Recently the American Humanist Association (AHA) sent a letter to a school district in Georgia objecting to serious church-state separation violations that were occurring in one school’s football program. The letter states that the AHA had been informed by a local resident that “the school’s football coaches have been using their position to promote Christianity on the football team by integrating Bible verses into functional team documents and team promotions in various ways; meanwhile, they have been either leading the team in prayer or participating in team prayers on a regular basis.”
Past court cases have been clear: Coaches, or any other school administrators, cannot lead students in prayer, and putting Bible verses into school documents is obviously unconstitutional. With documented evidence provided by the local resident, the AHA should be able to prevail in court if the need arises for litigation.
But U.S. Representative Doug Collins doesn’t seem to care much about the interests of his nontheistic constituents, or about the U.S. Constitution for that matter. Rather, the Congressman views this situation as an opportunity to denigrate his fellow Georgians who don’t believe in a god while reaffirming this his district is a safe space for religious people do to whatever they please, even if their actions run counter to the laws that govern us all.
Collins pretty much admitted to supporting this inappropriate behavior in a recent statement released from his office. In response to the AHA’s concern that this case of state employees leading students in religious activities is commonplace and not an isolated event, Rep. Collins replied, “They’re right. In Hall County and throughout Georgia’s 9th district, we … cherish our right to worship in our own way.”
Rep. Collins also said that he felt disgusted by the fact that while “innocent lives are being lost in Iraq and other places at the hands of radical religious terrorists, a bunch of Washington lawyers are finding the time to pick on kids in Northeast Georgia.” If Rep. Collins is referring to the fact American soldiers are sacrificing their lives in conflict zones for their country, he should remember that these soldiers are fighting for American values like the separation of church and state. And if he is instead referring to the Iraqi and other civilians being killed by the Islamic State and other extremist groups, Rep. Collins should remember that these terrorists are fighting against secularism and the separation of religion and government, things that he also seems to find abhorrent.
Rather than putting the interests of religious constituents ahead of non-religious constituents, Rep. Collins and his religious right allies in government should show themselves worthy of the great responsibility they have been entrusted with as U.S Representatives by equally representing all those who live in their districts through supporting a secular government and equal treatment for all Americans. Doing anything less would make Rep. Collins and others like him unworthy of the institution that they represent.