Separation of Church and Sanity

As secularists, we face a barrage of attacks from evangelicals, ranging from us being “un-American” to “Satanic” to everything in between. In a recent Washington Times piece, titled “The separation of church and insanity,” Larry W. Poland launches such familiar diatribes at the secular movement. But wait, what’s un-American about respecting and appreciating the supreme law of the United States of America?

Embedded in our Constitution is a stated, strict separation of church and state that says the government cannot impose a specific religion upon its people. And this is regardless of their location, be it a town of 99 percent Christians or 99 percent Muslims. It’s the reason the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center wins more than 90 percent of the cases they undertake. From small cases like a school teacher overtly encouraging children to “pray often,” to removing a mammoth cross displayed on public grounds, clear violations of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution occur regularly. However, both of these decisions were met with rapturous fury from the evangelical right, showing them to be truly “un-American” in their hatred of the supreme law of the land.

Poland also makes some new audacious claims in his piece, highlighting how secularists must love Michael Reed, the individual who recently crashed his car into a Ten Commandments statue in Arkansas and in 2014 did the same to a similar monument in Oklahoma. Incidentally, the man Poland describes as “drunk, high on drugs, or mentally impaired” is not a secularist, but a self-proclaimed “Jesus freak.”

Poland claims that we are becoming a society that lacks the fear of God and the repercussions of God’s almighty wrath, which is thankfully true. But he further claims that this leads to a society riddled with insatiable lust and sexual deviancy and that worships celebrities who are “chronic liars.” (I know he lies a lot, but do you have to kick your guy while hes down?) However, Poland’s claim that we’re a sexually deviant society that shapes our kids into lustful creatures is contradicted by his own right-wing website’s reporting that teen pregnancy is down as a result of a decline in teen sexual activity, but also because of greater access to contraception. So, Poland believes that the world is far more lustful as we have strayed from the Christian worldview, when in fact as secularism has risen, teen pregnancies are down, teen sexual activity is down, and those who do participate in sexual activity are using contraceptive measures—sounds pretty pro-life to me! Furthermore, Poland’s claims that crime rates are spiraling out of control are false: crime rates have actually declined rapidly since the early 1990s and not because of any peak in Christianity.

Poland concludes his rant about America’s decline as a religious nation to state that “Christophobic bigots” should erect a statue or monument of Michael Reed, as he is now our “hero for acting out [our] non-Ten-C worldview.” This misses the point completely. We don’t laud or praise Michael Reed because we believe in the American rule of law to correctly establish a clear divide between religion and the government; we don’t need, or want, vigilantes to undermine that. As AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt said in a letter to the editor published by the Washington Times last week:

It’s not Christophobic to want our country to be free of the imposition of sectarian beliefs. It’s not bigotry to ensure that government is a neutral party when it comes to religion and religious questions.

We believe in the tenets of the US Constitution—that everyone must be afforded the right to pursue their own individual freedoms, free from the influence of religion on shared public land. If Poland wishes to see a hero of the secularist cause, he must look no further than the document that begins: “We the People…”