JABbering Stooge

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Another day, another editorial

I managed to get one more editorial published before the end of the semester. My last one should've been published, but the opinions editor for the paper I write for came up with this new rule that bloggers can't post anything they want submitted for publication to their blogs until after publication. Personally, I think it's a BS rule, but I don't make editorial decisions, and I have taken more than enough space even mentioning the subject. So without further ado, here is my editorial in its origninal glory (the hacked-to-pieces version is available here - entitled, appropriately enough, "'Tis the season to vilify"):

The War on Non-Christians heats up

At this supposedly festive time of year, there are some people for whom the holiday’s thematic message of “peace on Earth, goodwill towards men” falls on deaf ears. Motivated by a desire to turn the United States into the Christian version of Iran, these religious fascists would like nothing more than to replace the good message of the (highly commercialized) season with their own vitriolic message of “hate anyone who isn’t a conservative Christian.”

Last January, I predicted that with George W. Bush’s re-election as president, the atmosphere would get increasingly noxious for those who aren’t Mullah Jerry Falwell’s ardent followers. For my efforts, I received a bilious RNC talking points-laden hate mail in the following issue of the University Star. From there, the rhetoric ratcheted up over Terri Schiavo, with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay issuing threats to the judges involved. At a gathering of conservative minds called “Remedies to Judicial Tyranny,” Edwin Vieira approvingly noted Stalin’s solution to problematic judges (“Death solves all problems: no man, no problem”) even as he railed against Justice Anthony M. Kennedy for “[upholding] Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law.” A liberal church in Pasadena, California has had its tax-exempt status threatened for a sermon criticizing the war in Iraq, even as conservative churches engaging in political advocacy from the pulpit skated by IRS scrutiny.

Which brings us to the coming Christmas season. The Alliance Defense Fund has mobilized its 800 plus lawyers in a bid to challenge the absence of nativity scenes from even one square inch of American soil. Fox “News” commentator John Gibson has devoted a whole book-length screed to the idea that somehow, Christmas is under siege by evil spawn-of-Satan liberals. Additionally, the Liberty Council, apparently at the behest of Jerry Falwell, has begun a “Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign,” complete with pulpit advocacy plans that I’m sure will once again evade IRS scrutiny, to be enhanced by the actions of the Christian Educators Association International’s 8,000 public school teachers.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind these modern Pharisees posing as Christians that “Christmas,” as it is practiced in the United States, has not been exclusively Christian for a very long time. Retail and department stores have taken advantage of the huge profit potential in all the jostling and shouting to buy presents for loved ones and using it to push crass consumerism on John Q. Public. Just look at how Christmas-themed ads have been starting earlier and earlier as the years go by – this year they seemed to start even before Halloween. This operation is so slick that they’ve even got buzzwords to denote the rush of brick-and-mortar shopping the day after Thanksgiving (“Black Friday”) and online shopping the following Monday (“Cyber Monday”). The concept has even been immortalized in a song by Australian artist Eric Bogle called “Santa Bloody Claus.”

But even if there weren’t that aspect to it, there are bigger Constitutional issues at work here. The First Amendment protects against the establishment of a state-sanctioned religion that all must submit to – if pagans or Muslims somehow managed to pass a constitutional amendment making their religion the official state religion, you could imagine the howls of protests from the religious right, yet somehow when it’s the conservative interpretation of Christianity being proposed as the state religion they are strangely silent. It also protects freedom of practice of one’s religion – which is why churches can get away with hiring practices that would be unacceptable if used by private enterprise.

And speaking of pagans and Muslims, when we as Americans began accepting immigrants from non-Christian parts of the world, the First Amendment’s protections became even more important. For as James Madison put it, “The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.” The Founding Fathers even recognized the value of a diversity of religion. Thomas Jefferson noted that “If we did a good act merely from the love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? It is idle to say, as some do, that no such being exists...Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than the love of God.”

Jefferson also took pains to point out that “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” In other words, it does me no harm merely for someone else to be a Buddhist, Muslim, Jew, Hindu or Atheist. But to the religious right, merely the idea that there are other religions is offensive, and must be snuffed out by judicial or legislative fiat. And that, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is the most injurious notion of all.

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