These are examples of why religion needs to be kept out of the public sphere.
It’s quite simple. Once you allow religion in, then there is a fight about which religion should be at the forefront.
For example, the Carpetbagger Report tells us about this:
In Pleasant Grove, Utah, for example, a Ten Commandments memorial, donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles in 1971, sits in a secluded area of city property that is intended to honor the city’s heritage. Pleasant Grove is now facing litigation about the display, not from civil libertarians, but from another religious group that wants equal treatment.
And a religious watchdog group is upset that the "bible study" course being flogged in Texas public schools are going to be too fundamentalist:
The [watchdog group] asked Mark A. Chancey, a professor and biblical scholar at Southern Methodist University, to review the council’s curriculum. He was not paid for his work…
Dr. Chancey’s review found that the Bible is characterized as inspired by God, discussions of science are based on the claims of biblical creationists, Jesus is referred to as fulfilling Old Testament prophecy, and archaeological findings are erroneously used to support claims of the Bible’s historical accuracy. He said the course suggests that the Bible, instead of the Constitution, be considered the nation’s founding document.
All of those points may be acceptable to some religions, but not to others, Dr. Chancey said.
It’s even become a problem with some faith-based initiatives (where government money is given to assist private religious-based organizations who perform charitable community services):
A Christian adoption agency that receives money from Choose Life license plate fees said it does not place children with Roman Catholic couples because their religion conflicts with the agency’s "Statement of Faith."
Bethany Christian Services stated the policy in a letter to a Jackson couple this month, and another Mississippi couple said they were rejected for the same reason last year.
"It has been our understanding that Catholicism does not agree with our Statement of Faith," Bethany’s state director Karen Stewart wrote. "Our practice to not accept applications from Catholics was an effort to be good stewards of an adoptive applicant’s time, money and emotional energy."
So here we have a religious organization receiving government money (from license plate fees), and applying that money in a way that discriminates against certain religions!
Digby addresses this in far more detail than me, and he came up with the pun that I not-so-graciously stole for this post. So I’ll let him have the final analysis:
People think "what’s the harm in putting up the 10 commandments on a courthouse?" Who cares? Truly, not a whole lot of people do. But as you can see by the the various legal challenges being mounted on behalf of minority religions and the stirrings of sectarian confrontation among Christian faiths, it would have been better if the government had just made it clear from the beginning that it can’t take sides. People would understand that, even most majority Christians.
The government should stay out of it, period. Let everybody believe what they will in perfect freedom. But it should be on private property funded by private money. The principle isn’t all that tough. Sadly, it appears that we are now going to have to painfully illustrate step by step, through court cases and endless fighting for who knows how long, why it is better for religion for the government to stay out of its sphere. (The battle for secularism for its own sake has been lost for the time being.) I guess we just have to relearn these lessons over and over again.
I hasten to add that the pioneers who settled this country were often of a "minority religion" too. That’s often why they came here — to escape religious persecution that was held by the majority/government in their native land. I wonder if the fundamental religious right think of this when they invoke the "Founding Fathers" as their excuse for foisting their religious views over those of minority religious views.