A logical fallacy is a logical flaw in someone’s argument. As in, the argument is not based on on facts/data or sound reasoning, but on something that is a known flaw. For example, if I say “ghosts are real because lots of people believe they are real,” hopefully regardless of whether YOU think ghosts are real, you can spot the flaw in this argument: I’ve provided no real evidence they are real, just an opinion of many people. This is known as the “argument from popularity” or, to use the Latin, “argumentum ad populum.”

It should also be stated in this discussion preface that just because one makes a logical fallacy does not mean their argument is wrong. To say so would be the “fallacy fallacy.” But, it does mean that the person making the argument should re-state it without committing whatever fallacy they did. (Many of these are actually sub-types of the “non sequitur” fallacy, meaning “it does not follow.”)

Such is the case that Jerry Newcombe makes in his WND article, posted yesterday, entitled, “The Non-Jesus Religion.” Jerry writes about the case before the Supreme Court now, Galloway v. City of Greece (which is not in Greece, but rather near Rochester, NY). The city opened council meetings with very strong, very Christian prayers. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing, and it has made its way to the Supreme Court because different circuit courts have issued different rulings.

In his article, Mr. Newcombe commits at least three logical fallacies that I noticed. The first two, and most obvious, are the argument from antiquity and argument from authority. He spends the majority of his article talking about how the Founding Fathers (an authority figure, hence the argument from authority) would often open legislative sessions with prayers. He also noted that this practice has been going on for hundreds of years (hence the argument from antiquity, meaning that you’re making the case for something just ’cause it’s been done that way for a long time).

The third logical fallacy is a straw man. This is an argument where you misrepresent (deliberately or by mistake) your opponent’s argument and then argue against that. The straw man argument that you argue against is usually a weaker one than was actually made. In this case, David Gibbs III of the National Center for Life and Liberty is the lawyer (or a lawyer) who is arguing this case against the ACLU. To quote from Mr. Newcombe’s article: “David told me, “What the ACLU is arguing is that praying in Jesus’ name is establishing a religion. The reality is that their goal is to establish a non-Jesus religion.” David noted the ACLU is advancing cases only against anybody praying in Jesus’ name, not in any other tradition.”

That’s a straw man. Their goal is not to establish a non-Jesus religion. It just so happens that it’s the Christians who are the majority in this country so nearly every single example of legislative session opening prayers is done by Christians (or “a Jesus religion,” anyway). Most counter-examples only exist because they were originally Jesus-only, but the town was sued and told they had to either let any religion do it or stop ’em all together.

The reason that David’s argument is weaker than the ACLU’s is because the First Amendment prohibits government establishment of religion. If the ACLU were arguing that Jesus should be out in favor of non-Jesus religions, then clearly that’s just as bad as Jesus-only. And (I would argue) unconstitutional. It’s harder to argue the constitutionality of public money being spent to hire chaplains for prayers, or, at the very least, to pay public officials out of public money to waste their time listening to those prayers.

Not that either of the two commenters pointed these logical fallacies out. And the three ratings are all 5/5.


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