Thanks to a report from the Christian Broadcasting Network this week, we now know that weekly bible studies are being hosted in the White House for members of President Trump’s cabinet. This weekend, Fox & Friends had on Freedom from Religion attorney Andrew Seidel to debate White House faith-based initiative team member Dr. Jay Strack about the mix of religion and government.
At the start of the segment, the Fox host asked Seidel, “Why would these leaders not have the ability in a country with a lot faith-filled people to simply host a bible study?”
“First, these are government officials on government property using government resources on the taxpayer dime getting together for a religious purpose,” Seidel replied. “… But if you leave the legalities aside, the propriety here — it can’t be considered proper or in keeping with American values for government officials to get together in taxpayer time to study a book that condones slavery and the subjugation of women and the eternal torture and torment of people who don’t believe like you,” he continued. “So even if it doesn’t violate the Constitution directly, it certainly violates that core principle of American government of separation of state and church.”
In his response, Dr. Strack said he couldn’t understand why Seidel is “upset” about the fact that people in the White House would seek prayer during a time when the “world is on fire.”
“I’m very grateful we have a president — I’m very grateful for a cabinet that gives people an opportunity to do so,” Strack said, before offering up his own little version of revisionist history. “I’m afraid Andrew and some of his friends would be very upset to have been at that Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia when their — I guess their hero Benjamin Franklin stood and said simply, ‘Sir, I lived a long time, we have seen after praying daily in this building for divine protection…”
“Well, that’s not actually correct, now is it?” Seidel interrupted. “They didn’t actually pray daily in the building at all. … Benjamin Franklin proposed a prayer, but they did not have any prayer at the Constitutional Convention and the delegates actually rejected his call to prayer.”
Watch the full segment below:
As always, I wish I had more time to address the deluge of errors from both the host and the preacher, but with time short in a 2 v. 1 game, you've got to pick your battles. I do wish I had had a chance at the end to address the fallacious idea that this bible study is about religious freedom, because I don’t actually have a problem with people studying the bible—the road to atheism is littered with bibles that have been read cover to cover. Bible study is a great way to lose your faith. But study the bible in your private capacity, not in your official capacity and at your government desk. Do it on your on time, not the taxpayers’. In short, get off your knees and get to work.I also would have liked to point out that this must be the most ostentatiously religious and least productive cabinet in recent memory. They ought to be studying the Constitution and the Federalist Papers and perhaps a high school civics textbook, not the bible. And if they insist on studying the bible, they should do it on their own time, not the taxpayers. And my audio feed cut out right when they were spouting the right wing lie about the Constitutional Convention praying. It didn't happen, Franklin proposed the motion, true, but he recorded in his notes: "The Convention, except three or four persons, thought Prayers unnecessary." They also cut my mic at the end, so you don't get to hear me add that while 7% of Americans are atheists and agnostics, 23% are nonreligious. Ah well, it's always fun to debate these things, especially with people who have talking points instead of facts, figures, and genuine knowledge.
Posted by Andrew L. Seidel on Saturday, August 5, 2017
In a later post on Facebook, Seidel said that he wished he had more time to address the “deluge of errors from both the host and the preacher.”
“I do wish I had had a chance at the end to address the fallacious idea that this bible study is about religious freedom, because I don’t actually have a problem with people studying the bible—the road to atheism is littered with bibles that have been read cover to cover,” Seidel wrote on Facebook. “Bible study is a great way to lose your faith. But study the bible in your private capacity, not in your official capacity and at your government desk. Do it on your on time, not the taxpayers’. In short, get off your knees and get to work.”
[Friendly Atheist] Featured image via screen grab