Anit-Atheist Bigotry And Racism in Chicago

State Representative Monique Davis, publicly attacking Rob Sherman, a local activist who she knew to be an atheist:

I don’t know what you have against God, but some of us don’t have much against him. We look forward to him and his blessings. And it’s really a tragedy — it’s tragic — when a person who is engaged in anything related to God, they want to fight. They want to fight prayer in school. [...]

This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God, where people believe in protecting their children.… What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous [...] And it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! Now you will go to court to fight kids to have the opportunity to be quiet for a minute. But damn if you’ll go to [court] to fight for them to keep guns out of their hands. I am fed up! Get out of that seat! [... ]You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon.

Wow, what an asshat. (Via Friendly Atheist).

After a week of criticism, Davis phoned Rob Sherman, the man she attacked, and apologized. She still hasn’t apologized publicly (we only know of the apology because Davis reported accepting the apology). In my opinion, that’s not good enough. Rep Davis owes a public apology to all atheists — and a public recanting of the substance of her statements, as well.

Have I mentioned that Rep. Davis is Black? No? That’s because it’s not fucking relevant. What a shame that the atheist she attacked disagrees, and wrote:

Now that Negroes like Representative Monique Davis have political power, it seems that they have no problem at all with discrimination, just as long as it isn’t them who are being discriminated against.

Wow, what an asshat.

In the subsequent discussions, Sherman removed the word “negro” from his website, but also justified it like this:

[”Negroes” is] what the group was called when they were being discriminated against, but now that this same group has political power, discrimination is OK, as long as it’s not them that’s being discriminated against. That’s the reason for the use of the term.

Sherman later walked back even further. Oh, and did he mention that he has black friends?

I still thought, today, that Negro and Black were completely interchangeable with identical context, just as Caucasian and White, and automobile and car are. So, I called Jesse Jackson at his office at Rainbow/Push headquarters in Chicago to ask him about it. He and I have had several conversations over the years at VIP events [...] Rev. Jackson wasn’t available when I called, today, so I then called one of my many Black friends to confirm the validity of my perspective. [...] Clint told me that the only people, besides me, who still use Negro are racists who are trying to sound polite. Now I know. There was certainly no intent to act like a racist. I was mistaken when I thought that the words were fully interchangeable and have removed that word from this web site.

colbert_black_friend.jpg

Did you catch that Rob has black friends? I think he wanted you to catch that point. And did he mention he knows black people?

A few points:

1) Rob’s backtracking makes no sense. If he specifically used the word “negro” because it is “what the group was called when they were being discriminated against,” then he clearly doesn’t think that “Negro and Black were completely interchangeable with identical context.” So that’s just bullshit.

2) Ridiculous, too, is his use of the phrase “when they were being discriminated against,” as if blacks don’t still face discrimination today.

3) Even if he had said “Now that African-Americans like Representative Monique Davis have political power, it seems that they have no problem at all with discrimination, just as long as it isn’t them who are being discriminated against,” that still would have been asshatish. Both because there’s no reason to bring up Davis’ race at all, and because Davis does not represent all black people.

4) Note that Sherman, unlike Davis, has refused to apologize.

I’d also recommend reading Mike Estes’ comments, quoted at Friendly Athiest.

(Curtsy to Doug and Ron, who discussed this issue briefly in an open thread.)

This entry posted in Atheism, Race, racism and related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

31 Responses to Anit-Atheist Bigotry And Racism in Chicago

  1. 1
    Kevin Moore says:

    Wow. Double asshattery! Kinda makes ya wanna clonk both their heads together.

  2. 2
    NancyP says:

    Atheist activists often have bad manners of the sort that indicate that they really don’t care what the other person thinks or feels. I am not surprised. The lawyer who took the Pledge case (he was the plaintiff as well) to the SCOTUS also lacked “the social graces”. Some sort of infection from libertarianism? or from fundamentalist religionists?

    I don’t care what racist thoughts the guy has, his loss, but he should shut up and be minimally considerate in public. Unless he is Francophone and minimally English-speaking, he should know better.

  3. 3
    Sailorman says:

    Atheist activists often have bad manners of the sort that indicate that they really don’t care what the other person thinks or feels.

    When you constantly get told that you will burn in hell, that you’re a disgrace, that you’re more corrupting and dangerous that religion, drugs, guns, etc… well, sometimes politeness gets a wee teensy bit difficult to maintain.

    If discourse were not stifled and if it were safe (literally) to walk around in public saying “jesus was a false messiah” then I’d do so. I suspect that the politeness level of my responses would be… low.

  4. 4
    Petar says:

    Being black, a woman or an atheist does not make one a good person. Amazing, isn’t it? Neither does being a politician, but that’s not very amazing…

    And by the way, Sailorman, walking around saying “Jesus is a false messiah’ is both impolite and aggressive. I would dislike someone who did it, even though I happen to agree that Jesus was not a messiah. And how can you speak of a false one when you should not recognize the possibility of a true one?

    Well, I’m an atheist and I dislike many of us… no wonder others do. I think that if I were a believer I would look at atheists the same way I look at people who cannot metabolize alcohol. I would feel a bit sad about them, I would certainly not try to get them to drink, and I would not mind them unless they came to a party and told me I looked stupid and my reflexes were impaired.

  5. 5
    Kevin Moore says:

    At the risk of a raising a side issue, Sherman’s discrimination claim focuses myopically on the effects of school prayer on atheists, forgetting that school prayer alienates many of the faithful, too. Most religious people don’t want to practice their religion in a secular institution surrounded by non-believers. A minute of silence doesn’t even fall within the prayer guidelines of most religions, for that matter; certainly the five times a day required to pray facing Mecca required of devout Muslims is not possible within that little minute.

    I’m glad I never had that crap imposed on me. I would have spent most of the time trying not to giggle – or in the principal’s office.

  6. 6
    Robert says:

    Moral of the story: black people and atheists are bad.

    (Wait a minute, I think I may have gotten that wrong, somehow.)

    Sailorman, why is it so important to you to let people know that you don’t believe what they believe? So much so that (apparently) only the implicit threat of violence is enough to cause you to refrain from saying so?

    Let’s say that I think that New Age crystal believers are credulous, gullible morons. Fine – I have every right to that belief. Would it be civil for me to go to the New Age Renfair and walk around muttering (or shouting) “credulous fools!”

    No. That would be me being an asshat. If someone comes up to me and starts insisting that the crystal goddess loves me and that I must stroke their quartz or my chakras will be misaligned for all eternity, fine. Get into it with them. But why pick a fight? We ALL believe different things. Part of the prerequisite for a civil society is group acceptance of the fact that everyone around us is a complete moron.

  7. 7
    Joe says:

    Some sort of infection from libertarianism? or from fundamentalist religionists?

    huh? athiests someone overlap with fundies? I missed that connection.

  8. 8
    RonF says:

    Kevin, I went to grade school at a time when school administration-specified prayer was part of the school day. I can remember back to 6th Grade when everyone had their turn reading a Psalm up in front of the class at the beginning of the day – the 23rd Psalm was a favorite, IIRC. Of course, our public schools were highly diverse; we had both Catholics and Protestants. Plus a couple of Jews, which is why readings were generally from the Old Testament.

    I do not remember anyone ever giggling or cutting up or causing any problems in those days during prayer. Even the class clowns took it seriously. I rather suspect that if you had sat there giggling you’d have spent the next 1/2 hour or so in the Principal’s office, and repeated offenses would have earned you detentions. Kids pretty much sat there quietly if the prayer was a reading, or recited the prayer along with the teacher if the prayer was the Lord’s Prayer.

  9. 9
    RonF says:

    A fire recently gutted the church building of a fairly large black parish in Chicago. Blago (Gov. Rodney Blagoyevich, a.k.a. “Public Official A”) decided to curry black votes by giving them $1,000,000 of our bankrupt state’s money to rebuild. Rob Sherman is calling him on it. I think that Rob Sherman is right on this one (even a stopped clock is right twice a day). I don’t know if the church is in Rep. Davis’ district or not, but Rob is kind of going up against her constituency.

  10. 10
    Stentor says:

    I don’t see what manners and politeness have to do with this. The problem with what these two people did is that it’s *bigoted*, not that it’s *rude*.

  11. 11
    Lea says:

    It seems to me that Sherman, too, “[has] no problem at all with discrimination, just as long as it isn’t them who are being discriminated against.” Come to think, that’s a pretty common train of thought among most people. Wow, what asshats.

    I don’t go around airing my opinions about religion unless I’m specifically asked, and even then I tend to give a warning; I’m agnostic, and my opinions of faith and religion are by definition hurtful to the faithful, because some things can never be sugarcoated enough to sound nice.

    I do not expect the same courtesy in return, because that would be bloody naive. The faithful do and will tell me that I’m a filthy whore, that I’m going to hell, that I’m responsible for the Holocaust (subst. 9/11 to be applicable to your parts), comment freely and vulgarly on my choices of clothing and food, etc. etc.

    While I can exercise my democratic right to free speech and be an utter fucking bitch, just like the majority of the faithful, I choose not to. I reserve freedom of speech for displays of depraved sexuality that will tear down society and cause the next Holocaust, like the gay pride parade.

  12. 12
    Sailorman says:

    Petar/Robert:

    Why is it important to spread the word of rationalism? I don’t know: why is it important for (apparently) most of the population of the world to spread the word about their choice of religion? Since you both seem to be at least vaguely cognizant of efficiency, if your goal is to get religious discussions out of the town square, seems atheists would be a bad place to start.

    But in any case, I am getting a git feeling that you’re missing the parallel between atheism and religion, which is an equivalent level of discussion.

    I see “christ is lord” billboards; I see “what would jesus do” shirts; I have people walking up to my door asking me to join their religion.

    Are you in the majority of people who have little problem with that?

    Door to door and/or public proclamations of religion, and door to door and/or public denouncements of religion, are two sides of the same coin. That the religious folks have managed to get their actions defined as “normal” or “acceptable,” and the actions of atheists defined as “rude” or “impolite,” is a pity. In either case, I encourage you not to buy into that artificial distinction between two essentially equivalent actions.

    The opposite of “talking about religion” is NOT, as some religious folks suggest, merely “not talking about religion.” Rather, it is “talking about atheism” or, if you prefer, “talking about (not religion)”

  13. 13
    mythago says:

    Sailorman, I’m honestly not following your point. There are a lot of rude, mouthy Christians; therefore we should excuse Sherman for being a racist asshat because the poor thing is probably buckling under the strain? Please, connect the dots for me.

  14. 14
    RonF says:

    IIRC Rob Sherman was the atheist who sued the BSA a while back when he and his kid tried to join the Cub Scouts. He wanted to draw a line through the religious declaration on the application (the adult app – there was no religious declaration on the youth app). The person in the Pack who was signing people up told him he couldn’t alter the app, and a lawsuit was on. Of course, Rob lost that one, but not before wasting a lot of people’s time and money. Scared the local school off of permitting the use of their building for Scouting purposes, which was part of his objective. Fortunately Federal law was changed to fix that.

  15. 15
    Robert says:

    Why is it important to spread the word of rationalism?

    But that isn’t what you’re doing. “You non-rationalists are morons!” isn’t evangelization for rationalism, it’s just a tear-down of what people believe. “Have you heard about my new group, Rationalists for Rationality? We believe that the universe was created six billion years ago through mechanistic processes…” is evangelizing for rationalism.

    Are you in the majority of people who have little problem with that? Door to door and/or public proclamations of religion, and door to door and/or public denouncements of religion, are two sides of the same coin.

    I have no problem with any public or private exhortation to believe certain things, though of course I will disagree with many of the things being exhorted. But I disagree (politely) that positive proclamations and negative denouncement are the same thing. Both are protected, but they aren’t the same type of speech. “Vote for Pat Buchanan” is different from “the Jews are subhuman filth who must be removed from society” – even if PB believes the latter sentiment.

  16. 16
    Dianne says:

    Scared the local school off of permitting the use of their building for Scouting purposes, which was part of his objective. Fortunately Federal law was changed to fix that.

    I’m not sure what the religious declaration in the Scout’s application is, having never applied myself, but if it limits membership to belivers in a god/s (or restricts further, such as must be monotheistic or must be Christian), how is it “fortunate” that a federal law was changed to allow this religious organization to use public buildings for free for their own purposes? Because that line about “separation of church and state” was only meant to apply to religions you don’t like or what?

    This is just another example of how Christianity is constantly in your face in the US. I don’t mind the public holidays so much–it’s pretty clear at this point that there are secular holidays that are called “Christmas” and “Easter” that derive from but are separate from their Christian counterparts. But even in NYC people get beat up for not responding to “Merry Christmas” in the desired way. Then there are the “Believer” license plates in Florida. Or the tax breaks given to churches that are clearly involved in political work. I don’t go around saying “Jesus was a false messiah” mostly because there are enough people running around the streets of NYC ranting about their pet peeves already (did you know the phone company was responsible for 9/11? That’s what someone told me just this morning…he wasn’t real clear on which phone company though.) But the US does have a theocratic bent and it’s annoying.

    BTW: Yes, Sherman is an asshat. No one ever said that being an atheist stops someone from being an asshat as well. Or if they did, they were wrong.

  17. 17
    Robert says:

    Because that line about “separation of church and state” was only meant to apply to religions you don’t like or what?

    WHAT line?

    If Jefferson’s private correspondence is going to be used to run the country, I’ve got a lot of reading up to do, as do we all.

    We don’t have a formal policy of separation of church and state. We have a Constitutional guarantee that the government will not make laws establishing a religion. We do have a broad tradition of avoiding excessive state-faith commingling, and that’s generally speaking been very beneficial to our nation.

    But until fairly recently, it’s never been held to bar the Methodists from using the town square for their picnic, or the Scouts from using the school building. If it is going to be used in that way, then it is the tradition that will eventually go away. Not the religions.

  18. 18
    Dianne says:

    Maybe we ought to just establish a state religion. And start collecting tithes from anyone who belongs to it. It turned out to be the short route to secularism in much of Europe. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem to be working quite the same way in the Middle East. (And yes, I’m thinking of Israel too.)

    If it is going to be used in that way, then it is the tradition that will eventually go away.

    I’m reasonably sure you meant this in a “the voters won’t tolerate it” sort of way, but given that there have been anti-atheist/agnostic bashing incidents, this comes out reading in a rather sinister manner.

  19. 19
    Sailorman says:

    Robert Writes:
    April 15th, 2008 at 7:43 am

    Why is it important to spread the word of rationalism?

    But that isn’t what you’re doing. “You non-rationalists are morons!” isn’t evangelization for rationalism, it’s just a tear-down of what people believe.

    I think that if you reexamine what you’re saying, that you will have a bit of trouble distinguishing between that evangelization and ‘teardown of what people believe.’ Can you explain, for example, how evangelizing to someone who isn’t of your religion is not attacking their beliefs?

    “Have you heard about my new group, Rationalists for Rationality? We believe that the universe was created six billion years ago through mechanistic processes…” is evangelizing for rationalism.

    It is ONE way of getting people to adhere to rationalism. Let me know if you think that I should get to define how religious folks are “allowed” to evangelize, and I’ll start considering whether your suggestion makes sense.

    I have no problem with any public or private exhortation to believe certain things, though of course I will disagree with many of the things being exhorted. But I disagree (politely) that positive proclamations and negative denouncement are the same thing. Both are protected, but they aren’t the same type of speech.

    In all seriousness, that’s because you are probably affected by centuries of the bias I discussed above, in which the views of the religious majority are defined as “positive pronouncements” and the views of their opponents are defined as “negative denoucement.” It is a difficult trend to see around.

    I suppose it would be theoretically possible for religion to be promoted in a purely positive way, i.e. “come join us” without a single mention of what happens if you fail to do so. But as you are surely aware, most religious arguments–like almost all other arguments–present BOTH the positives of their own position, AND the negatives of their opponents’ position.

  20. 20
    mythago says:

    Sailorman, as long as you’re diverting the thread from criticism of Rob Sherman: would you kindly stop conflating “religion” and “the evangelizing religions I don’t like”. Many major religions don’t evangelize, and don’t threaten hell and damnation as the alternative to following them. Some aren’t interested in converts at all. Some, such as Judaism, have a flat prohibition on evangelizing.

  21. 21
    Sailorman says:

    Mythago, is there some reason that you’re being so snippy here? This isn’t your thread; nobody seems to be disagreeing that sherman was inappropriate; what’s your beef?

  22. 22
    RonF says:

    I’m not sure what the religious declaration in the Scout’s application is, having never applied myself, but if it limits membership to belivers in a god/s (or restricts further, such as must be monotheistic or must be Christian), how is it “fortunate” that a federal law was changed to allow this religious organization to use public buildings for free for their own purposes? Because that line about “separation of church and state” was only meant to apply to religions you don’t like or what?

    Your assumed premise is incorrect. All the BSA basically does is require that one believe in some higher power. Monotheists (e.g., Christianity, Judaism, Islam), polytheists (Hinduism), nontheists (Buddhists), all are welcome. In fact, you need not belong to any established religion or profess faith in any known God. As long as you don’t actively deny that there is any higher power past the material plane, you’re fine.

    Again; “separation of Church and State” appears nowhere in the Constitution. The Constitution as written and as amended was never meant to forbid the government from favoring and supporting the role of religion in American life. What the First Amendment does is to prohibit the Congress from creating an established church. It cannot favor one particular denomination over another by granting it a favored place in the country. This was in direct reaction to what happened during the Reformation, where most European countries each had one church that was the established church, being funded by the State and having some formal role in it’s governance (as the Church of England still does), and where other churches were at best ignored and at worst actively suppressed and where wars were fought to accomplish that suppression. Granting all religious organizations equal access to public buildings, etc., does not establish any one of them, which is why it is fortunate that the law was made to recognize that.

  23. 23
    RonF says:

    Rob Sherman has a weekly show on Comcast’s public access cable channel in the Chicago area. It’s ingeniously called “The Rob Sherman Hour”. I listened to it once for a few minutes, but test patterns are more interesting. I wonder if he’s going to address this issue on that show? I wonder if transcripts of that show are available?

  24. 24
    Ampersand says:

    Your assumed premise is incorrect. All the BSA basically does is require that one believe in some higher power. Monotheists (e.g., Christianity, Judaism, Islam), polytheists (Hinduism), nontheists (Buddhists), all are welcome. In fact, you need not belong to any established religion or profess faith in any known God. As long as you don’t actively deny that there is any higher power past the material plane, you’re fine.

    This sounds as if being an agnostic is acceptable to them, as long as you’re not an atheist. Is that correct?

  25. 25
    Dianne says:

    As long as you don’t actively deny that there is any higher power past the material plane, you’re fine.

    And why should your belief or non-belief in a diety Allah to Zeus or something amorphous, have to do with whether or not you would be a good person to supervise a mass of preteen boys when they go out into the woods and play campout? Or whatever else boy scouts do? Sounds like a clear case of discrimination to me, unless there are badges that I’m unaware of like “complete dreamquest” or “mysticism” or “divine revelation.” (Actually, an atheist could still participate in those…he or she would simply consider the revelation to come from within rather than being imposed from the outside.)

  26. 26
    RonF says:

    Dianne:

    Maybe we ought to just establish a state religion. And start collecting tithes from anyone who belongs to it. It turned out to be the short route to secularism in much of Europe. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem to be working quite the same way in the Middle East. (And yes, I’m thinking of Israel too.)

    In Europe the governing power was always secular (absent the Papal States). They obtained legitimization from the religious powers and worked with them to maintain their position, but they were always jealous of their perogatives and always ruled in a secular fashion. Even in those times where there was an established religion, the ultimate power was secular. In that regard, there was separation of church and state; the state ruled, not the church, and the state had perogatives over the church, including the right to choose many of it’s leaders.

    In the Middle East, the singular event of Mohammed and his immediate successors conquering much of it created a theocracy. Even when his empire broke up, the rulers were religious heads as well as secular ones. There is no separation of church and state at all, and Islam doesn’t seem to recognize the desirability of such a thing – at least, not as it is interpreted by a great many of it’s adherents. When a prophet is also a conqueror and when the followers of a religion hold supreme verses in it’s scripture that tell people to eliminate other religions and their believers by force you get this kind of thing.

    Christianity tells people that they should be in the world but not of it. Jesus never owned anything but the clothes on his back and never used anything but love and persuasion to convert hearts and minds. Would that his followers had done the same throughout the millenia! But His teachings and His example in this are clear, as are the differences with Islam. This leads to the difference in the present state of Europe and of the Middle East in this regard.

  27. 27
    RonF says:

    O.K., Dianne, I’ve been guilty of thread hijacking in the past and I’m trying to swear off. I brought Scouting up because Rob Sherman has been actively engaged with them in the past, but if we’re going to talk about Scouting in general I suggest we do that on an open thread.

    Amp; well, it is your thread, and I can answer your question briefly. “I’m not sure” is generally accepted. And from my private conversation with Scouters and Scouts, I can tell you it’s not unheard of.

  28. 28
    mythago says:

    Sailorman, 1) please re-read @20, which explains some of my ‘beef’, and 2) are you really, REALLY trying to argue that unless I”m either black or an atheist, I should STFU?

  29. 29
    Zee Harrison says:

    I’m black, female and atheist. Rep Davis illustrates the fundamental problem with theist memes – it enables people to get into power and abuse it (and others) all in the name of defending ‘god’.
    Rob Sherman had a very good point to make, let’s not lose sight of that, but has put his foot in it way too deep and exposed himself as being ignorant of the so-called ‘race issues’ in his own country. Kudos points to him for challenging a donation of public funds which he disagreed with. Managing PR is not easy.

    On a further point, I don’t like someone because they are atheist nor do I dislike someone because they are believers in the supernatural.

    Both these people need educating out of their respective ignorance.

    Zee – Black Woman Thinks

  30. 30
    sylphhead says:

    To those keeping count of my prolific posting today, yes, today was one of those “too much free time” days.

    This sounds as if being an agnostic is acceptable to them, as long as you’re not an atheist. Is that correct?

    This is an incorrect definition of atheism. Atheism is the lack of belief in any gods. Agnosticism is the lack of knowledge in any gods. Agnosticism is not a middle ground between theism and atheism – there cannot logically be a middle ground between theism and atheism. Either the belief in a god is there or it isn’t. (There’s a middle ground when it comes to individual people – you could vacillate, believing one day and then not believing the next. But there is no middle ground when it comes atheism and theism as logical propositions.)

    I think I understand what Sailorman is trying to get at, though the impression I got too was that non-believers should go around insulting Jesus. We can all agree that that’s a jerkass thing to do.

    But why is it a jerkass thing to do? If atheism is denial of god(s), then all I’d be doing is professing my faith – no different than saying Jesus was the true messiah, or that we should kill lizard men for Xenu. But this is not so, and this gets to heart of what separates atheism from the various theistic beliefs, why atheism is not “just another religion in its own way”.

    Atheism is not denial of god. Atheism is the lack of theism. Going around the park badmouthing Christianity is not practicing atheism. Not going around the park promoting Christianity is practicing atheism. (I realize many Christians don’t go around parks; I’m trying to illustrate a point.) Atheism is defined by what you don’t do, what you don’t believe. Certainly, there are atheists who take it beyond this (“strong” or “positive” atheists, and frankly I find a high correlation between being a vocal positive atheist and being a smug asshole), but it is not a requirement. By definition, all animals and all inanimate objects are atheists, insofar as it makes sense to apply such terms to entities incapable of abstract thought.

    So, either atheism is *denial of god* – untrue, but it would entail allowing me to go around denying Jesus in public because then I’d just be evangelizing my beliefs, just like anyone else has a right to – or it’s not a belief at all but the lack of a belief, in which case why doing so is wrong comes into sharp relief. The opposite of prayer in schools is not not having prayers in schools – it’s mandated recitals of denial of god in classrooms. The latter, by the definition religious people want to use, would actually qualify as promoting atheism, not simply the absence of prayer. But they want to have it both ways. They want to define atheism narrowly when it comes to philosophical debates, broadly when it comes to how atheism is corrupting children and pornifying society.

    By the way, it’s not true that by promoting atheism you are promoting rationalism. You could disbelieve for reasons that have nothing to do with reason.

  31. 31
    sylphhead says:

    The Constitution as written and as amended was never meant to forbid the government from favoring and supporting the role of religion in American life.

    The First Amendment does not say that Congress shall not establish a national church. It says Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof (and yada yada yada). A law that favours one religion over another can be and has been, by SCOTUS, as respecting an establishment of religion. The difference is that some Christians try to imply that as long as Congress doesn’t completely up and set up a national church (presumably, in one go), it’s constitutional. No. Incremental buildup of such support is also illegal, which is why I parse the wording of the first clause.

    Furthermore, let’s not forget that second clause. When the government forces citizens to take part in the rituals of a specific religion, it is more than arguable that it prohibits the free exercise of religion.