I write from Rochester, in between appointments (the office is closed, with everyone else out at a local amusement park- I had court:P). A neighboring suburb has become the battleground for the Religious Freedom rights of the religion that's in the least need of having its freedoms protected:
Particularly, the offended consist of the Fundiest of the Fundies, who believe they are divinely ordained to shout the loudest while repressing any and every other voice that might offer an even slightly wavering viewpoint. Last Friday, I witnessed (see what I did there?) this practice in action in a slightly schadenfreudy way: as waves of nattily dressed Jehovah's Witnesses filed into Rochester's downtown arena for their annual regional convention, a bunch of sign-waving, bullhorn-blaring Fundies were harassing the heretics on their way in with vivid pictures of the hell they're destined for. I wonder if they were followed home and had brimstone-breathers knocking on their doors for once.
That was an oddity, though. This next part is actually making the national news.
The Town of Greece has been opening its public board meetings with religious invocations for years. Almost inevitably, they were offered in the 31 flavors of Jesus and nobody else's. Finally, an atheist protest against the practice reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the practice, but in the opinion written by swing vote Justice Kennedy, it did so on the explicit understanding that "a minister or layperson of any persuasion, including an atheist," must be allowed to give the invocation from time to time.
Those pesky infidels were quick to respond to the Court's invitation. One of the first to try to get on the docket was the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which was apparently rejected for trying to "make a mockery" of religion. (Come, come. From sacrificing innocents on altars and behind doorposts in just the first two books of the Bible, to making a sacrament out of a form of the death penalty? There's plenty to be mocked in all of these groups.) But ultimately, the town fathers allowed a proclaimed atheist to give the invocation at a meeting last week- and as a local blogger in attendance reported, it made Jesus sad:
I got to the town hall early, in anticipation of a large crowd. Many secular humanists had turned out for the event, including Linda Stephens, the atheist plaintiff in the case (whom I’d also met and been impressed with at the AU meeting), and a large contingent from the Center for Inquiry. We only had to pass one Jesus nut on our way in, and he later made his point by loudly repeating the “under God” phrase of the Pledge of Allegiance. Almost all of the 110 seats in the meeting room were filled, and people stood along the walls, as well. The podium was cluttered with TV microphones, and camera crews, which I suspect were unusual for a routine town meeting....
The "Jesus nut" in question-
was quoted in another article, preferring to be nameless:
"Our country has a rich history in the public arena for calling on the help and guidance from God, the almighty, the supreme, the maker. It's only recently that rich history has come under attack by the atheist," he said.
That seems to be the talking point of the month for this Lot (pass the salt). In a letter in Rochester's alt-weekly out today, another True Believer put it this way:
The US Senate and House start their sessions with prayer every day. The president of the United States has participated in the National Prayer Breakfast for the last 61 years. There are chaplains in every branch of the armed forces to tend to the spiritual needs of its members. Law enforcement, fire departments, and hospitals have chaplains, as do public universities.
Eighty-six percent of the people in Greece, according to the Census, are Christian. An overwhelming 65 percent are Roman Catholic. Majority rules in this country. That a small handful of shrill atheists want to ram their opinion of a Godless world down everyone else's throat doesn't mean they should be allowed to run roughshod.
Hell, no. That's OUR right as Christians, because, John 14:6. But if "majority rules" in a way that deprives corporations of their own corporate religious freedoms (you ever try to fit a Hobby Lobby into a confessional?), then we're going to ask the Supremes to protect our Christian minority rights. Ours, mind you; not those of your belief, or unbelief.
Think we're inconsistent? Just read the wildly conflicting creation stories in the first two chapters of Genesis. We were made this way.
Happily, wingnuts aside, the atheist's invocation generally obtained much applause from the audience and a polite reception from the CINO town board members. Maybe, eventually, wounds will heal and we'll all be able to get along.