*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
It is increasingly telling that there is one group of Americans who have been on the forefront of defending and upholding the United States Constitution, and they are also one of the most reviled groups in the nation. While Republicans in the employ of the religious right and United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) claim they love the Constitution, they regularly violate it with literal impunity and massive amounts of taxpayer-funded government money.
Over the past couple of years Satanists have defended a woman’s constitutional right to choose her own reproductive health, and atheists have fought courageously for taxpayers whose hard-earned dollars are being doled out to incorporated religious organizations at a higher rate than those hated corporations and the oil industry.
It is always curious why so many Americans rail against corporate welfare, when the real outrage is the level and frequency of government handouts to religious organizations despite the religious clauses in the U.S. Constitution. Now, in another abominable waste of taxpayer dollars, it is the American Atheists who stepped in and filed a lawsuit to stop a patently unconstitutional violation of “the Establishment Clause, the Equal Protection Clause and the Missouri Constitution.”
The American Atheists sued Kansas City in Federal Court to put an immediate halt to the City Council handing over $65,000 of taxpayer money to a local incorporated ministry to aid the Baptist National Convention. According to the atheist’s complaint filed last week,
“Last April the Council agreed to pay $65,000 in municipal funds from the Neighborhood Tourist Development Fund (‘NTDF’) to Modest Miles Ministries, Inc. in aid and support of the National Baptist Convention.”
The tax exempt “corporate church” is owned and operated by a Baptist minister and current chairman of the National Baptist Convention’s Kansas City Local Host Committee.
The Baptist preacher, Modest Miles, on behalf of his tax-exempt Modest Miles Ministries Incorporated, asked the City Council for, and was granted, the $65,000 of taxpayer money to cover the cost of transporting other Baptist preachers and “conventioneers” during a September convention.
Any reasonable American with an IQ higher than an amoeba understands that the American Atheists called the $65,000 handout exactly what it is according to the Founding Fathers intent in the Constitution, an “unconstitutional expenditure” of tax dollars.
The atheists’ lawsuit said,
“Defendants’ expenditure of funds from the public treasury in the amount of $65,000 for the National Baptist Convention, if paid, would impermissibly aid the national Baptist institution and advance its religious purpose in violation of plaintiffs’ right to be free from compelled support of religious institutions and activities.
Aiding religious activities establishes support of religion. Defendants authorized this grant in aid of religion in spite of the fact it fails to comply with NTDF program criteria.”
The American Atheists, advocates for the Constitutional civil rights of atheists and defenders of the First Amendment’s separation of church and state didn’t automatically take the City Council to Federal Court. In fact, in April they protested the taxpayer-funded church welfare and received a letter that fundamentally blew off the complaint. The letter from the assistant district attorney stated:
“It has been represented to the NTDF Board that there are secular events that will be held during the National Baptist Convention that funding has been requested by the Modest Miles Ministries, Inc. If funding is approved the City will require Modest Miles Ministries, Incorporated to provide documentation of what secular events such monies were used for reimbursement.”
The American Atheists called bullshit and promptly cited the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, Article I, § 7 of the Missouri State Constitution and most importantly, a 2015 ruling by the Eighth Circuit Court. In that case, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia Incorporated v. Pauly as their reason for calling the City Council’s letter bovine excrement. In that case, “this court refused to allow public money to be spent on a Lutheran day care.”
The Federal Court ruled that the state had previously “appropriately denied the grant under Article I, § 7 of the Missouri Constitution, even where the purpose of the grant (to improve playground surfaces) was wholly secular, because the Lutheran Church used the day care to inculcate its religious beliefs to attendees.” It should be an outrage that the Lutheran Church took the state of Missouri to court because it refused to dole out more taxpayer money to “inculcate its religious beliefs,” and fairly defines just how entitled to more free stuff incorporated churches sincerely believe they are.
There is little doubt whatsoever, in fact it is certain, that the Modest Miles Ministries Incorporated, as well as the National Baptist Convention, will be using taxpayer money to inculcate its Old Testament hate-beliefs to attendees; it is just what the religious right, and Baptists in particular, do as a matter of course according to their biblical mandate.
If this was a first time affront to the Constitution and the Founder’s intent to protect taxpayers from having to fund a religion, it may not be so infuriating; but it’s not. Remember a couple of years ago the theocrats in Kentucky gifted “Answers in Genesis” with roughly $18 million; this is despite the creationist ministry demanding, and a Bush-appointed federal judge condoning the religious employment practice of requiring employees to fulfill a ‘scriptural prerequisite’ of submitting a “creation belief statement and a salvation testimony.” Those oaths of allegiance are in addition to a submission of a statement of:
“Confirmation of your agreement with the [Answers in Genesis] Statement of Faith.” A statement of faith that includes items such as “Scripture teaches a recent origin for man and the whole creation, spanning approximately 4,000 years from creation to Christ,” and “The only legitimate marriage sanctioned by God is the joining of one naturally born man and one naturally born woman in a single, exclusive union, as delineated in Scripture.”
This unconstitutional employment discrimination practice is one of the aspects of North Carolina’s HB2, the so-called “toilet law” and completely in line with the official Republican National Convention’s “Rebirth the Constitution” platform approved last week in Cleveland. It is part of the “enact HB2” nationwide and enshrine its theocratic edicts permanently in the “Republican rebirthed” Constitution.
All the American Atheists are asking is a “declaratory judgment and an injunction” to stop the unconstitutional disbursement of the taxpayer money “for the sole purpose of aiding and supporting the National Baptist Convention in violation of the Establishment Clause, the Equal Protection Clause; and the Missouri Constitution.”
One wonders exactly how much more money taxpayers have to hand over to religious organizations, primarily Christian religious organizations and incorporated churches, before the faithful will be satisfied. As of last year, a very conservative amount that churches receive from the taxpayer-funded government is creeping upwards of $100,000,000 annually.
That’s right, about 100 billion dollars every year and instead of a massive outcry to bring that unconstitutional practice to a screeching halt, it is left to groups like American Atheists to take the fight to the courts, albeit for only $65,000. But at least they are advocating for, defending, and doing everything in their power to do what every politician in America swears an oath of office to do; uphold the U.S. Constitution and defend it from the theocracy Republicans lust to impose on Americans and the precious Constitution.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.