The Current State of Threats to Secularism

Edd Doerr

Culture Wars: The Threat to Your Family and Your Freedom, by Marie Alena Castle (Tucson: See Sharp Press, 2013, ISBN 978-1-937276-47-8) 236 pp. Paperback, $14.95.


Black Tuesday—March 26, 2013— made very clear the importance of books like Marie Alena Castle’s Culture Wars: The Threat to Your Family and Your Freedom. On that day, the Indiana Supreme Court unanimously upheld an expansive state law that diverts public funds to religious private schools through a Republicansponsored voucher scheme. On the same day, North Dakota Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple signed into law the nation’s most far-reaching legal assault yet on women’s reproductive choice, freedom of conscience, and religious liberty.

In this hard-hitting book, longtime Minnesota activist Castle exhaustively catalogues the myriad threats to religious freedom and church-state separation posed by clericalists, fundamentalists, and their political allies and enablers. She devotes nearly half of her book to discussing the age-old problems of misogynist patriarchalism and unending assaults on reproductive choice, women’s freedom of conscience, and women’s health. The rest of the volume head-swimmingly summarizes such other church-state problems as tax support for church-related schools, charities, and hospitals; religion and the military; fundamentalist infiltration of public schools; attacks on science and science education; and tax policy regarding religious institutions and clergy. She could have devoted more attention to the massive drive to get public funding for church-run private schools.

The book contains a partial list of church-state separation organizations and a useful bibliography.

What to do about the threats is not fully addressed, so permit me to offer some suggestions. First of all, readers of this review are probably already disposed to support church-state separation intellectually. But more is required. Concerned people need to keep informed. Too few publications are readily available, but among them are Americans for Religious Liberty’s journal Voice of Reason and this journal, Free Inquiry. Too few organizations are dedicated to fighting for church-state separation, and they are all in need of funds. We need activism of all sorts, advocacy on as large a scale as possible, and carefully designed litigation.

At this point, it is important to consider strategy and timing. During World War II, the Americans and the British and their allies did not rush to invade Hitler’s continental empire prematurely. Precipitate action would have been suicidal, so they waited until they had a good chance of success, as on D-Day in June of 1944. Kamikaze attacks, such as Michael Newdow’s attempt to get the Supreme Court to deal with the “under God” phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance, fail and risk triggering an avalanche of counterattacks.

Furthermore, success in beating back assaults and strengthening church-state separation require cooperation and coalition building. Humanists and freethinkers alone are not sufficiently numerous to do the job. Importantly, vast numbers of Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Unaffiliateds, and others are supporters of separation. Alliances can and have been put together to defeat school vouchers in referendum elections, to defend reproductive choice, to head off sectarian invasions of public-school science classes, to counter climate-change deniers, and more. The clock is ticking.

 

 

Edd Doerr

Edd Doerr is a senior editor of Free Inquiry. He headed Americans for Religious Liberty for thirty-six years and is a past president of the American Humanist Association.


Culture Wars: The Threat to Your Family and Your Freedom, by Marie Alena Castle (Tucson: See Sharp Press, 2013, ISBN 978-1-937276-47-8) 236 pp. Paperback, $14.95. Black Tuesday—March 26, 2013— made very clear the importance of books like Marie Alena Castle’s Culture Wars: The Threat to Your Family and Your Freedom. On that day, the Indiana …

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