The NeoTheocratic Bigotry of a Democratic Legislative Leader in Illinois [corrected and updated]
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 12:10:52 PM EST
Rob Sherman is a good guy. Smart, warm and funny. I have been on his radio show. He is also an atheist activist and is concerned about issues of separation of church and state, among many other things. That is why he is running as a Green Party candidate for State Representative. He has been recently in a dispute with a Democratic legislator who is sponsoring a mandatory moment of "meditation" bill, that Sherman says is thinly disguised prayer. That dispute apparently set the stage for a controversy that should not go unnoticed or uncommented on. Sherman was testifying at an unrelated hearing sponsored by a committee of the Illinois state legislature which is looking into a shady million dollar state grant to a private school in tax trouble with the state -- when something utterly despicable happened:  
Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn reported that commitee member Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago)  interupted Sherman's testimony, and the following exchange ensued:  

Davis: I don't know what you have against God, but some of us don't have much against him.  We look forward to him and his blessings. And it's really a tragedy -- it's tragic --  when a person who is engaged in anything related to God, they want to fight.  They want to fight prayer in school.  

I don't see you (Sherman) fighting guns in school. You know?

I'm trying to understand the philosophy that you want to spread in the state of Illinois. This is the Land of Lincoln. This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God, where people believe in protecting their children.... What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous, it's dangerous--

Sherman: What's dangerous, ma'am?

Davis: It's dangerous to the progression of this state. And it's dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! Now you will go to court to fight kids to have the opportunity to be quiet for a minute. But damn if you'll go to  [court] to fight for them to keep guns out of their hands. I am fed up! Get out of that seat!

Sherman: Thank you for sharing your perspective with me, and I'm sure that if this matter does go to court---

Davis: You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon.

This is one of the most disgraceful treatments of a citizen testifying before a legislative committee I have heard of anywhere in the country.

Now usually on this site, if we report on a display of bigtory on the part of a politician or elected official, it is mostly likely to be a Religious Right Republican. But this episode underscores that the views and harsh attitudes of the Religious Right are sometimes present in the Democratic Party as well.

So for the record, let me just say that Rep. Davis' neotheocratic claim; her vague Christian nationalism; her overt anti-atheist bigotry, and her abuse of her legislative post to attack Rob Sherman's atheism, is an attack on the absolute right of individual conscience of all Americans. The Constitution, the law, the broad culture of religious pluralism that seeks to foster mutual respect among our infinitely different views -- makes no distinction between religious believers and non-beleivers.  

Rep. Davis owes Rob Sherman; all atheists; fellow Democrats; and all Americans a hearfelt and profound apology.

Update [2008-4-8 14:55:11 by Frederick Clarkson]: Rob Sherman wrote in to correct some factual errors. I have done so and am glad to get the story straight.

Update [2008-4-10 10:21:29 by Frederick Clarkson]: Rob Sherman reports that Rep. Davis felt the heat of national blog and national media exposure and the outrage of constituents, and called to apologize. Her apology was accepted.

Pastordan has more.




Display:
Some time ago Rob and I were on opposite sides of an issue I felt strongly about as did Rob. I actually had the opportunity to meet him personally, and discovered that I found him much more desirable as a friend and neighbor than most I had joined in effort to oppose Rob's position. (It involved a lighted cross for Christmas on a fire station). Good to hear that Rob is still active and apparently not embittered by the battles. If you are reading this Rob, my best to you though we still find much to disagree about. It's time to learn that friendship and respect are essiential if we are to expect otthers to listen and respond to our beliefs and ideas.

by chaplain on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 12:22:07 PM EST

I'm glad you wrote about this, because in my experience, it isn't hard to find people in either party who look on atheists with suspicion.  True, verbal challenges like you describe here are more common among GOP-affiliated theocrats.  But suspicion and distrust in the form of "well how do you know what's right?!" is quite common among non-GOPers too.  The common basic assumption is that one needs religion to be moral, and therefore those who reject religion or the notion of god must be amoral.  Also, people frequently interpret a statement of one's atheism as a direct attack on their beliefs.  Honestly, it is less of a problem telling people I'm gay than telling them I'm atheist.

by Laurel on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 03:18:56 PM EST
and in this case I would agree with that saying.

Think about it- people who assume that morality is because of an outside force don't consider the fact that an atheist is moral because they CHOOSE to be moral- and indeed, from what I've heard and read it comes from their concern for others- they don't have a God to take responsibility when they do something wrong.  They recognize that their own actions have an impact on others- and that THEY are responsible for the harm that they do to others.  ("The devil made me do it!" just doesn't make sense if you don't believe in such things!)

Also, based upon my observations, I would say that a great many "Christians" aren't that moral to begin with- and either are putting on a show for others, or they behave BECAUSE they're afraid of divine punishment- rather than because they freely choose morality (or because it's a part of their nature).

That's a lesson that I wish Christians would take to heart (responsibility for damage done to others)... instead of just trusting God to clean up their messes.

by ArchaeoBob on Wed Apr 09, 2008 at 12:10:01 AM EST
Parent



so much to do, so little time.

After seven years of erosion, even outright attacks on the separation between church and state, we find the same kind of bigotry and closed-minded, irrationality and abuse on the (alleged) left as on the right.

Education would seem to be the answer, but for the fact that our battles on that front seem to resemble the battle against Hydra. Every time Intelligent Design is proved not to be, it pops up again elsewhere. Even worse, the common mantra is that OURS IS A CHRISTIAN NATION, when clearly, Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, and others held a very different, and far more progressive and civilized view.

by Pastor Agnostic on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 04:10:23 PM EST


Some googling turned up some more information about Rep. Davis.  Apparently, she  was one of the Illinois legislators that strongly supported the moment of silence resolution that was passed last year (Rob Sherman and his daughter were the ones that filed the federal suit that blocked its implementation).  That may explain (but not excuse) some of the acrimony displayed at the hearing by her.  I also found that Rep. Davis has a very liberal voting record, at least as measured by various liberal NGOs in Illinois.  She also attended the same church as Barack Obama did (though interestingly she did not endorse him for his U.S. senate race, but has endorsed him in his bid for president).

We'll have to see if Rep. Davis does the right thing and apologizes for her hateful and ill-considered remarks.  However, many black people who are otherwise very liberal do not like atheists or atheism one bit.

-------------
"I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair" - JFK, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
by hardindr on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 08:21:31 PM EST

"However, many black people who are otherwise very liberal do not like atheists or atheism one bit. "

I wish you hadn't said that.  Perhaps consider rethinking that and merely state that "Some people who are otherwise liberal do not like atheists or atheism one bit."  Is there a reason to point at black people, just because Davis is black?

by Laurel on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 09:49:03 PM EST
Parent

what I wrote was accurate, at least in my limited experience.  I would also base that view on what I have heard from Norm Allen, who is the Executive Director of African-Americans for Humanism and has experienced much hostility from many blacks in the US when attempting to spreading humanistic ideas.  I did not mean what I wrote as an insult.

I was reluctant to publish the last portion of my comment and wavered about publishing it, but I still think it is accurate.

-------------
"I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair" - JFK, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
by hardindr on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 11:50:04 PM EST
Parent

Several years ago, here in the Tampa Bay area, the Hillsborough County Government was trying to pass a "Human Rights Ordinance". It failed in no small part to the strong opposition of a most of the black churches in the area. What was ironic was the fact that  many of the selfsame black ministers that thundered so loudly against equality for gays were the same ones that loudly advocated equal rights for blacks. Go figure.
It has been my experience that many black churches are very socially conservative when it comes to certain issues.

by Frank Frey on Wed Apr 09, 2008 at 09:35:48 AM EST
Parent
What was ironic was the fact that  many of the selfsame black ministers that thundered so loudly against equality for gays were the same ones that loudly advocated equal rights for blacks. Go figure.

It has been my experience that many black churches are very socially conservative when it comes to certain issues.

This is true, but I don't know how much it applies to Rep. Davis.  In my googling, I found that she had been very involved in HIV education and protection, but I don't know how she feels about gay rights.  Maybe atheism is her only bugaboo...

-------------
"I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair" - JFK, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
by hardindr on Wed Apr 09, 2008 at 09:48:37 AM EST
Parent




Because I don't think there is an ethnic dimension to this issue.   In America, there are several things that people are brainwashed against- liberalism, atheism, evolution, and anything to do with Marx and as sociology puts it, the "conflict perspective".  

Liberals are supposed to be all about micromanaging everyone's lives (NO, just putting reasonable controls on business and the rich so we're all more equal), atheists are supposed to be amoral (another falsehood- I've met VERY moral atheists), evolution is observed fact (and NOT just an idea), and when it comes to analyzing the current situations in this country- theory developed out of "the conflict perspective" is the most effective in accurately describing much of what goes on.

by ArchaeoBob on Wed Apr 09, 2008 at 12:03:41 AM EST
Parent



in the school in question?

My guess is that there is a perceived correlation between church-going and respectability that is much greater in the African-American community than in the rest-of-US, simply because the AA churches were the original source of AA leaders. And respectability is everything when a minority group is interacting with the majority.

by NancyP on Wed Apr 09, 2008 at 01:36:45 PM EST
Parent




WWW Talk To Action


Two Years Ago Today, the 'Least Credible History Book in Print' was Published
This post is an updated version of my post from this same date last year, which, not surprisingly, was titled "One Year Ago Today,......
By Chris Rodda (1 comment)
Geocentrist Creationists Seek To Become The Center Of Attention
There are days when fundamentalist zealots do something so off the wall that I don't know whether to laugh or cry, so I do......
By Rob Boston (5 comments)
A Full Quiver of Bad Advice
Mike Huckabee mailed out an open invitation to all Texas pastors inviting them to attend the Texas Renewal Project.  The first 1,000 to respond......
By wilkyjr (7 comments)
Opus Dei Priest's Secessionist Roadmap to Theocracy
Fr. C.J. ("John") McCloskey is in many ways the  American face of the secretive Catholic organization, Opus Dei.  He is a former Wall Streeter,......
By Frank Cocozzelli (10 comments)
Don't Be April Fooled by Far-Right Activists Dressed Up as Democratic Candidates
This is cross-posted from The Huffington Post. It expands and updates previous posts about the Neo-Confederate theocrats Michael Peroutka and Pastor David Whitney. Maryland......
By jhutson (0 comments)
Dangerous Defiance: Md. Official Ignores Court Ruling On Sectarian Prayer
I'm not a lawyer, but let me give you a little free legal advice anyway: It's never a good idea to defy a federal......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
Catholic Right Leader Unapologetic about Call for 'Death to Liberal Professors'
Austin Ruse doesn't understand why people were so upset when he said on a national radio program that university leaders "should all be taken......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Justice For All: The Supreme Court And The Role Of The Justices' Religious Beliefs
Today's Washington Post has an interesting story about how the personal religious beliefs of members of the Supreme Court might affect their decisions.The question......
By Rob Boston (0 comments)
RINO Says His Dino Proves Noah's Flood -- Wha Wha What?
Michael Peroutka, the presidential candidate of the Constitution Party in 2004 and co-founder of the theocratic Institute on the Constitution, made news recently when......
By jhutson (0 comments)
A Talk to Action Anthology on Neo-Confederacy, Nullification and Secession (Updated)
Over the past year, a number of posts have addressed the growing Neo-Confederate movement, the advocacy of nullification of federal laws, and even the......
By Frederick Clarkson (3 comments)
Franklin Graham Slams Obama and Supports Putin in Battle Over Gay Rights
With a column vigorously supporting Vladimir Putin's anti-gay crusade in Russia, Evangelist Franklin Graham finds himself edging closer to inheriting the mantle of Fred......
By Bill Berkowitz (3 comments)
Neo-Confederate Democrats: Oxymorons?
“Many of you may be thinking that I have lost my mind,” Republican Del. Don Dwyer wrote in a March 2013 email and Facebook......
By jhutson (2 comments)
The Catholic Right Star & the Porn Star -- UPDATED
A Duke University freshman best known by her stage name Belle Knox has been much in the news. She was even interviewed by Piers......
By Frederick Clarkson (5 comments)
Baptists and Bullets in Texas Politics
One thing regional Baptist GOP candidates share in common is a deep affection for gun rights.  The endorsements of pro-gun positions takes precedence over......
By wilkyjr (1 comment)
The Battling Noahs & The Titanic Film Comeback of Noah & His Ark
Who would have imagined that in 2014, Noah, yes the Noah of the Biblical story of Noah and his Ark, would be garnering so......
By Bill Berkowitz (1 comment)

America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (1 comment)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Yes, that's right. We have totally lost our religious freedom in Mississippi and it must be restored by our legislators. ......
COinMS (0 comments)
Bill Gothard accused of harassing women and failing to report child abuse
Surprised no one's mentioned this, but one of the longest-standing leaders of the religious right is in a world of trouble.  Bill Gothard has been active in the fundie movement for over half......
Christian Dem in NC (1 comment)
Eugene Delgaudio may lose his day job as Virginia county supervisor
Surprised no one's noticed this, but one of the nation's most virulent homophobes is in a fight to keep his day job.  Eugene Delgaudio is best known as the head of Public Advocate......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents
This caught me by surprise. I guess times are a changin in Dixieland. ------------------------------------- Cross posted from the HRC blog. Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents January 21,......
COinMS (0 comments)
Robert Knight: Running against evolution could potentially be a winner for the GOP
In one of the starkest instances yet of how far gone the religious right is, one of its leading activists thinks that he's found another potential wedge issue that could drive more people into......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
First Catholic official convicted in child sex abuse scandal has conviction overturned
Last year, Monsignor William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary for clergy, was convicted of reassigning a priest whom he knew had molested a young boy to a parish that had a school attached......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Quotes From Sarah Palin 'War on Christmas" Book v. Quotes From 1920s Anti-Jewish Propaganda
The point of this comparison is not to cast Sarah Palin as a Nazi. Rather, my intent is to underline uncomfortable similarities between contemporary "war on Christmas" talking points propagated by elements of the......
Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Francis sets up commission on how to deal with pedophile priests
Late yesterday Pope Francis announced--apparently after some prodding--that he will set up a panel to advise him on how to deal with child abuse by priests. The announcement was a forthright acknowledgment by the......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
John Hagee: Jews will make deal with Antichrist before End Times
When John Hagee opens his mouth, you expect to hear lunacy.  An appearance earlier this month on TBN was no different.  On Friday, People for the American Way stumbled on a special prophecy-focused edition......
Christian Dem in NC (1 comment)
Doug Phillips Resigns From Vision Forum over "Inappropriate Relationship"
Doug Phillips resigned as president of Vision Forum earlier this week, citing an "inappropriate relationship."   Phillips posted an announcement on the Vision Forum website, stating, There has been serious sin in my life......
Rachel Tabachnick (2 comments)
A Wiccan Witch In Salem
Since it's only two weeks from Halloween, I made my usual foray into Christian Right Country to find out what their plans are for this Halloween. I don't know where to be sad or......
irishwitch (0 comments)
Jerry Falwell's Fundamentalist Liberty University Still Getting Hundreds of Millions in Federal Aid
In 2010, Liberty University got more federal funding than the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In a 2011 Talk To Action story, contributor Bill Berkowitz covered the new trend in which right-wing evangelical colleges and......
Bruce Wilson (2 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.