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The "Burning Times 'Awards',"

Normally given to politicians
who violate the 1st Amendment

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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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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, and/or hate-filled and/or which violates the federal constitution in a major way -- typically the First Amendment which guarantees the separation of church and state. We now recognize some of these events by issuing a Burning Times 'award.'

We do not intend the 'award' to be a positive gift to a politician. The Burning Times 'award' is similar in concept to the People for the American Way's (PFAW) 'Equinine Posterior Achievement Award.' On the occasion of the 1999 award, PFAW President Carole Shields said that "The Equine Posterior Achievement Award is given to a 'leader' whose abilities to misrepresent an issue and pander to our baser instincts have reached ridiculous levels....He is, in other words, a genuine horse's patootie." 1,2

This award is given at irregular intervals to recognize the type of spirit of religious intolerance that fueled the:

bullet Persecution of Jews in Europe and elsewhere for the past 15 centuries
bullet Witch burning times of the 16th to 18th centuries,
bullet The Nazi holocaust which resulted in the death of about six million Jews and about the same number of non-Jews.
bullet Many of the world's current wars, genocides and civil disturbances, from Kosovo to the Philippines; from Sudan to Tibet.

Of course, the governments of North America cannot exterminate religious minorities by burning them alive, or gassing them to death. There are no major civil disturbances in the U.S. or Canada which are based on religious intolerance. However, there have been the occasional religiously motivated lynching, fire bombing, assault, shooting, and economic attacks. The evil that fueled these persecutions is kept alive today, in a diluted form, by some of our political leaders. Given a chance, the hatred and fear will flourish once more.

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We have issued three awards to date: 


Governor Mike Johanns (R, NE): 

On 1999-MAY-6, he signed a proclamation officially recognizing March for Jesus Day: Carole Shields, president of People for the American Way Foundation commented that:  "This action, far from promoting religious faith and freedom, would undermine it by creating a second-class status for all faiths other than Christianity in Nebraska."

Reporters asked Governor Johanns whether he would sign a proclamation for a religion other than Christianity. He replied: "I wouldn't hesitate to sign a proclamation for the Jewish faith, Hinduism, long as it doesn't require me to sign something I personally don't agree with." Full details are available.



U.S. Representative Bob Barr (R, GA):

Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA-7) has been a United States Attorney, and currently serves on the House Judiciary, Government Reform and Banking Committees. He was offended that the U.S. army extended equal religious freedom to all soldiers on the Fort Hood, TX, army base, including Wiccans. He attempted to pressure the army into terminating religious freedoms for Wiccans on all army bases. This inspired a coalition of conservative Christian groups to mount a boycott against army recruitment, until the U.S. Army complied with Rep. Barr's wishes. Full details.


Senator Albert Robinson, Kentucky senate :

Senator Robinson (R-London) has been a long-time promoter of the posting of the Ten Commandments in government offices and public schools. He sponsored a a resolution which, in the words of the American Jewish Congress, would "...restrict teaching about religion in the colonial era to Christian contributions to the public weal." The AJC commented that this resolution: " 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."

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Previous recipients of the Burning Times award:

If our web site and this award had existed in the past, we probably would have recognized:

bullet 1986: Senator Jesse Helms (R, NC):  Senator Helms introduced an amendment to a bill which would have removed tax exempt status from existing Wiccan groups and prevent any new groups from being recognized by the Federal government. The amendment passed without opposition, but was later removed by the Congressional Joint Conference Committee.  The threat politicized the Wiccan community. A number of Neopagan anti-defamation groups were formed to fight the Helms bill, to educate the public, and/or to provide legal assistance to persecuted Neopagans.
bullet 1995: Utah Attorney General's Office: In spite of a complete lack of hard evidence, and the total absence of criminal charges or convictions, the Attorney General's office published a report on ritual crime in their state. It accused members of what they called "the Occult" of widespread ritual abuse in Utah.

Most of the above cases involved religious bigotry directed against Wiccans. The scope of this award is not limited to the oppression of Wiccans and followers of other Neopagan religions. It is just that there are few attacks by North American political figures against other religious groups. Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, it seemed to be open-season on Wiccans. Hatred against this benign faith was a cottage industry. It was also being promoted by a few very conservative Christian web sites. Since then persecution has largely dissipated, due to public education, the increase in numbers of Neopagans, and the degree to which Neopagans have been willing to go public with their religion.

The Burning Times award has, to date, always been issued to Republican politicians -- never to a Democrat. We are not intentionally critical of Republicans. It is just that all of the serious attacks on religious freedom seem to have come from that political party.

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References used:

  1. Press Release, People for the American Way, 1999-MAY-27
  2. Nancy Coleman, "Rep. John Lewis and Peter, Paul & Mary hailed as 'Defencers of Democracy'," People for the American Way,

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Copyright 2000 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Date posted: 2000-MAR-1
Latest update: 2005-DEC-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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