Tuesday, February 9, 2010

An alternative strategy on religion in the public square

I'm a pretty big believer in separation of church and state, and I think that the religious right's meme that somehow their religious views are "suppressed" in school and other public venues is mostly phony.

At the same time, however, I think some of the strategies of separation advocates -- to keep religion muted or silent in the public square -- end up being wrongheaded, because they do end up feeding that selfsame suppression meme.

For a long time I've thought it would behoove non-Christians, including atheists, to opt for an alternative strategy: a place of their own in the public square.

The fundies want to have a Bible study class in the public school after school? Fine. And let's have a pagan group, or an atheist group, or what have you, as well. Make the battle for equal protection, not for blanket exclusion.

Now of course a risk in posting that idea blithely on a blog is that I haven't fully thought through all the implications. (One that stumps me right off: so what about the group that wants to set up a neo-Hitler Youth or a Junior Klan? Okay, acknowledged that we may have a half-baked concept here in need of the Idea Oven*.)

Still, I was moved to give voice to this simmering notion of mine after seeing this item at The Wild Hunt:

One wonders if Schultheis will remain a big fan of the law, if passed, once religious minorities start taking advantage of it. Because the answer to “where does it end” for Schultheis is most likely “far beyond where you’d like it to”. Perhaps Pagans in Colorado Senate District 9 should drop him a line to let him know how eager you are for Pagan students to express themselves more fully in class (pentacles! t-shirts!), and for teachers to discuss the pagan origins of Christmas, Halloween, Easter, and other major holidays.

*"The Idea Oven" is a conceit of Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn. I was going to link to his category, but there are only 3 items in it and they all go back to 2005. So I'll just credit him for the concept.


  1. Hi

    Nice article.

    Are you sure you want to use the term meme?

    It sounds kind of scientific, and I am not sure that is appropriate in this case.

    Perhaps the word "idea" would serve just as well here.

    best wishes


  2. Thanks for the kind words. But as for meme, yes I think it suits the context: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/meme


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