It IS A Game Of Inches – a special comment by David 2
Recently a sixteen-year old student by the name of Jessica Ahlquist made the news by taking on her local high school’s fifty-year old banner with a passive Christian prayer. She won her battle and the judge ordered it removed from the school’s auditorium. Obviously those in the intolerant religious crowd were screaming bloody murder over this, like they do about everything else they stick their noses in.
But what surprised this commentator, as it did some of my fellow ShockNet Radio personalities, was not from the fundies, but rather from someone who considered himself to be an “atheist”.
Christopher Moraff calls himself a “practicing Buddhist” and a “functional atheist” as well as a heathen and a humanist. He’s also a blogger for the Philly Post, and in his recent column, he suggests that while Ms. Ahlquist should be commended for taking a stand, she should have picked a more blatant target, such as a recent proclamation in the Pennsylvania General Assembly to declare 2012 “The Year of the Bible”.
“We freedom fighters need to choose our battles,” he claims, “because I assure you, there are important ones to be waged.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Moraff, while that may sound reasonable, you are wrong on so many levels.
First of all, Ms. Ahlquist does not live in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. She lives in Rhode Island; a state founded by one of the greatest defenders of both freedom OF religion and freedom FROM religion, Roger Williams. She would not know the inner workings of Pennsylvania Commonwealth politics. She does not spend every single day having Commonwealth politicians shoving their personal religious beliefs in her face every day. Her high school, on the other hand, had that banner and that passive Christian prayer in her face every single day that she was there. This was her issue, her stand to take, and so far she did it quite well.
Second of all, that banner with the passive prayer is probably more of a threat to overall religious freedom simply BECAUSE it is a passive intrusion. For two years previously, that banner had “The Lord’s Prayer” on it before the Supreme Court’s decision in Engle v. Vitale in 1962 made such overt displays unconstitutional. In other words, the school made a conscious effort to continue to interject their religious endorsement but do it in a way that would not be overtly noticed. Like when corporations would contribute to a politician’s campaign to get preferential treatment instead of outright handing that person an envelope full of money. It’s still considered wrong, but it’s not as blatant.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, true defenders of freedom do not have the luxury of picking and choosing which battles to fight, especially when it involves those that impose their religion on the rest of us.
To use a football reference, this really is a game of inches, and every inch that is lost to Dominionism is an inch that is harder and harder to get back, especially when they use passive means to do it.
Every inch gained by the Dominionists, be it a proclamation, or a mural, or a placard or banner, is then used against the rest of us. Every missed challenge, every sneaky and underhanded insertion of their will is used as ammunition later on as further proof of their dominance. Then when some people finally stand up, they point back to those minor assertions and they say “Where were you when these were being done? Why didn’t you speak out about these other insertions then? Why speak up now when you said nothing about everything else we’ve done?”
Even worse, we have a judicial system full of judges ready to use that very rationality to deny later challenges. They will rule that because nobody said anything about these other insertions, no matter how minor, no matter how passive, that we have no grounds to complain about the more overt insertions. We see this today with the “Under God” reference in the Pledge of Allegiance, and with “In God We Trust” being stamped on coins. They are being dismissed in part because nobody challenged these insertions of Dominionism when they initially were imposed.
This is why Ms. Ahlquist’s victory, however minor in Mister Moraff’s eyes, is even more significant, because she was taking on something that was ingrained into the education system for fifty years. In any other jurisdiction, the judge could have easily dismissed the case by claiming that since nobody stood up against it fifty years ago, that it’s too late to do anything about it today.
When it comes to combating Dominionism, we are finding that justice delayed is not only justice denied, but also justice dismissed outright.
Mister Moraff has the luxury of picking and choosing his own fights in his blog as his Buddhist/atheist/heathen/humanist conscience will allow. But the rest of us need to understand that Dominionists don’t play just to win. They play for keeps. They take every gain they make, no matter how slight, no matter how seemingly insignificant it may be, and then use it against people like Ms. Alhquist. They use each gain as the reason and the justification for even more impositions, until they have what they want, which is a theocratic state that has no place for either Mister Moraff or Ms. Alhquist… or, for that matter, myself and most of you reading this article.
And maybe, Mister Moraff, if you were to encourage your readers to challenge those smaller insertions of Dominionism, then you would not have to worry about the General Assembly in your Commonwealth of Pennsylvania trying to impose those blatant assertions in the first place. For then the message would be clear, as Rhode Island’s Roger Williams once said in 1652: “The civil state is humbly to be implored to provide in their high wisdom for the security of all the respective consciences…” Operative word, of course, being “all”, not just the ones considered “dominant”.
David 2 is a freelance writer and radio personality for ShockNet Radio. He is the co-host of “American Heathen®” and also the host of his own show on ShockNet Radio called “Brutally Honest”.