IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

This Week in God

First up from the God Machine this week is an amusing story out of California, where proponents of religion in public schools are suddenly deeply concerned about keeping religion out of public schools.

For the religious right movement, court rulings mandating that schools remain neutral on religion, leaving matters of faith to families instead of public officials, have been a major point of concern for several decades. Conservative activists are convinced that church-state separation doesn't and shouldn't exist, and secular education leads to a wicked society.

But as my friend Rob Boston reported this week, once in a while, the religious right forgets its talking points.

In Encinitas, Calif., an attorney named Dean Broyles has filed suit against the Encinitas Union School District, asserting that a voluntary yoga program for students violates church-state separation. Broyles runs a small legal outfit called the National Center for Law and Policy, which, according to its website, defends "faith, family and freedom." [...]

Was Broyles asleep when Sears explained that separation of church and state doesn't exist? How else can we explain his use of the principle in this lawsuit? Or could it be that Broyles and the ADF are just being hypocritical?

I'm inclined to take Door #3. Putting aside the question of whether voluntary yoga classes offer an example of "religion in schools" -- I consider the argument a real stretch, no pun intended, since plenty of folks practice yoga for reasons that have nothing to do with faith or spirituality -- there's nevertheless something hilarious about far-right activists complaining they want more and less public school promotion of religion at the exact same time.

These folks can believe the separation of church and state is a communistic principle intended to undermine religiosity or they can believe the separation of church and state is a bedrock legal principle that guarantees and protects religious liberty for all. They cannot believe both.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* This may prove to be a fascinating legal fight: "The House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved legislation that would allow the use of federal money to rebuild churches and synagogues damaged by Hurricane Sandy, despite concern that such aid could violate the doctrine of separation of church and state."

* Pope Benedict XVI is reportedly "taking into consideration" efforts to change church rules so he can abdicate his post even sooner than expected.

* Famous-but-bench-warming quarterback Tim Tebow was set to speak at a hateful Baptist preacher's church, but when controversy erupted, the athlete backed out.

* Mahoney should probably try to avoid characterizing himself as a victim: "Los Angeles' retired Cardinal Roger Mahony, who was rebuked last month for his handling of the sex-abuse crisis, suggests he was 'scapegoated' in a blog post ahead of two important dates: his Saturday deposition in a lawsuit alleging that the church hierarchy protected a priest accused of molesting children and his trip to Rome to help pick the next pope."

* This was probably inevitable: "Prominent Republican lawmakers are standing behind a Christian-run arts and crafts chain in its lawsuit over the Obama administration's birth-control mandate. A group of 11 GOP members filed an amicus brief with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday. The brief argued that the Obama mandate runs contrary to a federal law protecting religious practice" (thanks to reader R.P. for the tip).

* The religious right was not at all pleased with this video from "Saturday Night Live," which I have to admit, I found hilarious.