SOCIETY OF SEPARATIONISTS Chris Allen, Utah Representative January 18, 1995 Comments on HJ

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SOCIETY OF SEPARATIONISTS Chris Allen, Utah Representative January 18, 1995 Comments on HJR-6, "RESOLUTION ON MOMENT OF SILENCE" to House Human Services Committee, Utah Legislature State Capitol, Room 223 at 2:00 p.m. today The Society of Separationists objects to this resolution for the following reasons: 1. HJR-6 is based on a false pretext -- the claim that action is needed to allow students to pray. No such action is needed. The right of students to privately initiated prayer has consistently been protected by the courts, and there are numerous moments of silence during quiet study time that any student can take advantage of for that purpose if they choose. 2. Students are not stupid. They will know that the real purpose of a legislated moment of silence is to encourage prayer in the classroom. The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that government promotion of prayer in school violates our First Amendment Freedom of Religion because it advances and endorses religion. 3. The provision that the moment of silence be optional is inherently dishonest. In its most recent decision on school prayer, the Supreme Court in _Lee v. Weisman_ emphasized that the mere fact of government sponsorship creates public and peer pressure to participate in prayer. That pressure is government coercion which robs students of a neutral option, and that violates their First Amendment Rights. 4. The premises of this resolution listed in the "whereas" clauses present a bogus, crackpot interpretation of history that most Utahns would be ashamed of and would not want their representatives promoting. This is nothing but crank religious propaganda as spouted by the likes of TV evangelist Pat Robertson. a) The "framers" of our constitution clearly rejected both prayer and faith in government by voting against a motion to open Constitutional Convention meetings with prayer, and by excluding any mention of deity anywhere in the Constitution's preamble, body and amendments. b) Originally the pledge of allegiance read, "one nation indivisible" and our currency bore the national motto, "E Pluribus Unum", latin for "out of many, one". Both promoted the value of unity through pluralism, still considered by most Americans as a national virtue and a source of pride. In 1954 during the anti-communist McCarthy hysteria, Congress inserted the words "under God" between "one nation" and "indivisible", unwisely rejecting pluralism and unity in favor of a nation divided by "God" belief. Similarly "In God We Trust" was first added to some coins as a result of a campaign by a Rev. Watkinson in 1864, and was first added to paper money in 1955. c) The hallmark of Pat Robertson's lunatic ravings is the assertion that Separation of State and Church is a modern invention and conspiracy of liberal justices on the Supreme Court. This bizarre notion shows up in the third and fourth "whereas" clauses in assertions that Supreme Court decisions have been hostile to religious freedom. All of this is so outrageous and dishonest that it would be an embarrassment to the state for you to send this to Congress in our name. 5. Finally this resolution is just another cheap gimmick to pandor to the large number of conservative Christians in Utah, just another religious crusade to glorify super-religious legislators as heros among their peers. It's an act of religious bigotry and an offensive abuse of public office that is completely incompatible with the ethical principles of Religious Freedom embodied in the First Amendment. Once again I counsel all state legislators to learn from the rejection of Proposition 3 last November. The majority of Utah voters respect the idea of State/Church Separation and do not want the public schools used for religious indoctrination. This includes tens of thousands like myself who consider prayer unhealthy and do not want the schools encouraging their children to beg a deity for solutions to their problems. I strongly urge you to reject this embarrassing resolution. **************************************************************** The national office of the Society of Separationists may be reached at: P. O. Box 2117, Austin, TX 78768-2117. Founded in 1963 to work for state/church separation and the civil rights of Atheists, the Society is affiliated with the American Atheist General Headquarters, Inc. *********************************************************************** * * * American Atheists website: http://www.atheists.org * * PO Box 140195 FTP: ftp://ftp.atheists.org * * Austin, TX 78714-0195 * * Voice: (512) 458-1244 Dial-THE-ATHEIST: * * FAX: (512) 467-9525 (512) 458-5731 * * * * Atheist Viewpoint TV: avtv@atheists.org * * Info on American Atheists: info@atheists.org, * * & American Atheist Press include your name and mailing address * * AANEWS -Free subscription: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org * * and put "info aanews" in message body * * * * This text may be freely downloaded, reprinted, and/other * * otherwise redistributed, provided appropriate point of * * origin credit is given to American Atheists. * * * ***********************************************************************

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