Monique Davis on Atheism

08 April 2008

On April 2, atheist Rob Sherman testified before the Illinois state government to argue against the constitutionality of the Governor's plan to donate $1 million tax dollars to the Pilgrim Baptist Church in Chicago. Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago) had this to say about Rob and his atheism:

Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago) interrupted atheist activist Rob Sherman during his testimony Wednesday afternoon before the House State Government Administration Committee in Springfield and told him, "What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous . . . it's dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists!

"This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God," Davis said. "Get out of that seat . . . You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon."
It's really amazing that stuff like this still happens.

UPDATE: James Madison once said this: "The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it. Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?"

UPDATE II: Audio available here.

UPDATE III: Here is a better description of the issue.
What is going on here is a dispute over about $1 million in misdirected funds. They ended up going to the Loop Lab School, a struggling private school that owed thousands of dollars in back taxes and was run by a convicted felon (whom the former governor quickly pardoned after the money was delivered). The funds were supposed to go to the school's landlord, the Pilgrim Baptist Church, which burned down in 2006. The former governor had promised to rebuild it.

The governor's office claims that the misdirection of funds was a bureaucratic mistake, but no one buys that since he's in jail on corruption charges, and so an Illinois House panel was convened to investigate. In the audio clip, Rep. Monique Davis (a Democrat) is hearing testimony from Rob Sherman an atheist activist who opposed the initial transfer of $1 million to the church. The church is a historic site, so there's a colorable argument that such a transfer is not only secular, but desirable, but the opposing view that this is really a million dollar government grant to build a church for worship is far more convincing, since that seems to be the primary intended use (and since the government doesn't seem to be getting trusteeship of the building for its money, though perhaps it is).

If you clicked through the Sherman link, you'll see that he is a bit of a tool. He's also suing the state for passing a moment of silence law, and has the bill's author on tape saying that the moment is a "suggestion that our schoolchildren" begin their day with a prayer just as the Assembly does.

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