My conservative friend and I recently had a conversation about a judge who made an extreme ruling about praying at a public school graduation ceremony. This federal judge went so far as to make a list of what words could be said there. The source article is at the bottom of this post.
Here are parts of our conversation:
My Conservative Friend (MCF): Prayer is the new terrorist weapon. It can, according to one judge, cause “irreparable harm.”
RJ: Sadly this is becoming pretty common place during the months of May and June. But is having everyone sit through Christian, Muslim, Hindi, Buddhist and even atheists versions of prayer a better alternative? But using the term “terrorist weapon” is one of those things that have caused us to lose the ability to have a civil discussion in today’s world. If we could tone back the rhetoric maybe we just might be able to discuss these types of things instead of just screaming back and forth at each other.
MCF: This tells me we’re headed for totalitarianism. What bothers me is the penalty of incarceration of school officials for saying forbidden words. How can a school official be responsible for another’s’ speech? The claim of “irreparable harm” tells me that we are going down the dangerous road of censorship and repression. If we don’t like what we’re hearing, change the “channel” or don’t listen. What’s the fear? Someone might be converted?
RJ: I too fear for our country but not from a small group of radical judges who are overenthusiastic in enforcing the separation of church and state. What I fear is a radical fringe of one of our political parties will kidnap the nation and force out all compassion from our government. When that happens “the least of these” will be left to fend for themselves in a survival of the fittest nation so that the rich and greedy can horde a little more of their money. That is what I fear.
MCF: It’s not the issue of prayer that is my concern about this judge’s ruling. It’s that he goes so far as to list what words students cannot say in a public speech, how the administrators of the school can be punished for someone else’s speech, AND how having the sound of prayer (to whatever god) hitting one’s ears can “cause irreparable harm.” Does this mean that I can sue someone who is swearing in my presence, as those words could cause me “irreparable harm”?As you alluded to above (not included here), the protests of a certain church’s members at soldiers’ funerals was ruled freedom of speech, allowing them to say whatever they wanted, yet this judge has blatantly censured what students can say. How can both rulings be a proper interpretation of the First Amendment?
RJ: I agree with much of what you say. This judge has definitely gone beyond the normal church/state separation and should definitely be reigned in. There are probably 10,000 graduation ceremonies taking place over the U.S. about now so I find it somewhat relieving to see that only extreme abuse of power in this one. By my comments I am in no way justifying this guy’s actions. But I still think that the separation of church and state for publicly funded events is a foundation of our democracy. I’m sure there are thousands of private school graduations where prayer is the centerpiece of their ceremonies. And that is as it should be. You might just be able to sue someone successfully for cursing in your presence if you got this guy as the judge.
It is nice to be able to sometimes have a civil conversation with my conservative friend. We might not agree with each other that often but at least we can discus our differences without disrespecting each other. As long as that type of dialog is open there is hope that at least some day our country might be able to bridge our divide.
But what do I know…..