|Home Page Commentary 28 May 1999|
Consider, please, the following scenario, which takes place in the United States of America:
A group of vegetarians is gathered in a park, eating their lunch.
They spy a lone meat-eater eating a jumbo
hamburger at a nearby table. One of the vegetarians begins to speak
loudly as follows:
I'm so glad I'm a vegetarian. I can't take any pleasure in eating the flesh of some innocent animal. It's really good to have reverence for all life. It's too bad there are so many primitive savages who delight in butchery.
At this point, the meat-eater, upset and a bit angry, leaves the park.
Whether you're a carnivore or a vegetarian, I think you'll agree with the following conclusions:
Now, move from this hypothetical scenario to an event which actually occurred at the graduation ceremonies of a high school in Calvert County, Maryland. A student, Nick Becker, had succesfully lobbied for thirty seconds of silence instead of an invocation during the cermonies. During this moment of silence, one person began reciting the Lord's Prayer. He was joined by thousands of the people in the audience. Even the President of the County Commissioners, Linda L. Kelley, joined in the recitation of the prayer.
Mr. Becker, upset and angry, left the graduation ceremony and, in accordance with school policy, was not allowed back in to receive his diploma with the other students. (You may read a Washington Post article with the details here.)
I come to these conclusions about this event:
First, this is not an issue of separation of church and state. The public school did not require a prayer (in fact, this was the result of Mr. Becker's initial action in obtaining the moment of silence instead of an invocation) -- the prayer was begun by some anonymous individual in the audience. This immediately moves it into the arena of freedom of speech, and as such the prayer was, in my opinion, constitutionally protected.
Whether the Christian faith holds the high moral ground over any other faith is a matter that is certainly open to debate.
Whether morally superior or not, the christians in the audience were rude and arrogant, and showed no respect for the views of the non-christians at the ceremony, who had just as much right to be at the ceremony as anyone else connected with the school. Consider the arrogance implicit in Commissioner Kelly's statement: This is a churchgoing community, and no one in Annapolis or Washington, D.C., is going to tell us when and where we can pray.
Ths rudeness and arrogance is unlikely to win any non-christians over to a Christian point of view. It has certainly reinforced my opinion that there are a lot of small-c christians out there, and I have no desire to join their ranks.
Mr. Becker acted in a legal, constitutional, and responsible way by leaving the ceremony, and he deserves both support and congratulations. The audience members who prayed also acted constitutionally, but their disrespect for those who do not share their faith is utterly shameful and deserves only disgust and condemnation.
Let me know what you think.
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