Rousing Remarks: Remembering Mario Cuomo's Powerful Speech On Religion And Politics
Rob Boston printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jan 05, 2015 at 05:01:11 PM EST

Two memorable speeches were delivered in the early 1980s on separation of church and state. The first was by U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and was given - at all places - before an audience at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

Because of the unusual venue, Kennedy's speech on Oct. 3, 1983, attracted a lot of attention. But about a year later, another politician delivered an equally impressive speech, and it also grabbed some headlines. This was New York Gov. Mario Cuomo's address to Notre Dame University on Sept. 13, 1984.

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Huckabee Dumps Fox News -- Might Jump in to the Race for 2016
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Jan 03, 2015 at 08:32:19 PM EST
According to a statement on his web site, tonight will be Mike Huckabee's last show on Fox where he has held forth on Saturday night for more than six years. Apparently he is thinking seriously about getting into the GOP race for president.  If he runs, it will be in part because he has a good chance of being the Christian Right's preferred candidate.  He has certainly been paying his dues -- working in the trenches of the Christian Right for many years, as a headliner at many of the Pastor Policy Briefings organized by David Lane of the American Family Association and at the annual Values Voters Summit organized by the Family Research Council  -- and several major organizations of the Christian Right.  
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Seize The Day!: Upcoming Religious Freedom Event Provides An Opportunity For Separation Advocates
Rob Boston printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Jan 02, 2015 at 06:39:56 PM EST

Note: Like all of my posts, this one is a cross-post from Americans United's "Wall of Separation" blog.

Two weeks from today, the nation will celebrate Religious Freedom Day.

Don't feel bad if you were not aware of that. Most people aren't. Religious Freedom Day, which is celebrated every Jan. 16, tends to be somewhat obscure. My desk calendar, which includes Groundhog Day, Armed Forces Day and Benito Juarez's Birthday, does not list Religious Freedom Day.

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War on Public Education
wilkyjr printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Jan 02, 2015 at 10:11:18 AM EST
     Will Rogers once said "the schools ain't what they used to be and then again never was." Public education has become the subject of much speculation and blame.  William Bennett, former Secretary of Education and popular author, stated that public education is finished in America.  The rise of the school voucher movement across the nation, issues likes school prayer and the hanging of the Ten Commandments in school hallways have placed public education in the national spotlight.
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Quotes from Mario Cuomo's Speech at Notre Dame
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Jan 01, 2015 at 09:04:23 PM EST
When I heard the news that Mario Cuomo died I had to sit down and write and consider the legacy of this extraordinary leader.

I always wished that Mario Cuomo had run for president. He is one of the pols I most admired over the years.  He was a great liberal. A great thinker. And a great orator. May we be blessed as a nation that more will rise to the occasion to try to fill his shoes.

As someone who writes about politics and religion, one of the things that stands out in Cuomo's long and distinguished career is the way he balanced his personal faith with his public career.  One of his lasting contributions to our public life was his speech at Notre Dame in 1984. It was the height of the Reagan administration, Operation Rescue and similar groups were engaged in mob violence (as well as peaceful protests) at abortion clinics, and leading Catholic prelates were pressing Catholic politicians hard to conform to Church doctrine.

And into the fray stepped Mario Cuomo. He gave a speech detailing his dissent -- as a Catholic and as a political leader in a religiously plural society -- from the authoritarian vision of the Bishops.  The New York Daily News in reporting Cuomo's death wrote that along with his "barnburner" of a speech at the 1984 Democratic Convention (which I watched live on TV) his speech at Notre Dame ranks "among the top speeches of the 20th century."  

Here are some excerpts from his Notre Dame speech (which can be read in its entirety here).

I hope these excerpts will remind us why this speech got that kind of mention, and help us as we contend with the endlessly tricky issues of religious freedom in our time.

He had been asked to address the tough questions of the often complicated relationship between religion and public life. He rose to the occasion life few others ever have.

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Archbishop Chaput Wins the 2014 Coughlin Award!
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Dec 30, 2014 at 08:24:55 AM EST
 photo franksgraphic_zpsbe286320.jpgIt's time again for the presentation of the annual Coughlin Award. This year's award goes to the cultural warrior's cultural warrior, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia.
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The Christian Right Still Does Not Want You To Know About This Day
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Dec 27, 2014 at 08:41:53 PM EST
In the heat of our political moment, we sometimes don't see how our future connects deeply to our past. But the Christian Right does -- and they do not like what they see.

The Christian Right has made religious freedom the ideological phalanx of its current campaigns in the culture wars. Religious freedom is now invoked as a way of seeking to derail access to reproductive health services as well as equality for LGBTQ people, most prominently regarding marriage equality.

But history provides little comfort for the theocratic visions of the Christian Right. And that is where our story begins.

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It's a Wonderful Life: A Commie Plot in the War on Xmas!
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Dec 24, 2014 at 09:34:31 PM EST
According to FBI analyses, the classic film It's A Wonderful Life, (what seems to be the go-to Christmas season film for all time) is really part of a communist plot against the one percenters!  

I learned this remarkable claim today from Michael Winship, the senior writer for  Moyers & Co. -- whose essay at Truthout is a handy snapshot of a streak of paranoia as fresh as an end of the year fundraising letter from the darker precincts of the Religious Right.

These days, it does not take much to b e seen by some as on the spectrum of evil. Basically all you have to do is to fail to be a Christian of The Right Sort.  For most of us, this is not difficult to achieve. But at least those who may see us that way, do not have the kind of power their ancestors enjoyed in 1947 when the House Un-American Activities Committee was investigating Hollywood, and launching the national political careers of, among others, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon.

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And Yet Finn Remains Bishop
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Dec 22, 2014 at 07:37:56 AM EST
It has been more than two years since Bishop Robert Finn was convicted by a Missouri criminal court for failing to report child abuse by Fr. Shawn Ratigan. Finn had been warned about Ratigan's behavior but the prelate inexplicably waited six months before notifying authorities as required by law. Within that same period of time, Ratigan pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography.  He is now serving a 50-year sentence in prison. But Finn walks free.

Enter Pope Francis.

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On Christmas Day, in the Morning
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 04:44:54 PM EST
In recent years at Christmastime, I have posted a response to the preposterous-but-malevolent claims broadcast on Fox News and elsewhere that there is a War on Christmas. Slightly revised and updated -- FC

Christmas has at least as many meanings as there are people, whether they celebrate the holiday or believe in any of the story, or not. It affects us all. There is hardly a more defining day in all of our culture, and it embraces the best and the worst of what we have become as a people.

In that regard, it is sad that the Religious Right and the dour propagandists at Fox News annually revive the repulsive anti-Semitic tradition begun by Henry Ford:  Falsely claiming that there is a War on Christmas.

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Hallelujah, Mike Huckabee, Hallelujah
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Dec 16, 2014 at 11:11:31 PM EST
Fox News personality Mike Huckabee had a defining moment in the wake of the Newtown massacre. One that as we enter the 2016 presidential season, we should not forget. Its too bad that the original of the video at the end of this post is no longer available, but I found another. In any case, I think the rest of this re-post says what needs to be said. -- FC

When I was considering writing this post, at first I thought that too much had already been said about Mike Huckabee's comments on the Newtown massacre. But I now think that maybe there has been nowhere near enough.  

The horror affected most of us profoundly and all of us differently. Many of us, on reflection, encountered eternal questions about the meaning of life and death, and particularly, how such evil can happen.

The religious among us come from  many different traditions. But even the most orthodox among us know that whatever revelations God (or gods) may have provided us; and whatever our understanding of ancient texts may be, mysteries remain.  Many of us are not part of a religious tradition.  And those of us who look to science for answers may find that nothing we know, or think we know, explains everything. Especially about Newtown.  

And then there was Huckabee.

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Moses And Michele: Departing Member Of Congress Spreads More Misinformation
Rob Boston printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Dec 15, 2014 at 11:12:18 AM EST

The Religious Right's Moses fixation continues to grow.

As you might recall, the Texas State Board of Education recently demanded social studies textbooks that highlight the role Moses supposedly played in the founding of the United States. If that wasn't bad enough, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) recently decided to give a farewell address of the floor of the House of Representatives that focused largely on - you guessed it - the Old Testament patriarch.

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Christian Right Silent about Bob Jones U Sex Abuse Report
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Dec 13, 2014 at 11:16:33 PM EST
One of the deep scandals of our time, and apparently times past, is that sex abuse, particularly of children, has been so tolerated and covered-up. What's more, it is clear that the problem is not limited to the Catholic Church, where the problem is of such extraordinary depth and breadth. It is deeply ingrained in more of society than most of us who were not affected by these things can easily believe. In the past year, I have written a bit about the difficulties the Southern Baptist Convention has had contending with its problems. (Here, here, and here.)

Now comes an investigative report on the ongoing scandal at the fundamentalist Bob Jones University, in Greenville, South Carolina, where Republican candidates for president used to have to make a pilgrimage as part of their courtship of voters in the South Carolina primary.

The report focused on how the college treated sexually abused women like criminals.

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Boot These Bigoted Bans: Movement Seeks To Remove Anti-Atheist Bias From State Constitutions
Rob Boston printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Dec 08, 2014 at 10:33:22 AM EST

Eight states still have provisions in their constitutions that either bar atheists outright from holding public office or require people to believe certain things about God and religion before they can be elected.

These provisions can't be enforced. They were declared invalid by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1961 ruling in the case of Torcaso v. Watkins. Yet they linger on, a testament to the bigotry of bygone days.

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James Madison and Tax-Supported Chaplains
Chris Rodda printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Dec 06, 2014 at 05:37:53 PM EST
In light of former Sen. Rick Santorum's recent silly declaration that “the words ‘separation of church and state’ is not in the U.S. Constitution, but it was in the constitution of the former Soviet Union. That’s where it very, very comfortably sat, not in ours” -- it seems like a good moment to to repost Chris Rodda's classic discussion of some of the complications and distortions of history regarding separation of church and state. -- FC

Author Chris Rodda explores historical background to church/state separation, especially in relation to the work of Christian Embassy (link to Talk To Action coverage). The original controversial Christian Embassy promotional video, along with further coverage, can be found at the Jews On First website ]

When my first article appeared last week, I didn't get a chance to introduce myself, so I'd like to do that now, and also to thank Bruce Wilson for inviting me to contribute here at Talk to Action. I am the author of a book called Liars for Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History, Volume 1. This is the first of what will be a three volume series of books, two on the religious right history lies related to the founding era, and an eventual third volume on the church/state separation battles of the nineteenth century. Free sample chapter PDF

Of the three things listed in the line at the top of the page - "Reclaiming Citizenship, History and Faith" - my focus will be on the reclaiming history part, bringing attention to the historical misconceptions and revisionism that go hand in hand with many of the current issues being covered by others here. So, while Frederick Clarkson, in his recent article When Mainstream Media Miss the Point, brings up The Christmas Wars: Religion in the American Public Square, a discussion presented by the Pew Center on Religion and Public Life, to point out the evasion by the panelists of a reporter's question about the current issue of the Christian Embassy, I'm going take a look at a few of the historical inaccuracies that I noticed while reading the transcript of this event. These inaccuracies came from both panelists, Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute, and Jon Meacham, managing editor of Newsweek and author of American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation. I will address those from Novak in a separate article, but want to begin with one from Meacham regarding James Madison's opinion on tax-supported chaplains, the most relevant to the issue of the Christian Embassy.

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