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What World War Z and Tacoma have in common

Commentary: The Pierce County Council voted to fund religious after-school groups with government funds this month. Thomas Jefferson would not have been pleased.
A new urban ethic is remaking the Northwest.

A new urban ethic is remaking the Northwest. bschool.com

Did anyone see the World War Z scene where the zombies reach the top of a massive zombie-proof wall and start pouring over? The same thing has finally happened to Jefferson’s wall of separation between church and state. Council members in Pierce County, Washington got busted last week because they allocated taxpayer dollars to fund not one, but two evangelical missionary organizations that target public school kids for conversion across the U.S. 

Earlier this month, as the Pierce County Council worked to finalize their budget for the year, one member slipped in an amendment that directed $7,000 from youth violence prevention funds to Child Evangelism Fellowship, the subject of investigative journalist Katherine Stewart’s book, "The Good News Club—The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children."

Over the top of the wall and into the playground. 

The phrase “wall of separation” was first used in a letter that Thomas Jefferson sent to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. The Danbury Baptists, a minority in the newly-formed state of Connecticut, felt that their religious freedoms were being infringed by the Christian-dominated state Legislature wrote to the President for encouragement. Jefferson reassured them:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State.

Jefferson’s letter refers to the Free Exercise clause of the U.S. Constitution. The clearest early declaration that the U.S. government promotes no religion, at least no Christian religion, is found in the Treaty of Tripoli, an agreement to protect U.S. trade shipments from pirates in the Mediterranean. The treaty was approved unanimously by the Senate and signed by Adams in 1797.

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion — as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims] — and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Mohammedan] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

But that was before the age of zombie apocalypse. 

CEF makes no bones about their mission. In 2011, I interviewed a Seattle parent, John Lederer, about CEF’s attempt to establish activities at his local school. At the time, their website proudly proclaimed, “The Gospel has been taught freely in public schools all over the world for some time. Now children in the U.S. have that opportunity, too!”  

In recent years, CEF fought all the way to the Supreme Court and won the right to use public facilities for after school programs that teach kids they are sinners saved by the blood of Jesus - the very stuff of Religious Trauma Syndrome. (They argued to the court that they teach moral values, rather like the Girl Scouts.) Direct funding of the program in public budgets is the next step, and part of a broad national trend toward Christian funding evangelism and other church expenses on the public dime

The Washington State Constitution has even stricter protections for church-state separation than the U.S. Constitution: “No public money shall be appropriated or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction, or the support of any religious establishment.” Once the $7000 allocation stirred up controversy, one Pierce County council member, Connie Ladenburg, proposed copying the constitutional language into the county code. Five of seven council members voted against her.


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Comments:

Posted Mon, Nov 25, 6:43 a.m. Inappropriate

A good article about a sad situation. People forget that not only did Thomas Jefferson and James Madison insist upon a strict separation of church and state, and the First Amendment was intended to require it, but eighteenth century evangelicals were equally adamant that government had no business interfering in (even supporting) the church. Mixing the two corrupts both. See Wellspring of Liberty.

ragostas

Posted Mon, Nov 25, 6:46 a.m. Inappropriate

A good article about a sad situation. People forget that not only did Thomas Jefferson and James Madison insist upon a strict separation of church and state, and the First Amendment was intended to require it, but eighteenth century evangelicals were equally adamant that government had no business interfering in (even supporting) the church. Mixing the two corrupts both. See Wellspring of Liberty.

ragostas

Posted Mon, Nov 25, 7:17 a.m. Inappropriate

Your headline should say "Pierce County," not "Tacoma," as this was action of the Pierce County Council. Seattle doesn't have to take responsibility for everything King County does, and relatively enlightened Tacoma shouldn't have to shoulder the blame for the flaws of the county that surrounds it.

pika

Posted Mon, Nov 25, 9:29 a.m. Inappropriate

This is the second recent article where a city was used in appropriately instead of the county. The last was Portland/Multnomah.

Fact check must be disabled at Crosscut or there is a general disregard for the facts as evidenced by Eric's article on 'Bike Bulies'.

TreDeuce

Posted Mon, Nov 25, 9:49 a.m. Inappropriate

The Young Life organization is prevalent down in the south Puget Sound, in government as well as in the school districts. The presence of Young Life in the Gig Harbor and South Kitsap school districts is disturbing, mainly because it has been allowed to flourish and grow.

That is the difference in government today as opposed to 50 years ago. My father's generation would not have allowed the presence of religious recruiting on a compulsory, public school campus and would not have let the students deal with it on their own.

KarenLee

Posted Wed, Nov 27, 9:53 a.m. Inappropriate

As a Peninsula High School graduate, I can attest that Young Life was a very useful organization to have active in our school district. It was common practice to put up paper plates with "Young Life Meeting --->" on them, to direct people to keggers.


BTW, there is no "Gig Harbor School District."

dbreneman

Posted Mon, Nov 25, 7:09 p.m. Inappropriate

I was a student in a Pierce County school 50 years ago.

Young Life was there.

No biggie, no negatives, no concern now.

You can join, or not, your choice. Save for the mimeo fluid for the one line in the daily bulleting announcing an off campus meeting after school, no public funds were expended.

BFD, folks, to quote our VP Mr. Biden.

Geezer

Posted Wed, Nov 27, 6:26 a.m. Inappropriate

You're confusing two very different things. When schools are open to various civic organizations (for example for after school meetings), religious organizations cannot be excluded. That is completely different from using taxes to fund a religious program (which is what the article was talking about).

ragostas

Posted Mon, Nov 25, 8:33 p.m. Inappropriate

Actually, geezer, they meet during the school day now. In the school building. More of a slippery slope than a wall, I would say.

And if it's such a small deal, why all the secrecy?

KarenLee

Posted Tue, Nov 26, 11:40 a.m. Inappropriate

Pierce County Council's public endorsement of compulsory Christian theocracy -- and that is exactly what it is -- should surprise no one who is aware of how a "good Christian man" truly behaves.

The best nationwide example is of course the Ku Klux Klan, colloquially known everywhere it's active (including here in Washington state) as "the Saturday Night Men's Bible Study Class."

Our best local example is the electorate of the Pierce Transit service area, where the "good Christian men" of Tacoma and Pierce County denounce mass transit as welfare, damn transit users as parasites and routinely vote -- twice so far -- to destroy the woefully inadequate local bus system.

Unfortunately no member of the working press dares make the connection between what should properly be called JesuNazism -- zero-tolerance theocratic hatefulness in the name of Jesus -- and its secular disguises, amongst them the Republican Party and the Teabagger Movement, the latter of which dominates the Pierce County Council.

Why do the Godbaggers own this particular council? Because they're the aggressively all-white, viciously patriarchal, vindictively theocratic majority that lives in Pierce County outside the Tacoma city limits. Welcome to the land of the Prosperity Gospel, where God is the Führer who art in heaven, Jesus is Chief Executive and Ayn Rand is his prophet -- never mind she herself was an atheist.

And just as the Godbaggers intend, the ACLU and Americans United lawsuits resulting from their little theocratic coup will cost the county millions to defend -- creating a deficit which, precisely as planned, will be used to rationalize more good Christian savaging of the poor.

Posted Fri, Nov 29, 10:10 a.m. Inappropriate

"Welcome to the land of the Prosperity Gospel, where God is the Führer who art in heaven, Jesus is Chief Executive and Ayn Rand is his prophet -- never mind she herself was an atheist."


Yeah, intellectual consistency really gets in the way of a good rant, doesn't it?

dbreneman

Posted Wed, Dec 11, 12:07 a.m. Inappropriate

Councilmember McCune is in extreme spin mode post the CEF debacle. You can read his Letter to the Editor of the Eatonville Dispatch here - http://www.dispatchnews.com/2013/12/09/good-enough-for-founding-fathers-is-good-enough-for-me/

McCune is intentionally being untruthful. Many of the people who submitted letters in opposition to McCune’s allocation of the money to CEF were self-proclaimed Christians and/or of other “faiths”, and additionally, those who spoke during the final hearing were a mix of Christian, Jewish, and “other” as well. I also spoke, and although I am not religious, I am not a member of, or even know anything about the groups he blames for creating “a great deal of confusion” and a “negative outreach campaign”. I myself did what I could to get the word out about his illegal allocation, but no matter how he tries to paint me as bad, or evil, or whatever rhetoric he chooses, he’d again be untruthful.

I received over 2,500 pages as a result of my public records request relating to McCune and CEF. Much of it is quite interesting and contradicts the figures McCune cites in his op-ed here. Of special note, on page 305 of the 2,500+ page document, is a comment made by McCune’s assistant (Amy Cruver) to the Liberty Counsel — “It’s all for Him!”

No, Ms. Cruver, you have that very wrong. It’s *supposed* to be all for the PEOPLE whom McCune represents. Period.

This issue isn’t over. McCune more than hinted that he’s seeking legal counsel, and may introduce the same allocation at a later date. In the meantime, I hope that people much more educated than McCune will take the time help him better understand the Constitution which he claims to hold so dear.

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