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Edward Tabash

Edward Tabash is a constitutional lawyer in the Los Angeles area and chair of the board of directors of the Center for Inquiry. He is recognized for his legal expertise pertaining to the separation of church and state. He is also a well-known debater for atheism. He is the top financial supporter of Internet Infidels.

He graduated magna cum laude from UCLA in 1973. He graduated from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles in 1976 and was admitted to the California Bar that same year. He has chaired the National Legal Committee of Americans United for Separation of Church and State since 1995. He has been the most publicly-active man in the abortion rights movement in California since 1981. He has argued and won before the California Supreme Court. He sits as a part-time judge for the Los Angeles County Superior Court system. Since 1990, he has been a member of the First Amendment Committee of the ACLU of Southern California. In 1999, he presented the New York Legislature with a comprehensive First Amendment argument as to why a proposed blasphemy law was unconstitutional.

In election year 2000, he finished second out of four in a primary for the California State Assembly. He was the only open atheist to be a major contender for a state legislative seat in the United States during that election cycle.

He has successfully represented Secular Humanism in public debates against three major Christian philosophers, Peter Van Inwagen, Greg Bahnsen, William Lane Craig, and Richard Swinburne. His articles and letters defending the atheist/skeptic point of view have been published by the Los Angeles Times. He currently chairs the Center for Inquiry West.

In addition to articles published here in the Secular Web Kiosk, several of his articles have been published in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

You may visit his website at www.tabash.com.

Is the American Flag a Secular Symbol or a Sacred Icon? (1998)

What people don't realize is that it is already illegal to physically damage someone else's flag or the flag on some government property. Vandalism laws already prohibit damaging someone else's property. Thus, this amendment would remove constitutional protection for what you do with your own individually owned American flag.

Resurrection of the Flag Desecration Amendment (1999)

Congress recently resurrected by a margin of 11-7 in the Senate Judiciary Committee the Flag Desecration Amendment. It now moves on to the full U.S. Senate. The Amendment would substantially weakened the First Amendment by allowing branches of government to punish the physical desecration of one's personally owned replica of the American flag. This proposed amendment is particularly egregious because, in addition to gutting a core principle of First Amendment jurisprudence on the free speech, it also threatens the church/state separation clauses of the First Amendment. Since this amendment seeks to prohibit desecration, it is essentially a blasphemy law. Desecration is a religious term that applies only when something is deemed sacred. This amendment thus violates the fundamental tenets of a secular society by formally transforming a secular symbol into something sacred.

Published on the Secular Web

Modern Library

Amicus Brief to the U.S. Supreme Court Against Religious Discrimination

Edward Tabash and Center for Inquiry attorney Nicholas J. Little just filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, scheduled for oral argument relatively soon, to curb the power of religious organizations to discriminate against their employees. Tabash and Little argue that religious institutions should not be able to bypass complying with otherwise universally applicable employment discrimination laws when hiring or firing employees who are not clergy or whose jobs do not involve proselytizing the faith.

Review of Totality Beliefs and the Religious Imagination

Totality Beliefs and the Religious Imagination chronicles a medical doctor's journey from traditional religion to Eastern-path meditation and mysticism, finally ending in nonbelief. The author writes in great detail about his own loss of any kind of faith in his personal journey toward atheism and naturalism. Although the author has come to reject all supernatural claims, he nevertheless apparently suspects that humanity cannot endure without hope in the existence of some unseen supernatural being. He seems to doubt that any secular worldview can ever satisfy the spiritual yearning of the masses. Reviewer Edward Tabash, a constitutional lawyer who is extensively involved in atheist activism, deeply appreciates the author's comprehensive chronology of the journey from religion, through mysticism, to nonbelief. Tabash has made a similar journey. However, Tabash does not embrace the author's apparent pessimism about ever persuading masses of humanity to give up their supernatural beliefs.

Review of On the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

(2005) Review of On the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: A Debate Between Richard Carrier and Michael Licona. University of California, Los Angeles. April 19, 2004. The Carrier-Licona debate was a debate between an atheist historian and a Christian fundamentalist historian. Though I wish Richard Carrier had invoked his general arguments against the supernatural more pointedly […]

Electing Atheists to Political Office

It is long overdue that people who do not believe in any god are elected to significant political office. Atheists must start electing some of their own, and Eddie Tabash, the only admitted atheist to run for political office in 2000, describes what is necessary for this to happen, and how we need to overcome crippling assumptions and prejudices and start getting politically savvy, just as the Christian Right has done.

Outcry Against Boy Scout Exclusion of Gays Should Also Apply to the Exclusion of Atheists

Tabash asks that nonbelievers overcome any shyness and reticence that they may have and boldly chime in with their own "me too-ism." If gays can lament loudly and nationwide about the outrageousness of the Boy Scouts exclusion of them, nonbelievers must identically learn how to publicly protest the discrimination of their lifestyle and worldview by the Boy Scouts of America.

Why Atheists Must Elect Al Gore as President

In a powerful and informative essay, Tabash discusses the arguments being raised in the secular community for and against the election of Al Gore as President. He also comments on the growing support for Ralph Nader and how it may actually lead to increased support for George Bush. Throughout the article, Tabash paints a very frightening picture of the effects upon nontheists, and the state of affairs within the US at large, should the Republicans take the House.

Letter from Americans United for Separation of Church and State Concerning the New York State Senate’s Religious Ridicule Bill

Earlier this year, an actual blasphemy law was introduced into the New York State Senate. This measure would make it a crime to ridicule any religious belief or ridicule any concept of a deity upon which such beliefs are based in any public place. This bill is clearly unconstitutional in that it violates both Religions Clauses and the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment. This bill would give religionists special rights to silence those who disagree with their beliefs, placing the state on the side of assisting religious believers in suppressing public expressions of dissent, thus violating the Establishment Clause. It would also punish people for expressing their views on matters of religion, thus violating the Free Exercise Clause. In prohibiting speech because of the specific content and message of that speech, this legislation violates the Free Speech Clause. The letter to the New York State Senate contains a comprehensive constitutional argument as to why this measure is completely unconstitutional.
Kiosk Article

We Must Immediately Oppose the Nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court

The president has nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. Full legal equality for nonbelievers hangs by a thread even now. The Court has already gone very far in providing special privileges for the religious. In addition to generally favoring belief over nonbelief, Kavanaugh has let stand the Navy's preferential treatment of Catholics over Protestants, argued to exempt religious claimants from following laws applicable to everyone else, argued to allow proselytizing on elementary school grounds, written that keeping government ceremonies neutral in matters of religion shows hostility to religion and establishes atheism, and ruled in a way that obstructed government efforts to combat global warming, among other things.

Please immediately contact your two United States senators and urge them to vote against Kavanaugh. Urge everyone you know in other states to contact their senators, too. Kavanaugh is a clear and present danger to the separation of church and state.

Does the Claim of Jesus’ Resurrection Prevail Under the Federal Rules of Evidence?

Edward Tabash, a constitutional and civil rights attorney, critically analyzes Faith on Trial by attorney Pamela Binnings Ewen. Whereas Ewen attempts to show that a trial conducted under the Federal Rules of Evidence would uphold the claim that Jesus was supernaturally resurrected following his execution, Tabash argues that the so-called evidence of Jesus' supernatural resurrection would not even be admitted into evidence, thus the jury would not even get to hear it--let alone decide if it were true.

Electing Atheists to Political Office

It is long overdue that people who do not believe in any god are elected to significant political office. Atheists must start electing some of their own, and Eddie Tabash, the only admitted atheist to run for political office in 2000, describes what is necessary for this to happen, and how we need to overcome crippling assumptions and prejudices and start getting politically savvy, just as the Christian Right has done.

Confessions of a Former Mystic

Drawing on his own experiences as a devotee of a New Age religion, Tabash argues that the universality of searching for the transcendental, and the different sources attributed by people of different perspectives as the cause of lofty experiences, yields no additional evidence in our world of a supernatural being that undergirds reality.
Kiosk Video

The Law vs. Separation of Church and State

In this roughly two-hour conversation, Skeptic Magazine founder Michael Shermer and constitutional lawyer Eddie Tabash discuss the history of the relationship between church and state in the United States, the Founding Framers of the US Constitution and their arguments for separating church and state, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, how most of the 13 colonies had government-sanctioned religions and religious tests for office, the Constitutional Convention and the First Amendment, the push by some Republicans to hold a new Constitutional Convention and redesign the entire US Constitution, the religious beliefs and attitudes of the current US Supreme Court, and much more! Check out this alarming discussion of the rightward turn that the American experiment has taken in recent years!

Interview with Edward Tabash on the Court Dismantling Separation of Church & State

Check out this about an hour return interview between host Edouard Tahmizian and Los Angeles constitutional lawyer Edward Tabash about two US Supreme Court cases decided at the end of June 2023 impacting the separation of church and state. In Groff v. DeJoy, the Court decided that a federal civil rights law requires employers to make substantial accommodations to federal workers’ religious views, forcing nonreligious workers to work on otherwise off days to cover religious workers observing the Sabbath. In 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, the Court decided that a Christian graphic designer has a special right to avoid complying with Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws by refusing requests to design websites for the weddings of same-sex couples. The new Court has developed a two-pronged strategy in dealing with First Amendment religious exercise cases, with Groff v. DeJoy exemplifying openly allowing government promotion of religious ideals, and 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis allowing religious exemptions to laws (such as anti-discrimination laws) that apply to institutions that serve purposes that are not religious. But as Tabash conclusively shows, the Founding Fathers clearly intended that nonbelievers be treated equal under the law to believers, undermining Religious Right claims that either the United States is a Christian Nation, or else that the First Amendment permits legal favoritism for religious belief generally over nonbelief. Tabash then turns to upcoming free exercise cases on their way to the Supreme Court and more pressing threats to nonbelievers’ constitutional rights.

Particularly disturbing are signs that the Religious Right is attempting to replace the existing US Constitution with a version that would undermine First Amendment rights by invoking Article 5, in which two-thirds of States (all Houses of 38 legislatures) can call for a Constitutional Convention. 19 States have already fully voted on this in all their legislative Houses, and 7 additional States already have one legislative House that has voted for this convention. The former include Nebraska, Georgia, Alaska, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Indiana, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arizona, North Dakota, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Utah, Nebraska, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and South Carolina, and the latter include New Mexico, Iowa, South Dakota, Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Wyoming. Tabash believes that those in Nebraska or States where both houses have passed the Convention should contact their legislatures in both Houses (or the one House in Nebraska) asking them reverse the decision and repeal the convention call, while those in the latter should contact their representatives in the one legislature that has already voted for it and ask them to consider reversing their decision, and contact the representatives in the other, yet-to-ratify House and urge them not to ratify it. Those in remaining states, Tabash urges, should call members of both Houses of their state legislatures and urge them to vote against the resolution or decline to consider it.

Interview with Edward Tabash on the Conservative Turn in the Supreme Court

Tune in to Edouard Tahmizian's one-hour-and-twenty-minute interview with Los Angeles constitutional lawyer Edward Tabash as he surveys how the religious right-wing majority on the US Supreme Court is imposing religious tyranny and discarding science in the United States. The Court has demonstrated its disrespect for civil liberties precedent and overtly tried to impose a theocracy by, for example, ordering the state of Maine to make available its public education funds for the purpose of funding tuition specifically earmarked for religious indoctrination. In his dissent to Carson v. Makin, Justice Stephen Breyer pointed out that there's no meaningful difference between the state paying the salary of a religious minister and that of a teacher who proselytizes to children. Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed out in her dissent that in the last five years, the Court has systematically dismantled the separation between church and state by shifting from a rule that permits states to decline to fund religious education to one that requires them to subsidize it. This, she notes, is leading us in the direction of treating those who uphold the separation of church and state as having engaged in a constitutional violation. The current Court's attack on Enlightenment values gives power to inherently unreliable voices to have sway in court and even permits the inadmissibility of scientific evidence under the guise of the "free exercise of religion," using the free exercise clause as a sword to wield against groups, rather than as a shield to protect them. Tune in as Tabash canvases growing threats to government neutrality in matters of religion, such as cases authorizing prayer at public school events, whether atheists could be excluded from testifying in court, whether states could have an official church under the new Court, the religious footing for anti-choice laws on abortion, and how voters' choice of the members of the US Senate directly affects who sits on the Court.

The Threat of the Religious Right-Wing Majority on the Supreme Court

Tune in to Edouard Tahmizian’s two-hour-long interview with atheist debater Edward Tabash, a constitutional lawyer in Los Angeles who chairs the board of directors of the Center for Inquiry and has amicus briefs with the US Supreme Court and the California Supreme Court to preserve the separation of church and state. Tabash lays out how the new religious right-wing majority on the US Supreme Court (and other right-wing judges) are threatening government neutrality on matters of religion. The dangers posed to atheists' legal rights (such as religious organizations gaining the right to endorse candidates for public office while secular ones cannot) are compounded by those that flow from giving special legal privileges to religious special interests and no one else (such as churches being exempt from COVID restrictions placed upon all other establishments, or being able to bar same-sex couples from becoming foster parents who would otherwise be protected by antidiscrimination laws). What is particularly under threat today is the long-established principle that no branch of government can favor religion over irreligion, or aid all religions against nonbelievers, but there is also no shortage of attempts to allow religious individuals (and no others) to jeopardize the health and safety of the public or prevent government from meeting its obligations. In the second half of the hour the discussion turns to religious opposition to abortion rights, which if fully successful would represent the first time in history that the US Supreme Court has retracted a constitutional right that it had once granted.

Worse than Even Our Greatest Fears: A Two-Thirds Religious Right Majority on the Supreme Court

In this nearly hour-long speech to the Center for Inquiry, constitutional lawyer and secular activist Edward Tabash warns of the consequences of the horrific two-thirds religious right-wing majority on the United States Supreme Court: a rapid move toward ever-greater legal privileges that only the religious can enjoy. Religious objectors are quickly becoming the only members of society who are now permitted to discriminate against third parties. The Court is allowing them to use their faith to avoid complying with our country's anti-discrimination and employment protection laws.