What do you want the local, state and federal government to spend your money on?

taxpayer moneyI saw that photo on a friend’s page and thought it was thought provoking. How do you feel about your taxpayer money being used to buy and maintain religious symbols and buildings?

It is a similar question to “how do you feel about your taxpayer money being used to maintain confederate soldier monuments in the town square”?

If you don’t like it, then you need to VOTE.

I have been pondering Alito’s SCOTUS opinion about the 100 year old Christian Cross on public land. Do you agree with the 7-2 ruling? Is it constitutional to use taxpayer money to buy and maintain a church that is 100 years old for historical reasons while leaving in tact the religious symbols especially during a time when the Dominionist Christians are exercising so much power in the executive and legislative branches of our government?” Or asked another way “How much do you fear a theocracy?”

The ruling would make more sense to me if it said that the government entity needed to allow the religious symbols of ALL the religions that want to donate a monument to be placed on government property in order to avoid the appearance of the dominate religion receiving preferential treatment. In my view the religious clauses of our First Amendment say that one religion can NOT receive priority over the others.

I hear people screaming about taxes being too high.  The Republicans cut taxes for the rich.  Some of the rich have lots of money to fund things they like but many things are funded by the taxpayers.  Theoretically voters decide what those government funded things will be by casting their votes for various candidates. Does your vote reflect how you want the collective monies spent?

In Jacksonville, many of us want a half penny sales tax to repair and renovate the neighborhood school buildings. My guess is that is why we elected the current school board.  The buildings (in our view) should be a source of pride for our community.  BUT for some reason that I can’t figure out, the Mayor of Jacksonville wants part of that money to go to charter schools.  Why doesn’t he want to make every neighborhood school GREAT?   Charter schools already get some of the local and state tax dollars.  Since Trump and DeVos love charter schools, the charter schools are also getting federal tax dollars.  And since some rich philanthropists love charters, the charter schools are also getting philanthropic dollars.  Why does Mayor Curry think the charter schools also need part of the half penny sales tax that we want to spend on making the neighborhood schools beautiful?  If my memory is serving me,  90% of the kids go to neighborhood schools.  Later I will see if I can find the exact percentage for Jacksonville, Florida and the nation.

Our Mayor advocated for a half penny sales tax for the future to solve a current pension debacle. Quote from this article:

The pension-reform plan Curry shoehorned into law in his first term was the largest financial transaction in the city’s history, shifting billions of dollars in retirement debt decades into the future for a new generation to bear.

Previously Jacksonville passed a half penny sales tax to make the government buildings beautiful or at least that’s how I interpret this quote from the same article:

The Better Jacksonville Plan — the last time a half-cent sales tax was used for a major public building campaign

Curry advocated and got the city council to spend $15 million dollars of taxpayer money on The Landing rather than putting the thing up for a bid by private buyers.  And there is Lot J.  How much of our taxpayer dollars are going to be given as “incentives” or as some say “corporate welfare”?  Quote from article:

Khan and Iguana Investments will seek city incentives ..

I don’t have the answer to the question:  Do we really want our tax money spent on corporate welfare?   Does anyone still believe in the trickle down theory of economics?

I’m not sure how much of my tax money I want spent on historical and art museums much less corporate welfare.   I’m NOT a libertarian because I think pooling our money to do good work is what the government should do.   What worries me is WHO gets to decide?  How much are elected officials swayed by the will of the majority versus a minority of rich and powerful people?

Now after the Bladensburg Supreme Court ruling, I am worried about taxpayer money being used to buy and maintain religious institutions that the congregations no longer want to support.  Quote from this WP article about the cathedrals in France:

According to a Ministry of Culture survey from the 1980s, there are about 32,000 churches, 6,000 chapels and 87 cathedrals in France. All those built before 1905 are publicly owned.  There’s also the question of how enthusiastic the public is for the government to spend massive amounts of money on a cathedral.

If the NONES and others don’t want the government to spend money on religious institutions, then they better start voting. No one has a problem with crosses on private (including religious institutions) property. We just don’t want our taxpayer money used to buy them and keep them restored. Correct? Or do you think the religious symbols should be lumped together with other historical relics?

The reason I mentioned the WaPo article and Notre Dame is because Alito mentioned it in his opinion where he endorsed taxpayer money being used to maintain and restore a Christian Cross on government land. Quote from Alito’s opinion:

With sufficient time, religiously expressive monuments,community’s landscape and identity. The community may come to value them without necessarily embracing their religious roots. The recent tragic fire at Notre Dame in Paris provides a striking example. Although the French Republic rigorously enforces a secular public square,cathedral remains a symbol of national importance to the religious and nonreligious alike. Notre Dame is fundamentally a place of worship and retains great religious importance, but its meaning has broadened. For many, it is inextricably linked with the very idea of Paris and France. Speaking to the nation shortly after the fire,President Macron said that Notre Dame “‘is our history, our literature, our imagination. The place where we survived epidemics, wars, liberation. It has been the epicenter of our lives.’

The FFRF doesn’t explain why they think they’ll prevail in the case in Pensacola, Florida in this article. Is it because the cross in Florida is only 50 years old whereas the Bladensburg Cross in Maryland is 100 years old?  Quote from FFRF article: “The Bladensburg cross decision does not impact the decades of Supreme Court precedent holding government action motivated by a religious purpose unconstitutional.”  Or is their position that a cross for historical purposes is different than a cross for religious purposes?  I look forward to hearing how the FFRF and AHA are going to argue their case after the Bladensburg Cross ruling.

Does something built in 1969 have historical significance to such an extent that it can override long standing precedent? We’re only asking that the religious symbols not be on government land, i.e. they should be on private land. And private NOT government money should be used to keep them restored. It feels that Dominionists Christians are going after taxpayer money because people are no longer funding the churches. Why can’t a church take the cross? Why did they put the cross on government property? Why didn’t they put it on a church’s property? This is an odd quote from Alito’s opinion:
Fourth, when time’s passage imbues a religiously expressive monument, symbol, or practice with this kind of familiarity and historical significance, removing it may no longer appear neutral, especially to the local community for which it has taken on particular meaning. A government that roams the land, tearing down monuments with religious symbolism and scrubbing away any reference to the divine will strike many as aggressively hostile to religion. Militantly secular regimes have carried out such projects in the past, ….

Part of me wonders if it will be to our detriment to scare the Christians by asking that 50 year old crosses be taken down. It’s quite the dilemma.

The slippery slope isn’t always a logical fallacy. IF we don’t complain about the cross on public land, then people will want to build more because we didn’t complain? The Supreme Court actually used the argument that since it took us 50 years to complain, they are going to rule that we need to just leave it there. Is there any chance that the minority felt too intimated to complain up until now?

Here is another example of the slippery slope. Once we moved away from neighborhood schools with magnet schools, it seemed to open the door for charters and vouchers. And once we started giving taxpayer money to charters and vouchers, how could we exclude the churches? Now Florida taxpayers are funding religious schools directly with their tax dollars. Is that really want they want to be doing?

This is a great podcast. From the show notes:
This is a story that Robert Jones, the head of the Public Religion Research Institute, tells in his book The End of White Christian America. Much of Donald Trump’s support is driven by a sense of religious loss, not just racial or national loss. Many of the debates playing out on the American right — particularly the Sohrab Ahmari-David French fight — reflect the belief that these are end times for a certain strain of American Christians, unless emergency measures are undertaken.



I have been pondering the term interfaith.

Earl and I recently attended an interfaith group’s community supper.  A woman asked us why atheists would want to be a part of an interfaith group.  Does “interfaith” mean an organization that is promoting a belief in God similar to the way the Baptist Church is promoting a belief in Jesus as the savior?

Churches and interfaith groups sometimes offer programs to the whole community.   I lived a few years of my young life in a small town in Georgia.  I grew up Baptist but the Baptists don’t dance.  The Methodist Church offered youth events which included dancing.  I attended the dances as did the mayor’s son who was Jewish.  Neither one of us planned to become Methodist but for some reason we didn’t feel uncomfortable at the Methodist Church.  We didn’t belong to the church but we did feel welcomed.  Of course, while I was there no one asked my friend “Why would a Jew want to attend a dance at a Methodist Church” as the woman asked me “Why would an atheist want to attend an interfaith group?”  It only takes one person to make someone feel uncomfortable.  I don’t think the woman meant any harm.  Sometimes I ask stupid questions and I hope people will forgive me.  The response I received from the leadership of OneJax (when I asked why they use the term interfaith) bothers me more than the woman’s original question.

When I sent OneJax an email trying to convince the board of OneJax to quit calling itself an interfaith organization, I received this as part of the response:

OneJax is interfaith in heritage and inclusive in practice.

What does Nancy and Kyle mean when they say “OneJax is interfaith in heritage and inclusive in practice”? I think they need a better response. The United States is racist in heritage.  Homosexuality was once punished by prison terms.  Women were once treated as chattel.  “Heritage” isn’t something to hang our hat on.  Heritage is what people are using to keep Confederate Monuments in the town square.   That wording might hit people wrong.  I think they need a better response.

The true heritage of One Jax is it started as part of the National Conference of Christians and Jews.   I don’t know why they moved away from being exclusively for Christians and Jews.  I posit that it is time for the board of One Jax to change from being an interfaith organization to a human relations organization as have other members of the National Federation for Just Communities. 

I found this wonderful quote in this article about Jonathan Zur who is the Vice Chair – Administration & Secretary of the National Federation for Just Communities:

Racism may be easy to spot in overt forms, but the subtle versions are the most troublesome. That’s the challenge for Jonathan Zur, president and chief executive of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, which promotes diversity. “It might be a statement or a gesture that the offended person doesn’t know if it was intentional,” Zur says.

You could substitute “religious bigotry” for the term “racism” and I think Zur’s point would still be valid.  I posit that discrimination against atheists is just as wrong as discrimination against minority religions.

I would have felt better if Nancy and Kyle had said
1. “One Jax is a group of people that believe in God.”
rather than
2. “OneJax is interfaith in heritage and inclusive in practice.”

What do they mean by “interfaith”? At least #1 would make it clear that I’m not part of their club. #2 is vague. It isn’t welcoming because I don’t know what they mean by “interfaith.”

OneJax calls itself an interfaith organization but it is a member organization of the National Federation for Just Communities.  I couldn’t find the words interfaith or faith on the NFJC website or in the Wikipedia description:

Perhaps the National Federation for Just Communities concluded that the word interfaith doesn’t fit within their goal of being inclusive?

I would think Humanist groups would want to be part of this “we”:

Who We Are
OneJax is a nonprofit organization that seeks to promote diversity as the foundation for a strong community. We work to increase respect and improve relationships among people who represent the rich menagerie of religious, ethnic, racial and cultural groups that compose our community.

Quotes from this article:

The labels we choose, therefore, carry more gravity, more hidden assumptions than what appears on the surface. … We are at a turning point in the “interfaith movement.” Focused non-profit organizations, contributing foundations and academic centers are well formed enough now that they are going to give shape to the movement and its public nomenclature going forward.

Is “faith” equally important in all religions? Are ethics or a sense of community or rituals more important to some?  Is the term interfaith outdated? I have this wild guess that the revelation of sexual abuse within religious institutions and the abuse of charismatic power within cults has turned people off to blind faith.  If religious institutions hope to grow, my wild guess is they should emphasize community and ethics and rituals that have been proven to help mental health rather than blind faith.

I posit that the word “faith” is a word that excludes people. I would think many Christians would agree and would celebrate that their faith does indeed make them different from people without faith.  I don’t think an organization should name itself with a word like faith if it also wants to describe itself as:

a nonprofit organization that seeks to promote diversity as the foundation for a strong community. We work to increase respect and improve relationships among people who represent the rich menagerie of religious, ethnic, racial and cultural groups that compose our community.