Why Now?
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Matt started this topic and it was picked up by Kevin and then Digby. They are wondering what's wrong with a few religious displays in schools and public buildings? They go on to talk about where they would draw the line and how unreasonable it is for certain groups to go around picking fights over every religious expression in public spaces.

What these guys miss is the experience of people like Elayne who are injured by the "minor" cracks in the "wall" separating Church and State.

Anne and Norbizness jump in based on principle, rather than personal experience.

I remember when every morning started with the Protestant "Lord's Prayer" and the "problem" at the end when the Catholics joined the Jews in silence while the Protestants continued. Protestants were in the minority in my class, but it was the Protestant version that was used. The message to the other kids: you don't belong.

You should have heard the roar when a middle-school girl down here decided she was interested in Wicca and wanted to start a club at school to study it. Understand: she wasn't a Wiccan, nor were her parents, but she was interested in the subject. You would have thought that she wanted to build an altar under the flagpole, displacing the "Christian" prayer circle, and start having human sacrifices. [Insert references to Satan, Halloween, and Harry Potter here as a sample of the rants.]

The Supremes have advanced the concept of "meaningless ritual" to cover their personal desire not to get involved any more deeply than they have to, taking the "Munich" option.

If I thought people wanted to set up a Crèche to celebrate a holiday I wouldn't complain, that's the way things used to be, but today the symbols are being used as part of a "war". If "Christians" are so concerned about Christmas symbols, why doesn't the Southern Baptist Church put out a public display on their property, instead of asking to use public property? I live in Religious Reich land and they have plenty of displays around town, including a living Crèche at a local shopping center, but churches are bare outside. They may have decorations inside, but nothing in public view. This isn't about faith, it is about recruitment and pressure. They are using these symbols for marketing and political action, not their belief.

What Matt, Kevin, and Digby miss is that these cases are being brought by people who are tired of being asked to "sit in the back of the bus", when it comes to their religious views.

Some may have noticed that I try not to spell out G-d. I have friends who find it offensive to spell out that name. They view it as sacrilegious to use that name in vain. They view its use on money to be especially offensive, but they are a minority and are forced to deal with this official indignity. They have dealt with a lot of indignities, beginning before the Diaspora, many of them fatal.

For all those who appreciate the historical perspective on national debate:

The "ancient motto" of the United States:

1864 - the Treasury Department introduces "In G-d We Trust" on the two-cent coin in response to calls from clergymen during the Civil war. It appeared on other coins as they are redesigned. The Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase, specified the wording.

1908 - Congress returns the words to coins after President Roosevelt had them removed as "sacrilegious".

1956 - it become the "motto" of the United States and is put on all currency.

The "Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag":

1892 - introduced in a youth magazine for use in the 400th anniversary of Columbus landing in America.

1942 - officially adopted by Congress.

1954 - "under G-d" added to scare the Commies.

National Cemeteries:

1930 - Religious symbols are no longer banned from government-purchased grave markers. [If you don't believe it, walk through the older sections of Arlington with the standard gravestones.]

The government of the United States got "religion" under Dwight Eisenhower and a Republican Congress.

The "Ten Commandments" monuments are generally the result a publicity stunt by Cecil B. DeMille in association with the Fraternal Order of Eagles for his movie of the same name [you remember, when Moses comes down from the mountain carrying a flintlock musket].

The oldest private universities and colleges in the US and Europe were founded as religious institutions to train the clergy which is why there is so many references to "religious speech" in early documents. Religious orthodoxy was a primary motivator for people escaping from Europe: they were refugees from religious prosecution, which is why they banned it under the new government established in the United States.

The Religious Reich is not defending "old and established custom" they are defending the march towards religious orthodoxy that made a "Great Leap Forward" under the "Red Scare" of fifty years ago. Opposing these new additions isn't persecution: it is a move to return to the status quo ante.

You cannot negotiate with fanatics because they will not honor any compromise. Their world is black and white, and they deny the existence of gray. These people are not asking for equal treatment; they want dominance.


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