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Religious Tolerance in America

(Photo by Robin Holland)

This week on BILL MOYERS JOURNAL, author Martha Nussbaum addressed the topics of religious tolerance and equality in America.

Nussbaum said:

"The University of Virginia said that student activity fees could be used to fund every student group: the Young Democrats, the lesbian and gay students group, the gardening club, the choir. But the one thing they couldn't use the money to fund was the Young Christians. Now, there really is an issue of fairness. I mean, why should it be just because you're a religious group that you don't get what everyone else gets to pursue their own conscientious commitment?"

In the case that Nussbaum mentions, students decided to sue and ultimately persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court that their right to free speech had been denied because of religion.

In addition to this divide between religious and non-religious groups, division can be seen between religious groups themselves. For example, many have alleged that there is a "war on Christmas," defined as attempts to replace traditional Christmas greetings and decorations with generic "Season's Greetings" in the public sphere, while symbols of other religions are welcomed for providing diversity.

A recent blog post from the NEW YORK TIMES noted that many voters took umbrage at an email that was widely circulated after Sen. John Kerry's (D-Ma) defeat in the 2004 election. The email, which labeled states that Kerry had won as "The United States of Canada" while dismissing those that President Bush had carried as "Jesusland," was interpreted by many as offensively anti-Christian.

Recently, controversy has engulfed Minnesota's Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA), a publically-funded charter school that reportedly has been violating state and federal law by teaching Islam, scheduling and organizing Muslim prayer on school grounds during the school day, and marketing itself among Muslims as an avowedly Muslim institution. Reports suggest that these abuses have continued despite several inspections by state officials responsible for ensuring that no public school promotes or endorses religion. Some commentators have speculated that a Christian school acting in the same ways would not have been handled with the same leniency.

What do you think?

  • Do you agree with the Supreme Court's decision in the University of Virginia case?
  • Are some commentators correct when they allege discrimination against Christians?
  • Are the examples in Virginia and Minnesota representative of what's happening across the U.S.? Have you seen these divides in your community?


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    crime in america what should be illegal? prejudice on religion

    Where would we be without strong 'Christian' values? 'Faith' groups support EX Miss Calif. even though she posed for racy photos - no problem. Republican Governors committing adultery while badgering others who do the same - no problem. Intentionally lying (Bush and Fallwell against McCain and his wife in 2000) no problem. Supporting a war (Iraq)idiot Bush started off lies that kills our military men and women - no problem.

    How pathetic of 'conservative' book house Regency to release a book around CHRISTMAS time on behalf of EX Miss Calif. who failed to fulfill her end of the bargain, not to mention have racy photos taken of herself. Conservatives no doubt will back a hussy lazy girl just because she is against gay marriage. No biggie that she didn't do the job she was supposed to do. No biggie that she posed for nude/semi-nude photos.
    Numbskull EX Miss Calif. was stripped of her title because she didn't fulfill her obligations. No Work No Title. Dah!

    Interesting how 'Faith' groups have only SOME morals and obey SOME of the commandments. 'Faith' groups are not trying to stop Mormons from having several wives (adultery and perversion there). Plus, forcing underaged girls to marry old men - Disgusting! Funny how some people are allowed to have more than one spouse while some aren't even allowed just one - doesn't seem fair or right. Is the definition of marriage - Between Man and Woman and Woman and Woman? 'Faith' groups supported Bush who LIED to start a war in Iraq which resulted in and continues to result in American Soldiers deaths. 'Faith' groups supported McCain who had multiple affairs while married to his first wife.

    I am sure ALL 'Faith' groups people who supported Bush's corrupt war in Iraq, made their children join the military. Otherwise, I can't imagine how disappointed Bushwackers must be in their children who decided to go to college and not join the military.

    For the record I support the rights of Christian groups being funded so long as they do not run into science lans and yell: "heretics!" Or if they use the funding to fight for the reduction of funding in the sciences and so forth.
    I as a Biologist and Philosopher had many professors who were Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Agnostics, and new age suscribers. My Molecular Biology teacher had no problem teaching and evidencing evolution or going to traditional mass on Sundays.

    Well, in the US there exists an immense amount of prejudice against those of faith on the one side and those of atheistic ideologies. Great confusion exist between scientists and those of religious study. The problem is that as the errent Intelligent Design movement attempts to infiltrate Biology and other science classes, many scientists, both members of religious faith (religion means to "reconnect" to God) and not get defensive and strike back against people that are a bit over zealous.
    ID belongs in comparative of modern theology, religion or philosophical thought, not biological or physical sciences. Also I do agree that the Muslim oriented Charter school is being treatd exceptinally favorably; in the climate of these uncertain times of modernity, is it really any wonder?

    Well, in the US there exists an immense amount of prejudice against those of faith on the one side and those of atheistic ideologies. Great confusion exist between scientists and those of religious study. The problem is that as the errent Intelligent Design movement attempts to infiltrate Biology and other science classes, many scientists, both members of religious faith (religion means to "reconnect" to God) and not get defensive and strike back against people that are a bit over zealous.
    ID belongs in comparative of modern theology, religion or philosophical thought, not biological or physical sciences. Also I do agree that the Muslim oriented Charter school is being treatd exceptinally favorably; in the climate of these uncertain times of modernity, is it really any wonder?

    I think Christians have faced discrimination particularly in academia and in the sciences ad the movie Expelled illustrates this point. Historically, I believe that atheists has displayed a tendency to embrace errant ideologies such as their embrace communism (see: http://www.conservapedia.com/Atheism )

    Thank heavens for Bill Moyers Journal. This is my one of my favorite programs on television. Hearing important commentators and thinkers is a great boon.

    The relentless attacks that he has endured is just one sign of how importanat his program is.

    I don't think enough has been done to expose the sociopathic doctrines being preached in some White Evangelical churches. This self fulfillinf Prophecy of 'End of Days' scares me far more than any 'minority' churches teaching. These crazed snake oil Deealers like Hagee have Gov't officials supporting him and they buy into his psychosis - an dhave the means to bring them to Fruition. Hagee and his church should be on Our Nations 'Watch List' and Placed on the 'Terrorist List'. I am a recovered Catholic, but never have I heard such Heretical ideology and Intentions!!
    Hagee et al Present a Clear Danger to US and the rest of the World. Nowthat is a Religion I am Terrified By!Followers of his actually make Public policy, have the ability to launch Nukes. Far more Well equipped to back up their madness than those wiht mere Box cutters!
    The Media should be triple it's Redundant myopic tendency by Exposing Hagee and his Terrorist Plot!
    I was never offend, nor afraid of Wright and his church members! NOW I AM TERRIFIED by Hagee's Cult

    unlikelly that you are not aware of this, but what about this documentary?

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2008/05/01/this-company-may-be-the-biggest-threat-to-your-future-health.aspx?source=nl

    it it just unbelievable...

    Omigod, dear "willie" get a life. Someone should look at the great Rev. Wright's assets and make a valid determination about his "faith" and self-aggrandizement...he's pompous and totally self-serving.

    Moyers cannot possibly call himself a journalist, he is a self satisfied liberal who works to promote PBS' one-sided point of view...it so offends the rational thought process, he can only call himself a tabloid celebrity "journalist" How shameful...

    Liberty of consciousness is very broad and nebulous. If "consciousness" is defined as acceptance of murder and hatred, then there should be no liberty for such acts in society.

    That is the reason, I believe, Christian groups are rejected in publicly funded organizations - because too many cling to traditions of hatred rather than being all-inclusive.

    Too many Christian groups ignore Paul's statements about love but are willing to accept statements of hatred against groups of people in our society - at the same time, proclaiming they "accept all parts of the Bible!"

    Too many Christian groups ignore Paul's statements about the "bursts of anger" in the early Christian congregations when members were deciding whether to cling to the traditions of the past in order to deny a group of people (the Gentiles) acceptance in the Christian community. This while these same Christian groups proclaim that all parts of the Bible should be accepted.

    (Interestingly enough, the author of this book, Ms. Nussbaum, has forsaken the Christian way for the Jewish way - ironic because it was the Jewish tradition of circumcision that caused a "burst of anger" -as described by Paul in the Bible).

    Therefore, the anti-all-inclusive Christians promote a consciousness of hatred and SHOULD be denied access to publicly-funded organizations.

    The other interesting part is that my Christian denomination that teaches all-inclusiveness does not demand the public access that the hateful Christians demand. That alone says something.

    Perhaps many Christians need to re-think the quotes of Jesus Christ about the "broad and spacious road that many [MEGA churches; "numbering churches"] are on" and compare that to the "narrow and cramped road to everlasting life - that few will find."

    Jesus Christ would never promote such stupidity of requesting public funds for Christian groups and thus be unconcerned whether they are part of the mix of organizations in schools. Judgmental as it may seem, I know where those organizations are leading their blind followers.

    Dang woman, I absentmindedly clicked the link to this page and there you are, threatening legal implications to an obvious troll.

    Unbelievable.

    By the way, PBS contribution database displays no 2008 $44k contribution from a single source. Are you fibbing about that? Our $22k contributions were over (nearly) a 20 year span. Of course you are probably verrrry wealthy. Kind of like Wright. Sorry, couldn't help that.

    One more thing: I have not been completely forthcoming. I am an ordained minister, Music Pastor of a full gospel, non denominational, racially mixed congregation, and I have NEVER uttered anything as divisive and hateful as Wright. I teach Christ's redemptive love and gospel of peace. And further more, you need to read the Q'ran and find out why Christs true followers would never condone Farrakhan and the tenets of Islam.

    Just Google up: misogyny, pedophilia, murder, torture in the Q'ran. Read Muhammad's own words in the Surahs, and you will discover a false prophet and a religion of hate...Farrakhan's religion. And Wright awards this heathen?

    Bill O'Reiley (aka James)
    spoken word is slander,
    written word is libel.

    In your own words..(Don't test me on this, I know)
    It will be hard for you to deny intent, noticing how many times you've posted the same negative words all over this site since the Reverend Wright interivew aired.
    HERE'S SOMETHING YOU NEED TO KNOW AND HEAR: WE LOVE REVEREND WRIGHT !! AND THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO OR SAY TO STOP THAT!!


    Thank you, Bill Moyers and PBS for the interview with Rev. Jeremiah Wright. For those with no experience with the black church it was an new adventure. The most profound thought, for me, was the "good from evil" comment about the attack on Wright which brought forth the challenging speech on race in the U.S. from Obama. We need to face this issue in a more profound and comprehensive way. Thanks again.
    M.A. Colwell

    Question(s) for Reverend Wright Interview
    How can you, in good conscience, accept the opulent house and excessive line of credit from your church when there are so many in need in your congregation in Chicago? If the line of credit it 10 million dollars, then 400 families could have $25,000! This is not including the amount used to build the house and buy the land!
    Also, in this context, how can the “Bush tax cuts” be an issue? Don’t people who earned money and are TAXED on their income deserve to keep as much as they can and be taxed at a REASONABLE rate?

    Thank you Bill Moyers for your April 25th show. Thank you for the truth of the matter. But, then again, I have always counted on you for that - all these many years. Good, bad or indifferent, lie truth or somewhere in between, people believe what they what to believe; but truth is a universal definitive statement always freeing. Thank you for truth tonight.......as always.

    Big Business and Big Religion is the same thing. All they care about is their bottom line. The people can go to hell on earth as far as they are concerned. They are equal to the Scribes and Pharisees during the ministry of Christ. Christ called them, "A brood of vipers". Neither organization is concerned about the welfare of people or has any compassion.

    "We cannot appeal to the conscience of the world when our own conscience is asleep."
    Carl von Ossietzky

    Big Business and Big Religion is the same thing. All they care about is their bottom line. The people can go to hell on earth as far as they are concerned. They are equal to the Scribes and Pharisees during the ministry of Christ. Christ called them, "A brood of vipers". Neither organization is concerned about the welfare of people or has any compassion.

    "We cannot appeal to the conscience of the world when our own conscience is asleep."
    Carl von Ossietzky

    Why is the people of NC being denied the Rev Wright interview. As a black man, I think we shall have been allowed to see this interview. We(blacks) saw all the negative story that ran over and over again.

    We will be casting our vote soon in NC so I guess the "Good Old Boys" decided that we didn't need to see Rev Wright response.

    So we(blacks) need to keep our contributions($$$) to PBS and UNC- TV in our pockets.

    I have to agree that the separation of church and state is still important to many in this country, with the exception of those that have a religious agenda.

    As an atheist, I have no problem with the Young Christians receiving funds from the University of Virginia, but if fairness is the issue, then I hope faith based initiative funds are making their way into the following religions - Islam, Jewish, Satanic, Wiccan, and any other organized religion that is considered as a religion by U.S. law.

    Don't kid yourself that the Virginia case fixed things for believers. You still have liberals in academia trying to stamp out Christian ideology on campuses. Take UNC, for instance, and their efforts to revoke student activity fee funding from Christian groups because they "discriminated" against non-christians, gays, etc. Liberals tolerate a diversity of everything except ideology.

    # Do you agree with the Supreme Court's decision in the University of Virginia case?
    # Are some commentators correct when they allege discrimination against Christians?

    1. YES. The activities are absolutely NOT mandatory; they are voluntary. That's entirely different from the Muslim school, where you as a student cannot "opt out" of religious indoctrination. (The parents, of course, have a choice--which they should exercise at their own expense.)

    2. Discrimination against Christians? Haha! Of course! It's not the same kind of discrimination that happens with minorities, but it IS discrimination, nonetheless. Or rather, there is a far lower tolerance for anything Christian in public than there is for other religions. Atheist ACTIVISTS (not Joe Schmo atheist) act as though they are being *forced* to be Christian any time God/Jesus is mentioned, and that just makes me laugh. When I lived in Turkey, I was constantly "subjected to" the call to prayer, and despite my being part of a religious minority (an nondenominational, non-observant Christian) I never felt "forced" to comply with local religious or cultural traditions. I didn't feel oppressed; it was easy to ignore it because I am an ADULT. That was Turkey--while they are (or at least were) relatively secular compared to their neighbors to the south, they're far less secular than the US is. Our atheist activists need to grow up and get a life. Live and let live, as you have been allowed to do.

    By tomorrow night, what will we know? Will we hear the growling bellies of 8.7 billion Haitians? Will we see the permission slip from Condoleeza Rice for Ehud Olmert to evict more West Bank Palestinians? Will bodega owners be crying over rationing of resale rice from Costco and Sam's Club?
    I'm tired of Sunday School on Friday night. Why not examine ongoing crimes against humanity in which death, destruction and dispossession are imminent.
    Will Jerimiah be a prophet, or only a whore's race handicapper. Is this a Journal or a racing form?

    Hate and discontent is not the right response to past human failures. We cannot change the past. It is written in stone. The only thing we can do is change the present to provide a better future. We need to learn by our mistakes in the past and do what is necessary to correct those mistakes. Every culture has suffered atrocities and slavery. Unfortunately, those who suffer are quick to forget the past when they are one with the rich and powerful. Condelissa Rice had no problem lying to start a war where her people are called on to die for rich people's vested interests.
    I have witnessed race riots in Detroit. There is no way the citizens could defend themselves against the militia. There is a better chance you will be shot by your own weapon than you will be able to defend yourself with it. Those days have gone forever. We need responsible government servants and people orientated citizens who have compassion for each other instead of are ruled by hate and discontent. That is one of our big complaints about the Iraqis.

    Now this (April 21- 9:02pm) is
    one Varda Burns post I can agree with 99%. I especially support her postering campaign to inform the public of empty food pantries and no social safety net. Actions, not just words. Let's join in and put them right beside the political campaign signs. You've got a good line on the surveillance thing when it comes to gun control, Varda. People who worship guns must realize they are about as useful a fetish as a Lakota ghost shirt against modern urban warfare technology. Small arms are the embodiment of crybaby terrorism and the kiss of death. Only "people power" can save us now.
    The one thing I disagree about Varda is that the U.S. is the richest country. Maybe we were at one time, but we was robbed! You can't call a nation of debtors and mortgage payers, who will be ruined by the next hospitalization or layoff, rich when the dollar falls daily and prices rise. We are now in the mix with every labor market where human rights and environmental protections are being crushed. Good show, Ms. Burns.

    Did you ever stop to think how little these appeals to Constitutional precedent and founder's principles mean in our radically changed environment. The resort to text without applicability to circumstance in lawmaking can be suicide. The ones of us who regard the Constitution as an unchanging recipe (when the same ingredients are no longer available) are the same people who recoil in horror when John Hagee predicts the Apocalypse by hermaneutic use of the Bible. Understand that we are making the same error with the Constitution as he makes with the Bible, or that some mullahs make with the Koran.
    Some of us warned of a famine several months ago that has come to pass. We also warned of a Great Depression (which seems likely now), and a covert government that will not hesitate to attack its own homeland (to maintain or consolidate power). We are not prophets but only reasoning people who have transcended nationalism and consumerism.
    There is only one principle left: Democracy consists of an informed populace deciding for itself by consensus: The people are sovereign! You can no longer live successfully either by ancient superstitious religion or by a secular state religion. You must live by your convictions about what is best for all 7 billion of us. Despite make believe elections and legislation appropriate to a monopoly board, a coked-up psychopath they call the Decider, 9 corporate lawyers with investments on their minds, each of you must think for herself (or himself) in the context of the facts, not beliefs or wishes. Where does your food come from? (not Safeway) How will you work to earn your living? (Will you have a stake and a say in the enterprise?)
    Only insane individuals will think they can defend themselves and their homes against the overpowering resources of this government and these corporations with small arms. Small arms are a piratical product like heroin or sex slaves. Small arms are as much a fetish as the ghost shirts of the Lakota. (Small arms are an artifact of suicide. Focus on your "cold dead hands.") Only collective "people power" can save us now. (You don't want to wind up out of gas and out of ammo, a sick nasty serial killer crying in the ditch for a hamburger.) Get REAL! Get on with it!

    I cannot believe the positioning this show makes, about being public service journalism. It is liberal spin, like the massive amount found on this show, that makes me support cutting all government funding for PBS.
    Hey Bill, how much money did this show, and all things related to it, generate for you last year?
    And to respond to Varda's comment about gun laws, and believing that they help protect Americans,. . . firearms give me the ability to protect my freedom when all elese fails. If, by some miracle, the one right slaves had was to keep firearms, how long do you think slavery would have lasted?

    You are doing a good job at playing this game, my only hope is that you mean what you say andthat you can survive the pathology that is ruling Washington.

    There was a searing documentary on Bill Moyers, The Journal this Fri about hunger in America. How dare they! Those heartless people who have our nation in an economic stranglehold! Now Americans can die in the streets, starve to death, with no support systems! This mafia of a government is paying billions, even trillions for this damn war while destroying the lives of countless Americans in our nation. They are heartless pigs and scoundrels and should be put in prison!!!!! I cried when I saw this and I plan to make posters and put them up telling people that our food pantries are bare while Bush and those pulling the strings in Washington are stealing our tax dollars for this war and much more! I will tell people that we pay $30,000 per year for an inmate and $8,000 per year for a student. Greed is a sickness that is eating our nation alive and those who have created this situation are truly criminals and psychopaths who should be held accountable. Many nations have humanitarian equity and are doing very well. We are the richest nation in the world and are being systematically destroyed. SHAME ON ALL THOSE WHO ALLOW OUR PEOPLE TO STARVE ON THE STREETS! You can find those psychopaths in the documentary Iraq For Sale: The War Profiteers. I'm sure you already know who they are.

    Regarding surveillance

    If this regime is so concerned about surveillance and the so called safety of Americans perhaps they should pay more attention to the gun laws and make sure that those who want guns have rigorous background checks so that no more innocent people are killed by those who are not mentally equipped to have a gun. It is not a matter of having or not having a gun. It is a matter of what type of gun and what kind of background checks and criminal checks transpire when buying a gun. Hello is anybody home?

    Frontline had a very interesting documentary about healthcare in other nations. Health care is a citizens right. The Japanese know this, the UK, France, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Norway all developed nations including Cuba and Costa Rica. But the thugs here have stolen this right along with all of our rights in order to rob our nation to make profits for themselves. All else is meaningless to these profiteers. There is no human value that is higher then theirs, that is worth giving anything to the people of this nation and it is this lack of ethics that makes this the mentality of criminals. Things have gotten so bad now and like global warming it may not be reversible this time because with most of our industry in China how can we recover? The convergence of events, soaring oil, soaring food, low wages, outsourced jobs and the war are creating an economic catastrophe that may lead to a depression. In many places it already has as people realize they can no longer live or are hanging by a thread!

    And what can you do to stop those who have the power in Washington?

    Regarding the war

    Who will pay for the private armies like Black water when the troops go? How many soldiers will remain in the 14 bases and the oversized embassy? Who will stop the arms dealers and the Pentagon from perpetrating economic rape and the oil companies from making record profits while our nation and its people diminish? Why are these questions never addressed?

    Those who have engaged this nation in this illegal war have diverted our attention away from Bin Laden. He is no longer mentioned. I believe he may have never been involved and this is why Bush and company have cleverly brushed him under the rug. It is those who are running things that do not believe that human life is important. They, unlike other developed nations, have lowered the bar to allow the murder of ten's of millions of Iraqi's as well as the people of this nation. They have even ignored the impending devastation that Global Warming will cause because their profits are more important. This is a Junky mentality. A mentality that is so filled with the hunger for profit that all of the world can go to hell. This is the arms dealers and the drug dealers mentality where nothing matters other then their profits. This is a mentality that will lead all of us to doom because in order for humanity to survive their has to be a majority who cares about people. It has come down to this. So what are you going to do? Let the corporations pay for their own war. Not the Americans anymore.


    I cannot help but take one last shot at her terrible reasoning, on display in her following comments.

    "The University of Virginia said that student activity fees could be used to fund every student group: the Young Democrats, the lesbian and gay students group, the gardening club, the choir. But the one thing they couldn't use the money to fund was the Young Christians. Now, there really is an issue of fairness. I mean, why should it be just because you're a religious group that you don't get what everyone else gets to pursue their own conscientious commitment?"

    Since our laws and ultimate laws (The USA Constitution) is a living contract given to every person born in The USA, every person born in The USA or granted citizenship are able to use our truly sound and conscience reasoning to know when any orgization has in their past (far and recent) proven to missuse its power (like many different religions, including our politicans) and when they have never proven to missuse its power (like any organization under the name the Young Democrats, the lesbian and gay students group, the gardening club, the choir)and change our living laws and ultimate laws (The USA Constitution) to protect from threats of dictatorships (or even less) under those organizations. If we (as all The USAn citizens) truly practiced this; instead of believing or entertaining (even against The USAn Constitutional Laws) what Mrs. Nussbaum and others believe (some a lot worse), then current dictatorship The Bush Administartion would never happened.

    She said, "...no mention of God..." in either the Declaration or the Constitution. Moyers, you messed up. Why did you not point out in the Declaration, "...with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence,..." The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has this to say in part, "Traditional theism holds that God is the creator of heaven and earth, and that all that occurs in the universe takes place under Divine Providence — that is, under God's sovereign guidance and control. "

    Sorry, I forgot to mention this part of my message to PBS's Bill Moyer's Journal.
    By even giving extra time for each religion (on one-cent given media air) breaks our (non-believers) rights to freedom government sanctioned religions.
    The reason that the original fathers of our country did not realize this, is the same as they did not realize the not giving every single person in USA rights was going to cause racial problems for USAn citizens for centuries after. Because they are imperfect and were too afraid to wait until they were able to convince the racists fathers of country to build The USA Constitution. That is why we do not freeze the USA Constitution from the point of its creation. Just as your guest does not still think her family's (that came over in the original European ships) religion and lifestyle is superior to all other people's religions and lifestyles. Thus, when Mrs. Nussbaum mentioned that the founding fathers did not write into our constitution that there was to be a seperation of church and state she showed her baises, from being religious person that truely only has a conscience for those people who practice religions. As my above post (hard to read, sorry)points out she has a baises for only those religions she respects, thus very limited conscience for the realism of our sitution with so many religions.

    I want to start that I love the show and these are the few, extremely important complaints, I have about this program.
    I found this segment wrong in many ways, contacted The Bill Moyer's Journal with these complaints ,
    First, sneaky way to bring up a unconstitutional, thus illegal, religion discussion, on a government funded program,
    I will continue, since it happened already.
    Second, it insulted all non-believers and those believers in unpopular religions by claiming it was respectable to all people's right to a unbiased religious (cannot exist) presentation, by the fact that non-believers rights were barely brought up just to (uneducately)correct and skimmed over the very reason that makes any communication of religious through the gov. or any thing the gov. funds unconstitutional and illegal: the constitutional right for people who do not believe in a or believe in a unrecognized higher being/religions cannot be religiously promotioned to. The reason the those believers in unpopular religions cannot be respected by religiously promotioning to their religions is because their are far to many people of far too many religions All our good meaning efforts and resources could never reach them all.
    second, The belief that The USA can respect every person's believes by using all our conscience has never worked and will never work. The above points apply, not just if it is just using the resources outside of ourselves, but also the resources inside of ourselves.
    Lastly, Bill Moyer's and your guests' conscience are colored by their current and former or current religions and their experiences from them.
    I rarely, see any segment some way about religion (unforunately , brought to publically funded media) include guests that are not believers in any higher being(s). Thus, nor are their questions asked involving non-believers.

    I have also contact all my politicans, twice, and lastly I communicated to them, to either take away all gov. funds (actual money or tax breaks and etc) to those organizations (especially media and places of worship) that are communicating in any way religion(s) or are religious and the top FCC position divided into one position per political party, voting for at least 66% majority. If they do not, then I will never help them and their party, currently other than to vote for their politicans that deserve my vote. I hear all the time that public media receives next to nothing from the gov. Fine, prove that they can continue to promote religion(s) and survive without gov. support. Their are plently of commerical media for them to fight to get time for their programs.

    I liked most of what Martha Nussbaum had to say, but she missed one point that makes the current radical Right especially intolerant and determined to impose their own brand of religion on everyone else in the country: the doctrine of "protection." We saw this at work in the controversy over Jerry Falwell's comments to Pat Robertson on Robertson's TV show shortly after 9/11. Just before Robertson put Falwell on, he had been talking about "protection" -- about how in the past God had protected the U.S. from being victimized from catastrophic attacks on its soil, and the fact that God had allowed the 9/11 attacks to succeed indicated that He had withdrawn that protection. Then he introduced Falwell, who said he agreed with Robertson that God had withdrawn protection from the U.S. and added that this was due to our tolerance of homosexuals, abortion and the ACLU. In the radical-Right view, we are on the thin edge of damnation as a country and a people and only their total political and spiritual triumph can spare us the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. (I've been to their rallies and heard them talk just this way.) So when you believe you are saving your country and your people from the most horrific manifestation of God's wrath, notions of "fair play" between competing religious traditions (let alone between religion and non-religion!) aren't going to deter you from your mission.

    1. About separation of church and state: Isn't "Render to Caesar ..." just that?
    2. It no longer is "And God created man in His own image." It is becoming "And man is creating God in his own image." and that image is ugly.

    Undercover Pirate;
    Evast Mattie, Yer assumptions would be reasonable if reality was only a physical phenomenon.
    But when ya deal with people, it is a different kettle of fish. Emotions, convictions and ideas play an important part in our effect on reality. Much of our reality is created by people, not nature. If ya say the wrong thing, ya could be walking the plank or keel hauled. That is probably why ya be undercover. Nature, unlike what ya would like to think is not random, it is very managed to be functional and coherent. How that is done is a bloody mystery but if we put our minds to it, we may be able to figure it out. First we need to figure out how to get along without cutting each others throats. Ye can shout about all you like but if we do not learn to live together, we will surely all die together despite our physical prowess. May the wind be at yer back and great treasures close at hand.

    "We cannot appeal to the conscience of the world when our own conscience is asleep."
    Carl von Ossietzky

    Religious belief is not rational. It may be a source of security for the weak or lazy minded, but it operates outside reason. It offers no answers or answerable or testable hypothesis about life or the universe we inhabit. In shout, it is a tremendous waste of time and money. Degrees in law or "ethics" does not qualify anyone to make sensible comments about humanity or the real world we inhabit.

    SB White; impressive post.
    If I understand your first volley correctly; it would seem to me that it is more difficult to change people's opinions then to influence their opinions.
    As far as the quotes go; there is a problem with ignoring the evil and punishing people. We create the desire for evil and then punish those who become victimized by the results. We know the truth but we opt out for easy solutions no matter how disastrous the results. Piety is always false because our righteousness is as filthy rags.
    President Kennedy was killed by a crazy gunslinger who was trained by our own government; probably with help. Socialists had nothing to do with it. It was probably right wing conservatives who wanted no part of a Camelot.
    Darwin came to all the wrong conclusions as did the predecessors you mentioned. Most of it was in defense of evil and an attack on human compassion.
    The call for Peace, Peace, and Peace is everywhere to be found but it is drowned out by greed, corruption and the war against humanity. The Prayer of a righteous man availeth much but where will we find a righteous man? The last righteous man was crucified.


    "Most of us do not see how our opinions are gradually changed from what we
    think we believe, under the influence of ideas elucidated by others
    incomparably deeper and more consistent than ourselves."
    -- George Parkin Grant, "In Defense of North America," in
    Technology and Empire (1969)

    “Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil.” -- Thomas Mann

    “It is false piety to preserve peace at the expense of truth.” -- Blaise
    Pascal

    Our freedom to express views and use the tools of rhetoric contributes to a dynamic and robust culture of entertainment and distraction. Often in the heat of an intellectual challenge, we may confuse sophistication with virtue. But, where is Love?

    While living in Texas, I witnessed grand scale disinformation following the assassination of our president John F. Kennedy by the trigger pull of a socialist. I witnessed another socialist escalate our presence in Vietnam where 58, 000 Americans and thousands more Vietnamese died as ordered by Bill Moyer’s boss and fearless leader, Lyndon Baines Johnson. Our current “Texan in Chief” is attempting to extort our republic with those who are ill equipped to engage in representative liberty and democracy. Texan Trotskyites, along with pagans international, kill their own children every day with abortion. And again I ask, where is Love?

    The expression of the ideas of Charles Darwin influenced Bush, LBJ, Chairman Mao, Stalin, Hitler and Margaret Sanger. Our Universities provide the forum where Darwinism manifests itself in alcoholism, rape, murder, infidelity, immorality and perversion. Ideas do not have equal value and they cannot be regarded as such in civilization. While sodomites like the “any thing goes” or “laisser-faire” in theory, they seldom practice it when challenged with an alternative world view. I encourage a conversation with attorney, economist, movie producer and comic, Ben Stein and then ask yourself, where is Love?

    How can we show Peace, Love, Joy, Kindness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Truth in a world where self indulgence, pride, envy and covertness run deep? University of Oklahoma students Joseph Campo and Ursula Devine plan to spend five weeks traveling the world to make a documentary about peace. But, if they have not Love, they will find nothing worthwhile and true.


    I pray for Bill Moyers, D. Holmes, Martha Nussbaum, pagans, witches, sodomites, Mohammedans, Hindus, New Agers , Republicans, Independents, Greens, Democrats, Communists, Socialist, Children Universal and my fellow members of the tribe.
    In ferro veritas.

    SB White; “Belief is only personal and private” is in and of itself benign. The problem is when belief becomes covert actions that cause death and destruction. Religion should not be a reason to kill people; it should be a reason to help people survive and a reason to make each others lives more bearable. Religion should be a personal choice from factual information. Part of being human is the ability to transcend physical reality to religious truth. Creation is a rational effect that is caused by comprehensive intent. Life is a gift that should be used for good not evil.
    My dad told me about when he was a teenager in England that he and some friends were walking through town when a policeman came up and hit one of the boys on the head with his night stick. The boy asked why he did that and the policeman replied, “That was in case you were thinking of doing something wrong”. Acting on assumptions about what people are thinking goes against every rational and moral principle.
    Heavy handed treatment of people is not in anyone’s best interest. It creates hate and discontent. As usual, the government’s treatment of the people in San Angelo was an atrocity.
    The trauma of being separated from their mothers in such a rude and crude fashion was far more damaging to the children than anything the religious group had going.
    Government intervention has become a total disaster due to incompetence and cruelty.

    I enjoyed listening to the interview very much and found it had substance and value that was worth my time.

    I view the public school system as those schools with required attendance (K-12) that adhere to truancy laws. To single out one group for non-receipt of funds in the collegiate (private) education realm is biased. I do agree with the Supreme Court's decision in the University of Virginia case. Any time any one group receives favorable or unfavorable treatment above and beyond that of other groups in the same environmental, social or economic arena, discrimination is the issue and the civil rights of the group are violated. In the Virginia instance, discrimination against the Christian group clearly existed in that all other groups on campus received funds to the exclusion of the Christian group.

    The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the "Faith-Based Initiatives" is wrong. The idea of U.S funding at taxpayer expense being attached to forced participation in religious indoctrination, participation, etc. or that one faith-based organization is favored above others to receive funds puts huge cracks in the foundation of our country and how the world views this grand "experiment in democracy."

    I do not believe that these instances are indicative of what is happening across the nation. They are micro-instances of human frailty. In our community, respect for diversity prevails in the majority of instances. These instances regarding religions exactly represent why religious beliefs do not belong in the public forum. If the U.S. government funds education with taxpayer revenue, the founders' intent is clear--separation of church of state must prevail. Religion must not be taught or interfere with curriculum when the public school's funding comes from the U.S. Treasury. Public school is for all. There is absolutely no restraint against parents choosing to send their children to private schools that provide for the family's choice of religious belief. I must however, strongly object to public schools being converted into religious battlegrounds.

    In varied and wide-ranging travels, I have found that usually just one or a few charismatic, engaging, or aggressive individuals can sway, cajole, or intimidate many individuals to actions that are out of the norm. They use partial truth, misinformation, embellishment, threats and intimidation as weapons. Emotionalism, tragedy, fear, panic, etc. weaken resistance to any entity that wants to take power, steal resources, or cause havoc to gain the advantage.

    SB White: Apocalyptic rhetoric, illogical hypothesis, and extremist idealism create the very circumstances that Bill Moyers and Professor Nussbaum promote avoiding. Name-calling does nothing to resolve differences. I am aware of the 416 children in Texas. I have followed the matter closely. Any number of those children are at risk of physical and/or sexual abuse as ruled by the court. I must confess to being Texan myself, but I personally do not own any liberals and I have never heard it reported that Mr. Moyers owns any either. I must ask him. Have a good day.

    Belief is only personal and private, D. Homes? Hypothetically, I’m a Sunni Muslim in Baghdad who believes your haircut and ipod collection is an abomination, my little sick “believe” orders that I shoot you in the head, that’s ok with you? Such silly nonsense this egalitarian belief of the Mayflower rider elitist Professor Nussbaum. We can all be wrong but not all Jeremiah Wright correct as Moyers and Nussbaum drop their intellectual ordinance against the expressed “Great Commission.” Moyer’s Texan liberals are in San Angelo attempting to take 416 children from their mothers. Your “conscious” is worthless without the surrender to the will of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Happy Pesach, and may the Angel of Death Passover your doorpost this night.

    It's interesting that the constitution may not mention God, however the "Declaration of Independence" does, but in a more universal sense. "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God ".
    Here's what Thomas Jefferson's wrote: "When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness".
    It is from this principle, “Life” Itself, and the pursuit of living IT with total freedom, which we could not do without the gift of breath from “Mother Nature”, our Creator, that the concept of democracy and all our Sovereign Individual rights originate. So I think on the most fundamental level all secular, religious and spiritual traditions we all can agree. So basically if we need to mention deity in government lets do it in a more universal way and pay our homage and respect to the miracle of NATURE …

    Separation of Church and State must remain the primary concern!
    If you favor one religion with tax money, you abuse the others!
    The separation of church and state must extend to schools, hospitals and other organizations that serve the public, and receive public money to do so.
    This is a hard idea for some religions to accept, particularly if they have a strong following in a community.
    Religious groups and cults no matter how righteous, do not have a right to government taxes to be used in furthering their particular creeds.

    Personally, I do not require the promise of heaven or the threat of hell to do what it right. I am a human being and believe that each human has the right to believe as they please. Belief is personal and private. I am no more or no less than any other human because of belief, wealth, race, preference, etc. I find the discussion of a political candidate's religious beliefs offensive and totally irrelevant. The same applies to their personal lives. Can they do the job? Do they have a proven record of serving our country for the benefit of all citizens? I do not believe a candidate for public office owes allegiance to any special interest group, to any corporation or any one state. When that candidate goes to the Congress, they have an obligation to tend to the business of "governement of the people, by the people"--not getting re-elected. The lobby of special interests must be removed from our political process. As an individual, I do not have access to my government because the monied lobby is in the way. I consider any special interest group, whether it be for oil, bridges to nowhere, or religious organizations has a roadblock to effective policy for America. Throughout history, the struggle for power, the quest for resources and religious extremism have caused the deaths of millions, subjected millions more to horrid practices, and destroyed more resources than those acquired. I wonder when the humans of this world will ever move beyond ignorance, ill-education and arrogance to a place where all humans are equal and important.

    "How can we be a nation of equals?"
    To have equality seems an opportunity given to us by our founders. The reason a state of fairness,--of justice, remains obscure is because so does the meaning,--the definition of the word.
    Inequity is the way of the reality formed by our primitive ancestors,--and continues to dominate leadership mentality,--who make the rules to which people are forced to adapt for survival.
    The difference in our founders was many had personal freedom from this ancient oppressive mentality,--from a hierarchy arrangement where status is determined by physical power.
    The frontier they conquered exists deep within personal thought. This is the home of entities as equality,--and its relatives as peace, freedom, personal talent, love or truth. Satisfaction of these inherent needs of social exchange secures a state of happiness, or justice. These are pure conscious senses. There is no physical equality. So, to have equality, then only to guide each individual toward personal introspection,--or meditation can they be realized,--and activated.
    Only to move these inherent needs that have thrived in the heart of humanity throughout all the eras,--and have been the heart of all major religious instruction --as the initial and primary focus of secular instruction,--only when secular reward flows with adherence to this 'inner' potential,--this Golden Rule of personal social exchange,--when we again allow energy to flow from the inside-out,--like in all living things,--as did our American ancestors,--then can we again become prolific,--and resume the pursuit of happiness.
    Personal consciousness is an equal possession,--but no two physical minds,--or acquired minds are equal,--the understanding,--or realization of equality seems a personal character strength,--with meditation being the necessary exercise,--to which each person should have equal opportunity to develop,--and separate from any particular religious opinion.
    "--the separate and equal station to which the Law's of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them--"


    Re: "I have no tolerance for any inequity, be black or white, mankind and nature, or the religious inequitable teachings of a higher God."

    If you hold this to be true, then you are going to have to exhibit an awful lot of intolerance towards virtually every culture that has graced the face of this earth since nearly all peoples have held to a teaching about a higher God or gods.

    The very idea of divinity carries the sense of inequality between the supernatural and the natural. Isn't showing your intolerance towards all people who hold a theistic worldview an example of not only elitism but of an inequality that you supposedly despise?

    Inequity, be it religious or any other, must never be tolerated, for surely it is simply inequity that is the cause of our demise. Only the teaching and practice of equality, the equality not just of mankind, but rather nature's true equality, the equality of all things, will we have any chance of salvation, the salvation of not only mankind, but of whats left of this once beautiful planet called home.
    = is the solution we seek.

    =
    MJA

    I have no tolerance for any inequity, be black or white, mankind and nature, or the religious inequitable teachings of a higher God. Inequity in any form should never be torerated, be it religious or any other kind. The truth of universal equality is our only path to nature's universal freedom, our salvation is the simple truth of = or One.

    =
    MJA

    Re: "In fact, she commits the same act of arrogance some political leaders make in assuming that they can speak for all Americans while using religious terms."

    Phil,

    I suspect that Ms. Nussbaum has thought long and hard about what "true separation" would mean. She did not define that on the program nor did Bill ask. You are out of line with your comment about arrogance until you fully understand what she meant. Maybe it is in her book.

    I appreciate Ms. Nussbaum's presentation on Liberty Consicousness on this week's Journal. I think this country is moving in a disturbing way from secularisum. In order to protect spiritual dignity and the freedom of thought that is needed for spiritual freedom we must have an equality of methods for expanding the evolution of human consciousness. I look forward to reading Ms. Nussbaum's book.

    I appreciate Ms. Nussbaum’s position. I have been a Christian for most of my life, over the past 30 years I have watched the religious zealots of our day wage a political activist war against the establishment clause, in a unholy battle against atheism. Their success is threatening the very fundamental freedom of Religion setup at our foundation. They will stop at nothing less than a Theocracy. I for one do not want to return to 17th and 18th Century England, where my ancestors were run out of Scotland because they we Protestants under a Catholic King.

    The Founding Fathers knew well the inherent evil of a Theocracy; the combination of Religious and Political power is what they lived through. Avoiding this is what the establishment clause IS about.

    I now bristle at the statement we are a “Christian” nation. WE ARE NOT! It does not say in “Jesus We Trust” on our money. The founders deliberately separated the two powers so that each did not corrupt the other.

    To test my understanding I have recently read Thomas Payne’s Common Since and The American Crises. These two documents inspired and rallied Americans to fight the revolution. It has confirmed my belief. His statements still ring true for today.

    (Addressed to the religious society of the Quakers)
    “When men have departed from the right way, it is no wonder that they stumble and fall. And it is evident from the manner in which ye have managed your testimony, that politics, (as a religious body of men) is not your proper Walk; for however well adapted it might appear to you, it is, nevertheless, a jumble of good and bad put unwisely together.”
    Thomas Pain, Common Sense, 1776

    “Suspicion is the companion of mean souls, and the bane of good society. For myself, I fully believe and conscientiously believe, that it is the will of the Almighty, that there should be diversity of religious opinions among us.”
    Thomas Pain, Common Sense, 1776

    Freedom of Religion inherently implies the Freedom to choose NO belief. Free will IS the ultimate GOD given right. Ms. Nussbaum is correct in her focus on respect for each other’s beliefs, GOD himself does not impose belief on his creation.

    The religious right movement is an example of how mankind perverts God’s law to Man’s agenda. PLAYING God is the ultimate and original sin of humanity that needs to be guarded against. What else was Adam’s sin but “If I do this I will BE equal to God.” We must stop playing GOD with the constitution.

    MLM

    I appreciate Ms. Nussbaum’s position. I have been a Christian for most of my life, over the past 30 years I have watched the religious zealots of our day wage a political activist war against the establishment clause, in a unholy battle against atheism. Their success is threatening the very fundamental freedom of Religion setup at our foundation. They will stop at nothing less than a Theocracy. I for one do not want to return to 17th and 18th Century England, where my ancestors were run out of Scotland because they we Protestants under a Catholic King.

    The Founding Fathers knew well the inherent evil of a Theocracy; the combination of Religious and Political power is what they lived through. Avoiding this is what the establishment clause IS about.

    I now bristle at the statement we are a “Christian” nation. WE ARE NOT! It does not say in “Jesus We Trust” on our money. The founders deliberately separated the two powers so that each did not corrupt the other.

    To test my understanding I have recently read Thomas Payne’s Common Since and The American Crises. These two documents inspired and rallied Americans to fight the revolution. It has confirmed my belief. His statements still ring true for today.

    (Addressed to the religious society of the Quakers)
    “When men have departed from the right way, it is no wonder that they stumble and fall. And it is evident from the manner in which ye have managed your testimony, that politics, (as a religious body of men) is not your proper Walk; for however well adapted it might appear to you, it is, nevertheless, a jumble of good and bad put unwisely together.”
    Thomas Pain, Common Sense, 1776

    “Suspicion is the companion of mean souls, and the bane of good society. For myself, I fully believe and conscientiously believe, that it is the will of the Almighty, that there should be diversity of religious opinions among us.”
    Thomas Pain, Common Sense, 1776

    Freedom of Religion inherently implies the Freedom to choose NO belief. Free will IS the ultimate GOD given right. Ms. Nussbaum is correct in her focus on respect for each other’s beliefs, GOD himself does not impose belief on his creation.

    The religious right movement is an example of how mankind perverts God’s law to Man’s agenda. PLAYING God is the ultimate and original sin of humanity that needs to be guarded against. What else was Adam’s sin but “If I do this I will BE equal to God.” We must stop playing GOD with the constitution.

    MLM

    is she nuts? no one? millions of people, including the framers of the Constitution, want just that separation. state taxes are paying this person?

    Personally, I found the commentary shallow and inaccurate:

    MARTHA NUSSBAUM: "You know, it wasn't really part of our constitutional framing. None of the framers actually used that phrase at all. They used the language of liberty and equal rights with conscience. And separation, I think, doesn't guide our thought that well. Because actually, if you think about it, no one believes in absolute separation of church from state."

    First: I believe in absolute separation between religion and government--"no religion test" and "no law" even respecting an establishment of religion. What part of "no" religion test or law is unclear?

    Second: The Founding Fathers (with capital Fs--see Webster's) are the 55 men who actually attended the secret Constitutional Convention in 1787.

    Third: No one who has read the Constitution would claim the words "church and state" are in the Constitution. This is a "strawman" argument.

    Fourth, the statement "None of the framers actually used that phrase at all" is a distortion: Madison used the "separation" word in his March 2, 1819, letter to Robert Walsh. In specific reference to the U.S. Constitution, Madison more accurately used the wording "separation between Religion and Government." If you want the citation, go to my website. If you want to read a scholarly book on the subject: The Establishment Clause by Leonard W. Levy.

    Finally: No one who has read the Constitution would claim the word "conscience" is in the Constitution. Hello?

    Gene Garman, M.Div.
    americasrealreligion.org.

    Personally, I found the commentary shallow and inaccurate:

    MARTHA NUSSBAUM: "You know, it wasn't really part of our constitutional framing. None of the framers actually used that phrase at all. They used the language of liberty and equal rights with conscience. And separation, I think, doesn't guide our thought that well. Because actually, if you think about it, no one believes in absolute separation of church from state."

    First: I believe in absolute separation between religion and government--"no religion test" and "no law" even respecting an establishment of religion. What part of "no" religion test or law is unclear?

    Second: The Founding Fathers (with capital Fs--see Webster's) are the 55 men who actually attended the secret Constitutional Convention in 1787.

    Third: No one who has read the Constitution would claim the words "church and state" are in the Constitution. This is a "strawman" argument.

    Fourth: The statement "None of the framers actually used that phrase at all" is a distortion: Madison used the "separation" word in his March 2, 1819, letter to Robert Walsh. In specific reference to the U.S. Constitution, Madison more accurately used the wording "separation between Religion and Government." If you want the citation, go to my website. If you want to read a scholarly book on the subject: The Establishment Clause by Leonard W. Levy.

    Finally: No one who has read the Constitution would claim the word "conscience" is in the Constitution. Hello?

    Gene Garman, M.Div.
    americasrealreligion.org.

    Thank you all for bringing us Ms. Nussbaum's thoughtful ideas. - Jeff

    ------
    Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers

    Join us for open discussions about our place in the universe and how we might change our world.

    Albert Einstein once explained that he had knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate... manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty - it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and this alone, he considered himself a deeply religious man.

    We welcome people of all faiths and non-faiths to join us for conversation and philosophic exploration.
    Location: Pittsburgh, PA 15237

    Martha Nussbaum,
    Personally, I think it is more important to get nationalism out of the church than to get the church out of the national government.
    The Christian religion should be be the moral critics of government not sheep to the slaughter that go along with what ever direction the government takes. The church was actively ingaged in the revolution that freed our nation from English rule.
    We have a morally incorrect war that is supported by those who should be following the teachings of Christ who was and is a pacifist.
    Personally; I prefer the teachings of Christ that God is love to the heavy handed Jewish concept of God. There are many variations of Christianity to suit everyone's interpretation of the Bible. The USA is famous for its religious tolerance and its diversity of cultures. This is one of its strengths. Nationalism does not belong in the church but it is an important part of our national inheritance. Patriots are those who support what is good for the people of this country; not what is good for vested interests. There is nothing patriotic about war profiteers and corrupt government.

    Instead, let's ask the question, "Can the President lead a country strong without faith"? For me, this is a no-brainer; of course s/he can. On the topic of morality, I don't understand why it is so hard for people to believe that one who does not believe in any religion, and that we are, indeed, a mass of atoms, though a complex mass that interacts in ways in which we do not fully understand, can have morals. Let's consider that the atoms we're made of interact in such a way that they feel physical and emotional pain. Assuming we all can agree that this is true, then isn't it feasible that our morals are based on that simple interaction. We feel pain, therefore, we can choose to wish that this pain not be inflicted on others. And, we respect that we are not sure of others' experiences, therefore, we are consciously aware that their perspective may be different than ours. This, for example, would be equivalent to "the Golden Rule". Morals can be taught through religion, but religion is not necessary to have morals. Therefore, let's be honest, the debate about whether or not religion and state should be joined, is not a debate at all. It is not imperative that a great leader have any religious beliefs. It is, however, critical that a great leader make the choice in life to wish others good health and have empathy for those that do not.

    You believe what you want, but not all of us should believe what you do.

    I believe Professor Nussbaum said the phrase "wall of separation" was not part of our historical development. If so, she overlooks Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists written when he was President:


    Jefferson's Wall of Separation Letter

    Thomas Jefferson was a man of deep religious conviction - his conviction was that religion was a very personal matter, one which the government had no business getting involved in. He was vilified by his political opponents for his role in the passage of the 1786 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and for his criticism of such biblical truths as the Great Flood and the theological age of the Earth. As president, he discontinued the practice started by his predecessors George Washington and John Adams of proclaiming days of fasting and thanksgiving. He was a staunch believer in the separation of church and state.

    Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802 to answer a letter from them written in October 1801. A copy of the Danbury letter is available here. The Danbury Baptists were a religious minority in Connecticut, and they complained that in their state, the religious liberties they enjoyed were not seen as immutable rights, but as privileges granted by the legislature - as "favors granted." Jefferson's reply did not address their concerns about problems with state establishment of religion - only of establishment on the national level. The letter contains the phrase "wall of separation between church and state," which led to the short-hand for the Establishment Clause that we use today: "Separation of church and state."

    The letter was the subject of intense scrutiny by Jefferson, and he consulted a couple of New England politicians to assure that his words would not offend while still conveying his message: it was not the place of the Congress or the Executive to do anything that might be misconstrued as the establishment of religion.

    Note: The bracketed section in the second paragraph was been blocked off for deletion in the final draft of the letter sent to the Danbury Baptists, though it was not actually deleted in his draft of the letter. It is included here for completeness. Reflecting upon his knowledge that the letter was far from a mere personal correspondence, Jefferson deleted the block, he noted in the margin, to avoid offending members of his party in the eastern states.

    This is a transcript of the letter as stored online at the Library of Congress, and reflects Jefferson's spelling and punctuation.

    Mr. President

    To messers Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.

    Gentlemen

    The affectionate sentiments of esteem & approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful & zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, and in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more & more pleasing.

    Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state. [Congress thus inhibited from acts respecting religion, and the Executive authorised only to execute their acts, I have refrained from presenting even occasional performances of devotion presented indeed legally where an Executive is the legal head of a national church, but subject here, as religious exercises only to the voluntary regulations and discipline of each respective sect.] Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

    I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

    (signed) Thomas Jefferson
    Jan.1.1802.

    Prof. Nussbaum said: "It's the same thing as the Pledge of Allegiance. It's a statement that God is protecting one nation in a favored way."

    I disagree. I have always heard the "under God" phrase it the Pledge as a repudiation of "my country, right or wrong." Instead it says our country ( as with all countries) are under a higher law. As a country we are answerable to something higher, call it God or our common humanity, but some higher order. I find "under God" a helpful and humbling phrase. If we truly thought as a country we had to answer to a higher law we might have not invaded Iraq. We might not have become an Empire.

    Jefferson once said something like this: "Knowing God is just, I tremble for my country." He was speaking of slavery,but we should have the same fear today as we wield the power of empire and forget that we are "under God" and answerable to a higher law.


    Outstanding! Look forward to picking up the book!

    It appears each of us is impacted by that which we are most familiar, or concerned, hence in a disussion the most important content thread is lost or skewed, at best. This is an excellent example of the importance of respect for one another, equality, upon which freedom of speech is based...permitting each person to have equal voice, yet not allowing any one to run roughshod over others.

    I found Nussbaum's thesis enlightening because I have been very concerned about equality in the U.S. for the past several decades, at least. With our national stance on religion or "faith" rising to a loud clang, but accompanied by a most obvious lack of "walking-the-talk," indicates to me a serious lack of personal agreement on the part of church members, nationwide.

    Now in this highly-charged political time, with every candidate appearing to have some divine relationship with their creator, how will it be possible for others to have equal rights, and access under the law? It is important to use more comfortable semantics, instead of "separation of church and state" for example, in order to bring people onto a more homogenous plane. Right now, we are a highly fragmented society. I'm not sure that isn't intentional, as coincidental as it may be.

    Thank you for the opportunity to hear Dr. Nussbaum, Bill.

    One might think it would be nice to say that the presidential race is only about "the issues." However, even Bill Moyers knows better than that. One cannot separate themselves from their race or their gender--and we acknowledge those issues--even celebrate them.

    How then does Moyes expect candidates to separate themselves from their faith? One's faith is part of how a person views the world. One's faith will impact how a person makes important decisions. The Constitution does not allow for a particular test of faith but to insinuate that a candidate's faith should be hid and not discussed in public forums is absurd.

    Professor Nussbaum is probably right that for the founding leaders of this country it was a matter of justice that we respect conscientious, personal beliefs whether religious or not, theistic or atheistic or agnostic. However Bill asked the embarrassing question, "What is the source of conscience or the 'dignity of the human person'?" Ms. Nussbaum cited the fact that atheists can be moral people. But that is not the issue. The issue is a theoretical one: What is the ground for the "spirituality" she talks about that makes us more than meat or just atoms? She must be a reformed Jew who thinks she can be agnostic or atheist if she wants to be. That is fine with me and I defend her right to her opinion, but she is a "philosopher" and her explanation for the source and ground of conscience or sprituality or even human dignity is left unexplained, at least as far as I can make out from her position.

    As for the Pope's reference to secularism, he was not talking about church and state, but about a philosophy that opposes religion, makes war on faith and people of faith. I don't think he is so stupid as to think we can return to an established religion here or even in Europe.

    I find it interesting that Ms. Nussbaum feels she can speak for all Americans when she states that "no one wants true separation of church and state". I'm quite confident that many of us do, I being one. In fact, she commits the same act of arrogance some political leaders make in assuming that they can speak for all Americans while using religious terms.

    I sincerely hope not a lot of ppl listen to this woman...Conscience is the hallmark of only one of 3 different sorts of religiousity. Roger Williams is indeed a source of the phoney evangelical liberalism we see so much of today. It certainly isn't the New England Theology, which, btw, was a religion of conscience. Freedom of religion in fact is supremacy of phoney evangelical liberalism. Make no mistake about it. Disestablishment and growth of The Democracy went hand-in-glove. I wasn't aware that orthodox Jews have truck with any morality other than the Law. We allowed all sorts of ppl to legally and morally avoid military service before the Civil War, as long as they had the money to do it. I have no doubt that the language regarding a religious test in the Constitution makes reference primarily to the English Test Act of 1673 which continued until 1829 altho the sovereign is still required to take a religious test.

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