As a Liberal Atheist (no, that’s not redundant) who believes in treating others as I would like them to treat me (also known as the ethic of reciprocity; it’s a good philosophy, one that came from Plato, not Jesus), it surprises me when elected public officials who proclaim to be followers of Jesus Christ’s philosophies fail to interpret them correctly. One of the laws Jesus followed was Leviticus 19:18
You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
Yet the Chesterfield County, VA, Board of Supervisors seems to believe the word “as” is the same as the word “like”.
Not content to be allowed to open their public meetings with a prayer (because nobody really means it, according to the Conservatives on the Supreme Court), the board “limited opening prayers to ordained leaders of monotheistic religions.” The county maintains an official list of local clergy from which the invitee to give the prayer is chosen, but not all religions are welcome. A local Wiccan was denied a spot on the list because it was felt that “neo-pagan” faiths do not fall within the Judeo-Christian tradition and that they invoke “polytheistic, pre-Christian deities.” And the official county list (isn’t it a little creepy to hear of a local government keeping an “official list” of local clergy?) excludes a local Sikh organization, even though they practice “strict mono-theism.” Then there’s the problem that the list only includes ordained clergy. As the ACLU of VA and Americans United for Separation of Church and State say in their letter to the board, “The requirement that prayer-givers be ‘ordained’ is similarly problematic, as some religions do not require their clergy to be ordained, and others do not have clergy at all.” Out of curiosity, I wonder if any Muslims will be invited to say a prayer? After all, they worship the same God as the Christians and Jews. Actually, I would be surprised if there were anyone the list, because it would mean there are practicing Muslims in Conservative Virginia.
Why do Conservative Christians continue to blatantly act as though Freedom of Religion only applies to some denomination of Christianity? Why, when given an opportunity to impose their fantastic beliefs on others do they deny others the opportunity to impose their own fantastic beliefs right back to them? Why do they act as if Christianity is “under attack”? Why do they think Christians are being persecuted? Are they trying to assert that Christians aren’t being allowed into public office? Do they think that no Christian can ever get elected President of the United States, except for every single President we’ve elected, and even the one we didn’t? (No, I’m referring to Gerald R. Ford, not George W. Bush. Bush was declared the winner of an actual election thanks to voter fraud by the SCOTUS, who weren’t required to show a photo ID at the time.)
Look, I’m all for protecting your right to practice the Religion of your choice, even if that means believing in magical sky beings who don’t seem to care about human suffering. But it doesn’t mean that I have to practice it along with you. And it doesn’t mean you have a right to shove it down my throat, to borrow a common Conservative term applied to things that frighten them, or sexually arouses them, I’m not sure which. Probably both. It means you get to practice your Religion in the privacy of your own life. If you and others who believe as you do wish to gather in a privately-owned facility (such as a church, a temple, or a bar) to practice your Religion, go for it. But don’t believe for a second that the Public Square is the proper venue for Christian Evangelism (or any other kind, though few practitioners of other kinds, if any, seem to be doing it.) It’s funny to me how the Supremes said religious phrases are okay to be used by elected public servants because, in essence, nobody really means it, so nobody is trying to force their religious beliefs on you. But that’s not the point. Part of being a human is sharing experiences, and when non-Christians are being asked to publicly assert their devotion to Christ, our natural human desire to belong is challenged. Would you want to be a Christian standing in a street of Muslims all bowing down and facing Mecca to pray? Would that make you comfortable? Wouldn’t you think that, at the very least, you ought to get down on the ground, too, even if you’re just faking saying something? I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be made to feel that way by others, so why do you insist on being the one doing it to others?