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Thu Feb 28, 2013, 08:17 AM

The United States is a secular nation. Period.

So says the Constitution. Deal with it: http://bluntandcranky.wordpress.com/2013/02/28/a-week-of-harsh-truths-day-four-the-united-states-is-not-a-christian-nation-and-never-has-been/

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Reply The United States is a secular nation. Period. (Original post)
riqster Feb 2013 OP
Puzzledtraveller Feb 2013 #1
riqster Feb 2013 #2
HappyMe Feb 2013 #7
Jeff In Milwaukee Feb 2013 #10
Still Blue in PDX Feb 2013 #23
Still Blue in PDX Feb 2013 #27
riqster Feb 2013 #28
ProgressiveProfessor Feb 2013 #3
MNBrewer Feb 2013 #4
ProgressiveProfessor Feb 2013 #9
The Magistrate Feb 2013 #5
ProgressiveProfessor Feb 2013 #12
The Magistrate Feb 2013 #13
ProgressiveProfessor Feb 2013 #16
The Magistrate Feb 2013 #18
Jeff In Milwaukee Feb 2013 #11
ProgressiveProfessor Feb 2013 #14
Jeff In Milwaukee Feb 2013 #17
ieoeja Feb 2013 #39
Jeff In Milwaukee Feb 2013 #41
cbayer Feb 2013 #22
ProgressiveProfessor Feb 2013 #24
cbayer Feb 2013 #29
pinto Feb 2013 #31
ProgressiveProfessor Feb 2013 #33
pinto Feb 2013 #38
ProgressiveProfessor Feb 2013 #40
pinto Feb 2013 #30
ProgressiveProfessor Feb 2013 #34
HappyMe Feb 2013 #6
Tommy_Carcetti Feb 2013 #8
slackmaster Feb 2013 #15
magellan Feb 2013 #19
riqster Feb 2013 #20
magellan Feb 2013 #21
riqster Feb 2013 #25
Nye Bevan Feb 2013 #26
pinto Feb 2013 #32
riqster Feb 2013 #35
ProgressiveProfessor Feb 2013 #36
pinto Feb 2013 #37
Initech Feb 2013 #42
riqster Feb 2013 #43

Response to riqster (Original post)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 08:24 AM

1. All I want is a burka for Christmas!! La, La, La, La,

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Response to Puzzledtraveller (Reply #1)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 09:25 AM

2. Oh, the fun we could have rewriting Christmas songs for other faiths

Or for Atheists.

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Response to riqster (Reply #2)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 11:18 AM

7. Why would atheists celebrate Christmas?

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Response to HappyMe (Reply #7)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 11:23 AM

10. For the gifts, dummy!

You want your holiday swag!

On a more serious note, I'm not an atheist, but I personally think that setting aside one day a year to celebrate "peace on earth" isn't such a bad idea. We can go back to killing each other the other 364 days of the year.

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Response to riqster (Reply #2)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 02:03 PM

23. Here's one!

There are pagan overtones in many traditional Christmas songs, but here's "Santa Claus is Pagan, Too."

<iframe width="420" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

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Response to riqster (Reply #2)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 02:12 PM

27. Not to cause a resurgence of the (theoretical) war on Christmas, but . . .

Why Christmas carols make the church feel nervous
Some Christmas songs have origins that go back to pagan times.

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the sound of carols, but we often forget that in centuries past it made the Christian church feel slightly uncomfortable. In the early thirteenth century, St Francis wrote some hymns on the theme of the nativity which were decorously sung as part of the liturgy, but the more rumbustious musical celebration of Christmas has always taken place as much outside church as inside it.

Many of the oldest examples, for example, the anonymous The Holly and the Ivy, The Twelve Days of Christmas or the Boar’s Head Carol, probably have pagan origins in ritual fertility dances and singing games which the more puritanical wing of the Reformation did not approve of. Oliver Cromwell went so far as to ban carol singing during the latter years of the Commonwealth, although this proved about as effective as Labour’s hunting ban, and was swiftly rescinded.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/topics/christmas/6827563/Why-Christmas-carols-make-the-church-feel-nervous.html

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Response to riqster (Reply #2)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 02:15 PM

28. Here's one from Tom Lehrer

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Response to riqster (Original post)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 11:11 AM

3. Then why are businesses required to accommodate religious objection as practical?

Why are churches tax exempt?
Why are churches allowed to create public nuisances that others are not?

If we were truly secular we would strip that from our laws and make them act like every other business.

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Response to ProgressiveProfessor (Reply #3)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 11:12 AM

4. Are you saying the United States is NOT a secular nation?

What is it, then?

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Response to MNBrewer (Reply #4)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 11:22 AM

9. Its a hybrid, mostly historical roots

There is no official religion, but until recently it was Christmas and Easter break. There are many other examples. Clearly some religions are treated better and respected more than others.

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Response to ProgressiveProfessor (Reply #3)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 11:15 AM

5. Do, Please, Sir, Expound Further On This....

There is no contradiction in a secular government's making reasonable accommodation to popular feelings and individual conscience.

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Response to The Magistrate (Reply #5)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 11:27 AM

12. It depends on the level and degree

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Response to ProgressiveProfessor (Reply #12)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 11:30 AM

13. That Does Not Advance The Conversation, Professor....

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Response to The Magistrate (Reply #5)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 11:40 AM

16. Tax exempt status has nothing to do with "reasonable accommodation to popular feelings"

Neither do the public nuisance aspects. Forced accommodation by the government, including lifting of zoning restrictions allows infringement on the rights of others. Additionally clearly some religions are more favored than others.

Those reasonable accommodations are one of the why women's reproductive health care is spotty in some states, and other active forms of discrimination.

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Response to ProgressiveProfessor (Reply #16)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 11:59 AM

18. If You Think It Has Nothing To Do with Popular Feelings, Professor

Try pressing for treating churches like any other property-owning corporation with an income.

Zoning restrictions are altered for a great many interests, often over the disagreement of persons living near-by. That what may be done for liquor stores or dry cleaners or strip mall developers may occasionally be done for a pastor hardly suffices to demonstrate a governing authority is not secular in nature.

That accommodation for popular feeling can result in discriminatory practices, and other outcomes I and others might not personally favor, does not affect the point under discussion, which is whether contradiction exists when a secular government makes some accommodation to popular feelings and personal conscience.

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Response to ProgressiveProfessor (Reply #3)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 11:26 AM

11. Churches are considered charities under the tax code

Now one could certainly argue that churches do not engage in sufficient charitable activity to warrant their tax exempt status, but their status as charities is the fundamental reason why they're exempt.

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Response to Jeff In Milwaukee (Reply #11)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 11:31 AM

14. That is mostly a legacy from medieval times

There is no requirement for charitable activities, just an assumption

Churches place demands on public resources and do not cover the the costs they incur

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Response to ProgressiveProfessor (Reply #14)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 11:47 AM

17. Not really...

The tax code assumes that churches conduct charitable activities, and in both the past and the present, that has been the case. If you have a St. Somebody hospital in your hometown, that's a reflection of the fact that up until about 30-40 years, healthcare in the country was provided primarily by church-run institutions. To this day, the Catholic Church operates some 600 non-profit hospitals in the United States. It's probable that St. Sombody is either part of a faith-based healthcare system or is not a secular non-profit that started out as a church-run institution.

Beyond the "big stuff" like health care, churches provide a host community services. I can't speak for every congregation in the United States, but mine supports several free clinics in the urban core of Milwaukee and a farming community in El Salvador. We support a senior center and provide financial assistance to the local food pantry and halfway house for recovering addicts. We have a group of quilters who create several dozen quilts each year that are shipped to third-world countries, and there's a litany of smaller initiatives that come and go throughout the year.

That being said, does the value of the services provided by my congregation (and every other congregation) AT LEAST EQUAL the tax exemption that they receive from the government? That's a fair question that should be answered.

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Response to Jeff In Milwaukee (Reply #11)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 03:16 PM

39. Further to this I believe the lack of taxation is seen as part of the separation of Church and State


A Church is not allowed to support/oppose political candidates. And they are not taxed. Two sides of the same coin.


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Response to ieoeja (Reply #39)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 04:01 PM

41. Yes - But some of them cross the line regularly

Something really should be done about that. I don't know how some of the churches get away with it.

My congregation has always maintained strict neutrality. We don't even put up signs for the school levy, even these are (supposed to be) non-partisan referendums.

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Response to ProgressiveProfessor (Reply #3)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 01:50 PM

22. Because the 1st amendment establishes freedom of religion.

That is, it states that individuals will not be prohibited from practicing their own religious beliefs. To do otherwise would be to discriminate against people because of their religion.

Churches are tax exempt because they are non-profit organizations. They have the same tax exempt status as other 501(3)c organizations.

This has nothing to do with the secular nature of the government.

I have no idea what you mean about "public nuisances".

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Response to cbayer (Reply #22)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 02:06 PM

24. That only applies to the government not private individuals

Churches and other non-taxed entities use public services and do not cover the cost of them. Is that appropriate or fair? The churches special status started well before 501(3)c was codified.

As for the public nuisance part, ask the people around any mega church.

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Response to ProgressiveProfessor (Reply #24)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 02:22 PM

29. What only applies to government? Non-profit status applies to all non-profit

organizations, including churches.

What special status are you referring to? The only difference is in paperwork requirements, which I would agree is problematic.

The problem, imo, lies with the IRS and their lax enforcement of the current rules. Some churches are clearly not non-profit and that should not stand. Others violate the rules about advocating for specific candidates and the IRS consistently ignores this.

Frankly, I find the areas around a Costco more of a public nuisance than a mega church.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #29)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 02:30 PM

31. Agree with lax IRS enforcement of the 501(c)3 standards.

And I think the lapses occur across the 501(c)3 spectrum, not only in regards to churches.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #29)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 02:36 PM

33. Localities can control Costco much more than a churches

Are you aware of RLUIPA and what it has done to neighborhoods? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_Land_Use_and_Institutionalized_Persons_Act

The first amendment WRT religion, like much of the BOR only covers the government. It does not apply to individuals. For example, you do not have freedom of the speech, assembly, or religion on my property. I had to explain the last two to someone recently who wanted to force access to my homestead.

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Response to ProgressiveProfessor (Reply #33)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 03:15 PM

38. What has it done to neighborhoods, for better or worse?

Is a church a significant imposition to a neighborhood? And what does any of it have to do with your personal property?

I guess I don't get your focus on land use issues.

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Response to pinto (Reply #38)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 03:22 PM

40. I generally believe that even non-profits should pay their fair share of community costs

and right now in most places they, especially churches, do not. They add to peak loading though average low use. They bring noise into areas at a level where no one else is permitted.

I actually want them treated like any other business and not get special treatment like RLUIPA provides.

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Response to ProgressiveProfessor (Reply #3)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 02:24 PM

30. Exempt Purposes - Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3)

Exempt Purposes - Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3)

The exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3) are charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals. The term charitable is used in its generally accepted legal sense and includes relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erecting or maintaining public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening the burdens of government; lessening neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.

Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 14-Jan-2013

http://www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Charitable-Organizations/Exempt-Purposes-Internal-Revenue-Code-Section-501(c)(3)

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Response to pinto (Reply #30)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 02:41 PM

34. That exemption is also extended to property taxes in most jurisdictions

where they use resources that they do not contribute to. Police/Fire/Public Safety and Roads are examples of that. They are often sales tax exempt as well. In addition to no paying for services, that property is taken off the taxes rolls so there is loss of local revenue if a regular business was there instead.

The Federal income tax exemption does not bother me, provided they remain out of politics. Its the local taxes that are more of a concern and RLUIPA.

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Response to riqster (Original post)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 11:17 AM

6. Yeah.....and?




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Response to riqster (Original post)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 11:21 AM

8. You must teach me, George Michael. You must teach me the ways of the secular flesh. nt

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Response to riqster (Original post)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 11:32 AM

15. The nation is, but a lot of the people aren't

 

It makes for interesting times.

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Response to riqster (Original post)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 01:19 PM

19. Another clue: the US census

I have ancestors here and in Canada going back to before censuses were taken, and the one thing I've never found in a US federal census, starting with the 1790, is a religious question. While it's true that religious bodies are asked this question, individuals never have been - at least through 1940.

Not so in Canada, where there's no separation of church and state; the English monarch embodies both. Yet they've asked the religion question since the 1851 census.

I can't imagine why the founders weren't equally interested in knowing the religious makeup of the American people, if in fact they intended us to be a "Christian Nation" ... unless they felt that people's personal religious beliefs weren't within the purview of the government - which is pretty much made clear in the establishment clause.

And while we're at it, let's not forget the No Religious Test Clause, which covers "the Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States". Just another part of the Constitution that's ignored by the hysterical right at each election.

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Response to magellan (Reply #19)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 01:28 PM

20. One side of my ancestry got here in 1774, the rest in the 1800's

Religious refugees, all of them. This is a subject that has great personal significance for me.

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Response to riqster (Reply #20)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 01:45 PM

21. I hear you

Possible Huguenots in my family. I rather doubt all the various people who came to this country seeking religious freedom (and not all did by any means, but there were groups who did) would be happy with a new government unleashing that sort of persecution on others. They'd wonder when it might turn to them...and rightly so.

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Response to magellan (Reply #21)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 02:08 PM

25. Same here on the French side

The same situation on the Scot side, just a different label attached.

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Response to riqster (Original post)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 02:09 PM

26. Certainly. I would be outraged if Congress passed a law respecting the establishment of religion,

or prohibiting the free exercise of religion. And I would expect the courts to promptly overturn such a law.

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Response to riqster (Original post)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 02:33 PM

32. Constitutionally it is decidedly neutral in regards religion. Neither supporting nor obstructing.

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Response to pinto (Reply #32)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 02:43 PM

35. Correct.

The very essence of a free and secular society.

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Response to pinto (Reply #32)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 02:47 PM

36. Yet we have Federal laws like RLUIPA

Where the land zoning side cripples localities.

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Response to ProgressiveProfessor (Reply #36)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 03:08 PM

37. I'm unfamiliar with RLUIPA, but for background found this via Wikipedia, fwiw -

The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), Pub.L. 106–274, codified as 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq., is a United States federal law that prohibits the imposition of burdens on the ability of prisoners to worship as they please and gives churches and other religious institutions a way to avoid burdensome zoning law restrictions on their property use.

It was enacted by the United States Congress in 2000 to correct the problems of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993. The act was passed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate by unanimous consent in voice votes, meaning that no objection was raised to its passage, so no vote was taken.

Zoning and land use

In religious land use disputes, RLUIPA’s general rule is the most commonly cited and challenged section. It provides:

1. General rule. No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person, including a religious assembly or institution, unless the government can demonstrate that imposition of the burden on that person, assembly or institution

a. is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and

b. is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

2 .Scope of Application. This subsection applies in any case in which—
a. the substantial burden is imposed in a program or activity that receives Federal financial assistance, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability; or

b. the substantial burden affects, or removal of that substantial burden would affect, commerce with foreign nations, among the several States, or with Indian tribes, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability; or

c. the substantial burden is imposed in the implementation of a land use regulation or system of land use regulations, under which a government makes, or has in place formal or informal procedures or practices that permit the government to make, individualized assessments of the proposed uses for the property involved.

42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-5(a).

During these disputes, the correct interpretation of the term “land use regulation” is almost always an issue. The statute defines “land use regulation” as “a zoning or landmarking law, or the application of such a law, that limits or restricts a claimant’s use or development of land (including a structure affixed to land), if the claimant has an ownership, leasehold, easement, servitude, or other property interest in the regulated land or a contract or option to acquire such an interest.”

42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-5(5).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_Land_Use_and_Institutionalized_Persons_Act

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Response to riqster (Original post)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 08:32 PM

42. Which is exactly why I'm 10000% against a new constitutional convention.

If we open the constitution to rewrite, imagine the freepers and teabaggers getting their slimy hands on it. Religious freedom = gone. Replaced with a fundamentalist theocracy. You want that to happen?

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Response to Initech (Reply #42)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 08:54 PM

43. Fuckin' hell, NO!

Man, that's scary.

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