When Omaha Atheists, a humanist group, approached La Vista, Nebraska Mayor Douglas Kindig over possible Church and State separation issues, Mayor Kindig apparently cussed them out (because, Christian) and told them point-blank, “Minorities are not going to run my city.”
Reading about this reminded me of sitting in a library and reading a magazine by the name of The Christian Century in the early 1990’s (we go back, estudiantes!). I was doing some research about how public schools would benefit from having prayers because I was a good Evangelical and believed that the removal of prayer from public schools in the 1960’s was an obvious sign of moral decline and criminal increase. Because we believed that God is the standard of morality and once that standard was removed, everybody started lunging after themselves with Bowie knives, as you are wont to do. Those outside of prayer are not only outside special protection, I thought, but outside a connection with goodness. Evangelicals thought we had a monopoly on goodness. Or at least that’s what we told ourselves – deep down, it was about cultural dominance, much the same as it is with the homophobic and anti-choice Religious Right now. For the time, though, the American Civil Liberties Union was a tool of Satan to plunge the US into despair and lawlessness.
So my young mind was surprised to find Christians saying they joined up with the ACLU to fight off school prayer. But what they said made sense. What if, the author proposed, you were a Muslim family living in the Midwest, or a Catholic family living in the Bible Belt or , dear Heavens, a Baptist in Utah – whose prayers are you going to pray? To which utterance or understanding of God? I agreed, this plan wouldn’t work – I’d force others to pray to my God or have others force me to supplicate to their version of God, gods, spirits, or self.
Who leads the invocations and how the invocations are led are important questions because they tell the community who is welcome and who is dismissed and excluded from the community. If Mayor Kindig said that minorities won’t have a say in how HIS city is run, that tells us who is excluded. Fortunately, the US Constitution does not favor this minority exclusion.
The Faith & Freedom Day was a La Vista-sponsored Memorial Day event with a Christian component sponsored by Christian churches of La Vista. So Atheists were right to question the entanglement of Church & State here. It’s also exclusive – are there no pagans in the city? No Muslims? No Hindus? But even within Christianity, many of us are pacifists. Many question the military, and what is presented as “Freedom”. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable in such a setting at all – it’s a state-sponsored view of one particular kind of religion. This flies in the face of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
This is a common problem with Christians who do not recognize the need for the Establishment Clause; they are using local governments to push their religious views, sometimes explicitly in public schools, like Hobby Lobby’s Steve Green.
There are a lot of questions in such an event, and a mayor has an obligation to listen and weigh the considerations. In fact on his page, Mayor Kindig has two buttons for citizens to connect with him, through email or by making an appointment. But when Robert Fuller, a board member of Omaha Atheists, personally invited Mayor Kindig to a talk and tried to give him his business card, Kindig reportedly responded by saying: “Take me to f**king court because I don’t care… Minorities are not going to run my city.”
Exasperation could possibly explain Kindig’s Rahm-like explosion in the first instance. There could be logical reasons for not wanting to pull back the event. And I’m sure the mayor felt entitled to not give reasons for everything. Politicians are like that. Perhaps, also it was hot outside. Maybe he was going through some crap, I don’t know. It doesn’t matter because he was pretty clear about his intentions in the second part of the quote.
“Minorities are not going to run my city.”
This is why the First Amendment is so important. Not only freedom of speech, but freedom of and from religion. It specifically protects minority populations, dissidents, those who go against the flow. It’s one of the finest parts of the US. I would assume people who believe in “Freedom” would be defending the First Amendment, not cussing at “minorities” who want equal protections.
Speaking of minorities, I wonder what other groups Mayor Kindig could turn against?
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