A false notion of secularism is that it prohibits any form of public religious expression. At least that much I can agree with on John Pesebre’s recent article. Where he chooses to go from there, however, is an entirely different train wreck.
First and foremost, he states that Red’s recent article exhibits the false notion stated above. Nowhere in the article was it stated that the act was an outright violation of the separation of church and state. All it did was express valid concern over how this prayer was done in poor taste.
Let it be clear that we know how secularism does not prohibit any form of public religious expression. If we’re going to delve strictly into legal terms–“No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”–there was no violation as no laws were made that pass the criteria for one. As some would incessantly insist, it would appear to be “just another prayer”. Well it would not have been a problem if our dear senator had said the prayer in his bed, or with his family, or before his meal, or before eating his family in bed. Heck, he could have even prayed in senate on his own and you wouldn’t have heard as much as a squeak from us. The clincher, however, is how the obviously Christian prayer was broadcast on a pedestal that is the highest legislative office of a country to its pluralistic people. If that does not send a message of Christianity dominating as the pseudo-official state religion, then I don’t know what does.
In the end, Pesebre even suggests that we just let it go, arguing that there are many more important things to speak up about. True, there are many other important things that we could speak up about, but that in no way stops us from speaking up about something seemingly small in society that we find wanting correction. Non-participation would be a valid option in most cases, but this is the Senate we’re talking about, and unless you’re willing to boycott the national facade that we call a democracy, I would suggest you speak up when there’s something you want to change about it. And it’s not like it will take tons of effort to fix this one problem. Pesebre’s suggestion of spending effort on other things implies that not praying would take lots of time away from other more important things, when the truth is all that has to be done by each senator to solve the problem of expressing religious favoritism during government time is not praying.
There are some of us who are sick and tired of being told to just deal with it, as if it was the most harmless thing in the world. It gets even worse when we see our taxes paying for time wasted on fancy words that don’t work. Yes, our taxes. Session time is secular time is precious time. And I can’t think of a worse way to defend secularism than to argue in favor of accommodating all forms of religious expression altogether. If the members of senate were diverse enough to belong to 10 different religious sects, I wonder how many would still be in favor of hearing each and every one of their prayers before settling down to finally do what their constituents are actually paying them to do.
In a nutshell, we contend that there should be no prayers or sectarian practices in any government-sponsored event. Whether or not this is legal is open to much discussion, but it is clearly an ideal that some of us seek to achieve, not only for our wish that religious influence in government affairs be lessened, but also for the simple courtesy of being considerate to people of other (or no) faith when engaging matters concerning our common government. If you say that you’re going to talk about something that concerns all of us, don’t go ahead and talk about something that doesn’t concern all of us. That is, unless you’re passive-aggressively hinting that we don’t matter. But c’mon, senators wouldn’t do that.