The other day, I was re-evaluating my views on the separation of church and state and a crazy idea occurred to me—a revelation, if you will. Were we to deny the tax exemptions that religions currently enjoy, we should also lift their political prohibitions.
The reason we are currently able to preclude religions from substantial political lobbying and partisan electioneering is because they are tax-exempt. Absent that tax-exemption, how can we justify denying them the First Amendment rights we afford to other special interests and (especially now, after Citizens United case) corporations? Taxation requires representation—that’s a quintessential American belief.
Don’t get me wrong. I think increased religious involvement in politics would, for the most part, be bad. But that I disagree with religions’ agendas hardly warrants their disenfranchisement (again, assuming we tax them).
This is an uncomfortable position for a secularist, and I’m not yet fully convinced of it. What do you think of the argument I briefly sketched out?
Project Reason, a non-profit that advocates science and secularism, sponsors an annual video contest. The video below, ‘The New Tithe’, seems to be this year’s favorite (though the winners have yet to be disclosed).
Check out last year’s winners.
In 1973, Elder Boyd K. Packer spoke to Utah State University graduates about the corrosive influence of liberals and atheists in academia. Granted, this isn’t news (as my title might suggest). But it is news to me. I just recently stumbled about this talk, and I’d like to share it.
(What follows is an abbreviated version of the talk. Here is the full text.)
Standards have changed much in our universities. Through the influence of a few, restrictions on dormitory living have been pulled down. Standards have been abandoned in favor of coeducational living in university housing.
New courses are being introduced in many universities, under the general heading “Alternatives to Marriage.” Some of those alternatives, if accepted, would give our communities kinship with the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The trend sees enrollments declining, endowments withheld (some withdrawn), a loss of confidence in our system of higher education, and worse than that, the graduates from many institutions of higher learning are moving into private and public life well-trained, technically proficient, even talented, but somehow without that attribute of character called integrity.
You can read my review of April’s conference here.
Last weekend was LDS General Conference. And being the masochist I am, I not only watched conference, but attended a session also. (If you’ve never gone to general conference as a nonbeliever, you ought to—it’s quite the spectacle.)
I watch general conference because it is an important cultural phenomenon; it helps me keep a pulse on what the Mormon community is thinking and feeling. I can’t blame you for not watching it, though, so I’m going to share with you my brief summary of conference.
This general conference was the usual blend of banality, tedium, pablum, emotionalism, anti-intellectualism, and moralization.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune:
The tall crosses memorializing fallen Utah Highway Patrol troopers will not come down anytime soon — even though a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that they violate the U.S. Constitution.
The decision, which holds implications for roadside memorial crosses across the nation, likely will be appealed by the state and the nonprofit group that erected themonuments.
They could either ask the full 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear the case or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. – http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/home/50132157-76/crosses-utah-memorials-highway.html.csp
From what I understand, government land was being used to display 12-foot-high crosses donated by the private organization UHPA to honor officers that died near that location. The decision could still be appealed to higher courts, so this isn’t necessarily the final result. I suggest reading over the court’s decision for more details.
What do you guys think?
In a recent address to LDS young adults in Boston, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Twelve Apostles talked about the need to defend religious freedom and the family against “atheistic forces.” Below are some excerpts from his address:
Opposing forces are competing for our allegiance: right versus wrong, good versus evil. They are not always easily discerned…These forces are, in fact, conflicting religious systems of belief. They are theistic (godly) forces and atheistic (ungodly or satanic) forces.
Theistic forces, be they Islamic, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, or Mormon, are based on the fact that there is an absolute right and wrong. Theistic forces inculcate an ethic to revere the righteous judgments of a loving God, and to obey civil and divine law voluntarily. Theistic forces instill a conscience to do what is right, and obey laws that otherwise might be unenforceable.
Not a big offense (marketing to Mormons), I know. But I nonetheless had a WTF moment and a laugh at seeing this ad:
Is it appropriate for a public university to advertise to a particular religious demographic? Probably not. In any case, thanks for the blog fodder Southern Utah University!
And speaking of religious marketing foul-ups, the editors of Vermont Catholic must be kicking themselves over this month’s cover.
(Hat tip to Chino Blanco for the SUU ad)