Saturday, September 22, 2007

Intolerance wins

Once again the prospect that someone might take offense has resulted in a victory for the anti-religious. In the home of "sifting and winnowing" free expression gives way to the sensitivities of the supposedly offended. By such decisions, step-by-step, the public square is emptied of any recognition of the place of faith in the life of the nation. I would have thought better of this Attorney General.

In an article titled "Prayer nixed at rite for victims" [in what sense a rite?], The Capitol Times reports:
The Wisconsin Department of Justice has removed religious content from a memorial service for murder victims planned for next week after a watchdog group complained.

A religious hymn called "This Too Shall Pass" and a closing prayer by a Lutheran pastor will not be included in the ceremony as initially planned, department spokesman Kevin St. John said Friday.

The Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation complained Tuesday that the hymn and the prayer at the state-sponsored event would violate the separation of church and state guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

After a review, St. John said the department agreed the content was on shaky constitutional footing.

"Rather than create the unintentional appearance that the state was endorsing religion or a particular creed, the department amended the program to exclude those parts," he said. "We certainly wouldn't want to have an appearance of a potential church-state violation overshadow the event." ....

The foundation, the nation's largest group of atheists and agnostics, praised Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen's office for quickly addressing its protest. The group said it complained on behalf of family members of murder victims and state employees who will take part in the event.

In the complaint, group co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said the lyrics to the religious hymn would offend some in the audience "by advancing the idea that the murder of their beloved child was part of a deity's plan!"

She cited the following passage: "He'll never give you more than you can bear/This too shall pass / So in this thought be comforted/It's in His hands."

"Grieving and vulnerable families should not be proselytized by state government or be told how or what they are expected to believe," Gaylor wrote. "The state should not be selecting which minister, which denomination or which religion should confer blessings, thereby excluding all the rest of us." ....
The effect of which is that the sensitivities of non-believers are respected, and all the rest of us are excluded.

Why do non-believers care? They think it is all nonsense anyway. They obviously can't be compelled to pray or offer worship to a deity which they believe doesn't exist. And they aren't even asked to pretend - mere presence at an act of worship doesn't mean participation. Wouldn't it be simple courtesy, an act of generosity, from their point of view, to permit the benighted and superstitious among us to be comforted by what they think are meaningless acts? Is tolerance a one-way street?

This seems like a pretty weak-kneed cave-in by Van Hollen's Justice Department. It is not what one would hope for from a conservative Republican.

The Capitol Times: Prayer nixed at rite for victims

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. I will gladly approve any comment that responds directly and politely to what has been posted.