Monday, September 15, 2008

Atheism is Protected by Law; Austin Cline has Adversaries

Atheism Is Protected As a Religion, says Court
For the purposes of protection under the First Amendment, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (May 13, 1997), decided the Orange County N.Y. Department of Probation could not force Robert Warner, an atheist, to attend religion-based alcoholic treatment programs against the dictates of his own beliefs.

"The district court agreed with Mr. Warner's argument that these meetings involved a substantial religious element. Participants were told to "believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us," and that they must "turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand him." In addition, the "Step" program ordered those participating to "Admit to God ... the exact nature of our wrongs," be "entirely ready to have God remove all these defects ... (and) ask Him to remove our shortcomings," and to seek "through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we (understand) Him. The meetings were also punctuated with frequent prayers of a Christian nature."

Four months into the program Mr. Warner complained that, as an Atheist, he found the meetings objectionable due to their religious nature. It was then that his probation officer determined that Warner lacked sufficient commitment to the idea of learning the techniques of remaining sober, even though he apparently had not been found in violation of his probation orders to remain sober!

"Attorneys for Mr. Warner relied on a number of legal precedents, including:" [refer to link]

Atheist Groups in Prison
But two years earlier,in the case of Kaufman v. McCaughtry, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals declared atheism a religion for purposes of protection under the Establishment Clause. The court said prison officials violated an inmate's rights because they did not treat atheism as a religion.

"James Kaufman filed suit while incarcerated at the Waupun Correctional Institution after submitting an official document titled "Request for New Religious Practices." He asked permission to form an inmate group "to stimulate and promote Freedom of Thought, and inquiry concerning religious beliefs, creeds, dogmas, tenets, rituals and practices, (and to) educate and provide information concerning religious beliefs, creeds, dogmas, tenets, rituals, and practices."

Court Made Good and Bad Decisions, says Atheist Blogger
An atheist blogger saw a good side and a bad side to this ruling. "What the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals got right:" said Matt Dillahunty, was that "atheism is a 'religion' for First Amendment purposes is a somewhat different question than whether its adherents believe in a supreme being, or attend regular devotional services, or have a sacred Scripture."

What court got wrong, Dillahunty said, is that "Atheism is, among other things, a school of thought that takes a position on religion, the existence and importance of a supreme being, and a code of ethics."

The Court in this case recognized that unless the prison system had prevented all gatherings of religion, preventing a group of atheists to gather was a violation of the Establishment Clause.
"Tthey didn't declare that atheism was a religion, they declared that atheism was afforded equal protection with religions under the Establishment Clause." [italics added]

How did the court come to this conclusion? The Supreme Court and Circuit Courts use the "Lemon" test, Lemon v. Kurtzman, a three-pronged test concerning the secular nature of government laws and regulations.

Another Court, Another Time
In Wallace v. Jaffree, another court said: "At one time it was thought that this right [referring to the right to choose one’s own creed] merely proscribed the preference of one Christian sect over another, but would not require equal respect for the conscience of the infidel, the atheist, or the adherent of a non-Christian faith such as Islam or Judaism. But when the underlying principle has been examined in the crucible of litigation, the Court has unambiguously concluded that the individual freedom of conscience protected by the First Amendment embraces the right to select any religious faith or none at all."

Historical Precedence and Jefferson
This has clear historical relevance in the way the framers of the Constitution (and it's backers) thought of the secular nature of government and the need to keep it out of the way of the sovereignty of the individual. Thomas Jefferson's proudest achievement was not the Declaration of Independence. It was the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom in which his principle of the "wall of separation between church and state" first took lawful form. Jefferson said that the purpose of the separation was that, "within the mantle of [the law's] protection, [were] the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination." What better example of an "infidel" than an atheist?

Jefferson also said some other things concerning religion which I wish modern Americans would take heed of:

1. "I inquire after no man's [religion,] and trouble none with mine."
2. "I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others."
3. "I have considered [religion] as a matter between every man and his Maker in which no other, and far less the public, had a right to intermeddle."

Austin Cline Has Adversaries?

My, my! Since my post on the threaded conversation between myself and Austin Cline last week , I've discovered that I'm not the only one to have a beef with the guy.

Read these:

"Shame On Austin Cline";

"Response to Austin Cline";

"An attack on [C.S.] Lewis from Austin Cline"; [A response by the author of "C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason,"]

This is the first paragraph of a longer piece: "While I have glimpsed in a few places atheistic reactions to my assertion that the church itself is producing atheists, I had yet to see any real formal comment on it until today, when a member of my forum pointed me to Austin Cline’s entry on it located here. It so happens that I know of Mr. Cline and have had a little interaction, but for the record I don’t believe he understands that ‘Anthony Horvath’ is also ’sntjohnny.’ That interaction has a little in common with his entry here. In word, I think he is again being quite presumptuous, and I’m going to take this opportunity to respond even though he’ll never likely see it."

See this exchange of comments between Cline and the original blogger to whom he is responding, where Cline arrogantly refers to "a housewife and good little kiddies at home.”

"Austin Cline of, argues that fundamentalist atheism does not exist, because it cannot exist on the grounds that atheism has no fundamental doctrines, and that fundamentalism is not a personality type." But this "fundamentalism" was exactly what I was talking about when I (CEC) told him atheism, being not only about either a lack of belief in a god, or a belief in no god (this second of which he disputed,) was about also about "faith" vs. "reason." That is fundamental.

Faith vs. reason is the fundamental difference between a person who believes no god exists, and people who believe gods do exist. When you throw in to the mix the agnostic who has a lack of belief yet does not give up supernaturalism such as tea leaf readings or ghost hunting, there is a conflict of concepts, which Cline denied in our thread, even going so far as to say atheism as a belief that nothing supernatural exists is "limiting" to the idea of atheism. He wants to be "all inclusive" because of his culturally popular position as a very public blogger for a major enterprise.

"Austin Cline, in a recent article, has taken issue with one of my posts on atheism. Cline has “argued” that I unfairly divide all atheists into two “nice, neat groups”." [His own organization, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, is arguing with him. Funny how my original argument with him was about how Cline himself "unfairly" divided atheists into "strong" and "weak" atheists--which I took umberage with. (CEC)]

Cline does get some support: "I gotta hand it to Austin Cline of He is a class act."

Dilbert.Blog calls Cline the "Poster Child for Cognitive Dissonance."

It would seem Cline likes to argue with other people, (as he did with me.)

I'm certain there must be many more similar posts, since "Cline" can be found on 192,000 hits, and I'm not going to search them all.

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