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A curious tale of prayer, guns, fraud and the Bald Knob Cross

COOK County, Illinois, Green Party Chairman and talk show host Rob Sherman, who runs the crusading website www.robsherman.com, is an atheist with a reputation for challenging public spending on religious projects.

Rob Sherman

Rob Sherman

Earlier this year he petitioned the US Supreme Court to take up a case against the state of Illinois over a grant it gave for the restoration of the Bald Knob Cross of Peace in Alto Pass.

Sherman is contesting a $20,000 Illinois Department of Commerce and Economy Opportunity grant the agency gave to the board of directors overseeing renovation of the 111-foot cross in 2008 on grounds it violated separation of church and state laid out in the US Constitution.

He will know by June 30, 2013 whether the court will deliver an opinion.

The Bald Knob Cross, pictured after it was polished up with taxpayers' dollars

The Bald Knob Cross, pictured after it was polished up with taxpayers’ dollars

In February this year, Sherman drew attention to the fact that State Representative LaShawn Ford voted to send a grant of $500,000 Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School, a Roman Catholic parochial high school on the West Side of Chicago, for a new building. He pointed out that LaShawn is a Member of the Board of Trustees of Christ the King.

I spoke to LaShawn last month. I asked him if he thought that there was a conflict of interest in him voting to send money to an organization at which he is on the Board of Directors and, if not, why not.  LaShawn, who was a co-sponsor of the unconstitutional Student Prayer Act that I successfully challenged in federal court, replied that there was no conflict of interest and that the reason he voted for the Grant was ‘Because the community needed it’.

Now, it’s certainly possible that his community needed a more modern educational institution, and that public funds are appropriate for such a need, but those funds should be spent on building a public school, not a parochial school.  Children should not be forced to endure religious indoctrination as a condition for receiving taxpayer support for their education.

LaShawn also voted to send a Grant of $140,000 to Saint Martin de Porres Roman Catholic Church, also on the West Side of Chicago, for “general infrastructure”.  LaShawn is on both the Parish Council and the Finance Council of St. Martin de Porres Church, where his primary job is to raise money for the church. Said Sherman:

LaShawn helped pass a law forcing atheists throughout Illinois, like me, to donate to his church, rather than persuading the rapidly dwindling number of members of his own church to donate to it.

Lashawn Ford

LaShawn Ford

Ford, 40, a property developer who serves the 8th District of Illinois, was back on the news in November when he was indicted on federal bank fraud and related charges for allegedly fraudulently obtaining a $500,000 increase and a two-year extension on a line of credit from the failed ShoreBank and obtaining multiple advances by making false statements about his intended use of the funds.

He purportedly obtained bank funds to rehabilitate specific investment properties in the city but instead used the funds to pay unrelated expenses, including car loans; credit cards; other mortgages held at ShoreBank; payments to a casino in Hammond, Indiana; and for his 2006 campaign for Illinois State Representative.

And he’s back in the news again, this time for suggesting that prayer would be the “magic bullet” that might stop future shooting tragedies in schools.

Following the recent shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Ford told a group of preachers that he believes they need to work to get prayer back in school. He said:

We need to make sure that we get prayer back in schools in some form or fashion.

He said that if prayer is not restored, students should at least be able to have religious symbolism in the classroom.

[We need] some kind of way that we can have symbols or whatever in the schools, so that students can feel that there is something that they can attach to, so that when they feel weak, they can go to the symbols, whether it’s Jesus Christ or someone that they believe in.

His suggestion went down like a lead balloon. None of the ministers present supported his idea. One told Ford that prayer in school is “not a priority” for the preachers.

In September, Ford announced that he supported the right of individuals to carry concealed weapons in Illinois.

He said he was prepared to become the first black legislator from the city to vote for a concealed carry law — if sponsors of the bill will add a provision requiring the National Rifle Association to pay for sensitivity training for police officers.

Speaking at a public meeting, he said he believed a majority of his constituents want the right to own a gun.

Black people want guns, and I know that sounds bad. They’re saying we’re making criminals out of law-abiding citizens. They’re saying you’re only siding with the criminals because the criminals could care less about the law.

Among those who agreed with Ford was a retired Oak Park police officer who got big applause by telling the crowd:

God created man, and Smith & Wesson created all men equal.

 

19 Responses to “A curious tale of prayer, guns, fraud and the Bald Knob Cross”

  1. the Woggler says:

    I would support funding the Bald Knob Cross, simply because it’s called the Bald Knob Cross.

  2. Angela_K says:

    $20,000 that is an outrageous amount, a few pounds worth of TNT would suffice.

  3. Daz says:

    I knew bald Knob Cross rang a bell…

    http://www.robsherman.com/news/2010/07/17.htm

  4. barriejohn says:

    LaShawn Ford: Flash onward

    Like prayer really works. How many of the children who died – and their parents – asked God to keep them safe before they left home on that fateful day?

  5. Stephen Mynett says:

    There has been a decent story of religious fund raising for Cook County, Illinois. Anyone remember, John Belushi, Dan Akroyd and co in the Blues Brothers. Had a quality violent nun in it as well.

  6. David Anderson says:

    “the criminals could [NOT] care less about the law.”

    FFS Ford, if you are going to make a knob of yourself at least get the expression right.

  7. Daz says:

    David, here’s … erm … David, on that very subject.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=om7O0MFkmpw

  8. JohnMWhite says:

    What a surprise that an advocate of religious schooling thinks that when children are weak, vulnerable and in desperate need of help, they should look to symbols and wooden crosses, not the teachers or pastors who are actually supposed to look after them. As ever, they want all the control, but abdicate any responsibility.

  9. Trevor Blake says:

    “We need to make sure that we get prayer back in schools in some form or fashion.”

    How about the form or fashion of the prayer in Numbers 5:20-21 to start things off?

  10. barriejohn says:

    The Bible is jam-packed full of lovely prayers that the children could use, Trevor, like this example:

    “Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.” (Psalm 68:1&2)

    The book of Psalms in particular, so beloved of Christians down the centuries, is full of this sort of thing. No wonder people like the Phelpses can’t understand why they are so universally hated!

  11. barriejohn says:

    I have just come across this on another site:

    http://www.atheistcensus.com/

    I’m not quite sure what to make of it. Have others seen it before?

  12. Daz says:

    Barriejohn

    Yeah, PZ Myers linked it a while back.

  13. Equality Jack says:

    I refuse to let atheistcensus have any personal information with so many rabid fundies in the world.
    Their security procedures are a joke.
    It would be easy to pretend to be hundreds of atheists so the total will never be credible.

    We already know there are over a billion atheist/agnostic/non-whatevers in the world.

    Nobody needs our email addresses.
    That site is a data-mining operation and your privacy cannot be protected the way they have it set up. Don’t do it.

  14. barriejohn says:

    EJ: That’s the reason why I didn’t respond either. I’m always very suspicious when someone wants my email address!

  15. Marky Mark says:

    ($20,000 Illinois Department of Commerce and Economy Opportunity grant the agency gave to the board of directors overseeing renovation of the 111-foot cross)

    …We now have to pay for their religious symbols when their dwindling flock can no longer afford to maintain their up keep?

    (State Representative LaShawn Ford voted to send a grant of $500,000 Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School, a Roman Catholic parochial high school on the West Side of Chicago, for a new building. He pointed out that LaShawn is a Member of the Board of Trustees of Christ the King.)

    …That explains it.

    Barriejohn said:
    (I’m always very suspicious when someone wants my email address!)
    We give ours here for every post.

  16. Matt Westwood says:

    Despite the fact that all the freethinker / atheist blogs I contribute to, I have never once got an unsolicited email as a result of giving my email address.

  17. Stephen Mynett says:

    Barriejohn, the census has been around for about a month although was down for a week or more as it was targeted with a DoS attack on the first day up. It is part of Atheist Alliance International: http://www.atheistalliance.org/

  18. Georgina says:

    @Matt Westwood
    Spam mail is rampant – that is why we have spam filters.

    @barriejohn& Equality Jack
    As for the atheist register – create a new account, for example: iamatheist@gmail.com in order to register.
    The email address is just so that they can confirm.

  19. 1859 says:

    Sorry to say the obvious, but this Ford guy comes across as someone using a very nice smile to hide a very narrow, juvenile mind, an illiterate bigot with the insight of a gangster. No offence meant.