Law proposed to force folk into church

Law proposed to force folk into church

Arizona state Senator Sylvia Allen, above – Republican representative  for the town of Snowflake – was the object of much pointing and laughing this week after she suggested that Arizona should consider passing a law to make church attendance mandatory.

During a discussion on gun legislation at a Senate subcommittee meeting on Tuesday, Allen suggested:

Probably we should be debating a Bill requiring every American to attend a church of their choice on Sunday to see if we can get back to having a moral rebirth.

Allen’s comment was posted online by state Senator Steve Farley (D), who commented:

Even if you believe that would stem the moral decay, I think the Constitution makes it very clear that our country is founded on the pillar of separation of church and state.

She later defended her suggestion, but described it as “flippant”.

When she was younger, she said:

People prayed, people went to church. I remember on Sundays the stores were closed. The biggest thing is religion was kicked out of our public places, out of our schools.

Arizona Republic columnist E J Montini mocked Allen’s idea yesterday by writing a sarcastic “letter to God” explaining her idea and asking for help.

I’m not sure that even a Supreme Being such as yourself could get through to the lesser beings in the Arizona Legislature, but perhaps You could take a moment and explain to them the Constitutional reason for a separation between church and state. And perhaps explain as well that religion and morality are not something that comes from public schools, but from our faiths, our families and, ultimately, ourselves.

The Republic raised more serious questions regarding Allen earlier this month when it reported on her efforts to help police officers under internal investigations after her son-in-law, a corrections officer, was accused of sexually assaulting female prisoners under his watch.

The officer, Tim Hunt, was fired after a “preponderance of evidence” corroborated the prisoners’ allegations.

And while on the subject of politics and religion, here in the UK we now have a “gentle and permissive” law that extends the powers of various local authorities to include religious observances at its meetings and makes it clear that they can support or be represented at religious events.

The Local Government (Religious etc Observances) Bill passed its third reading in the House of Lords on Wednesday. This prompted Stephen Evans, of the National Secular Society, to say that the passing of the legislation was:

No victory for democracy or religious freedom. By allowing council officials or religious cliques, even if they are in the majority, to impose their acts of worship on to the formal business of council meetings, this legislation has the potential do much more harm than good.

Council chambers are not places of worship and it’s hard to see how religious freedom is served by allowing councils to summon councillors to prayer.

Thankfully, the passing of the Act is unlikely to give rise to any significant number of councils introducing acts of worship – and we expect most local authorities will continue to treat their employees’ and councillors’ personal beliefs as a private matter rather than official council business.


The Bill was put forwarded following action by a humanist councillor in Bideford, Clive Bone, who objected to the council’s long-standing practice of saying prayers before its meetings. Bone, who has since died, won his case, but an intervention by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, above, changed the law to allow prayers to continue if councils wished it.

In response to an objection by Baroness Turner, who said “a number of us who are secularists feel that our views have been somewhat bypassed,” Lord Cormac, who moved the Bill, described it as

The most gentle and permissive of Bills.

It gives to local authorities and to other elected authorities the opportunity – if they wish – to decide, by a majority, to begin their meetings with prayers or silent contemplation. There is absolutely no compulsion on them to do it, nor is there any obligation that the prayers should be of a particular or specific faith or as to whether the reflections should be eligious or secular. I honestly think that these points are met in this very permissive Bill.

Colin Hart, director of the Christian Institute, told Christian Today that the law was a welcome symbol that faith was not banned from the public square. He said that it was not discriminatory against people with no faith.

It has never been the case that if someone doesn’t pray, they can’t be a councillor. They just don’t have to turn up for it. It is clearly separate from the business.

Freethinker reader Ernest Jackson, who has been keeping close tabs on this Bill, observed:

For such a short Bill it is quite complicated, and complicated legislation tends to give rise to unexpected results. Much is made of its being merely permissive but its sponsors do not seem to tackle the objection that such powers are outside the remit of a public authority anyway.

The objectors are taken to be atheists who are told not to turn up for the prayers but I expect objections from minority believers complaining that their creeds are not catered for.

You can read more about this legislation here, here, here and here.

Hat tip: BarrieJohn (Arizona report)

25 responses to “Law proposed to force folk into church”

  1. Oliver says:

    I don’t know if Americans should laugh at her, or be very…very concerned about who’s representing and making decisions for them.

  2. Broga says:

    If the Conservatives win the election I suggest Eric Pickles as Minister for Health. He will terrify the nation into reducing food consumption and doing exercise. I wonder how much he weighs?

  3. Stuart H. says:

    On this logic, councillors could also feel free, if they wish, to decide, by a majority, to begin their meetings by dressing up in KKK robes and burning a cross on the town hall steps.
    “There is absolutely no compulsion on them to do it, nor is there any obligation …….”
    Seriously, I’m looking on aghast from across the Irish Sea. I covered local town council meetings in my area for years. Many of the councillors are devout Christians, stereotype small town conservative bods who I often had problems listening to without sniggering, but not once has the idea of starting a session with a prayer been mentioned.

  4. Trevor Blake says:

    Anders Breivik and ISIS, each in their way, are bringing religion to public places to get back to having a moral rebirth.

    No thank you.

  5. Lurker111 says:

    “Arizona state Senator Sylvia Allen, above – Republican representative for the town of Snowflake …”

    This is what happens when you replace the fluoride in the water with lead.

  6. Marky Mark says:

    (her efforts to help police officers under internal investigations after her son-in-law, a corrections officer, was accused of sexually assaulting female prisoners under his watch.)

    …No doubt she helped him to get this job in the first place and most likely is a devote christian as well. And like so many other sexually repressed religious types, rape is always on their mind as the holy bable says it is ok.

  7. TrickyDicky says:


    “I wonder how much he weighs?”

    I have heard that someone once threw an egg at him, it went into orbit around his waist.

  8. Broga says:

    A careful reading of the bible is the fast route to atheism. However, compulsory church attendance will mean listening to the selection and censorship exercised by the preachers. Just like on Thought for the Day.

  9. barriejohn says:

    A “moral rebirth” in our society would, indeed, be a wonderful thing. Forcing people to attend a place of worship would doubtless result in them finding their moral compass:

    (“Father”McSweeney has featured here previously, but I’m not adding another link!)

  10. barriejohn says:

    Do Snowflake’s ideas remind anyone else of Moral Rearmament? Well-meaning but naive, and eventually fascistic:

  11. L.Long says:

    “church of their choice on Sunday”
    Between the blankets on my bed praying for an hour more of sleep….Who can say I’m wrong? A bunch of dims who believe in talking snakes and an impossible virgin birth???

  12. David Cowland says:

    “…get back to having a moral rebirth.” Surely a moral birth woud have to come first.

  13. Normand Shearer says:

    Trickydicky, you made my day. Your comment is a gem!!!

  14. Me says:

    Pickles…..a corpulent,deluded, arrogant fool. I wonder how many slabs of fat he has to lift before he can point his apostle at the porcelain.

    How can such an unappealing gargantuan lard arse believe in a creator god?

    Sing after me..
    All things bright and beautiful
    All creatures great and small
    All things fat and horrible
    Evolution made them all

  15. dennis says:

    barriejohn,” snowflakes ideas remind” yes and the simple mindedness of evangelistic christians control our democratic world here in the states. Separation of church and state is sinking in the septic tank of Moral Re-Armament, and the evangelistic christians are in control of the Moral Re-Armament.

  16. Broga says:

    @barriejohn: I see that “Father” McSweeney stated, as part of his defence, that he was too fat to engage in the sexual activity alleged. The image of this man inflicting himself on boys is beyond grotesque.

  17. AgentCormac says:

    @ Me

    Bravo! Me and Mrs AgentCormac just had a right good laugh at your lyrics.

  18. RussellW says:


    Yes!Yes! why waste Sunday mornings worshipping some imaginary Near Eastern sky demon, when we can all sing the praises of Aphrodite.

  19. Broga says:

    RussellW: With Easter arriving the religious deluge is starting. A glance through the Radio Times and religious programmes and films are all over it. Wouldn’t it be a gesture of respect to the many non religious licence payers if there could just be a couple of programmes challenging the religious “truth.”

    Instead the religious stuff, with lots of preaching, is broadcast as if it were fact.

  20. 1859 says:

    Pickles and Senator Allen would make a fine couple. During intercourse the good Senator would completely disappear beneath Pickles…never to be seen again.

  21. Jim Gentles says:

    I wonder what happens if a non-religious person wants to make their own invocation, to ‘the gods of rationality and reason’? Or if they simply blow a raspberry… You could say that is disrespecting the religious councillors – or maybe their talk to skydaddy is already disrespecting the the non-religious(?)

  22. RussellW says:


    Agreed,however, it’s probably better for public broadcasters to ignore religion altogether, otherwise all the religiots will want their time on air.
    It’s about time we followed the example of the French Revolutionaries and removed institutionalised religion from public holidays.

  23. jay says:

    Non inhabitants of the US may not realize that in sparsely populated states (like Arizona), a state senator or representative can be elected with just ha handful of votes. They’re mainly placeholders and even the conservative Republican party doesn’t really take them seriously.

    If you’ve seen any video of her, it’s obvious that she has not had a mind sharpened by high stakes court cases.

  24. Jobrag says:

    Hm, I think that I’ll head of to Snowflake and set up a church that has beer drinking as a core part of worship.

  25. Vanity Unfair says:

    Each day it sits Parliament is opened with prayers. The public is not admitted.
    Attendance is not compulsory for Members of either House. However, if there is to be one of the showcase occasions and Members want to be sure of a seat it is in their interest to show up for prayers and avoid the unseemly rush thereafter.
    Note for foreign readers (every true-born Briton already knows this, of course): there is not enough room on the benches to allow all Members of either House to be seated at the same time. This is an example of the forward planning for which we are justly famous and why the State Opening is such a cosy affair.
    The point (yes, there is one) is that the practice of prayers forces non-believers, non-specific-believers, and republicans hypocritically (or at best, ironically) to turn up for a ceremony in which they do not believe. It is quite possible that there are council chambers in England and Wales where this is also the current situation.
    Republicans? Well, the prayers in the House of Commons ( though quite short, and in the House of Lords ( at greater length, do call on the Almighty to protect the Sovereign and Royal Family and to extend their rule over the rest of us miserable ambulatory garbage agglomerations.
    Anyway, if their god is that wonderful he/she/it/they would not need the turgid claptrap that either the Speaker’s Chaplain or a senior Bishop has to regurgitate daily to remind him/her/them what (I give up) their role in running the government of a minor power on an insignificant planet at the unfashionable end of the Western spiral arm of one of 2*10^11 and counting galaxies is. And the level of sycophancy must tax even a supernatural degree of tolerance unless it is also the most philosophically insecure of beings.
    I feel better for that.
    So, the point is that saying councillors &c do not have to attend prayers is not necessarily even true.