Welcome to the Louisville Chapter of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State
We meet once a month to discuss responses to issues related to the Separation of Church and State. All gifts are tax deductible except for member dues. We are non-sectarian and non-partisan, which means we endorse no candidates for national or state offices and we are aligned with no particular religious organization. Our special purpose is to defend the First Amendment concern that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Thomas Jefferson saw this statement as creating a “Wall” between church and state, as he said in a letter to the Danbury Baptists.
The following is an editorial written by AU Louisville member Linda Allewalt.
Courier-Journal, August 22, 2017 Leave religion, Bible out of policy
LINDA ALLEWALT, GUEST CONTRIBUTOR
On the Courier-Journal’s Community Forum page of August 15, there were two lengthy op-eds by two representatives of Protestant Christian groups, Michael Jinkins of the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and Derek Penwell of Douglass Boulevard Christian Church.
Both men tried to address the political issues surrounding the racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the looming nuclear stand off between the United States and North Korea. Both used their own interpretations of the biblical texts in order to address these questions and address other religious points of view. And, both wrote things that I found upsetting and nonsensical.
Jinkins wrote in a message intended for President Trump, “God sent Christ to make us human…. God calls us to be human in the image of Jesus Christ.” He was challenging Trump’s claim that we should be “Americans first.” Of course, Trump was trying in his sloppy way to inspire political cohesiveness.
It had nothing to do with religion.
Also, I would ask Jinkins to think about his own statement on what it means to be human. Were there no philosophers or writings examining this question and exhorting people to morality and humanistic goals before the era of Christ? People who don’t believe in Christ or God don’t know what it means to be human? This makes no sense to me. Jesus Christ in many of his reported statements made it clear that there was only one path to being “saved”… belief in his God and baptism into his faith; “but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).
Now I don’t find that particularly inclusive, nor do I find it a goal or value for humans to aspire to. It is exclusive, not inclusive. I don’t see the lecture for Trump here because the underlying texts sabotage the lecture and have little to do with the statements by the President or their context.
Penwell delved into the futile and insulting exercise of who has the correct interpretation of the Bible and who really is or isn’t a Christian. He lambasted Robert Jeffress on both counts when the real problem is the fact that any sitting President even has a religious advisor standing in the Oval Office talking to him about government policies.
This has gone on for many years through Republican and Democratic presidents. This is a clear violation of our constitutional principles on separation of church and state, but Penwell is more interested in using Jeffress as an example of why certain people shouldn’t be allowed “to roam about in scripture” without “adult supervision.” I guess Penwell would rather have a class of scholars who tell all of us what those texts really mean. I think he needs to contact the Gideons and tell them to stop making the Bible so accessible to the general public in hotel room drawers.
In fact, I became an atheist in good part by reading the whole Bible cover to cover, so maybe he has a point. Freedom of thought and freedom of interpretation is sometimes a dangerous thing. It’s why Christianity has so many different sects. I see Jinkins’ views in the Bible, I see Penwell’s views in the Bible and I see Jeffress’ views in the Bible. And I see points of view that all of them ignore at their convenience.
Bottom line here is that the Bible is fraught with inconsistencies and immoral tales and acts by the main characters, often including the main protagonist. There is no one interpretation that is correct. And no one should be the judge of who is a Christian and who is not. You are if you say you are.
So my suggestion here would be that we consider leaving the Bible and religion out of considerations and solutions when it comes to government, foreign policy, domestic policy etc.
Let’s criticize ideas and opinions based on reason and evidence, on current ideas of humanism and what science has taught us so far about human behavior.
Linda Allewalt, of Shelbyville, Kentucky, is a retired science educator and a long time activist for separation of religion and government.
Here are some notes from the AU meeting. First of all, it was recommended that meeting summary notes be provided. Also, messages will be sent to the group as Blind Carbon Copy so that the list of email addresses is not revealed. I hope this works as intended.
It was recommended that we have meetings scheduled for the year at the same date and time of the month. We think every 2 months is fine. The location could vary, but the date and time should be the same. The meetings will be posted at http://www.aulouisville.org/ and in our Facebook group. We will work on this as soon as dates are provided. We will also provide agendas as best as possible.
An update on HB 121, the Bible Literacy bill, was provided. Siddique Malik and myself met with attorney Dan Canon who provided his professional opinion that as written the law is not unconstitutional. We would have to wait for violations before the law could be challenged, and even then we could probably only challenge the violations and not the law itself.
Rob Mattheu provided good information on charter schools. There will likely be an attempt to add vouchers and tuition tax credits to the bill next year, as well as attempts to exempt charter schools from testing. If you want to keep up to date on these developments and wish to write letters or make phone calls, feel free to join Save Our Schools Kentucky at http://www.saveourschoolsky.org/ and/or join the Facebook group by the same name.
It was requested that politicians be invited to our meetings. Numerous politicians have been invited to speak at our meetings. Unfortunately, most do not respond. Recently Sen. Gerald Neal, Rep Attica Scott, and Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith have been invited but have not been able to attend or did not reply.