Podcast #46 – Supreme Court on Summum

We analyze three recent developments nationwide that affect the integrity of church-state separation: an Oklahoma legislator condemns evolution; an Arkansas legislator seeks to end discrimination against atheists in his state constitution; and the Supreme Court rules against an obscure New Age sect called the Summum.

Oklahoma legislator Todd Thomsen (member of the House Education Committee and chairman of the House Higher Education and Career Tech Committee!) filed a House Resolution 1014, condemning his state’s university system for teaching–gasp!–the “doctrinal dogmaticism” of evolution and for daring to invite that rapscallion Richard Dawkins to speak.  This resolution has not (thus far) been acted on by the legislature; in fact, in provided humorous fodder for Dawkins during his scheduled appearance on March 6th–view the YouTube video of it here.

Newly elected Arkansas legislator Richard Carroll has filed House Joint Resolution 1009, aimed at REMOVING discrimination against atheists from his state’s constitution.  Article 19 Section 1 of the Arkansas constitution says “No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this state, nor be competent to testify as a witness in a court.”  This provision has already effectively been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Torcaso v. Watkins (which struck down a similar provision in the Maryland constitution); a warning shot fired by the US 8th Circuit Court of Appeals via a footnote in Flora v. White.  This is a much-need bit of housecleaning that even Rep. Carroll admits probably won’t even make it to a floor vote.  Check out this YouTube video posted by the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers.

Allison is back!  Our resident attorney explains the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Pleasant Grove (Utah) vs. Summum.  The Court concluded that government entities are not obligated to accept any old religious monument offered as a gift from a private organization.  How does this affect the thousands of Ten Commandment monuments that pepper the American landscape?

Also mentioned in the podcast: Becket, the Academy Award winning 1964 film starring Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole.  It tells the story of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury assassinated by the knights of Henry II in 1170.  It’s a thought-provoking look at the historical struggle between church and state.


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Theme music by Body Found.

Recorded March 8, 2009.  Hosted by John C. Snider and David Driscoll.

To listen to this episode click here.

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