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Monday, May 22, 2006

Sign, All Ye Faithful (And Do It On Public School Grounds)

Posted by on May 22 at 10:49 AM

[NOTE: I’m moving up this post from Sunday because it asks for input from lawyers, tax experts, and non-profit workers the type of people who, if they read the Slog, probably don’t read it on a Sunday afternoon. We’ve already received comments from some people who sound like they know what they’re talking aboutand some people who are angry we’re even asking this questionbut I’d like to hear from others.]


At the urging of several bloggers, some liberal observers staked out Redmond’s Antioch Bible Church on Sunday morning to see whether the church was collecting signatures for Tim Eyman’s anti-gay referendum. Shocker: It was.

But keep in mind that Antioch, which is run by eastside Rev. Ken Hutcherson, meets in a public school gym rented from the Lake Washington School District. Seems to me the more important issue is now this:

It is unclear whether Antioch [which is registered as a 501(c)(3) charity] violated any rules or regulations by facilitating the collection of signatures for Referendum 65 on public school property (specifically, the Lake Washington School District’s property).

But whether it’s legal or not, it’s still an outrage that government facilities are being used in a campaign to legalize discrimination against large groups of American citizens.

So all you lawyers, tax experts, non-profit officials, and public school workers out there, tell us: Do you think Antioch did anything illegal here?


CommentsRSS icon

Eli, can you find out about Rabbi Daniel Lapin's connection to all this? He's been a key figure in mobilizing opposition to gay marriage within the Jewish religious community through his organization, Toward Tradition(TT). He's worked with fundy christians nationally, what's he doing locally?

oh, not this facilities debate again! It's been beaten to death, please drop it.

Eli, please no more about the facilities nonsense. How about following up on if conservative seattle jews are working on any of these anti-gay marriage issues? Could you ask around at Temple?

As a number of commenters wrote in response to those blogs, there is absolutely no law that prevents Antioch or any other church from doing this.

Nor should there be one. Trying to get the government to regulate the free speech of your political opponents is not a progressive value.

If you are a progressive and want to respond to this signature-gathering, why not stand in front of churches shouting "hey, ho, hey, ho, blah, blah, blah..." Or better yet, pay a facilities rental fee, organize a meeting, and plan a campaign to defeat this initiative.

David Wright... so what you're saying, is that it's okay for individual school teachers to be fined hundreds of dollars each for, say, leaving a political flyer on their desk, and telling their fellow teachers they can come and pick one up, but we're being undemocratic by trying to hold churches up to the prohibition on using tax exempt property for political purposes?

The facility is irrelevant. The church was activly engaging in a political action, collecting petitions at a sponsored event - i.e. a service. That violates the IRS code. Unfortunately getting the IRS under this administration to do anythig about it.... yeah.
I also doubt that any court would see the action as illegal in the sense that would be required to invalidate the signatures. Violating an IRS code concerning political activity is probably not illegal enough.
You've got to remember that when it comes to situations like this it's never black and white. The courts don't just look at the letter of the law and say - voila. Here you have freedom of assembly and such on the one hand, balanced with IRS requirements on the other. I'm guessing that as long as the church did not spend a significant amount of money to promote the petition they probably haven't run sufficiently foul of the law for there to be much you can do about it.

The IRS went after the tax exempt status of All Saints Episcopal church in Pasadena for mentioning the War in a sermon. Why can't the IRS go after these churches for actually undertaking a political activity during church services!

Lets go after these churches and their tax exempt status. These immoral heathens attack us by supporting their Armegeddon president and pick and chose which verses of the Bible to use against people while ignoring others. They do not deserve tax exempt status.

These close minded idiots are to blame for much of the suffering in this world.

Lets put them on notice that payback is going to be a BITCH.

Goldy & Tim: You both mis-state the facts of the law. You can find the federal IRS rules here. To maintain its federal tax exemption, a charity may not endorse candidates for office, but they take positions on any political issues. You can find the state rules here. They catagorically exempt churches from property taxes, regardless of any political activities.

Goldy asks how it can be fair to prohibit political advocacy by schoolteachers, but not by church pastors. This question belies a fundamental misunderstanding of the 1st Amendment, indeed of the entire bill of rights. The bill of rights limits the activities of the government, not of private persons. A public schoolteacher is an agent of the government; a pastor is not.

I want to be clear: I find the positions taken by some of these conservative churches as reprehensible as anyone. But I indend to win the battle against them with reasoned argument, not by undermining the free-speech principles that I hold dear.

Tim: In the eyes of the law, this is not analogous to the Pasadena Episcopal Church case. Federal law prohibits tax-exempt charities from endorsing candidates, but not from taking positions on issues. In the Pasadena case, the IRS argued that the church endorsed Kerry over Bush. There is no elected office involved in this initiative.

Okay, you say, surely I can find a conservative church that has endorsed a conservative candidate in some election. And I'm sure you can. But then you'll run smack into the next problem, which is standing. Basically, only the IRS could initiate such a suit. So if you want payback, you'll have to win the whitehouse in 2008.

Oops. I meat to address the last post to Mike, not Tim. Sorry.

huh David? We may have to get Mr. Mudede in here for a semiotics intervention.

You read like smart guy, but I gotta say that what you write flies in the face of everything I've been told by other smart people (including lawyers specializing in this) in over 16 years of affiliation as a board member, employee, and executive director of 501(c)3 nonprofits. It also contradicts my reading of the very IRS rules you cite. Most government contracts (and all federal) with nonprofits absolutely forbid the type of activity that these churches are doing.

You are allowed to take a position (e.g., civil rights for gays is good/bad, drug laws are good/bad, etc.), but you are forbidden from advocating on positions up for votes (repeal civil liberties! vote for this!). That is lobbying and is not allowed.

This is why many organizations have two arms -- a nonprofit "educational" arm that is 501(c)3 tax exempt (and tax deductible for donations) and a non-tax-exempt lobbying arm.

In my experience with the tax statuses of non-profits, gnossos is correct. While you can take stands on issues, you can never say VOTE FOR anything. The organization I work for is organized just as he says. We have our 501(c)3, whose goal is to educate and mobilize voters. We say voting is good.
We also have our 501(c)4 arm, which allows us to take specific stands on issues and candidates(but only with our members, who have to opt-in).
By collecting signatures for petitions in a church, the church is allowing active campaigning, IE telling people which way to vote. This is illegal.

Gnossos: I appreciate your writing back to disagree respectfully. In that IRS FAQ I link to, if you scroll all the way down to the "Issue Advocacy vs. Political Campaign Intervention" section, they say:

Under federal tax law, section 501(c)(3) organizations may take positions on public policy issues, including issues that divide candidates in an election for public office. However, section 501(c)(3) organizations must avoid any issue advocacy that functions as political campaign intervention. Even if a statement does not expressly tell an audience to vote for or against a specific candidate, an organization delivering the statement is at risk of violating the political campaign intervention prohibition if there is any message favoring or opposing a candidate.

Looking this over again, I must admit it doesn't back up my position quite as clearly as I thought it did. Still, I would argue that, by explicitly allowing stances on "public policy issues" and by always mentioning "candidates" when it discusses prohibitions, the FAQ does back up my position. But it is true that the FAQ never specicially says "ballot initiative = public policy issue." Perhaps they don't call this out because there is no such thing as a "ballot initiative" at the federal level.

In favor of my intrepretation, let me also make the following arguement by analogy. No one denies that a pastor can tell his congregation: "write to your representatives to oppose/protect legal abortion"; that is definitely covered under the "public policy issue" expection. I would argue that encouraging his congregation to sign a ballot initiative is an analogous activity.

This is such an interesting debate that I did a bit more poking around on the web, and I have some information for anyone interested. To summarize: I was wrong to imply that there are no limits of a non-profit's support for ballot initiatives, but some support is allowed, and in this case probably no church has exceeded the allowed threshold.

If you look at this guide for CPAs, they claim that the law does draw a distinction between campaigning for candidates, which is entirely prohibited, and campaigning for legislation, including ballot initiatives, which is permitted if it is not a "substantial" part of the non-profit's mission. They go on to discuss various court cases which have defined "not substantial" as 5%-15% of total expenditures. The article specifically calls out activities in support of "referenda, ballot initiatives, constitutional amendments, and similiar procedures" as covered by these rules.

Setting aside obscure legal issues, I think the ethical issue is entirely clear. Using government regulation to silence your politicial opponents is not okay.

Fortunately, I'm not afflicted with religious beliefs, but what sort of loser goes to church in a school gym? Why can't they afford their own church? Is the good Reverend's illustrious salary, late model SUV, and McMansion more important than an appropriate place of worship?

Personally, if I WERE weak-minded enough to be a religious person, I would be a Catholic or Episcopalian. At least they tend to have pretty churches.

Catalina,
i totally agree, the aesthetics of evangelical churches are awful! School gymnasiums, super cheesy rock(ish) bands, Tammy Fay Baker's eye shadow, etc., it offends me almost as much as their hateful beliefs. Being religious these days is a much an afront to good taste as anything else.

Sorry bout getting off topic, you can all get back to the geek speak now...

I blame it on malls. As someone who was unfortunate enough to wander through something called the Copley Place for hours last week (I was just trying to find the God-Damned Boston Sheraton) I am particularly sensitive to the damaging effect malls have on the psyche. When you've been conditioned to think that the Downtown Nordstrom is the pinnacle of human acheivement, church in a gym is probably a pretty normal instinct.

I didn't like it when Clinton gave stump speeches in Baptist churches, and I still didn't like it when Gore did it in 2000 and I still didn't like the politicking that Kerry did in 2004. Now, I saw that Bush has done it once or twice and I don't like it with him, either.

This is the real meaning of the separation of church and state in the Constitution. Not the prayer in school, etc. that the whack job left wing goes after.

Locally, I didn't like it when the governor would go to schools for a press conference.

sue them first and let the media try them.

it's far more effective.

Actually, Truth, I don't mind the pols visiting the churches. It's just political fluff, and nobody is forced to be there.

OTOH, I do object strenuously to organized prayer in school. If a kid wants to pray to him/herself before a test or something dumb like that, nobody can stop them. But if they want to do something stupid like my high school did (a "Baccalaureate" program where a dumbass preacher droned on for hours in the gym, giving us his unwanted "blessings") that's where I draw the line. In my case, we were able to get the class sponsorship removed, and the event moved off of school property, which is as it should be. No small feat for a bunch of teens in Iowa.

Actually though, if those Baccalaureate doofuses, or the Antioch characters want to have their silly meetings at a school gym, more power to them as long as they pay market rate facility rental - the same amount any other huckster would be charged to rent the gym for an Amway rally or something like that.

Excellent commentary (geek speak) from David Wright (Tremaine), although I note that he's evolved in his analysis from initial utter certitude to dignified hedging. Nothing in law or in 501(c)(3) regs is utterly certain: the glory of having a living, breathing, elastic, silly-putty Constitution is that the law is what eight old men in long black dresses (& Ruth Buzzi Ginzburg) say it is. Or an obscure administrative judge who wants to make law & make waves.

Question: Were these issues Issues when the churches in question were historically 'black' & were -- every 2 or 4 years -- utterly owned subsidiaries of the DNC? Remember Al Gore, born a poor black child, preaching from the pulpit? And Clinton? And Kerry? And the walking-around money that was never questioned until there were questions about Christy Whitman using some of it years ago in New Jersey?

Re Rabbi Lapin: He's been uncharacteristically quiet since the unauthorized announcement of his sercret marriage to jolly Jack Abramoff, and news of their love child, Tom DeLay. Nobody said an incestuous same-sex marriage to Abramoff was illegal, but it seemed to set a bad precedent, an unToward Tradition. (Haven't heard the Rabbi on KTTH since the nuptials; think he's been displaced by America's digital love goddess, Kim Komando.)

Last week a Slogger confessed, after enduring outsourced torture, that he gave $1000 to NPR. Even worse, I gave $20 ten years ago to Toward Tradition, & have since rcvd at least a $30 bulk of solicitations & manifestos: nothing lately about gay rights.

See that Truth & Justice & moi were typing 'Gore' & 'Kerry' & 'Clinton' at maybe the very same moment. Amazing that nobody posted about Revs Al, John, & Blue Dress Bill earlier. Unlike Mr. Davis, I won't pretend to certainty about any of this, except that it's certainly a quagmire.

Note that the issue as presented seems to be that Hutch could solicit signatures if he had an edifice complex & was pandering from his own protestant palace (e.g. St. John's or University Presbyterian.) But since he's a proletarian populist & preaches from a pulpit in the bleachers (straight people are sooooo gauche) rented from the government, he's crashed through a Constitutional Wall of Separation that does not exist in the Constitution. Way too deep for me.

We have agreement here that pushing prayer in a public school building is unambiguously unConstitutional. How droll. Hip Stranger sloggers pretending they didn't hear last week that Seattle Public Schools are pushing prayer in Seattle Public Schools.

Seattle teachers, via their union, are preparing to accomodate the prayer needs of students, during school hours, on school property. Not all students, though; only those who pray facing east.

Slogging backward, I see that mild-mannered African-American rabbi Daniel Lapin is being piled on, so my piling on was unChristian & redundant. I apologize.

Am wondering, tho, why the Slog went from All Darcy All The Time to All Rabbi All The Time. Inquiring minds, megalomaniacs, & other maniacs want to know.

I spent a little time on Westlaw. Here is the relevant section of 28 USC 503
(3) Corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition (but only if no part of its activities involve the provision of athletic facilities or equipment), or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals, no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual, no substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation (except as otherwise provided in subsection (h)), and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.

the prohibition on campaigning for a candidate is complete. There can be none.
However the prohibition on advocating for legislation is not so cut and dry. Legislations is defined elsewhere as "action by the Congress, by any State legislature, by any local council or similar governing body, or by the public in a referendum, initiative, constitutional amendment, or similar procedure." The statue also indicates that organizations attempt to influence legislations when they
“(a) Contacts, or urges the public to contact, members of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation; or
(b) Advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.”

Clearly asking people to collect signatures of an initiative is an attempt to influence legislation as initiatives are legislation and the church is asking people to support that legislation. However the sticking point is the notion of substantial. In order to not qualify for exemption the advocacy must be substantial.
It would likely be difficult to get substantial for asking people to get signatures. Courts seem reluctant to deny exempt status when the organization is advocating for issues relevant to its mission, unless it appears that that advocacy is a substantial purpose of the organization.

Issues of free-speech are somewhat secondary as the issue is not whether the organization can do what it wants but whether it gets tax exempt status.

All this being said beyond the legal difficult of getting such a case before a court,(given the standing issues discussed above), it would likely be tactically unwise. Going after churches for advocating their beliefs may make us look alike anti-free speech anti-religion types, regardless of the fact that that is not true.

Link please, "American Way", or are you just wildly exagerating, as "your kind" (i.e. doofus conservatives with a victim complex) is wont to do?

RE: 'american way'

Like most conservatives your ability to do comparative reasoning is shaky at best. What the Seattle School district is doing is trying to develop ways to accommodate Muslim students. The same way that Christian students are accommodated, you know when they get their holidays off from class and can pray freely. Now before you go blathering on about how kids can't pray in school. Do a little research and you'll quickly find that student religious expression is completely protect as long as it doesn’t interfere with learning, or is sponsored/endorsed by the school.

Intro Link: www.washingtonea.org/my/local/seahomepage/Unity/Unity16_13.pdf

For more, google "seattle public schools" "muslim students" prayer

"What the Seattle School district is doing is trying to develop ways to accommodate Muslim students." Isn't that what I wrote, aside from my inability to correctly spell 'accommodate'? Note that I did not pretend to presume to have the last word on prayer in public schools. Note again that I don't have the first word on prayer in public schools, an issue that's mired in quagmire.

I noted only that Seattle teachers are explicitly exploring accommodation with the prayer needs of some students, while running away from accommodations of the needs of others. Double-standard hypocrisy, perhaps?

And, no; Christians are not being accommodated with Christmas Break because it explicitly is not Christmas Break. Even Giffy must know that by now; everybody else does.

PS: "Do a little research and you'll quickly find that student religious expression is completely protect as long as it doesn’t interfere with learning, or is sponsored/endorsed by the school."

Like most libs, Giffy gets undone by his own words. Doesn't concerted accommodation of Muslim prayer constitute a level of sponsorship (by the WEA & Seattle teachers) or of de facto endorsement that is denied to observant Christians and Jews and, hell, even Wiccans?

No no no. No more then allowing kids to attends religious services (allowed) allowing kids to express there religion in class activities (allowed) or allowing kids to have access to school grounds and facilities for the purpose of religious clubs and activates (allowed). Islam is somewhat unique in that it requires prayer throughout the day at set times. It seems a rather minor accommodation to work that out compared to the setting of holidays to coincide with Christian holidays, or hell with the very structure of the week giving kids the Christian Sabbath off.

All this accommodation for the various fairy tales that get people through the day, all of whom seem to have a persecution complex.

If only more people knew how to think, and cast off this religious crap.

YAY CATALINA - a voice of reason. I was watching these theologians tear apart the premise of the Da Vinci code last night and couldn't help but wonder if they had done so much fact checking on that book, why had they not given the same amount of scrutiny to the BIBLE! People who believe Jesus rose from the dead slamming Daniel Brown and others for imagining Jesus had a wife and kids. Hilarious.

"(Y)ou'll quickly find that student religious expression is completely protect as long as it doesn’t interfere with learning ... Islam is somewhat unique in that it requires prayer throughout the day at set times."

Giffy goofs again. By trying to posit a false equivalence between allowing sectarian groups to use school facilities AFTER school (the old men in the long black dresses said that was ok) and state/WEA sponsored plans to help one privileged subset of students pray up to five times a day during hours otherwise used for "learning" ... Giffy shows how public schools failed to help Giffy reason through an issue to a reasonable conclusion: the State regards one religion as more equal than all others. On the face of it, this is a big baby step beyond blathering about shutting down & shutting up the Hutch because of his after-hours use of a public building.

Your irrelevant comments about how Solstice Break & never-on-Sunday are Christian accommodation fall flat on their ass. The coincidence of school schedules with Saturnalia or Christmas or the Feast of Lights or Ramadan would have been interesting and possibly useful digressions decades ago, but the only religion now pushed and proselytized in public schools is militant secularism. At least until WEA psuhed Islam to the head of the pack. (And if anyone still has a problem with the calendar, about the aggregation of paid "holidays" around putatively holy days, don't take the money for the paid time off. Only hypocrites would deplore the sacral taint of money from paid time off while still taking the money. Give it back.)

What's really going on, in case anybody missed it, is that while everybody else is pushing out of their closets, Christianity is being pushed in. Most peculiar. To repeat an earlier point, Christianity should maybe learn to push back. No public beheadings; Inquisitions are passe; Mafia hits are too messy, even if they are done by observant Catholics. But maybe the Church needs a Stonewall Moment: We are the Stonewall girls/ We wear our hair in curls/ We wear our dungarees/ Above our Nelly knees ... Aside from bad lyrics, the point of Stonewall was that a pushed-around class pushed back and started to get respect.

The day before Stonewall is where Christianity is now. It's being kciked & pushed around by every she-rat in this town, by every bad Hollywood movie, by every slogger with a mean streak & without a clue. It's truly said that the only premissible bigotry left on the Left Coast is bigotry against a subset of religion called conservative Christianity.

So conservative chirstians take over the government (and attempt to take over our schools) and start telling everyone what to do in their own bedrooms, who they can marry (let alone love), what they can say and do with their own bodies all based on their fantasy fiction myth and you are suprised that right thnking people are trying to shove it in the closet? The closet isn't far enough away as far as i am concerned. It's called the chickens coming home to roost. you can only preach hate for so long without getting a healthy dose thrown back at you.

Ummmm I think if you look at why we have a break in Dec. one around Easter etc, you will find that it has a good deal to do with Christianity, same with why there is not school on Sunday.

Personally I think all beliefs should be accorded reasonable accommodation. For example Catholics should be allowed excused absences for their holy days that are not official days off. Same with orthodox Christians. It likewise seems reasonable to accommodate Muslims when one of their mandatory daily prayers coincide with the school day. As this time generally is around lunch time it seems quite reasonable.

By the way the idea that Christianity is being repressed because you can't force your religious rules (ten commandments, gays, abortion) on the rest of us, or that you don't get to have your mythology taught in schools is silly. Additionally, people criticizing the validity of the ‘truths’ of your religion is likewise not repression.

Hutch Rush, you're kidding, right? You don't actually think Xtians are being persecuted, do you? Do you even know what persecution is?

If you DO believe that Xtians are being persecuted in the US, you have a psychological need to be a victim. That's the only possible explanation for such a retarded worldview. You should really get yourself some help. Or move to China or someplace like that, where religious people really ARE persecuted.

Of course, you'd probably denounce your faith in the first five minutes there, when confronted with REAL persecution.

"It's called the chickens coming home to roost."

That's what Malcolm X said about the assassination of John Kennedy. Malcolm also said during the election of 1964, during which Stephanie Miller's dad 'ran' with Barry Goldwater in the presidential campaign against liberal Lyndon Johnson, that you could trust the conservative -- Goldwater -- to tell the truth. You couldn't trust liberals. Perhaps that's why you're progressives now.

To repeat, the school calendar is a historical artifact that, decades ago, had religious import. Now it assiduously doesn't, ergo Solstice Break or Winter Break. If you're in a job that, by historical accident, pays you to not work on 25 December, and if you're a militant mainline Seattle secularist, and if you think you're accommodating Quincy Bush's asses-of-evil theocratic state by being paid for not working on a "holiday" formerly known as "Christmas," then give back the money. It's one of 50 small ways you can save the planet from Amerikkka.

Catalina, aka Voice of Reason: Who wrote or said anything about persecution, until you did? But since you brought it up, did you notice that persecution in the Sudan six years ago wasn't headline news, perhaps because the persecuted were mere Christians? Our best guess is that more than a million were murdered, enslaved, and displaced. (I read nothing about it aside from articles in the Jewish journal, Commentary, & later commentary from Franklin Graham.)

Anyway, no pampered liberal American protests or vigils. And none dared call it genocide. And almost none, apparently, cared.

Compared to Sudan and China, as you say, American closets are very ******* far from hard time.

"To repeat, the school calendar is a historical artifact that, decades ago, had religious import. Now it assiduously doesn't, ergo Solstice Break or Winter Break."

So since they changed the name, that means it has "no significance" to the religious holidays that still coincide with it?

If people choose to observe the mythology that attaches importance to that holiday, it's still a "religious" holiday to them, no matter what you call it.

Jeez, there's nothing worse than a victim wannabe, whining about a problem that doesn't exist. Especially when they use big words like "militant secularist" Relax, you don't have to be a victim to be a "special person". I'm sure there's someone out there who would find you interesting.

Vobiscum, I assumed that since you were whining about Christians being "pushed into the closet" that you meant they were being persecuted. Perhaps there was a deeper psychosexual meaning on your part that I was oblivious to. Sorry about that.

And you point on Sudan is well-taken. Indeed, I remember very few people out there protesting the genuine persecution of people in Sudan. But the US is something like 80% Christian, according to polling, so where the hell were they? Too afraid of the pampered liberals to say anything? What kind of faith does that show? What would Jesus think of that?

Projection is a very common conservative practice, as is well -evidienced in these slog comments.

I agree Sudan has been undercovered, but if your refering to Darfur, it is not realy a christian percecution thing. The conflict is more between arab muslims and black muslims.

From: Doofus
To: Voice of Reason

Am not sure what a doofus is, but assume that it's like a 'bogot' or a 'racist,' often understood as someone winning an argument with a radical liberal progressive. When even invective fails them, progressives sputter in impotent rage, throw their feces, and call names.

You missed the context for my caustic projection-free comments: Last week's Slog flogged the Pope for raping an altar boy, but all in good fun (the Slog flogging, anyway.) I suggested that flipping off Christians is so pervasive & permitted that it's pathology. The Church keeps rolling over, over & over again, quite unlike the Religion of Peace, for example, that takes no feces flipping from anybody ... ask Danish cartoonists, Theo van Gogh, or Salman Rushdie.

Half in jest I wrote that it's time for the Church to push back before all its teeth are kicked in. I used words that Christains don't use because I'm not Christian, but am intensely interested in double standards: Ergo my comments about the Washington Education Association bringing prayer into Seattle's public schools. Think about it.

About Sudan, I did not stutter. The massacre of up to 1,000,000 Christians happened there in 1999-2000. Darfur, which is not under-reported, hit in 2004 and thereafter.

It's good that you know about persecutions in China, because it's bad that so many were oblivious to persecutions in Sudan six years ago. And yes, the Church (much of which is as air-headed & secular as most of Seattle) was a very big part of the problem. Sort of my point.

Yup, you got me ... If I were Christian and if I were truly persecuted, I would whimper & whine. For sure. I know my very limited limits.

Bottom line: Nope, I wasn't projecting myself into a closet due to damped-down deviance or anything else. I said what I said: As the formerly oppressed & suppressed & depressed are coming out of their closets, swinging, Christians are being pushed in. Or, as you seem to say, they are letting themselves be pushed in.

Given the lengthy and rather heated debate in these comments, does anyone else think it's at least possible that right-wing religious organizations are intentionally mixing up church and state (or at the very least putting on the appearance of doing so) in order to put left-wing political opponents on the offensive with an issue that is nothing if not iffy?

To clarify, the "iffy" issue I'm referring to is that surrounding the signature-gathering, not the issue of gay rights itself.

Seriously, though - the left does a shitty job of actually defending and articulating its (lukewarm) support for the separation of church and state. The right, while I think they're way off base, do actually give reasons for their outrage; the left often just gives a "Why? Because!" defense of Church/State separation. If our politicians and spokespersons weren't such chickenshits, maybe we could actually have a real understanding of this issue in the public sphere.

You have a cool site keep up the good work

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