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This Week in God, 4.4.15

In the U.S., church attendance is left to personal choice, right? An Arizona lawmaker suggested maybe the law should require people to go to church.
Citizens tour the Arizona Capitol grounds in Phoenix in this Dec. 14, 2004 file photo.
Citizens tour the Arizona Capitol grounds in Phoenix in this Dec. 14, 2004 file photo.
First up from the God Machine this week is an idea out of Arizona that's so foreign to the American tradition, it's tempting to think it's satirical -- but it's not.
The Arizona Republic's EJ Montini highlighted remarks from state Sen. Sylvia Allen (R), who apparently grew frustrated during a debate on a concealed-weapons measure.

Allen said, "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," adding "that would never be allowed." She hinted that guns in public buildings might be necessary until there is a moral rebirth. "I believe what's happening to our country is that there's a moral erosion of the soul of America," she said. Allen later told the Arizona Capitol Times that she wished things were more like they were in the 1950s.

The GOP lawmaker, reflecting on the bygone era, added, "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."
As Right Wing Watch noted for context, Allen is a longtime activist in the religious right movement who once "defended uranium mining in her state by insisting that the earth is a mere 6,000-years-old."
Allen did concede that the idea state-mandated church attendance would "never happen," but it's worth emphasizing that it could never happen under our system of government. As Simon Brown explained this week, "The First Amendment clearly prohibits any sort of required church attendance, and Allen's idea is exactly the sort of thing the Founding Fathers wanted to prevent when they drafted the Constitution."
Locally, Allen has a reputation as a Tea Partier who supports limited government. The irony, given her recent rhetoric, is rich.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* An Indiana-based denomination sticks to its principle: "The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has followed through with a threat to relocate its 2017 convention from Indianapolis due to concerns about the 'religious freedom' law and lack of anti-discrimination protections for some citizens."
* Madison looks out for a growing religious minority: "On Tuesday, the city of Madison, Wisconsin announced that it is now against the law to discriminate against atheists, making it the first city in the country to grant explicit legal protection to people who do not believe in a God."
* A legendary televangelist passes away: "Televangelist Robert Schuller, who built a California megachurch known worldwide for its weekly 'Hour of Power' broadcasts only to see his Crystal Cathedral ministry devolve into bankruptcy and family squabbles, died on Thursday at age 88.... His Sunday morning television broadcast was carried internationally and aired for over four decades, featuring celebrity guests and drawing 30 million viewers a week at its peak."
* It's a big weekend for some of the major faith traditions: "As families around the country prepare to celebrate Passover and Easter in the coming days, President Barack Obama released statements honoring each of the holidays. The first family will host a Seder at the White House Friday, during which the president said he and his family will read from the Haggadah and remember 'one of humanity's great stories of liberation.'"