Friday, December 17, 2004


Charles Krauthammer is no grinch

Charles Krauthammer takes on the mean spirited today in his column:

To insist that the overwhelming majority of this country stifle its religious impulses in public so that minorities can feel ``comfortable'' not only understandably enrages the majority, but commits two sins. The first is profound ungenerosity toward a majority of fellow citizens who have shown such generosity of spirit toward minority religions.

The second is the sin of incomprehension -- a failure to appreciate the uniqueness of the communal American religious experience. Unlike, for example, the famously tolerant Ottoman Empire or the generally tolerant Europe of today, America does not merely allow minority religions to exist at its sufferance. It celebrates and welcomes and honors them.

A mistaken notion has evidently arisen in America in the last half century: That one of the freedoms Americans are guaranteed is the freedom not to reminded of anything they disagree with in the public sphere. Most of the people petitioning for the removal of religious symbols are doing it because they are committed to a certain viewpoint that finds those things irritating. Frequently it's because they want a world free of religion, even if it means stepping on the rights of those who have a religion. This view can start down the slippery slope to persecution, and in some areas may be crossing that line now. When this happens, true diversity is impinged and loses. Freedom doesn't mean freedom from dissent. It means giving everybody a space to dissent, enjoy, discuss, and dialog. Wiccan is welcome, Islam is welcome, Assembly of God is welcome equally. As is Atheist...but all have to respect each other's rights to enjoy the First Amendment. And that means the secularist needs to remember the religious is religious 24/7, every bit as much as the secularist is. And that the marketplace is a center for all ideas, not just yours. It's not an exclusive sphere. There's room for it all.

Yes, I agree that we are not guaranteed te freedom of seeing anything we disagree with in the public sphere. And I think it is ridiculous not to study religeons, and their affect on American society, simply on church/state grounds.

But, more and more we are faced with concerted efforts of people trying to drive their particular religeous beliefs onto public property, or into public schools, with the use of public funds. Nobody cared in towns when they were all members of the same church-- what difference did it make to say a prayer in school when it was with the same people you saw in Church?

But those days are gone. I do not want my tax money spent to celebrate religeous holidays--use your church, synagogue, etc.

I realize that the conservative/liberal divide on this issue would make it appear that I am taking the liberal point of view here. I dispute that. As a conservative, I ask this-- why are we involving the government in something so personal as religious belief? What's wrong with having the family, or the church, temple, congregation, etc, carry the ball on this one? Why do the schools, or public buildings, have to be the point-person on every issue? Where is the call for "personal responsibility" my fellow conservatives often enunciate?

I'm sorry, but I'll support starting each class with a prayer when we agree to start each church service with a trilateral equation. And I'll support hanging religeous symbols on public property when I can freely use any religeous building for any purpose I choose.
I have one response: if we want our society to continue to flourish, we have to make room for both the minority and majority views, even in the public sphere. True diversity demands it, and probably the Constitution as well...but it has to be done in ways that are respectful. And that takes some working on.
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