Scenes from the American religious landscape

Here are some post cards from the American religious scene.

A bill before the Louisiana House would make it legal for your church to form a posse. Ed Anderson of the Times-Picayune reports:

People qualified to carry concealed weapons should be able to keep them strapped on in a church or temple as a way to enhance security, a state House committee decided Wednesday (April 28).

The House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice voted 8-3 for bill that would allow a church to hire a security force or create its own by authorizing the church’s board or pastor to tap parishioners who have concealed weapons permits to bring them to church.

Louisiana law currently bans weapons in houses of worship. The bill, sponsored by Republican Henry Burns, does not force churches to participate….

…Burns’ bill was amended to require a church that allows armed parishioners to notify all members in announcements from the pulpit or in the weekly bulletin or newsletter.

The AP reports that a Florida bill would allow prayer in public school if students, teachers and staff sign a waiver first:

A weakened school prayer bill is going to Gov. Charlie Crist.

The legislation (HB 31) inspired by a Florida Panhandle lawsuit received final passage 27-9 in the Senate on Thursday. It earlier pass 107-8 in the House.

The bill would bar schools from infringing on the First Amendment freedoms of teachers, staff or students unless they sign a written waiver of those rights.

As originally filed it would have allowed prayers at noncompulsory school activities including assemblies and sports events at the request of a majority of students.

In Virginia, a state DOT worker’s vanity plate has been recalled because it contained a neo-Nazi code phrase and then he was told not to park his truck that has an anti-Islamic poster stuck to the tailgate on state property. The Washington Post reports:

Douglas Story, a Chantilly dump truck driver for the Virginia Department of Transportation, says he wanted to grab people’s attention when he paid $224.90 to have a mural of the burning World Trade Center detailed onto the tailgate of his Ford F-150 along with a sticker that reads: “Everything I ever needed to know about Islam I learned on 9/11.”

But he got more than he bargained for when a photo of his pickup went viral on the Web last week. Motorists and Muslim groups complained that his Virginia vanity license plate — 14CV88 — was really code for neo-Nazi, white supremacist sentiments. The state Department of Motor Vehicles voted last week to recall Story’s plates and force him to buy new ones.

Story says that without his vanity plate, he feels “naked.”

Martin Marty says that the Founding Fathers wanted a virtuous nation, not a Christian one:

Historian Martin Marty, delivering a series of lectures at Samford University, said Tuesday that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and others have oversimplified and misrepresented the religious beliefs of the nation’s founding fathers.

Delegates to the Constitutional Convention did not want government to favor Christianity, he said.

“They did not set out to have a Christian nation,” Marty said Tuesday at Reid Chapel in the first of several lectures sponsored by the Baptist Joint Committee. “It would have been very easy to set that out….”

…He said Tuesday that George Washington, a churchgoing Episcopalian who never took communion, used at least 28 different terms for God in his writings. He made every effort to be inclusive and nonsectarian, referring to the deity with words such as Providence, Heaven and Benevolent One. “They were looking for a language that would enlarge the context,” Marty said.

Nine of the 13 colonies had established churches, either Anglican or Congregationalist, and the founders wanted to avoid establishing religion for the nation while being tolerant of differing religious beliefs, Marty said.

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