In closing argument, Edwin told the jury that it really should not be necessary for an Atheist to tell them it is wrong to lie under oath, as he reminded them the Christian school officials and the police had done in their sworn trial testimony. “Thou shall not bare false witness against thy neighbor. Ninth Commandment. Eight if you are Roman Catholic,” Kagin said.

The jury believed the Atheists. Unanimously.

The night of the verdict, tornados of unusual violence descended on the panhandle of Oklahoma. The home of the Principal who had brought the false charges against Chuck Smalkowski was severely damaged.

This fact has no relationship whatsoever to the verdict.

Great ending for an article. The background story: Smalkowski’s daughter refused to join her basketball teammates in prayer. She was subsequently removed from the team — not for refusing to pray, but in response to unspecified “lies” fabricated as an excuse for her expulsion. Smalkowski then visited his daughter’s principal to confront him about the expulsion. During the visit, the principal struck Smalkowski. Both men were injured, and the principal pressed criminal assault charges against Smalkowski.

So why did I call this post “Sigh?” Because it’s so sad that a young girl’s faith is cause for both physical violence and legal charges. Because religious violence in Iraq, Israel, Lebanon and elsewhere has taught (some of) us nothing about how to comport ourselves. Because as we refer to our nation as being a place of tolerance, we constantly find new beliefs and practices to prejudge and justify animosity. And because a religion whose adherents claim to practice mutual empathy and goodwill can still turn ugly against its detractors. And because those detractors adhere to the tenets of that religion with more fidelity than believers.


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