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The "Burning Times Award," given to Sen. Albert Robinson of Kentucky

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Sponsored link.

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Quotes:

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"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." The establishment clause in the 1st Amendment of the U.S. constitution.

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"No power over the freedom of religion [is] delegated to the United States by the Constitution." Excerpt from the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798

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"The [U.S. Supreme] court recognized in 1980 that our nation's Founders sought to avoid the ability of any group -- even a vast majority -- to force their religious views on an entire community. This simple, courageous precept is at the heart of America's history of religious tolerance." Edwin C. Yohnka, Director of Communications for the American Civil Liberties Union. He was commenting on a bill before the Illinois legislature, 2000-FEB. 

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burntime.gif (5152 bytes)1 The award:

Occasionally, a North American political figure makes a statement or performs an act that is profoundly religiously intolerant, or which strikingly violates the U.S.  Constitution. The latter is a particularly serious ethical failing. It contravenes the oath that all legislators are required to take in which they promising to support the U.S. and state Constitutions. 

We recognize such memorable events by issuing a Burning Times award. Our third Burning Times award was given to Senator Albert Robinson (R-London) on 2000-MAR-3. He is a member of the Kentucky Senate. More details about these award.

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Background of the separation of church and state in Kentucky:

In recent years, the posting of the Ten Commandments from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) has become a high profile issue. Debate is particularly active in Kentucky. Conservative Christians have been primarily responsible.

bulletMost believe that the moral tone of the country has degenerated since a 1962 U.S. Supreme Court decision when the court declared that prayer is unconstitutional if it is installed as an integral part of the curriculum of public schools, . Many conservative Christians believe that this decision converted public schools into "religion-free zones." That is not an accurate assessment, because a great deal of prayer and student religious speech is in fact protected by the Constitution.
bulletMany conservative Christians believe that the Ten Commandments can constitutionally be placed on the walls of government offices and public schools, if no government money is involved. i.e. if private funds and volunteer effort is used to install and maintain the plaques. No court decision has supported this opinion. Court rulings have ruled that the posting of the Ten Commandments on the walls implies that the government or public school board promotes Judaism and Christianity -- a violation of the principle of separation of church and state.
bulletThe American Civil Liberties Union routinely wins court cases against public school districts that post the Ten Commandments. Roger Pilon, spokesperson for Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, commented about church-state separation situation in Kentucky: "Nothing in our constitution prohibits people from expressing and supporting their beliefs as vigorously as they want, provided they do it in the private sector...What these people seem to want is public sanction for their views and that precisely is what the Constitution prohibits in the establishment clause of the First Amendment.'
bulletSome conservative Christians -- particularly parents of students in the public school system -- oppose the posting of the Ten Commandments in the schools. They believe that the government has no right to teach religion to its students. That should remain a parental responsibility.

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Actions by Senator Robinson:

By 2000-FEB-15, a Ten Commandments bill had been stalled for many weeks in a committee of the Kentucky house. If signed into law, it would allow voters in individual school districts to hold a referendum and decide whether the Ten Commandments would be posted in their schools. No government funds could be involved; community groups or individuals would have to pay for the cost of installing and maintaining the displays . Bill 111 would also require the schools to teach the Commandments along with the codes of other religions. Nothing in the bill requires schools to teach the moral codes of non-religious groups, like Humanists, Ethical Culturalists, etc.

House Bill 111 was supported by 32 cosponsors -- almost the entire house. Senator Ernesto Scorsone (D-Lexington) was the only person to vote against the bill. He was concerned about its constitutionality. He may also have been concerned about his oath of office which requires him to support the constitution. The bill passed 37 to 1. Since the vast majority of legislators are lawyers, they must have realized that the bill is clearly unconstitutional; they knowingly violated their oaths of office. However, legislators at the state and federal level appear to violate their oaths regularly with impunity when it is politically expedient.

Senator Albert Robinson (R-London) objected to the bill. He did not protest the bill's unconstitutionality. Rather, he was concerned because the schools  would be required to teach codes of other religions, in addition Christianity. His view is that Christianity has always had a position of prominence in American history. He said ''When the boat came to these great shores, it did not have an atheist, a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Christian and a Jew. Ninety-eight-plus percent of these people were Christians.'' 

Robinson sponsored his own senate joint resolution SJR 57. It called on the Kentucky Board of Education to stop the "suppression and censorship of American history" with respect to "Christianity's influence." 

Robinson's resolution later amended to replace the word "Christianity" with "Judeo-Christianity." It was passed by the Senate, over the objections of Senator Robinson. He complained that the phrase "Judeo-Christianity" is a politically correct term. Since it included Judaism, he saw it as continuing "the suppression" of Christianity. He said that the amendment had "done Christians and the Christian history of this nation a terrible injustice."

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Sponsored link:

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Reality check on religion in early America:

In colonial days, there were many diverse religions present in America:

bulletThose who came from Europe were mainly Christian, as Senator Robinson has correctly stated.
bulletWhen the first boat approached from Europe, 100% of the inhabitants of North, Central, and South America followed various forms of Native American spirituality. The Native tribes in North America alone followed over 500 different religions, many of which were very similar to each other. 
bulletStarting in 1619 CE, African slaves were kidnapped and transported across the Atlantic Ocean to the American colonies as slaves. Increasing numbers of Africans were enslaved when tobacco farming spread in the 1670's. They followed either Islam or a number of Aboriginal religions in Africa. In time, some merged their native religions with Roman Catholicism to produce such syncretistic religions as Santeria and Vodun.
bulletDuring the American Revolution, many (perhaps most) of the political leaders were Deists. They believed that a God created the world, started it up, left, and hasn't been seen since.

A case can be made that Senator Robinson, and the majority of fellow senators who voted for his resolution, have contributed to a second wave of killing of religious minorities in America. The first wave of killings happened:

bulletIn the 15th to 19th century when mass crimes against humanity were conducted against the Native population of America, resulting in the deaths of millions of human beings. The perpetrators were mainly  White Christians. To their credit, many Christian denominations have since officially apologized for the actions of their ancestors.
bulletIn the 17th to 19th century when tens of millions of African-Americans were stripped of their humanity, enslaved and worked to a premature death. To their credit, the Southern Baptist Convention, and other Christian denominations, have apologized for their past support of slavery and any residual racism in their organizations.

The second wave of killings happened in the Kentucky Senate, where the memories of these crimes against Natives and African-Americans was passively discounted or ignored.

Those who ignore the past are destined to repeat it.

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Reactions to Senator Robinson's resolution:

In mid 2000-FEB, there were a number of statements and editorials in response to Senator Robinson's resolution:

bulletAn editorial in the Kentucky Post stated that many boats had come to American shores over the years. "Not all of the immigrants have been Christian. Jews fleeing Russia and Eastern Europe. Boats filled with Chinese immigrants...They've come to the world's most pluralistic nation where diversity is to be celebrated and tolerance is to be honored." 4
bulletKathy Stein, (D-Lexington) is Kentucky's only Jewish legislator. She "said that Robinson's original resolution had been one of several thinly disguised attempts to promote Christianity. The debate over the Ten  Commandments had produced 'divisive and intolerant language' toward non-Christians..." 3
bulletThe American Jewish Congress issued a statement:

"The effort by Kentucky State Senator Albert Robinson to restrict teaching about religion in the colonial era to Christian contributions to the public weal is offensive not only because its sponsor's purpose is to aggrandize Christianity at the expense of other faiths. It is equally an offense against history. It would not do to conjure up Jews or Muslims on the Mayflower so that history would promote current notions of diversity. No more can a legislator by fiat excise from American colonial history the contributions of other faiths. 

We are gratified that the overwhelming majority of Kentucky senators have rejected this attempt to bowdlerize history in furtherance of an attempt to create an historical Christian America which could serve as a model for those who seek to reconstitute that mythical past today.

Unfortunately Sen. Robinson's effort to recreate history in this fashion does not emerge from a vacuum. The Kentucky Senate is considering legislation to limit extra-curricular activities on Sunday because such activities conflict with the Christian Sabbath. It is apparently of no moment that such activities on Saturday affect Jews and Sabbath observing Christians. And in open defiance of the Supreme Court many Kentucky school districts are again posting the Ten Commandments in public schools so that schools convey to their students that only certain religions have a place in shaping their life.

Kentucky is far from an oppressive place for non-Christians. But Kentuckians of good will must act now to ensure that these dangerous trends do not fester and gain potency and that the illusion that is possible to restore a 'Christian America' is recognized to be nothing more than an illusion, not as something to be enacted into law or taught in the schools.
" 4

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If you want to complain against or support the separation of church and state:

bulletContact federal legislators via Email: Enter your zipcode at: http://congress.org/elecmail.html 
bulletContact Kentucky legislators: See:  http://politics/yahoo.com/politics/State_and_Local/Kentucky/
bulletContact Senator Robinson: See: http://politics/yahoo.com/politics/State_and_Local/Kentucky/
Voice: (502) 564-8100; Ext 604. 
Fax: (502) 564-6543 (Mark the fax for Room 225)
bulletContact Governor Paul E. Patton of Kentucky: See: http://www.state.ky.us/agencies/gov/govmenu6.htm 

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Related essays on this web site:

bulletBurning Times awards
bulletPrayer in U.S. public schools
bulletSeparation of church and state issues
bulletThe First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
bulletWhat the Ten Commandments really say -- the untold story
bulletPosting the Ten Commandments in public schools and government offices.

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References:

  1. The image was taken, with thanks, from the website "The Killings of Witches: A Chronicle of the Burning Times" at: http://www.illusions.com/burning/ 
  2. "Ten Commandments becomes larger issue," Associated Press, 2000-JAN-8
  3. "Kentucky Senator under fire for urging 'Christian History," Charisma News Service, 2000-FEB-23. Online at:  http://www.mcjonline.com/news/00/20000223c.htm
  4. "An offense against history," Boston Globe, 2000-FEB-18 at: http://www.boston.com/dailynews/049/nation/

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 Home page Burning Times Award > here

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Copyright © 2000 and 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolernace
Date posted: 2000-MAR-3
Latest update: 2004-JUL-20
Author: B.A. Robinson (no relation to Senator Robinson)

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