September 19, 2005

Correcting a Possible Misperception

by PG

One view of the debate over the First Amendment's religion clauses is that the conflict is between the minority of atheists and the majority of believers; the believers press for the presence of (their) God in the public square, while atheists are determined to root all faith out of American life. However, church-state separation often features members of minority religions in opposition to the local majorities: I've mentioned the Hindus who protested against having the Ten Commandments displayed by the state, and Sean sympathized with the Wiccans who can't teach their children about their faith or give the opening prayers for legislative bodies.

The plaintiffs in Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe (no prayer over the loudspeaker at high school football games) were Mormon and Catholic families, who were anonymous because of fear of intimidation or harassment, an apparently well-founded worry.

In their complaint the Does alleged that the District had engaged in several proselytizing practices, such as promoting attendance at a Baptist revival meeting, encouraging membership in religious clubs, chastising children who held minority religious beliefs, and distributing Gideon Bibles on school premises. They also alleged that the District allowed students to read Christian invocations and benedictions from the stage at graduation ceremonies, and to deliver overtly Christian prayers over the public address system at home football games.
These invocations, benedictions and prayers seem to me unlikely candidates to offend Christians of any denomination, as they merely refer to a heavenly Father, Lord, Jesus and blessings, all of which to my knowledge are compatible with Catholicism and Mormonism -- as some Mormons agree. "A friend of the families, Debbie Mason, told the Associated Press, that the families were elated by the Supreme Court's decision on Monday. 'Thank God, thank God,' Mason said." Certainly Santa Fe, Texas gives me reason to be grateful that my parents settled elsewhere (though my dad claims the warning to African Americans not to let the sun set on them there once was prevalent in my hometown). The Ku Klux Klan had a significant presence in Santa Fe during the 1980s, and in 2000 a Jewish student suffered anti-Semitic harassment culminating in death threats.

September 19, 2005 12:41 AM | TrackBack

Religions tend to band together when there is a threat from atheism (or even lesser forms of secularism). But when separation of church and state is not the burning issue, then competition among the various religions dominates. Christians of all denominations can band together if they feel threatened by non-Christian religions (as can various Muslim sects). But sometimes there is intra-Christian rivalry, with each Christian sect having to draw lines in the sand (as is also the case with intra-Muslim rivalries) to protect itself. Meantime, many, if not most, of these religious groups believe in the God of Abraham. I wonder what their God thinks of all this business, pursued presumably in His name.

Posted by: Shag from Brookline at September 19, 2005 06:36 AM

I agree with Shag. Note how the fundamentalist right strains to remember, when they are in public, to use the expression "Judeo-Christian" (which of course they NEVER use amongst themselves).

I am still waiting for the day when I meet someone and they introduce themselves as a "Judeo-Christian."

And I am still waiting for someone to call the War on Terror what it really is: the War on Violent Extremist Monotheism.

Somehow I think I'll be waiting a long time.

Posted by: KipEsquire at September 19, 2005 07:44 AM
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