The FFRF Action Fund is singling out two Texas politicians — one for being its “Secularist of the Week” while censuring the other as “Theocrat of the Week.”
The lobbying group warmly recognizes the leadership of a Christian legislator, Texas state Rep. James Talarico, in denouncing theocratic legislation in Texas. By contrast, it condemns the callous remarks of U.S. Rep. Keith Self, who called for prayer instead of gun safety reform after the mass shooting near Dallas on Saturday that snuffed out eight lives in his own congressional constituency.
During a hearing in the Texas House last week, Talarico, a self-described “devout Christian,” made a passionate argument against what he termed a “deeply offensive bill” to require posting of the Ten Commandments in every state classroom. (The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which created the FFRF Action Fund as a lobbying arm, has already promised to sue if the bill, which has already passed the state Senate, becomes law; here is what is wrong with it.)
In an exceptionally eloquent statement, Talarico said:
This bill to me is not only unconstitutional, it’s not only un-American, I think it is also deeply un-Christian. And I say that because I believe this bill is idolatrous. I believe it is exclusionary. And I believe it is arrogant. And those three things in my reading of the Gospel are diametrically opposed to the teachings of Jesus.
You probably know Matthew 6:5, when Jesus says, “Don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners. When you pray, go into your room and shut the door, and pray to your Father who is in secret.”
A religion that has to force people to put up a poster to prove its legitimacy is a dead religion. And it’s not one that I want to be a part of.
Talarico politely pilloried the House sponsor of the bill, state Rep. Candy Noble, in cross-examining her over the measure, asking her: “Would you be open to an amendment to the bill saying that if a member of the Legislature violates these commandments, that we can no longer mandate public school teachers put it in classrooms?” She declined.
“I worry this is what gives us religious people a bad name,” Talarico concluded. “That instead of living out the way of Jesus, we’re instead imposing our beliefs on other people. Instead of leading by example, we’re leading by mandates. And so I’m very offended by this legislation.”
U.S. Rep. Keith Self has a very different understanding of religion. After he called for prayer in the face of another mass shooting, a CNN reporter told him, “Many people argue that prayers aren’t cutting it.” Self smugly replied, “Well, those are people that don’t believe in an almighty god who has, who is absolutely in control of our lives. I’m a Christian, I believe that he is.”
Asks FFRF Action Fund President Annie Laurie Gaylor, “If Self’s ‘god’ was in control of the gunman who gunned down eight people, including three children, it doesn’t speak very well of him. Self has got to do better than just offering pious platitudes in the face of this and so many other shooting atrocities.”
FFRF Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that develops and advocates for legislation, regulations and government programs to preserve the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. It also advocates for the rights and views of nonbelievers, endorses candidates for political office, and publicizes the views of elected officials concerning religious liberty issues.