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An Atheist, a Jew, and a Christian Walk Into Fox to Battle Over Religion in Government

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Published on Oct 15, 2013

10/15/13 - Should Senate Chaplain Barry Black have invoked what some believe to be partisan politics in his daily senatorial prayers? That was the question Fox News host Gretchen Carlson posed to a rabbi, a priest, and an atheist (cue "walk into bar" jokes), setting off a battle over the place for religion in government. Chaplain Barry Black has made headlines throughout the government shutdown for his passionate senatorial prayers imploring lawmakers to put aside their pride and "end this madness" with some sort of deal. His sermons even got the SNL treatment this past weekend.

Fox regular Father Jonathan Morris praised Black's sermons, telling Carlson that "he has done a good job at not being partisan."

But Rabbi Aryeh Spero disagreed, asserting that he does not agree with the chaplain's content. "It has to do with a very important principle called liberty," he explained. "Obamacare denies people freedom of choice in their medical life ... That is an issue of liberty and religious freedom."

When it came American Atheists President David Silverman's turn to speak, he ultimately concluded there shouldn't be a senate chaplain whatsoever:

"What every religious preacher does is they take their own opinions and they assign those opinions to their God, they say, 'My God agrees with me and it is objectively true and this is the way that you should behave.' This is not what should be appearing on the Senate floor. What we should do is take the $500,000 allocated to the chaplain's budget and bring in some people to mediate the Senate... There is no need to have a chaplain in the Congress; it is a waste of money."
Father Morris countered that the chaplain doesn't get paid a salary to deliver the sermons. "And since the late 1700s," he added, "the United States of America has recognized in the chaplain and in many other aspects of our life that religion actually is a good thing for society. While, at the same time, respecting the freedom not to believe."

"This is not freedom," the atheist shot back. "When every person in the country is forced to shell out $500,000 so that this man can talk for a minute a day and say things as if he knows what is talking about. Let's bring in somebody useful."

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