Friday, November 25, 2005

Throw them to the lions? Hardly.

I recently wrote of the high pitched whine that is coming from the Protestant Taliban a.k.a. fundamentalists.

The complaint is that they are being discriminated against. But they sometimes go much further. David Limbaugh, whose claim to fame is his brother is the Right-wing radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, has written a book that takes the whine to a fever pitch.

His title indicates far more than discrimination—which when directed against homosexuals is something conservatives love—he titled his book: “Persecution: How Liberals are Waging War Against Christianity.”

Now I sometimes think it important to double check word meanings. It struck me that “persecution” is a very strong word indeed. Far stronger than the claim of discrimination. So I checked the meaning just to make sure I wasn’t off on this. “Persecution: punishment or harassment usually of a severe nature...” That’s pretty strong.

And if you don’t miss the hyperbole in the title the subtitle tells you that liberals are “waging war” on Christianity.

Now what precisely are liberals, secularists, humanists, atheists, etc doing to war this war? Are they lobbing hand grenades at the poor people on their knees in prayer? Are they locking the doors of churches with the congregation inside and burning the church down?

It seems that a big section of Limbaugh’s book complains that Christians are not being granted state subsidies in one form or another to push their beliefs on others against their will. In other words they are being persecuted because the law doesn’t allow them to use funds taken by force from everyone to be used to push their ideas.

Take the prayer in school issue. Schools are government mandated programs. Children are required to be placed there. State laws usually allow the police to arrest parents who are not sending their children to such schools. And they are funded with money taken from everyone whether they like it or not.

He starts his whine complaining about a high school graduation where some students wanted to promote their religion on the entire audience. This graduation is paid for by taxpayers and as such it should not be used to promote private religious beliefs. Some of the born again types insisted on doing this anyway and in the end a judge had to tell them that if they use a taxpayer funded meeting to promote their religion they would be arrested.

The judge told them this applied to all religions equally. No one religion was being singled out. Limbaugh doesn’t care. He still sees this as persecution of Christians. His reasoning is unique but not atypical of conservatives. He wrote: “while the court’s language was nominally directed toward prayers of all religions, in reality it was targeted solely at Christian prayer, because it was the only kind at issue.”

It was the only kind under discussion because no other group was attempting to use the graduation to promote their religious beliefs. Since no one else was trying to hijack a public school graduation for private religious purposes Limbaugh sees that as “targeted solely” at Christians.

That’s bizarre logic. If some other minority tried to do this imagine the whine from the conservatives. Let us say that a group of black students are playing rap music rather loudly in the school cafeteria. The school announces a policy that says no loud music in the cafeteria of any kind. The students then claim the school is waging war on African Americans and is racist. The regulation has nothing to do with race nor does it single out one type of music. But since the only students playing loud music at the time were black then the school must be racist.

Now if that scenario took place the Right would be shrieking about “political correctness” and how the school has the right to regulate disturbing interruptions of the school atmosphere. And they would very quickly and very rightly point out that such a regulation is not racist at all. But when the same type of thing happens and pushy Christians are the one’s being stopped they see this as persecution and war.

Now the public schools are a problem and will always be a problem. Coercive education always creates some conflicts needlessly. And it can be difficult to decide where to draw the lines.

Clearly a school assembly that offers prayers is promoting the idea of a deity and if it offers prayers to Jesus or in his name then it promotes Christian religion in particular. But where does the line get drawn? Does this apply to students who pray before they eat?

Trying to decide where the public ends and the private begins is not an easy process. The net result is that there can be confusion and inconsistent policies. And it means the schools can sometimes overstep the boundaries. Of course once state coercion is removed from the equation this boundary is far more clear and obvious.

Now if schools had large numbers of Muslims wanting to pray to Allah and honor his prophet Mohammed then the Christians were be out of kilter over that. And rightfully so?

Drawing the lines is not easy. But a state funded institution or assembly should not be used for the benefit of private religious beliefs. The best solution is removing the state funding entirely. This is one reason that at private Christian schools you don’t hear anything about lawsuits over forced prayers. The conflict is gone.

But unless and until that happens the line has to be drawn and it can take years before the process is done is such a way that clear and fair demarcations are drawn.

For instance if the school allows students to form clubs on campus then it should allow any clubs. So if a school bans a Christian club I think it has over stepped the boundary. Limbaugh thinks so too. So do most born again types. On the other hand when the school stops a “Gay Straight Alliance” from forming they applaud that.

And this is precisely what is going on in Provo, Utah right now. Students at Provo High School want to form a Gay-Straight Alliance and local conservatives want them stopped. This attempt would violate the Equal Access Act which says that schools can’t discriminate against non-curriculum clubs based on the views they hold.

Obviously this was passed by some raving Left-wing liberal, commie humanist. Not really. It was proposed by Utah’s Mormon conservative Senator, Orrin Hatch. His purpose was to make sure that public schools allowed Christian groups to form on campus and to forbid them from removing them from campus merely due to their viewpoint.

So when it looked necessary to use the law to allow Christians groups on campus the conservatives had no hesitation in using them. Yet at the state level in Utah conservatives passed a law banning school clubs that discuss sexuality. The Provo School District wants to know if the state attorney general will defend that law before the state Supreme Court. So it appears that if he says he would that they would then ban the gay group on that basis. For the time being the club can meet but a faculty adviser must be present to stop any discussion of sex or sexuality outside of marriage. Utah actually has a law attempting to ban the promotion of sex outside marriage! On the other hand if the students discussed gay sex within marriage I’m sure the Right would scream this is promoting gay marriage and undermining the family. Silly twits!

Right-wing nuts formed a “Standard of Liberty Foundation” which is against liberty! And like Limbaugh they exaggerate grossly. They say allowing a gay straigh alliance “involves the entire nation”. Conservatives can be such drama queens! They argue the club must be banned to protect students from “being recruited into homosexuality.”

Standard of Liberty says their purpose is to “fight the radical homosexual movement” and to the “dangers to our way of life posed by other anti-God activist movements”. They are “run by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” and there to uphold the traditional family. I wonder how many of them are descended from polygamous

Don’t expect David Limbaugh to write a sequel about this story. Conservatives simply are not advocates of equal liberty for all. They do not believe in using state power to impose their will on others. And in the end they are not hesitant to use violence. After all a law forbidden discussing sex means it is enforced by men with guns called policemen. In no one believes me watch what happens if the group discusses sex and refuses to stop when ordered to do so. Regulating student clubs based on content is fine with Christians as long as they can decide who gets regulated. Hypocrites!


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