PHIL WIELAND: The religious right's fight is so wrong

2013-08-09T00:00:00Z PHIL WIELAND: The religious right's fight is so wrong nwitimes.com
August 09, 2013 12:00 am

It's encouraging to know our state government will spend tax dollars to defend our freedom of religion, as long as it is the "right" religion. Did I say encouraging? I meant scary.

Indiana Attorney General Greg "Not Fuzzy" Zoeller helped write a brief asking — or maybe praying — the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court ruling prohibiting a New York town from beginning its council meetings with what consistently has been a Christian prayer.

Filed on behalf of Indiana and 22 other states, the brief also asks the high court to set a new standard allowing most religious activities in the public square.

I'm not sure what they mean by "most religious activities," but it probably refers to "most" Christian activities with the possible exception of human or animal sacrifice, although that is the essence of the crucifixion, after all. I doubt if Muslim, Buddhist or other religions make the cut to be included.

The appeals court said starting meetings with a Christian prayer suggests an official affiliation with a particular religion, a violation of the U.S. Constitution. But Not Fuzzy and the Gang of 23 said, au contraire, the government is not responsible for the prayer-givers' words.

"Citizens offer prayers in service to an elected assembly, and in so doing may receive accommodation of their individual beliefs without implicating the establishment clause," they said.

They want the court to say only government-coerced participation in religious activities is a violation.

Weasel words. Most people don't go to a government meeting for the prayers, so any prayer allowed by anybody for public consumption at a government meeting is government-coerced participation.

Praying is allowed almost everywhere, but, as soon as one place is deemed inappropriate, people whine about their rights being violated. What about the rights of those who don't want to be subjected to someone else's religion? Or their cigarette smoke? Just saying.

In 2005, a federal judge ruled the overtly Christian prayers to open Indiana House sessions were unconstitutional. The appeals court overturned it on the technicality that the four plaintiffs were not sufficiently harmed to bring a lawsuit.

I'm sure the court relied on extensive psychological testing to make that ruling. All that ruling said is the lower court was right, but we don't have the brass cajones to affirm it in the near hysterical anti-everything-but-Christian paranoia of post 9/11.

Most prayers offered prior to a government meeting call on the Heavens to watch over and guide the elected officials in making wise decisions. How's that working out for you?

The opinions are those of the writer. He can be reached at phil.wieland@nwi.com or (219) 548-4352.

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