Foundation has fought against (and won in many cases either by judge ruling or rolling over of the named defendants) that regardless of court rulings just do not violate the standard that should be met before it can be considered an "establishment" of religion.
In the words of the FFRF itself they are a "nonprofit organization that works to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism, and to promote the constitutional principle of separation between church and state. The Foundation is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics and skeptics) with over 19,000 members. Since 1978, the Foundation has acted on countless violations of the separation of state and church, and has taken and won many significant complaints and important lawsuits to end state/church entanglements." They go on to say that "The history of Western civilization shows us that most social and moral progress has been brought about by persons free from religion. In modern times the first to speak out for prison reform, for humane treatment of the mentally ill, for abolition of capital punishment, for women's right to vote, for death with dignity for the terminally ill, and for the right to choose contraception, sterilization and abortion have been freethinkers, just as they were the first to call for an end to slavery. The Foundation works as an umbrella for those who are free from religion and are committed to the cherished principle of separation of state and church." I wonder how they quantify these claims. It is made very clear from their statements that they are a leftist group that seeks to remove any traditional conservative moral values from the processes of our government. They do all of this "work" while being a non-profit, tax-exempt, educational organization under Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3). I would insert a wise-crack here about being targeted by the IRS but the FFRF was incorporated in 1978 in Wisconsin making it a little before the current scandal's time.
Here's my problem with this groups activities. Outside of their claims that they are smarter than religious people and that Western civilization can only advance, or should I say "progress", through the actions of freethinking nontheists such as themselves; they claim to cherish the constitutional principle of separation of church and state. They count on people not knowing not understanding that this principle only extends to the government establishing a forced national religion such as the Church of England, the Catholic church, or even Islam (yes Islam was a consideration in the time of the framers in fact one of the first military actions taken after the new U.S. government had been established was against a group of Muslims in the Phillepines). In many of the FFRF actions they have, in fact, attacked and (along with other so-called progressives) tried to redefine the First Amendment from a guarantee to worship, or not, as you wish to a roadblock to doing so publicly.
By so aggressively attempting to remove faith from every part of our daily lives they (and every activist judge that has ever sided with them) are in fact violating the very constitutional principle that they claim to be championing. They are using our court system to force a religious belief upon all of us; their religion of non belief. There are, and should be, limits to religious expressions by government bodies but the idea of separation of church and state is a very narrow and limited part of our guarantee of religious freedom. These people are not fighting for the Construction; they are fighting to destroy it (which I'm sure they would deny) and they are fighting to silence people of faith.
If the FFRF, or any group like them, come to your town be ready to stand up and to fight them in court. They count on most people just rolling over but we just can't do that anymore. You may not think that the patch being worn by your local police or an opening prayer at a ball game matter enough for a fight but the continued damage to our Constitution and the infringements to our rights are worth the fight.