Friday, January 9, 2009

Jail Discrimination? Chattanooga Sheriff Encourages Proselytizers to Visit Jails

Here is another example of a misinformed Christian, this time county Sheriff Gobble of Chattanooga, trying to claim that we are a Christian nation. Unfortunately, Sheriff Gobble, probably with the best of intentions, is perpetuating religious discrimination against anyone who doesn't believe in the Judeo-Christian God.
I have opened the doors of the Bradley County jail to churches and ministries in our community who want to hold Bible studies for those who are incarcerated. Inmates are not required or forced to attend these studies and we do not give any preferential treatment to one religion over another.
Right. Nobody has to attend, but ...

First of all, Sheriff Gobble is flat-out wrong about the Christian roots of the country. Most of the founders were not Christians, they were Deists who explicitely rejected the divinity of Jesus. A few, such as Thomas Paine and possibly Thomas Jefferson, were Atheists.

More importantly, while I appreciate Sheriff Gobble's intent – I'm sure he believes he's doing a good thing – this is yet another example where Christians get special treatment, and possibly preferred treatment, in a country that is supposed to have true religious freedom for all. Not just Christians.

If Sheriff Gobble is a true Christian, he would invite representatives of any and all persuasions, to come and proselytize at his jails. Would he welcome me, for example, to come and explain to his inmates how they've been tricked by a two thousand year old myth that has led them into a world of irrationality, and possibly contributed to their criminal behavior? Would he welcome Hindus or Budhists who would turn his prisoners away from Christ? I'd be willing to bet money the answer is "No!" Yet, Sheriff Gobble would certainly welcome a Christian minister whose goal was to convert atheists to Christianity, or to renew the faith of "faltering" Christians.

That's discrimination, plain and simple, and it's illegal.

Here are two other blogs I wrote that you might find interesting:
More anti-atheist discrimination in the courtroom
I'm an Atheist, So Help Me God


  1. Could you post more info or a link to the original story - nothing you've provided shows the sheriff saying anything about the US being a Christian nation.

    As it stands all I see is the sheriff saying he's allowing prisoners to go to bible study if they want - I don't see discrimination there (until and unless he denies other groups a similar privilege)

  2. Thelonious, thanks for catching that error. I always try to put links in my blogs, but I slipped this time. I've added the link in the first paragraph, but here it is again for convenience:

    Since you ask specifically about the "Christian Nation" part of the article, take a close look at the actual quotes that the Sheriff makes from our founding documents. The founding fathers used words like "creator" and "supreme judge of the world". These are Deist phrases, NOT Christian phrases. The terms are so general that you probably can't even say for sure they meant Yahweh, the Judeo-Christian god, or some less specific diety. If the founders had been Christian, you'd see the word "Jesus" instead.

  3. But where else except in christianity can one get an instant pardon for any crime or wrong doing and still receive the reward of paradise(heaven)?

    In christianity, there's no sin or crime that is not forgiveable.

    The only unpardonable sin is not to invite jesus into your heart.

    What ignorant jackass prisoner would not want to jump at this free gift just for the asking, it's like beating the system behind bars, I may not get out of this prison, but my saved soul will go to straight heaven for all eternity, now that I accept jesus.

    That's the reason they frown upon capital punishment these days, because they may turn their hearts toward jesus and be saved.

    What a crock of bullshit!!!

  4. Thomas Paine was a deist, not an atheist.

  5. Eric – you're right of course, Paine was a Deist. I should have been more careful. My point still stands, though, that many or most of the "founding fathers" were not Christians, and believed strongly that religion had no role in government.

  6. I was more under the impression that Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin were more pagan/shamanists, but when it comes to history, how many times does it have to be rewritten to make sure it's correct?


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