19 December 2004
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.
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