The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

19 December 2004

Season's greasings

We're at a flashpoint, says Bruce Prescott of the Oklahoma chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State:

We've got a lot of people who are much more militant trying to assert faith in the public square.

Um, much more than what? Is there an established standard for militancy? If you drive downtown at night this week, you'll see two crosses in the sky, one on the Bank One tower, one at Kerr-McGee, and if you swing by the Oklahoma City National Memorial, "Jesus wept" is translated into stone. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think of any of these manifestations as being in my face.

Dr Prescott, I should point out, is not some blithering neo-Newdow; he's a Baptist theologian. His take on the infamous Mustang incident:

We need to dispel the myth that Christians are being persecuted in our public schools. Most of the instances I hear about Christians being persecuted are really examples about Christians no longer being permitted to dominate the stage and school or takeover the public square.

In Mustang, people are complaining because their children could not stage a dramatic visual climax to a play that was designed to give dramatic emphasis to one faith — the Christian religion.

If public schools are going to talk about religion, they need to see that each faith gets [fair] and equal treatment. They cannot give token mention of minority faiths while providing catechisms and Sunday School lessons for the majority faith.

And they did get to sing "Silent Night" in Mustang, which is not exactly generic.

Where, however, is the line between "token mention" and running afoul of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause? Here's Mike Korenblit, co-founder of the Respect Diversity Foundation:

I think it's important that Jewish kids understand about Christmas and what Kwanzaa is. I want Christian kids to know about Hanukkah. When we do that, we're celebrating everybody, and I think that's important.

Hanukkah is certainly a legitimate Jewish celebration, albeit one which has been stretched almost beyond recognition, and certainly there's a good reason to go over the Muslim holidays which bracket the season. (There's something weirdly artificial about Kwanzaa.) But if the whole idea is to enhance the kids' self-esteem or some such business, then put me down for celebrating nobody.

Last word? I cede it to Dr Prescott, because I think this, at least, is one of the few inarguable points that can be made:

Some statement of the Golden Rule, either positively or negatively, is common to all faiths. It is not a controversial value. If everybody would practice it, we could put an end to about 90% of these church-state cases.

Sounds good to me.

Posted at 9:59 AM to Immaterial Witness

Do you think, maybe, if the kids sang "silent night" in spanish, that the great committee of the eternally agrieved might have a puzzling discussion over respecting non-native cultural/ religious celegration?

It's like this thing I do when I meet a 'vegan' - I ask why they're vegan, and then ask them how they feel about abortion. Then I ask why they feel that way about abortion, and let them try to consolidate the thoughts themselves.

I have to admit, I have my fun.

Posted by: Joe N. at 1:30 PM on 19 December 2004

Hmmm. Now that's a thought.

Noche de paz, noche de amor
Todo duerme en derredor
Entre sus astros que esparcen su luz
Bella anunciando al niñito Jesús
Brilla la estrella de paz
Brilla la estrella de paz

I think the scansion needs a little work.

Then again, with the rising Latino population in these parts, it's just a matter of time.

Posted by: CGHill at 5:12 PM on 19 December 2004

We've got a lot of people who are much more militant trying to assert faith in the public square.

He needs to choose his words more carefully. I have little doubt the context would make clear he's not talking simply about Joe Sixpack wanting to be able to say "Praise the Lord" on Main Street*, but that's the way that one sentence sounds, and you just have to know it's going to turn up in a Christian Coalition fundraising letter.

(*giving him a lot more benefit of the doubt than he gives those "militant" types...)

Posted by: McGehee at 9:44 AM on 20 December 2004