IF YOU HAVE THE TRUTH, WHO NEEDS RULES?
In Denver, we have Tim Tebow, quarter back for the Broncos. He is a very devout fellow and many of his fans make much of that fact. While he is the starter for the team, it is not clear that he is the genuine thing, but his religious fans are convinced he is the best. But, their enthusiasm leads them to complain that he has not had a fair chance until recently and that all criticism is because he is an openly Christian fellow. They complain that there is significant hostility toward Christianity and he bears the brunt because of his enthusiasm for that religion.
This is an idea I have heard, though somewhat vaguely and it leaves me a bit surprised and a bit saddened. And, I have not taken it seriously figuring it requires a sort of looney-tunes mentality to think that Christianity is oppressed.
But, in in the current issue of Freethought Today, the isubject came up again, this time, in connection with a shrine honoring Jesus that is on public land, Yes, for decades, in Montana’s Flathead National Forest that shrine has held sway, put there by The Knights of Columbus apparently in response to a request by Catholic veterans. I suppose some hackles are rising as you read this. What the hell is a religious shrine doing on public land? A good question, and there is no information about why the Forest Service provided the land to the Kinghts rent free, where the statue of Jesus still stands.
That was the status quo until the Forest Service decided not to renew the ten-year contract which had been repeated every decade since the mid-fifties. That meant that the statue had to come down and be placed on whatever non-public land the Knights thought suitable. But, before the deed could be accomplished, a Montana congressman fulminated against the change. He said, “Removal of this symbol of hope and faith is an insult to the sacrifices they so willingly gave our great country.” No mention of sacrifices is offered except military service. Well, hell, a lot of us did that: Catholics, the great variety of Protestant religions, Judaism, Muslims, Hindus, etc. all made similar sacrifices with maiming and death as consequence for some. What that has to do with sticking a shrine on public land I cannot fathom except, dare I say it, a certain amount of pushiness.
The constitution, specifically the First Amendment is clear, sticking a shrine on public land is a no-go yet there it is, it has been done. When the Forest Service received the congressman’s complaint, they immediately halted the ejection process and decided to have a public hearing on the topic. Do they not understand that the constitution is not up for grabs by any pressure group that can muster enough public support? The whole point of that worthy document is make sure that we follow rules designed for the general good. Whatever is decided as a result of public comment has no relevance.
Instead of acquiescing, the protestors made up absurd stories. They call it a WWII memorial even though the leasing agreement says it is for “a site for a religious shrine.” It clearly is there to promote religion. Another bit of nonsense is that the statue is too fragile to move. But, the Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics commented that if we can put a man on the moon we should be able to move a statue without it collapsing. Crank mail has proliferated around the issue with much ugliness and little understanding. The kicker is that again comes the complaint that Christianity is embedded in a hostile environment. Humbug!
In Europe, religious interest has diminished significantly so much so that the European Union constitution makes no reference to religion. The Vatican complained bitterly but to no avail. In this country the number of people checking” none” on the religion box has increased and the number of those avowing agnosticism and atheism has increased.
Scholars of the American scene have pointed out that government, by keeping hands off religion, has helped it prosper. With no federal or state rules, religion has spread, though the above suggests that perhaps that wave of religious passion is coming to an end. Whatever the truth, it is vital to all of us that the constitution be honored.