Beat­ing a dead horse

The Catoosa County News - - COMMENTARY - Ge­orge B. Reed Jr.

dis­tinct religious mi­nor­ity and they prob­a­bly had their own ways of deal­ing with this un­com­fort­able sit­u­a­tion. But it’s a dif­fer­ent world today with more and dif­fer­ent play­ers.

In many Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties today there are Muslims, Hin­dus and other faiths. But there are also those of no reli­gion at all, athe­ist and ag­nos­tics. And they also have their rights which some might ex­press as “free­dom from reli­gion.” Our courts have con­sis­tently ruled in the orig­i­nal and sub­se­quent “school prayer” de­ci­sions that pub­licly-sanc­tioned religious ac­tiv­i­ties of any kind con­ducted on pub­lic prop­erty are in vi­o­la­tion of the First Con­sti­tu­tional Amend­ment pro­vid­ing for the sep­a­ra­tion of reli­gion and gov­ern­ment.

Per­son­ally, I am a be­liev­ing, prac­tic­ing Chris­tian. I am also an evan­gel­i­cal who be­lieves in changed lives through a con­ver­sion ex­pe­ri­ence. I have

known of these ex­pe­ri­ences or spir­i­tual awak­en­ings tak­ing place through the per­sonal tes­ti­mony of other Chris­tians, at reg­u­lar Sun­day church ser­vices, at re­vival ser­vices (if there still are any), at street cor­ner preach­ing and even in bar rooms. Sta­tis­ti­cally, more con­ver­sions take place though per­sonal tes­ti­mony than by any other ef­fort. But I’ve never known of one tak­ing place in a pub­lic school class­room, cer­e­mony or ath­letic event. And for religious in­sti­tu­tions to ex­pect schools to “carry the mes­sage” is a tacit ad­mis­sion that they are not up to the job.

Our found­ing fa­thers, most all Chris­tians, knew what they were do­ing when they com­posed the First Amend­ment. The faith

pre­scribed by Je­sus was pure, sim­ple and un­fet­tered. But when reli­gion gets in the hands of am­bi­tious clergy and un­crit­i­cal, com­pli­ant con­gre­ga­tions it can quickly be­come cor­rupted and op­pres­sive.

As I said pre­vi­ously, var­i­ous courts have been amaz­ingly con­sis­tent in their in­ter­pre­ta­tion and ap­pli­ca­tion of the Sep­a­ra­tion Clause. For lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to con­tinue to test the First Amend­ment with­out in­tro­duc­ing some new or in­no­va­tive ev­i­dence is any­thing but faith­ful or heroic. It is an ex­pen­sive ex­er­cise in fu­til­ity. To re­peat­edly do the same thing, but ex­pect­ing dif­fer­ent re­sults is not smart.

Ge­orge B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at reed1600@bell­

Rossville res­i­dent

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