An ISU student claiming membership in a group he founded, Atheists and Agnostics for Religious Tolerance, is attempting to prevent the Pocatello City Council from starting its meetings with a nondenominational prayer. It’s obvious that he is oblivious to the rich irony of his actions in direct conflict with that “tolerance” he professes with his group.
As a product of Idaho State University’s superb educational system, I can attest to the fact that his ignorance is not because of, but rather in spite of his ISU association. By the time one gets to college you’d think they would know that to “tolerate” means to “allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference or to accept or endure (someone or something unpleasant or disliked) with forbearance,” according to the New Oxford American Dictionary.
If it says anything about ISU, it is that they are tolerant to grant admission to intolerant individuals who know nothing of history, our Constitution, tolerance, and have no respect for tradition.
There is a segment of our population that has this convoluted notion that our First Amendment rights can only be interpreted through the narrow prism of their gestalt, or world view. For such individuals, freedom of religion can only be exercised by those who conform with their concept of religion, or lack thereof. Freedom of speech can only be exercised if it conforms with their ideology, and all other voices are to be excluded. Such a perspective is not only antithetical to our history as a republic, but antithetical to the Founding Fathers’ conviction that these are inalienable rights for all Americans to enjoy. Adherents to this perverted logic reject the fundamental right of all Americans to worship or speak freely, even publicly, and rather advance a fascistic concept of tyranny of the minority by imposing their views on all others to the exclusion of all others’ individual liberties!
John Adams once declared, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” It seems logical that extirpation of all religious elements in our culture is a threat to the very fabric of our existence as a nation.
Perhaps this student could elucidate for us how his rights are abrogated by such a public prayer. Perhaps he could show us, or explicate for our enlightenment, how he is hurt, harmed, maligned, or deprived of his rights by such an act. If he is deprived of his rights, something needs remedying. But there is no such evidence here, especially since he doesn’t even attend the city council meetings! He has merely been studying recordings of them! How superficial, contrived, and misguided is that?
Our Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Too many in our society focus strictly on the establishment clause ostensibly forgetting altogether the free exercise clause. Or perhaps they’re aware of it, but they think that it only applies to minority religious groups. Certainly, from their perspective, Christians are not to be allowed free exercise. Someone might be offended if we show our Christianity as a nation.
Tolerance, for some reason, seems to be expected from Christians, but not others. We must be willing to tolerate secularism hijacking our holy days, aberrant sexual parades in our streets, and extend the freedom of religious expression that Christians are disallowed by the secular minority. Tolerance, in other words, is not a universal quality to be expected from all since the small minority has absolutely none for Christians. The result is extreme intolerance towards Christians from people who talk so much about tolerating all views and religions.
Ignorance of the Constitution, overly zealous courts, and the ACLU have somehow been able to intimidate the majority of us into submission as we continue to see the erosion of public vestiges of our Christian heritage gradually, yet forcibly removed from our culture. Those who “choke at a gnat,” the open celebration of the Christian faith, are typically the same who “swallow a camel,” demanding tolerance of everyone but themselves. From their perspective, their version of “tolerance” is constitutionally protected, but all others’ is not. Transvestite parades are constitutionally protected, but nativity scenes are not.
When approached logically, rather than with a chip on one’s shoulder, a public prayer or a public Nativity Scene do nothing to “establish” a state religion, but are simply free religious expressions. And tolerance is something to be exercised by all, even the minority in a mostly Christian culture, not just the majority. With that, I voice my freedom of expression and religion by proclaiming “Merry Christmas” to all, and “God bless us everyone,” which is no more an infringement of the establishment clause of the First Amendment than the city council’s prayer is.
Award-winning columnist Richard Larsen of Pocatello is president of the brokerage firm Larsen Financial. He graduated from Idaho State University with degrees in history and political science.
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