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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

And to think I was worried.

Most of you have, by now, probably heard about the Supreme Court's decision regarding the display of the ten commandments on public property. Despite my distaste for organized religion, I have to admit it sounds like they made a reasonable judgment. No matter how secular our society is, or may become, we have to admit that much of our culture does derive from a Judeo-Christian tradition. So, I think I can see the rationality in what they decided.

It appears, however, that not everyone regards this decision in the same way. More exactly, it appears that some Christian groups are poised to use this decision to ram their version of Christianity down the rest of our throats. Or, as the Washington Post reports:

Within hours of yesterday's Supreme Court decision allowing a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas Capitol, Christian groups announced a nationwide campaign to install similar displays in 100 cities and towns within a year.

"We see this as an historic opening, and we're going to pursue it aggressively," said the Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the Washington-based Christian Defense Coalition, which organized vigils outside the Florida hospice where Terri Schiavo died this year.

Indeed, I admire their reserve in waiting as many as several hours before announcing plans to exploit what is, by all accounts, a compromise, to drive harder for a reintroduction of the Church into the State. I suppose in many ways I can understand the desire of some devout Christians to take part in such actions; I imagine they perceive the secularization of the state as a threat in much the same way that I perceive the introduction of religion into the state as a threat. Of course, atheists are vastly outnumbered by the faithful, so I don't think the cases are quite parallel, but you get my point.

I would, however, like to observe that sometimes the movement of religious displays from public property is not undertaken because we atheists have demanded it, but in order to prevent additional displays that do not convey the message of love and forgiveness that, I am told, resides in the heart of Christianity:

By all accounts, the Boise monument went virtually unnoticed for decades until it came to the attention of the Rev. Fred Phelps, a Kansas minister who travels the country inveighing against homosexuality. Phelps argued that if Boise allowed one religious display on its property, it must allow him to erect a monument declaring that Matthew Shepard, a gay man murdered in a hate crime in Wyoming 1998, is "burning in hell."

Bieter said the City Council decided to move the monument so that it could reject Phelps's application without risking a costly lawsuit.

It isn't that we shouldn't recognize that our country was heavily influenced by Judeo-Christian principles, we may as well be honest after all, but when you begin to honor religions publicly, it becomes difficult to include some, but exclude others. Moreover, what reasonable criteria can there be for excluding any, if you include some?

Perhaps excluding all displays is simply the best way to show respect to all faiths.


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