Friday, June 11, 2010

FIC Interdicted

Religious people – people who actually practice their faith – may be forgiving for being somewhat bewildered by the suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Enfield, possibly because they know that their religion is only indirectly connected to places where religious services are held.

A real atheist like Christopher Hitchens might approve of the ACLU suit, which seeks to prevent students in Enfield from attending graduation services at First Cathedral in Bloomfield, for its nuisance value alone. But he probably would reject as an outdated medieval superstition the unstated claim that gives moral unction to the suit.

What harm could possibly come to an atheist or agnostic who attends a graduation, purely a secular activity, in a building in which religious services have been held?

Buildings are not sacred objects; still less are they professors giving off notions that might ensnare the non-religious. A building of brick and mortar is not an idea. A passing atheist on the sidewalk who falls under the shadow of a cross atop a Catholic church is not thereby converted to Catholicism. And even if he enters the church during a service, one must suppose the atheist is made of stern stuff – unbeguiled by fairytale notions that the atheist has shucked off as puerile but harmless to him.

In fact, the ACLU suit that seeks to protect atheists from religious infections emanating from buildings is positively uncharitable to committed atheists.

One wants to say to the anonymous agnostic represented in the ACLU suit: Buck up man! Either atheism or agnostisism is a serious proposition for you or it they are fairytales. Serious atheists needn’t be afraid of attending a graduation presided over by secular officials in a building in which religious services are held. Atheists don’t believe in priests or noxious religious dogmas. But they don’t believe in homeopathic magic either. Tell the ACLU to take a hike!

Hitchens, one supposes, would relish debating the fool who hath said in his heart “There is a God.” Indeed, he has done so on many an occasion. But to attack a school board that has chosen, purely for reasons of economy, to have a graduation ceremony in a building that cannot dispute with atheists? My God man (excuse the language), have you lost your secular mind? Call yourself an atheist! Why, you should be driven from the fold.

The argument above is not one that is likely to be seen on Peter Wolfgang’s site, Family Institute of Connecticut. Wolfgang is religious. He is exactly the kind of person Hitchens would enjoy engaging in debate.

ACLU members – and, one is ashamed to say, some in the media – do not want to debate theists on points of theology. They want to stick them in a closet, shove a gag in their mouths, and prevent them from operating in a public square cleanly scrubbed of all religious ideas. Neither do they want religious people to engage in political activity. If successful, not only would they shut down the operation of religion in the public square; they would shut down the ongoing debate between committed theists and committed atheists.

The ACLU suit in Enfield is a secular interdict. The organization is using the threat of an expensive lawsuit to dissuade people from engaging in an activity that, despite an idiotic ruling from a judge, is secular in nature. But that interdict – even more severe than one issued by a pope, because papal interdicts do not touch those outside the church – could not succeed without the help of Big Media.

Just now, Big Media is interested in preventing Peter Wolfgang of the Family Institute of Connecticut (FIC) from engaging in politics, the birthright of every American, theist or atheist.

Suppose for a moment the pope were to say that Catholics could not attend a non-educational affair at a public school – say a graduation -- because such buildings were infested with crippling irreligious notions and breathed an air of atheism. That pope would instantly be denounced as anti-American, heathenish (only neo-pagans believe in homopathic magic), and a menace to an inclusive and diverse democracy.

Rick Green over at the Hartford Courant, a hotbed of political anti-inclusiveness, lays at Wolfgang’s feet the following charges: Wolfgang has engaged in politics by actively opposing the ACLU’s action in Enfield (jeepers creepers); Wolfgang is greedy. He is using the occasion of an ACLU suit to generate money for his benighted organization. That should finish the menace!

Green has not yet proposed excommunicating Wolfgang. Had a pope issued such an interdict, he immediately would have been set upon by the tribunes of the people and torn limb from limb.

We are more tolerant of our secular popes in government and media who, because they are secular, present a much greater danger to our constitutional liberties.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

It would be helpful before writing something like this if you read the suit and the judge's ultimate decision. In fact, no atheists were involved. One student is Jewish and the other is Agnostic. Their parents are also parties to the suit--again, no atheists. Also, just because Christianity puts little weight to the religious aspect of the building, doesn't mean it is not perceived as religious by those of other faiths or of other denominations. And indeed, supreme court jurisprudence on separation of church and state is focused on the perception of the government's action, not that Christians don't actually put religious value on the building. The case also didn't deal with just the building, but the religious iconography and crosses throughout the building. Is the cross not religious either?

Don Pesci said...

I mentioned atheists because I wanted to reach for the extreme case here. Atheists are usually mentioned in cases that depend upon separation of church and state doctrine.

Don Pesci said...

Hall’s decision is treated somewhat more “fairly” in one of the links, which will take you to a column here: http://www.middletownpress.com/articles/2010/06/05/opinion/doc4c09658929112326240054.txt

I didn’t want to go over old ground. The opinion is, in my opinion, abysmally silly. I’m content to let the Supreme Court and the Supreme Being thrash it out among each other.

Don Pesci said...

As for offensive religious symbols, you might get me to approve a theology of offense; but a jurisprudence of offense would border on judicial anarchy. What would you do with the crosses on Catholic church buildings, visible on Main street. Or ringing church bells on Sunday?

Perhaps more importantly, what would be your constitutional warrant for tearing crosses off Catholic churches and silencing church bells?

Don Pesci said...
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Jason said...

Interesting enough, though, the judge does include theology in her ruling. Surprisingly, she quotes the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales on page 48 of the ruling. Did anybody notice this? The Latin Mass group says, "To pass through the door of a church already constitutes a religious act which signifies entry into the sacred." Judge Hall also quotes Rabbi Chaim Tabasky. I am very intersted to hear how people react to this federal judge quoting from these religious people.

Don Pesci said...
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Don Pesci said...

It's proper to quote from religious sources, particularly when a judgment concerns the putative separation of church and state. Entering a church may signify “entry into the sacred” for the body of the faithful, certainly not for atheists, agnostics or – if the faithful body professes a different belief set – for those of some other faith. There is that frequently quoted adage that the devil can quote the scripture to his own purpose – not that these misapprehensions are devilish. They are silly from a juridical point of view. There is an old judicial saying: When no harm is caused, no law is broken. Those of us who prefer to drink our theology straight up – from theologians – cannot be thought injudicious when we suggest that when no harm has been done to those who have not, in the judge’s words, passed through the doors of a church building, their case is possibly deficient. What actual harm was done to those bringing suit? Church buildings don’t proselytize; the ceremony was secular, not religious; those officiating were not members of the clergy; and those bringing suit were not harmed. How could they be harmed by a ceremony they did not attend? These are all proper objections, and those objections ought not to be overridden by superstitious judges who traffic in homeopathic magic.