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Erroneous Views

July 1, 2020

After a couple of surprisingly good Supreme Court decisions, everyone here knew that the big shoe was going to drop and, you know, squash secularism. And squash it did. In the case of Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Court ruled 5-4 that taxpayers can be made to subsidize religious schools. USA Today covered our response:

The decision also was denounced by groups advocating the separation of church and state.

“Let’s be clear about what just happened: The Supreme Court has decided that atheist taxpayers are now required to fund religious schools,” said Robyn Blumner, president of the Center for Inquiry. “Members of non-Christian faiths are now required to fund Christian education.”

We also said:

“This ruling sets us on a dark, theocratic path,” [said CFI’s] Nick Little. “The Founders made clear that the public purse must not fund religious activities, especially education. Now, with this ruling, it not only can fund them, but it is compelled to.”

Justice Thomas actually wrote these words:

Properly understood, the Establishment Clause does not prohibit States from favoring religion. … Under the modern, but erroneous, view of the Establishment Clause, the government must treat all religions equally and treat religion equally to nonreligion.

Gorsuch signed on to that view as well.

To help us survey the damage, CFI’s Nick Little will join American Atheists and FFRF for a online discussion about the case tomorrow at 3pm ET.

Ohhh! Horrible!

Mary Ziegler at The Atlantic says anti-abortion conservatives unhappy with Chief Justice Roberts for his ruling two days ago in June Medical are missing the long-game strategy that he apparently trying to communicate via legal smoke signals: be patient and give me a case I can vote for.

Jeff Sessions wants back into the Senate and still supports the president, even though Trump hates him. Here’s why, as he explains to Elaina Plott at the Times. You won’t like this:

“You asked how Christians could support Trump,” he said. Consider Egypt’s Christian minority under president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, he said: “It’s not a democracy — he’s a strongman, tough man, but he promised to protect them. And they believed him, because they didn’t want the Muslim Brotherhood taking over Egypt. Because they knew they’d be vulnerable. They chose to support somebody that would protect them. And that’s basically what the Christians in the United States did. They felt they were under attack, and the strong guy promised to defend them. And he has.” …

… “He came out there with that Bible [at St. John’s outside the White House],” Sessions said, pausing briefly to giggle, “and so all the Episcopal bishops said: ‘Ohhh! Horrible!’ You know? But this was a defender of the faith.” He continued in a faux tone of dismay: “ ‘Ohhh, his heart’s not right. He shouldn’t have held that Bible up. …’ Oh, that’s malarkey.” Sessions rolled his eyes. “Just a bunch of socialist leftists.”

It’s clearly still working, because according to Pew, 82 percent of white evangelicals intend to vote for Trump. To compare, he got 81 percent of that vote in 2016. So much for the erosion of support from his base.

Speaking of his base, in an online event for Evangelicals for Trump (as we now see, this is a redundancy), Democrats were declared the “party of the godless” and the faithful were warned that electing Joe Biden would mean Americans “can basically kiss our churches goodbye.”

Gods of Data

The Washington Post reports on the cultural and political divide over face masks, and this nugget jumps out:

Alex Castellanos, a veteran Republican strategist, said the divide over whether to cover one’s face is, like many things in the Trump era, political.

“Mask-wearing has become a totem, a secular religious symbol,” Castellanos said. “Christians wear crosses, Muslims wear a hijab, and members of the Church of Secular Science bow to the Gods of Data by wearing a mask as their symbol, demonstrating that they are the elite; smarter, more rational, and morally superior to everyone else.”

Right in the feels there, Alex. I wish you could see me frowning underneath my Secular Science Hijab. (Maybe a “crucifacts”? Not sorry.)

Tom Friedman suggests this as a campaign slogan for Biden: “Respect science, respect nature, respect each other.” I think it’s a great campaign ethos, a great message to convey, but it’s not, um, catchy. But still, I agree with this:

Biden should highlight his commitment to all three values in every speech and interview he gives. They draw such a clear, simple and easy to remember contrast with Trump.

Carl Zimmer at the New York Times looks to explain why most people with COVID-19 actually don’t wind up passing it on, but a handful of carriers become superspreaders:

A lot of transmission seems to happen in a narrow window of time starting a couple days after infection, even before symptoms emerge. If people aren’t around a lot of people during that window, they can’t pass it along.

And certain places seem to lend themselves to superspreading. A busy bar, for example, is full of people talking loudly. Any one of them could spew out viruses without ever coughing. And without good ventilation, the viruses can linger in the air for hours.

A claim is apparently going around social media that the CDC deceptively inflated the COVID-19 death count by lumping it in with flu and pneumonia deaths. This, in case you weren’t already rolling your eyes, is false.

Justin Baragona at the Daily Beast punishes himself by tracking the COVID-19 trutherism of Tucker Carlson:

“The states that did lock down at first but were quick to reopen have not seen explosions of coronavirus cases.” [said Carlsion.] Since making that proclamation, Florida, Texas, and Arizona have all set single-day records for confirmed cases, and have reported newly overwhelmed hospitals and ICU capacity.

Michele “Bonkers Before it Was Mainstream” Bachmann knows that COVID-19 is not God’s punishment for gays or secularism. Silly, it’s a punishment for being to hard on Israel.


Meet Merritt Corrigan, deputy White House liaison to USAID, enemy of “globohomos,” explicit supporter of “Christian patriarchy,” and opponent of women holding public office. Or, rather, let’s not meet her.

Congress might get not one but two QAnon believers next year, as Colorado gun rights activist Lauren Boebert wins a primary against incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton. The other current QAnon candidate is Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia.

Back in the reality-based community of Colorado, openly agnostic State Rep. Chris Kennedy cruised through his primary unopposed.

Today in Texas, the Fifth Circuit is going to hear oral arguments in the appeal of our Secular Celebrant case, and next week in the UK, the High Court will hear a case on humanist celebrants’ authority to solemnize marriages.

I’m just going to type the words “secretly-homeopathic rat sex-enhancer” and allow you to decide what to do with that.

We’re keeping track of COVID-19 pseudoscience, snake oil, fake cures, and more at CFI’s Coronavirus Resource Center. Separate fact from fiction and inoculate yourself from misinformation at centerforinquiry.org/coronavirus.

Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.