Suppression of the Christian Voice?
"..the problem today is the suppression of the Christian voice in the public square...." Jonathan Rupprecht in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 13, page 9A
Rupprecht, a church administrator and community columnist for the Journal Sentinel, goes on to lament "the growing pattern of repressing anything Christian while going overboard to accommodate anything Islamic." If he were the only one making such outrageous claims, his point could be easily ignored, but today we hear similar messages from candidates such as Rick Santorum. Are these men right?
The truth is that government at all levels in this country accords Christianity a preferential status in comparison to minority religions practiced in the US such as Judaism and Islam. Not only is the Christian voice not suppressed, but it enjoys primacy over the voices of other faiths and anti-relgious expressions. Consider the following:
Sunday: Most non-emergency offices of government at all levels are closed on Sunday, the Christian Sabbath. The US Postal Service delivers on Saturday, but not on Sunday, so Jewish employees are expected to work on their Sabbath while Christian employees have their Sabbath off automatically. (Saturday service may soon be abolished to save money. )
Christmas: December 25, which means nothing to non-Christian Americans, is a national holiday. There is a national Christmas tree, and many are displayed in state capitol buildings (including Wisconsin's) and city halls throughout the nation. In recent decades, symbols of Chanuka and Kwanza have also been displayed in public settings, and Wisconsin also permitted the display of an anti-religious message at the Capitol. Public schools have taught Christmas carols as part of the music program, and often have held pageants celebrating the birth of Jesus. Again, in recent years songs about Chanuka have also been included. Under the leadership of President George W Bush, a devout Christian, Muslim holidays were first celebrated in the White House. In the view of people like Mr Rupprecht, even these mild and minor concessions to non-Christian religions are apparently too much. But even so, public employees who want to take off a day for Yom Kippur or must leave early on winter Fridays to observe the Sabbath must make special arrangements to do so (and often must use vacation days or hours), while those who observe Christian holidays find the calendar of government work already perfectly designed for their needs.
Hats off: Most public schools forbid boys from wearing hats inside school buildings, as does the US military, despite the religious obligation of Jewish males to cover their heads at all times.
Vouchers: Wisconsin now subsidizes religious education through the School Choice voucher program. Although Jewish and Muslim schools also benefit from the the program, most of the money goes to Christian schools, primarily Catholic and Lutheran.
Birth Control: The Affordable Health Care Act mandated that employers provide birth control coverage to their female employees, except that religious institutions were exempt. The trouble was that Catholic hospitals and the like were not exempt, and Church officials objected to providing a service they believed to be wrong. Actually, birth control costs very little compared to birth coverage, so insurers agreed to provide the coverage at no additional cost. Since it is in the national interest to prevent unwanted pregnancies and births (and even abortions), this is a good settlement of the conflict.
Speech codes: There have been efforts to establish "speech codes" at some colleges and other schools which would forbid criticizing promiscuous or homosexual behavior. Such restrictions on free speech are unconstitutional, and those I am aware of have been repealed or quashed by the courts. Rupprecht writes that "our First Amendment right to discuss such matters....is under increasing threat from hate crime legislation," but today that threat is receding, not increasing.
The "Christian voice" in this country does not always prevail, nor should it, but it is not being suppressed.
Gerald S Glazer