During a speech earlier this month at televangelist Morris Cerullo's annual conference, Mike Huckabee said that school shootings wouldn't take place if public schools organized daily prayers, religious assemblies, Bible readings and "chapel services." "Because we were bringing Bibles to school, people weren't bringing guns to school, except for the deer hunters who left them in their trucks," Huckabee said.
First up from the God Machine this week is former Gov. Mike Huckabee, a near-certain Republican presidential candidate, offering his unique explanation for gun violence in schools.
"The Gideons would give us Bibles," he added, referencing some bygone era, "and nobody got arrested, nobody got sued -- and by the way, nobody got hurt, either."
If this seems vaguely familiar, Huckabee, literally the same day as the Sandy Hook massacre two years ago, used his Fox News platform to immediately blame the slayings on court rulings upholding church-state separation.
The obvious problem with rhetoric like this is that Huckabee supports a big-government solution -- having the state force religion on public-school children -- which flagrantly ignores the First Amendment.
But there are some less obvious problems, too. For example, whether Huckabee knows this or not, gun violence in schools pre-dates Supreme Court rulings on school neutrality towards religion. For that matter, under existing law, Bibles aren't prohibited in public schools at all -- literally every student in America is free to bring religious texts to school if he or she chooses.
Taking a step further, Huckabee seems to believe the mere presence of religious materials will prevent wrongdoing. By this reasoning, there's no sinning going on in hotel rooms because there are Bibles in the nightstand. And no one steals money anymore because Congress added "In God We Trust" to U.S. currency in the 1950s.
To be sure, addressing gun violence is a complex issue that won't be solved easily, but if pastor/politician Mike Huckabee sees government-backed religion as a credible solution, he doesn't understand the issue nearly as well as he thinks he does.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Big LDS news: "Attempting to appease both sides in an intensifying conflict between LGBT advocates and the religious right, top leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Tuesday that they supported both the passage of statewide nondiscrimination protections for gay and lesbian Utahns, and the religious freedom of those who oppose homosexuality."
* An interesting controversy in San Francisco: "A Catholic priest, new to San Francisco and no stranger to controversy, has banned girls from acting as altar servers at Mass, a decision that sets his parish apart from all others in the archdiocese. The Rev. Joseph Illo, pastor at Star of the Sea Church since August, said he believes there is an 'intrinsic connection' between the priesthood and serving at the altar -- and because women can't be priests, it makes sense to have only altar boys."
* For those watching tomorrow's game, something to keep in mind: "Is the Super Bowl divinely rigged? One in four Americans say yes, according to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute and Religion News Service. Twenty-six percent of Americans and 27 percent of self-described sports fans believe God plays a role in determining which team will win a sporting event. Even more -- 53 percent of Americans and 56 percent of sports fans -- say God rewards faithful athletes with good health and success."