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Jewish World Review
May 12, 2010
/ 28 Iyar 5770
Interpreting rules of religion rights
By Marybeth Hicks
You have to wonder what G0d thinks when scanning recent headlines.
For example, "Comedy Central's 'JC' to Depict Cartoon Jesus" announces an animated show in development for the cable network that would portray Jesus as a "regular guy" who moves to New York to "escape his father's enormous shadow." Reports say, "His father is presented as an apathetic man who would rather play video games than listen to his son talk about his new life."
Of course, that story only demonstrates that in America we protect freedom of expression, even if it potentially offends more than 80 percent of the citizenry that is resolutely Christian.
A more dangerous and disturbing story this week is titled, "Senior citizens told they can't pray before meals." In Port Wentworth, Ga., patrons of the Ed Young Senior Center, owned by the city of Port Wentworth but operated contractually by Senior Centers Inc., were told they could observe a moment of silence, but not pray aloud before eating their federally subsidized food.
The folks at Senior Centers, Inc. interpreted the guidelines issued by the state Office on Aging to prohibit the free and open expression of faith simply because $5.45 worth of the $6 per plate meal is paid for with federal funds.
No wonder Comedy Central thinks G0d is apathetic.
One solution for the seniors of Port Wentworth might have been to announce, "We are now going to bless the .55 worth of food on the plate that was not provided by the government."
But instead, Mayor Glenn "Pig" Jones asked his senior constituents to be patient while he put his legal counsel on the question. Within a few days, the state's Office on Aging clarified that their guidelines do not prohibit citizens from joining together to pray aloud; they only prohibit city employees or employees of the service provider from leading the patrons in prayer.
"We now know that the rules were misinterpreted. There's no language to say people cannot bless their meals, only that city workers or those contracted by the city cannot ask everyone to bow their heads for a blessing," Mr. Jones says.
Meanwhile, Senior Centers Inc., released a statement they were only following instructions, and that they're pleased to confirm that the state's new director of aging has "reversed" the long-time edict against verbal prayer, a rule that had not been enforced until last week.
This is the nonsensical world in which we live and in which our children are growing to believe that public prayer is actually outlawed. You have to wonder how, as a nation, we will come to anything but total secularism when our right to free speech seems more often to extend to those who want to bash religion than to those who seek to practice it?
In his new book, "To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tackles the misunderstanding of our Constitution's establishment clause, which causes improper rules such as the one briefly imposed in Port Wentworth.
"Among some Americans … it has become unchallenged conventional wisdom that the First Amendment's establishment clause 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion' means the U.S. government must purge all religion from public life. … [This argument] is fatally flawed because America's historic conception of rights is clearly dependent upon a higher moral order than the laws of man. … How then can a purely secular worldview account for the original American understanding of our rights and freedoms? It cannot."
But what's the point of imposing secularism?
Mr. Gingrich explains that the left "shares a vision of a secular, socialist America run for the interests of the political machine that keeps them in power. It will be an America where government dominates the people, rather than represents them."
Simply put, a faithful people will resist the intrusion of the government into their lives, while a secular society will embrace government as its supreme authority. That shift is essential to the "remaking" of America now under way.
Except, it seems, in places like Port Wentworth, where they're still praying over their chicken and rice and they know G0d is far from apathetic.
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JWR contributor Marybeth Hicks, a wife of more than 20 years and mother of four children, lives in the Midwest. She uses her column to share her perspective on issues and experiences that shape families nationwide.
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© 2009, Marybeth Hicks