Saturday, April 12, 2008

Wild Anti-Atheist Tirade From Illinois Legislator...

I'm a couple of a days late on this one (There's only so much time in the day and I had zombies to shoot.), but Illinois State Rep Monique Davis (a Dem, to my mild surprise), shouted down an atheist activist during a community discussion about the legitimacy of appropriating a million dollars in state funds to a Baptist church. Davis became irate during comments made by atheist Rob Sherman, telling him that his ideas were dangerous to children and then ordering him from his seat as though she somehow had that authority.

The church issue is a complicated matter - Apparently the governor had promised a Baptist church a sizable amount of money from the state to rebuild after a fire. There was some sort of controversy because the money was directed to the school by way of an enormous grant to a private school that operated on property rented from the church. The school itself was in a bind with state officials over a substantial amount of unpaid taxes, and there are rumblings in the community that the grant was directed to the school to deflect criticisms about the state funneling money directly into a church - the whole thing was a big mess, in other words. I'm not really familiar enough with this particular case to venture an opinion on it*, but the idea of a state legislator ordering a member of the community to leave his seat at a meeting because of his religious (non)affiliation is just plain amazing to me.

Davis caught a large amount of flak for her outburst, both from local news men and national news programs like Countdown, and ultimately issued an apology, claiming that she was simply on edge during the meeting because she recently learned of a school shooting in her district. Fair enough, but imagine, just for a second, the political fate of any politician who shouted down, say, a Baptist during a hearing because of his or her beliefs. I almost guarantee that it would be the end of their career.

Here's the audio from the tirade, as found on Chicago Tribune contributor Eric Zorn's blog Change of Subject.

*We recently had a similar controversy here in Kentucky. The University of the Cumberlands, a religious university in Williamsburg, has for years had a policy of kicking out gay students if their lifestyle came to the attention of school officials. The university maintained that because it's a private university it can set any standards for enrollment that it sees fit, even if they are direct defiance of the policies of state universities. That's technically true of universities that don't draw state funding. Of course, despite its fierce opposition to state standards, the university was more than happen to take $11 million in taxpayer money from the state in the form of scholarship funds and a new pharmacy school. The Kentucky Fairness Alliance ultimately defeated that funding proposal in court, much to the wailing and gnashing of teeth of many of the school's co-religionists.

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