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Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black Endorses Discrimination Against Women In The Workplace

“I love the Bible,” Barry C. Black has said. As a private individual, he has a right to that opinion.

This last week, however, Black took that personal opinion, and made it official U.S. federal government religious doctrine.

Barry C. Black is the congressionally-endorsed, officially established high priest of the U.S. Senate. In flagrant violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, which begins with the words, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, Congress has established the position of Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, a position which has been exclusively held for Christians.

This last week, Barry C. Black used that position to deliver a sermonizing prayer that opened with this declaration: “Eternal Spirit, Your ways are right.”

Always right? Was the “eternal spirit” of Barry C. Black’s religion right when the instruction, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet” was written into Barry C. Black’s holy book? That instruction is contained in the first book of Timothy in the Christian Bible.

Will Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black acknowledge the wrongness of prohibiting women from holding positions of professional authority over male employees, and admit that, sometimes, the spirit of Christianity is very, very wrong? Or, will he continue to use his governmentally-established religious power to promote the political agenda of those who push for a reactionary, Bible-based subjugation of women?

I know that to many Americans it sounds like a banal, unoffensive thing for a preacher to declare that the spirit of the Christian religion is “always right”. That’s the attitude taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court has taken up in declaring that government-established “civic religion” centered around Christian religious rituals does not violate the First Amendment’s promise to prevent the establishment of religion through government.

Such an assessment can only hold for those who have never matured beyond the religious practice of a small child who recites the prayer “God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food” without ever even bothering to ask exactly who this God character is.

Behind the superficially bland goodness of Civic Religion’s God is the God of the Christian Bible, very specific document that has very specific teachings, many of which are not good at all, by the standards of a progressive democratic society.

The teachings of Barry C. Black’s “eternal spirit” include:

- Genocide
- Slavery
- Religious intolerance
- Submission to totalitarian governments
- Subjugation of women
- Violence against children

There is a long history of brutality at the hands of governments in the name of the “eternal spirit” of Civic Religion. Barry C. Black and the Supreme Court expect us to pretend that these atrocities of blended church and state never took place. To accept that the ways of the Christian “eternal spirit” of Civic Religion are “always right”, however, requires willful ignorance and the religious illiteracy.

It is a theocratic doctrine with sinister consequences that has no legitimate place on the floor of the United States Senate.

Postscript:
Here's the full passage from the first Book of Timothy, chapter 2, the self-proclaimed "Standard American Version":
Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection.
But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness.
For Adam was first formed, then Eve;
and Adam was not beguiled, but the woman being beguiled hath fallen into transgression:
but she shall be saved through her child-bearing, if they continue in faith and love and sanctification with sobriety.

The “eternal spirit” of Barry C. Black has even been taken to instruct women that they committing an unacceptable sin when they braid their hair.

Does Barry C. Black really think that such restrictions are “always right”?

5 comments to Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black Endorses Discrimination Against Women In The Workplace

  • Bill

    I share your disapproval of a position of Chaplain of the U.S. Senate. But, to be fair, it doesn’t violate the 1st amendment. As I understand it, the position is created by a Senate rule, applicable only to the Senate; not a “law.” The Senate has the right to make its own internal rules. If it wants to declare Calgary Cruz the Official Class Clown and have him open each session with a stand-up schtick, more power to it.

    That said, I’d love to see any Senator who is openly non-Christian quietly and respectfully rise and leave the chamber whenever the Chaplain takes the podium.

    • J Clifford

      I understand what you’re saying Bill, but isn’t that a little bit circular? IF the Senate creates a law to enable it to establish rules that aren’t officially laws that then can violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment, THEN, that original law is in violation of the separation of church and state, because that original law creates a loophole allowing establishment of religion by Congress.

      Eventually, under all the “it’s only rules”, “it’s just a tradition”, “it’s a matter for the House Clerk to deal with”, there’s a law that makes it possible. That’s where the violation of the First Amendment lies.

      It’s silly to say that having a government-paid, government-appointed, government-regulated, government established high priest of the United States Senate is not government establishment of religion. Even the Supreme Court, as short sighted as it is on matters of separation of church and state, doesn’t make that argument. What the Supreme Court says is that this government establishment of religion is okay because 1) It’s a tradition, and traditions have an exemption from the Constitution, and 2) It’s something called Civic Religion, which is just the kind of religion that all reasonable people can accept (“reasonable” meaning that you’re a theocracy-supporting Christian who supports grandstanding public prayers, despite Biblical admonitions against them).

  • Dave

    J., one argument the Supremes used for continuing prayers in local settings was that “Congress shall make no law” (establishment) and States and Localities are not Congress. I didn’t find a specific rebuttal to this in the dissentions, though it should not have been hard to argue against this using other precedents.

    Peregrin, it’s a little odd how “religious” non-believers can be when reading the bible, moreso than most believers I know. The braiding of the hair you mentioned is only taken in a literal sense by old time Pentecostals who don’t even allow women in their churches to pluck their eyebrows or wear wedding bands. That verse of scripture is misunderstood by them to mean “no braids” when it is talking about “adorning the hidden man of the heart.” You, like they, have taken a quote about something hidden and mistaken it for something outward. Dare I say if you ever get “religion” you’ll make a great Holy Roller.

    • J Clifford

      So, Timothy and his followers were Pentacostals?

      Actually, the whole braiding thing sounds like a very old time Christian standard for proper moral behavior among women that was then abandoned when the religion moved beyond its original cultural roots. If so, it may have been the beginning of what some call “Cafeteria Christianity”, in which religious groups choose certain supposedly Bible-based commands for living – such as the need to have government bodies begin with Christian prayer rituals for everybody, whether they’re Christian or not – while ignoring other behavioral requirements of the Bible, saying, “Oh, that’s just how people lived back then.”

      When someone disagrees with their own preferred lifestyle, they get all “The Bible Tells Me So”. No birth control for you! But eat shellfish, or let women teach, or allow braided hair, and suddenly, they get selectively relativistic.

      All the better reason NOT to have the divinely-led moral certitude of religion mixed in with government. When Chaplain Barry C. Black and Chaplain Patrick J. Conroy give their daily prayer sermons instructing members of Congress that the government is founded on the morality of the Bible that is “always right”, rather than the will of the people, they undermine our democracy.

      • Dave

        I get you J. Just a side note here, but I have seen any number of injunctions, mainly in the writings of Paul the Apostle, that may be responsible for the “cafeteria Christianity” of which you speak. Believers were told to be “all things to all men” and to drop their own customs and take up the customs of the places they went to, specifically so that they gave no offense to the locals. Christianity at one time was the most flexible of all belief systems,and perhaps that flexibility can still be found in some adherents. I for one prefer not to mix Church and State and the dangers of doing so seem obvious to me. It is interesting that five Catholics decided this for everyone, and Catholics have historically had little concern about separation of Church and State as, sometimes for them, the Church indeed was the State.

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