Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Civil Liberty that is Not

Two Brookfield Wisconsin high schools can now proceed as planned and hold their graduation ceremonies in a church. If you aren’t aware of the story, you can read it here: Americans United for Separation of Church and State took the two public high schools to court to prevent them from holding graduation in a religious place of worship. They took issue with a Cross hanging in the church, citing the viewing of it as a violation of separation of church and state. What’s most amazing is that all nine of the plaintiffs refused to be named:

“The judge revealed that at least one of the anonymous nine who filed this complaint is a current graduating senior.”

The fact that they don’t want anyone to know who they are makes you wonder about their commitment to the cause. And about that current graduating senior, the article goes on to state:

“That student’s attorney does not know if the student will still participate in graduation.”

Is this a great country or what? We have the ability to choose what we can in all conscience participate in and what we can’t. If we feel we are unable to cope with being in a church for two hours out of our life for a secular ceremony, then we have the right to opt-out. Freedom is a wonderful thing.

The simple question from this story for me is, where are the diversity hounds when you need them? You know, the people who preach diversity diversity diversity? If people are so bent on diversity, then doesn’t it figure that an atheist can respectfully take part in a secular graduation ceremony that just happens to take place in a building with pews and a wooden Cross? Is that really beyond the ability of any American 18-year-old who has, for 12 years, attended school with students of varying ethnic, social and cultural backgrounds and lifestyle choices? Is it really beyond the ability of an adult who is about to graduate into the real world of life, work and college to deal with the situation of graduation held in a church? An atheist might be offended? Well, join the club. It’s called the “we don’t have a right to never be offended” club.

People of faith have to live in a secular world every day. Within our faith we have our peer groups and leaders, but that is within the greater context of a devoutly secular humanist world. We shop in grocery stores that play raunchy music and display equally raunchy magazines. We keep our TV remotes handy to flip from inane commercials and television shows. We're forced to sit amongst drunks at ball games and concerts. Our kids attend public government run schools (that we pay taxes for) and are exposed daily to morally relative, liberal teachings and attitudes that go directly against many faiths. In the workplace, we take orders from bosses not led or directed by faith in anything but themselves, and we are forced to overhear crude and obnoxious jokes over the water cooler. I think you get the drift. We live in a world in which many of the places we congregate the Cross is not present, physically or spiritually. If people of faith tried to sue every place we ever walked inside of or laid eyes on because it is “offensive,” hurts our feelings or threatens to crush our thin veneer of self-esteem, we’d be so busy suing we wouldn’t be able to carry out the normal duties of life.

"Civil liberties” groups like AUSCS, along with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, must carry a low regard, or no regard at all, for people’s ability to function and live in a diverse world. Is it their intent that not even churches are allowable, since an atheist might be walking down the public sidewalk and be offended, hurt and crushed that their eyes actually have to view a Cross or a statue of Mary?

FFRF and the AUSCS apparently think that society is so weak that it needs a nanny to protect its tender hearts and minds from the world. A world that includes mosques, temples, churches, store-front Christian Science Monitor reading rooms, Christmas decorations, Christian schools, seminaries, Salvation Army food centers, ambulances with Crosses on them, religious retail outlets, and on and on. What kind of impact does Freedom from Religion hope to have by enabling and coddling people’s inability to get along with one another and live in a multi-cultural and religiously diverse world? These “civil liberty” groups are not about liberty at all: they’re about crippling people within a victimhood that prevents them from true fellowship with a diverse world.

The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Let’s stop right there. The news article quotes Elmbrook Schools Superintendent Matt Gibson as saying,

“We’ve held to a secular ceremony all the way through.”

Congress is not “establishing a religion” by allowing the schools to hold a secular graduation ceremony in a church. And the democracy of the situation is such that the majority of the people who are directly involved actually want the graduation to take place in the church! Isn’t majority rule pretty much the foundation of things in this country? Do we see a show of hands? Most people are in favor, as is revealed in this quote from the article:

Most parents are pleased with the ruling” (to hold graduation in the church).

“You've got a very large school that has a lot of students, a lot of parents, a lot of relatives that want to participate,” said parent Lynn Kilb.
Yet nine anonymous people can spinelessly stir up dust and no doubt cost the school district a lot of money in an attempt to prevent the majority from carrying out a graduation ceremony in the most comfortable, efficient manner possible.

When you look at the FFRF and AUSCS, you realize they are fighting a losing battle because the amendment they fight for says "freedom OF religion." The Bill of Rights never says that we have a freedom FROM religion, just as it never says that church and state cannot co-exist. Ever see that bumper sticker that says “co-exist” with various religious and lifestyle symbols, including Christianity? It’s an advertisement to co-exist; ChristianityThe Cross -- included. The Bill of Rights allows us to co-exist when it says Congress cannot establish religion but also cannot prevent the free exercise thereof, and it cannot abridge the freedom of speech.

So when AUSCS makes the claim that Congress DOES prevent us from co-existing, and DOES prevent us from ever being hurt by being exposed to a religious symbol that may not be our own, AUSCS is wrong. And that’s why their lawsuits continue to lose in the American court of law.

All of us, regardless of our beliefs or our lifestyle, will do well to remember the Biblical mandate to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. ..Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position (might I say that the nine anonymous plaintiffs be willing to associate with a religious venue for two hours?) Do not be conceited…Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:12-13, 16, 17-18

copyright Barb Harwood

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