Alex Marshall-Brown Is A Badass, North Hollywood's St. Paul's Lutheran Not So Much

Alex Marshall-Brown is an actress and stuntwoman who recently was working on her laptop at a shady spot of grass in front of St. Paul's Lutheran Church of North Hollywood.  She was quickly accosted by a Karen and a couple of - Kens? - let's just say white males representing the church.  Karen actually claimed, while filming the scene from her cell phone, that Ms. Marshall-Brown was threatening her life for arguing with her.  One the white males went about nailing a "No Trespassing" sign to the shade tree and threatened to call the police. As he actually uttered the phrase "all lives matter", the second white male behind him smirked grotesquely.  Here is the video she took herself:

What is apparent is the she can more than speak for herself, so I'm not about to describe the events for you. Watch the video. I will, however, take up what this fool from the publicly supported church says. He says people aren't being nice to the church, so they have to be unkind to her, because they have to treat "everybody equally". The "all lives matter" hatespeach follows. This is what St. Paul's Lutheran Church thinks of Christ's teachings. This is supposed to be the example of Christ as a beacon on the hill, a light in the darkness. Why does it so often fall to me, an atheist, to point out the unbridgeable chasm between what Christ taught and what his self-professed followers actually do and say?

Let's be clear: the phrase "all lives matter" is hatespeach. It is propaganda designed to counter the Black Lives Matter movement by suggesting that protesting the institutional murder of blacks, in which nearly 3 times as many blacks are killed by police than whites - while blacks represent less than 14% of the population in the US. The "all lives matter" propaganda is objectively defending the status quo, and hence the wholesale murder of Americans because they're black. It isn't just anti-progressive, or even racist, it advocates murder. The church's formerly public homepage ( ) has been placed behind a login wall. The church's Principal and school administer Rendy Koeppel had this to say in a 2015 self-assessment:
I was also intrigued by Dewey's views on the primary goals of schools. He believed the most important goals of all schools are 1) developing the individual and 2) developing the citizen ( Henson, 2003 ). This is contrary to our society's emphasis on facts, skills, test scores, and and common core standards. A blessing of our Lutheran schools is the goal of educating the whole child, spiritually, socially, academically and more as children of god.
Now one cannot say that the behavior of his students is reflected in the behavior of the paid staff at St. Paul. One can say, however, that the aggressively racist behavior of that staff is reflective of what they learn in church, and moreover that what the church teaches adults, it inculcates in children by extension. For its part, the church did make a statement on its FB page:

St. Paul First Lutheran Church and School, North Hollywood, Calif.

Yesterday an exchange was recorded at St. Paul’s First Lutheran Church between Alex Marshall-Brown and a couple volunteer and non volunteer workers from the church. Marshall-Brown, who was sitting under a tree on church property, was asked to leave, as she was sitting on private property. After initial interaction with church personnel, Marshall-Brown started recording when the two men posted no trespassing signs near where she was sitting. It is the position of St. Paul’s First Lutheran Church and School that Marshall-Brown posed no risk or threat to the property and that this incident was not handled in a way representative of the church or the school.

The volunteers from the church who were involved in the exchange have voluntarily requested to step down from their positions.

Mr. Santiago Botero, acting principal at St. Paul’s school, issued the following statement:

“The disrespect demonstrated by the individuals does not represent the attitude of St. Paul’s First. I was out of town at the time of the incident, but I believe it could’ve and should’ve been handled more respectfully.

“Because our preschool, which is currently operating to provide childcare for families of essential workers and been during this COVID pandemic, we as a staff do have a policy against loitering within a certain radius of school for the safety of the children (this also includes media safety). We had to implement this in response to several incidents of vandalism the church and school experienced. While Alex was not complying with that policy, she was clearly not harming any person or property and it should’ve been more clearly and more respectively communicated to her."

“I am personally offended by what I saw in the video and would like to apologize on behalf of St. Paul’s First. I will try to contact Alex and she would ever like to speak to me personally about what she experienced at St. Paul’s First, I would invite the opportunity to meet with her.

“As Christians, it is our duty to demonstrate to others the love and mercy that Christ shows to us. Unfortunately, this did not happen yesterday. I immigrated to the United States and have experienced both love from people as well as racist assumptions about me as a Latino man, and even though I can’t put myself in the shoes of the black community, this is why I want to represent St. Paul’s First as a loving church. I was trained as a teacher and am training to be a counselor, and that is what I do. I am here to help, here to help educate people about Christ’s love.”

You'll note the phrase "we as a staff do have a policy against loitering within a certain radius of school for the safety of the children", but as an FB commenter pointed out, the school is across the street. Moreover, where Ms. Marshall-Brown sat appears to be at least 10' from any access point to the church itself. This is the "policy" that was violated. You may remember from the video that church staff never mentioned Covid protocols, they only mentioned "vandalism".

Mr. Botero's connection of the policy to Covid does appear superfluous even in his own language: there is no explicit tie of the policy to Covid, but only to "vandalism". Why the mention of Covid at all? I wonder if it could at all be a consequence of the fact that suggesting Ms. Marshall-Brown might be a "vandal" is racist on its face. I wonder if these incidences of vandalism actually amount to anything. [ On a personal note, my little Nazarene church I attended as a child and teenager was vandalized once, and vandalism certainly happens. Consider the church which early on defied the Covid rules, generated an outbreak among its members, and was subsequently burned to the ground. ] I wonder Mr. Botero felt it necessary to tie his response to the extraneous issue of protecting children. Surely no disrespect in this regard was intended toward "Alex" as he insists on calling her. Perhaps he simply wanted to tie his apology to issues his readers might have more sympathy with than a bunch of white Christians from his church making overtly racist comments toward her while threatening her with the policy, all the while reminding her of how dangerous the police are for black folks.

Nevertheless this apology seems more sincere to me than others I've seen churches issue, and Mr. Botero deserves credit for making it.

By the way, St. Paul's First is a member of the Western association of the same school system that Trinity Lutheran is. Principal Koeppel has something quite interesting to say on the "funding opportunity" specifically tax exemptions, but now also tax expenditures, offer them:
In the meantime, what should Lutheran schools decide when faced with this funding opportunity? WELS leaders need not be fearful about participation in such programs. Following the careful and thoughtful process of many WELS schools and their leaders who have instituted these programs, educational leaders should seize the opportunity that is before them to reach out with the gospel to more people in their community.
Thank you Principal Koeppel for being so open and transparent about the fact that my tax dollars are helping your organizations to prosyelitize in their communities. Thank you for explicitly tying the cancerous culture of the Capitalist Christ to overt racism and implicit fascism. You make the work of anti-theists such much easier when you're honest.

An Open Letter to Senators Feinstein and Harris

As your constituent, I am deeply concerned that the religious liberty which is our natural as well as national right, is being not merely infringed but wholly violated by the Roberts Court and the Trump Administration.

In his decision for the recent Espinoza case, Justice Roberts actually claimed ( in a footnote no less ) that James Madison would agree with his ruling, which effectively raises taxes on American citizens to pay for the upkeep of the clergy. The document Justice Roberts was referring to is Madison's "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments," in which Madison said:
As the Bill violates equality by subjecting some to peculiar burdens, so it violates the same principle, by granting to others peculiar exemptions.
Both Madison and Jefferson understood, and communicated clearly in many ways, that religious liberty depends on the separation of church and state. As Roger Williams and John Locke explained before them, the realms of the Magistrate and Minister must remain separate to ensure the liberty of each, and when - as Madison pointed out - the state forces citizens to pay for the upkeep of religion - even their own - they violate the conscience of all believers and nonbelievers alike.

While little can be done at the moment to reign in Justice Roberts' assault on the First Amendment, Congress can and must do much more to address the theocratic tendencies of the Department of Education under Betsy DeVos. Funding of religious education through taxation, whether by exemption or expenditure, is explicitly contrary to the logic of religious liberty and hence not only the Establishment clause, but the Exercise clause as well.

As Senators representing the State of California, I urge you to draw attention to the urgent need to defend the religious liberty of all Americans by reminding Americans what the Founders and writers of the First Amendment actually intended. Few people in the world are as influential as you, and the First Amendment needs friends in high places.

I'll leave you with Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists, which I'm sure you're familiar with, but which nevertheless renders the recent decisions on religion by the Roberts Court transparently ideological:
...religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions...
Thank you sincerely for your time and consideration.

PS: please find this posted at as an open letter.

RIP Religious Liberty: 1789 - 2020

Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:
This Court’s decisions...confirm that it is impermissible for the government to contradict a church’s determination of who can act as its ministers.
SCOTUS has ruled that teachers who teach at religious schools are clergy because they are promoting religion, and that the state is barred from protecting such teachers from discrimination which would otherwise be illegal under laws such as the Civil Rights Act. Alternately, this SCOTUS also holds - in this very session - that for the purposes of receiving public funds, religious schools are not promoting religion. Expect a broad realignment of forces hostile to civil rights with forces hostile to religious liberty, as the Roberts Court has now ensured that religious organizations are the last best hope for racists and theocrats.

The Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania:
Concerns that the exemptions thwart Congress’ intent by making it significantly harder for interested women to obtain seamless access to contraception without cost-sharing cannot justify supplanting the [ ACA's ] plain meaning [ requiring exemptions for religious objections ]. Even if such concerns are legitimate, they are more properly directed at the regulatory mechanism that Congress put in place.
The ACA, in part because of decisions like Hobby Lobby and Burwell, provides religious groups the special privilege of exempting them from civil law applying to everyone else because those groups object to how their employees might use their employment benefits. The SCOTUS has ruled that the plain text requiring employers to provide contraception services to employees cannot be enforced because of the plain language of the ACA exempting religous orgs from those requirements. So far these cases have all focused on state mandated health services that Catholics object to, but the logic of these decisions will also apply to religious groups demanding the right to control how employees spend their wages on products and services that are not mandated by the state. When a religious school refuses a pay rise or deducts pay from a teacher because that teacher donated to an organization which defends homosexuals, or bought a Bad Religion record, or perhaps donated to a political candidate the school opposes, will the SCOTUS rule that the teacher is promoting religion, and hence a minister, and hence the state has no right to protect her from such takings of her income?

I have until today managed to convince myself there is still a fight to be had to defend the First Amendment and religouis liberty against the unholy alliance of the fascist right with the Capitalist Christ. I am no longer able to convince myself of that. The religious protections of the First Amendment have been broached; the Establishment clause is now being used to exempt religious orgs from civil law and to force taxpayers to pay for the support of clergy. Christianity is the overwhelming beneficiary of public gifts of money and legal privilege, and is the state religon in fact if not in title.

Religious liberty: may it not rest in peace.

Espinoza v. Montana: Rhetoric and Precedent

In the short time since it was released, a great deal has been said about the Supreme Court's decision in the Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue case. A great of column inches perhaps, or words, but very little in terms of critical analysis. Chief Justice Roberts himself set the standard for misunderstanding the ruling when he described it as:
A State need not subsidize private education. But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.
The New York Times runs with this interpretation:
Religious schools should have the same access to scholarships and funds as other private schools, the justices ruled, in a victory for conservatives.
and The Washington Post reports the decision as saying:
[ States ] that subsidize private education must include religious schools
which is repeated by CNBC:
Supreme Court says Constitution protects Montana scholarship program that indirectly funds religious schools
The National Law Review, for its part, offers what seems a straightforward assessment of the decision:
On June 30, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, No. 18-1195, holding that if a state subsidizes private education, the Free Exercise Clause does not allow the state to deny that subsidy to a school because it is religious.
and this assessment is shared by Wikipedia:
[ The Court ] ruled that a state-based scholarship program that provides public funds to allow students to attend private schools cannot discriminate against religious schools under the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution.
All of this is quite fascinating for the simple reason that none of it - not a word of it - is true. The decision in Espinoza does not rule on the matter of public subsidies for private religious schools. There is no functional limitation to private education at all in the holding. What the decision actually says is this:
Held: The application of the no-aid provision discriminated against reli- gious schools and the families whose children attend or hope to attend them in violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the Federal Constitution. Pp. 6–22. (a) The Free Exercise Clause “protects religious observers against unequal treatment” and against “laws that impose special disabilities on the basis of religious status.” Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, 582 U. S. ___, ___. In Trinity Lutheran, this Court held that disqualifying otherwise eligible recipients from a public benefit “solely because of their religious character” imposes “a penalty on the free exercise of religion that triggers the most exacting scrutiny.” Id., at ___. Here, the application of Montana’s no-aid provision excludes religious schools from public benefits solely because of religious status. As a result, strict scrutiny applies. Pp. 6–12.
What the court ruled is that any public benefit which is denied a recipient because of the recipient's religious status requires "strict scrutiny". The concept of "strict scrutiny" was invented by the Roberts Court for its 7-2 decision in the Trinity v. Comer decision. That decision ruled in favor of a religious school, stating
This Court has repeatedly confirmed that denying a generally available benefit solely on account of religious identity imposes a penalty on the free exercise of religion.
Here the Court referred to a previous decision, Locke v. Davey, in which the plaintiff had been denied the use of public scholarship money to pursue a religious degree. The Locke decision was predicated on the use to which the public monies would be spent. To distinguish the Trinity case from Locke, Justice Roberts argued that while such religious use was prohibited by the First Amendment's Establishment clause, the Exercise clause also ensured that the state could not prohibit religious exercise merely for its religious character. For Roberts, the test comes down to the question of whether or not the recipient is being denied funding because of what it chooses to do, or because of what it is - that is, its status as being religious. This is what is meant by "strict scrutiny".

What should be immediately apparent is that such "scrutiny" is anything but "strict": in Trinity the Court completely ignored the salient fact that Trinity Lutheran schools, in its charter, explicitly states that it is training its students to do something religious, which is to proselytize their faith. No student attending any Christian school is being taught only secular facts; but the very nature of their being "Christian" in the first place is to disseminate their religious faith and encourage Christ-like behavior. This is, after all, the very meaning of the word "Christian". Therefore what the Roberts Test actually does is put the State in the untenable position of evaluating religious doctrine in order to determine this non-existent distinction between doing and being.

That puts the State in the position of denying the very thing it proposes to defend: the protection of religious exercise comes to depend on the lack of the exercise - of the putting into action - of the religious faith. The Roberts Test is an incoherent mess at odds not only with itself, but in direct contradiction to the First Amendment.

That contradiction is apparent in the Court's own holding, which argues the Montana refusal to force taxpayers to support religion is "in violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the Federal Constitution...[ which ]...'protects religious observers against unequal treatment' and against 'laws that impose special disabilities on the basis of religious status.'" This contradiction is hardly subtle, and it was this very issue which contributed to two of the most important precursors to the First Amendment, by the originators of that Amendment.

Thomas Jefferson drafted The Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom in 1777 in which he explicitly repudiated the behavior of the Roberts Court: compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular withdrawing from the Ministry those temporary rewards, which...are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages, to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right...that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty...we are free to declare, and do declare that the rights hereby asserted, are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.
James Madison drew on this document in his Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, which he drafted in 1785 as a protest against a Bill which would levy taxes to support the clergy:
We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no mans right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance...If “all men are by nature equally free and independent,” all men are to be considered as entering into Society on equal conditions; as relinquishing no more, and therefore retaining no less, one than another, of their natural rights. Above all are they to be considered as retaining an “equal title to the free exercise of Religion according to the dictates of Conscience.” Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us...As the Bill violates equality by subjecting some to peculiar burdens, so it violates the same principle, by granting to others peculiar exemptions.
Note that Madison here uses the explicit language of contemporary legislation: "free exercise", which is extended to all by Constitution and natural rights, and the violation of free exercise by the grant of "exemptions", which in terms of contemporary cases is literally the means by which a great of funding of the clergy is obtained by the state. Thus the two principal originators of the First Amendment have argued explicitly against the position taken by the Roberts Court. These passages were mentioned specifically by Justice Black in his 1878 Reynolds decision. Surely they are prominent in Justice Roberts's decisions? But they are not, and indeed they are almost not at all present. In Espinoza there is but a single mention of Madison, and none at all of Jefferson, and this in a footnote, which reads:
It is far from clear that the same objections extend to programs that provide equal support to all private primary and secondary schools. If anything, excluding religious schools from such programs would appear to impose the “peculiar burdens” feared by Madison.
Now here is Justice Roberts writing straightfowardly that Madison would agree with him that raising taxes to fund the clergy is in keeping with Madison's argument against raising taxes to fund the clergy! Not surprisingly, neither Madison nor Jefferson is mentioned at all in Trinity. Clearly Roberts is aware of the intellectual history of the First Amendment, so much so that he is forced to lie to Americans about what it means, and is concerned enough about this to bury it in a footnote. This is what it looks like when a Constitutional democracy goes about the business of denying the rights of its Constitution to its citizens. This is not a theoretical problem, and certainly no hypothetical. This is a real attempt by Justices Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Thomas to usurp the authority of the Constitution and to deny Americans their rights - all Americans - of religious liberty. They have been materially aided in this by Justices Breyer and Kagan who voted with them in the Trinity decision. Only Justices Sotomayor and Ginsberg have displayed any fidelity whatever to the Constitution in this regard. Madison, for his part, gave a clear indication of his view of those who would attempt what these Justices have done:
The preservation of a free Government requires not merely, that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power be invariably maintained; but more especially that neither of them be suffered to overleap the great Barrier which defends the rights of the people. The Rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment, exceed the commission from which they derive their authority, and are Tyrants. The People who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by an authority derived from them, and are slaves.
Those five who have assented to this grave assault on the First Amendment are tyrants, and reason enough to vote for a Senate which would remove them from their positions of false authority.

Alex Marshall-Brown Is A Badass, North Hollywood's St. Paul's Lutheran Not So Much

Alex Marshall-Brown is an actress and stuntwoman who recently was working on her laptop at a shady spot of grass in front of St. Paul'...