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TOWN HALL: Atheists target praying politicians (poll)

By: WAYNE LAUGESEN
September 27, 2012
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Take a lead from Colorado Spring City Councilman Bernie Herpin, who plans to defend the First Amendment. We direct this advice at any politician who may be inclined to fear the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The foundation blew hot air in the direction of the Pueblo City Council, threatening to sue because council members pray at meetings. As its name implies, this confused organization believes we have government-protected freedom from religion in addition to our freedom to pick and choose religious beliefs or to ignore and avoid them all. While we have a right to shun religion, we do not have a right to government protection from the sights and sounds of religion in public — even on government property.

As such, one might expect Pueblo politicians to ignore the foundation’s threat. Instead, they fell over without putting up a fight. We expect a more vigorous defense of our most basic freedoms — religious liberty and free speech.

Because our laws protect free speech in public and private — and on government property— anti-religion activists were able to set up a stage last March on the Washington Mall to express their beliefs. Musician Tim Minchin performed a song that compared Pope Benedict XVI to a “mother (explitive) rapist.” He called Catholics “papists” (a Ku Klux Klan term) and directed more than 75 f-bombs at them. It was part of an atheist rally that presented a litany of speakers who blasphemed Christianity with accusations and vulgarity.

Governments often host and support expressions of atheist beliefs and anti-religious sentiments. Only the most extreme examples — pornographic portrayals of Jesus, a crucifix in urine and elephant dung on Mary — get much press.

Laws that allow government-sponsored expressions against religion must allow government-sponsored expressions that are reverent to religion. If not, government establishes belief systems hostile to God over belief systems friendly to God. The First Amendment and our courts no more allow government establishment of atheism or secularism than they allow establishment of Christianity.

Out of respect for a free marketplace of religious beliefs, legislatures and local governing boards often invite priests, rabbis, imams and others to lead them in prayer.

Just not in Pueblo, from now on. Because council members buckled to anti-religion activists, they will start meetings with a moment of silence. That’s OK, but why encourage the false notion that one group of believers — atheists, who believe there is no God — are protected from expressions of other believers. They are not. We cannot have freedom of expression and protection from expression.

Having scored in Pueblo, the foundation will likely try to silence prayer at council meetings in the Springs.

“I am not going to try to force my views on somebody and nor do I appreciate them trying to force their views on me,” Councilman Herpin said in a conversation with Gazette reporter Daniel Chacon, explaining why he will not succumb to pressure from atheists.

Anti-religion activists do not cower from denouncing God in government space, so no one should fear praying in government space. Feel free to pray aloud and defend the rights of religious Americans to enjoy the same freedoms afforded those who oppose their beliefs.

That's our view, so what's yours? Please begin or contribute to a Facebook discussion below this article.

Friend editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen on Facebook, follow him on Twitter

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