Monday, July 31, 2006

Jews in Delaware redux.

I've blogged on this issue before, of a Jewish family receiving vile (and probably anti-semitic in their motivation) threats for suggesting that a Delaware school board needs to respect the church-state boundary and not force students to engage in Christian worship in schools. The article frames it as a school prayer issue, which it is not. What attracts my interest, though, are the blatantly anti-democratic comments made by some supporters of the status quo. Take this one:
"We have a way of doing things here, and it’s not going to change to accommodate a very small minority," said Kenneth R. Stevens, 41, a businessman sitting in the Georgetown Diner. "If they feel singled out, they should find another school or excuse themselves from those functions. It’s our way of life."
In short, we don't want no furriners here. (Keep in mind, we're talking about Jews here -- y'know, the group that came up with the first half of the Christian Bible?) Which is fine, if you're in a totalitarian country with a single, highly-unified culture. But that isn't America -- the US is, at least on paper, a democratic country and is, in fact, highly culturally diverse. The tyranny of the majority thinking exemplified by Mr. Stevens denies both. Democracy dies when the majority are allowed to impose their views on the dissenting minority. The reality of cultural diversity is denied when Mr. Stevens pretends that there is one "way" of doing things. I sincerely doubt that even in a small town, there is only one culture, with only one set of social practices. I also recall something about freedom of movement within the country, which allows even those with different cultures from a majority group in a given location to move to that location. Most sane, rational adults adjust.

Money quote is here:

"Because Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, I will speak out for him," said the Rev. Jerry Fike of Mount Olivet Brethren Church, who gave the prayer at Samantha’s graduation. "The Bible encourages that." Mr. Fike continued: "Ultimately, he is the one I have to please. If doing that places me at odds with the law of the land, I still have to follow him."
I love this quote because it legitimates any behaviour one chooses. "Oh, well, I have to please someone other than the authority I am legally required to, so I'll do whatever I want and you can't criticize me for it." If my radical atheistic beliefs compel me to burn down churches, then that's okay. If my radical Muslim beliefs compel me to fly airplanes into office buildings, that's okay. If my radical Satanic beliefs compel to me rape and murder little children, that's okay. After all, even though my conduct is "at odds with the law of the land", I don't have to obey it -- I can go and do something else entirely.

(Of course, there has to be room for civil disobedience. But Rev. Fike doesn't even pretend that he's following a higher moral authority -- he's obeying an arbitrary interpretation of religious scripture. He's not serving some demand of justice, or of goodness, or of right -- he's just following a religious rule. So, this has nothing to do with civil disobedience, and it is fatuous to pretend otherwise.)

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