Venting Ye Old Spleen

Maybe I’m cranky because this is the most stressful time of the year for me at work.  Whatever it is I’ve had it with some of the crap that passes for news and public dialogue these days and I figured what better way to blow off a little steam than to spell it out for the three people who read this thing.  So here we go.

Item #1: Forsyth County Commissioners and the ACLU re. Sectarian Prayers to Open Public Meetings

A while back the ACLU sent a letter to a bunch of municipalities in western North Carolina threatening to sue them if they didn’t end the practice of opening public meetings with sectarian prayers said by preachers invited from various churches.  All of the municipalities were told by their lawyers that they didn’t have a leg to stand on and some came to the decision to either open their meetings with non-sectarian prayers or with moments of silence.  Of course my county commissioners aren’t listening to their lawyer and are considering going to court to fight the ACLU even though there is a ton of case-law, i.e. precedents, that have held against prayer at government meetings.  The commissioners are also getting a lot of vocal support for fighting the ACLU from local citizens with only a smattering of dissent. (For a taste check out the letters to the editor of at the Winston-Salem Journal).  What really gets my goat, though, is that the arguments put forward in support of sectarian prayer are downright obtuse.

One rationale that the sectarian prayer supporters use to argue their point is that the establishment clause should not be interpreted to allow a small minority to deny the majority their right to sectarian prayer.  This is as dumb an argument as you can make for this reason: Not allowing a government meeting to open with a sectarian prayer is not denying anyone the right to pray. If you feel like it you can go and sit in the meeting and pray to anyone or anything you like, but the government can’t invite you to come and pray as their representative.  What’s being denied is the government’s "right" to sanction any one religious group or sect.

Another argument being floated is that denying Christians the right to invoke Jesus is also barring Jews, Muslims, etc. from praying to their God.  No one, including the ACLU, has said that the prayer before a meeting can’t invoke "God", they’ve only said you can’t invoke a specific deity like Jesus or Buddha.  I’ve mentioned that to a couple of people and they think I’m lying.  Whatever.

The Forsyth County commissioners and sectarian prayer supporters consistently point out that the commissioners invite representatives of different religions to open their meetings and so the current policy is fair.  I’m left to wonder if they think that inviting Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, Lutherans and Moravians qualifies as different religions?  Exactly when was the last time a Pagan was invited to give the opening prayer?  How about a Muslim or Buddhist?  Heck, what about those Mormons that scare the crap out of your average Baptist?

Finally, I’m willing to bet that the commissioners know this is a losing cause.  They’ve been hemming and hawing while they try to come up with a resolution that protects them from the vocal choir of voters who want to fight the ACLU. It looks like they might have found a way out of their jam by deciding to fight if, as todays Winston-Salem Journal reports, some Christian-folk get together funding to privately finance the legal fight.  That would mean that the commissioners wouldn’t have to worry about any political fallout for spending public dollars on what everyone knows is a losing battle.  In other words they can pander to the vocal Christian majority of their constituents without risking anything.  Cowards. 

The county commissioners have been elected to represent all of their constituents, not just the majority who are Christians.  Every single one of them has an atheist, agnostic, and other non-Christian in their district but instead of looking out for this small minority’s interest they’re pandering to the majority.  They seem to think that their job is to do what the majority wants them to do, but if that’s how representative government worked then we could run our government like American Idol.  Their job, first and foremost, is to uphold the law for all of their constituents and if they fight a battle that their own legal advisors say is wrong then they all deserve to be canned in the next election.  And for anyone who doesn’t know me, I say this as a life-long Christian.

Issue #2: This Whole Imus Thing

What’s to say that hasn’t already been said?  Well, I’ll just add a couple of thoughts. 

Number one: How did Al Sharpton become the black community’s "representative"?  That’s like the white community being "represented" by some strange hybrid of Pat Robertson and Donald Trump. Sharpton’s an opportunistic gas-bag who’s cause is his own wallet, period.  If there wasn’t any money in it he wouldn’t be "representing" anyone.

Number two:  Sharpton’s antics took Imus from being a has-been listened to by a couple of million people who lost half their brain cells while dropping acid in the 60s and 70s to being the most prominent person in media. And it happened in less than a week.  Sharpton would argue that Imus is hurting because he lost a bunch of sponsors and has lost his simulcast on MSNBC (viewed by the tens of thousands!).  Of course now even my kids know who he is so when he starts streaming his schtick online, putting out podcasts, writing his autobiography, etc. he’ll make a gazillion dollars.  But Sharpton doesn’t care because he’s reaping the benefit during his own show’s sweeps weeks.

Number three: Imus and Sharpton both know that they’re going to get even richer off this thing and they literally have a symbiotic relationship now.  I imagine that in a month they’ll be toasting their success with a glass of Cristal at a restaurant in Harlem.  They’re playing us for suckers and it’s working.

Number four: Who thinks that by Monday we’ll still be engaging in the productive "discussion of race" that this episode supposedly opened up? If you raised your hand I know of a bridge in Brooklyn that Sharpton would love to sell you.

That’s it for now.  I do kind of feel better.

3 thoughts on “Venting Ye Old Spleen

  1. Curt

    Thanks for reminding me of that idiots name (Sharpton–just how could I forget that) I have been trying to come up with his name to Susan for a long time – on of the pro-agitators that would love to perpetuate race hatred as long as possible.
    Of course the prayer blog is right but, welcome to the Bible belt. That type of narrow-minded people are all over though.

  2. Jon Lowder

    Thanks Fec. I’ve also noticed things being slow, but I’ve been so busy I figured it was just me.
    Curt, No problem! I don’t know what bothers me more, what Sharpton says or the fact that so many people take him seriously. You’re right about the Bible belt, and I guess I’m going to have to get used to it. Part of me wants to show up at a County meeting, stand up and invoke a prayer to the “Lord of Festivus” at the top of my lungs. Remember Festivus from Seinfeld? And in all seriousness, if by some miracle the County wins in court I’m going to ask every month when we’re going to see a local representative of some cult who will invoke the Lord of Darkness, or a local Buddhist who will invoke Buddha and a Muslim who will invoke Muhammed. If they’re going to play that game then they better be ready for that eventuality.


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