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Bullying Small Towns

Is Wheeling City Council pondering an ordinance requiring all city employees to be Roman Catholics? Are they asking the Methodist Church to collect taxes for them? Have they decreed that only Jews can vote in municipal elections? Have they ordered the police department to double overtime parking fines for Muslims?

No, no, no and no. So why has the Freedom From Religion Foundation come down hard on them? Brace yourself: Council has been opening its meetings with prayers.

FFRF attorney Brenda Johnson demanded in a letter to city officials that they refrain from the practice. It “represents an unconstitutional endorsement of Christianity,” she explained.

As we reported, city officials avoided a fight by pledging to open meetings with non-sectarian prayers.

That misses the point, as surely the FFRF folks are intelligent enough to understand. Any prayer endorses belief in a capital-G God. Is the FFRP discriminating against atheists?

In writing separation of church and state into the Constitution, our nation’s founders weren’t thinking of insignificant concerns such as prayers before city council meetings. They worried more about serious things such as taxes collected from everyone to support one church (the Anglican Church, prior to the Revolutionary War). They wanted to ensure churches could not be empowered to collect taxes, or that people could not be required to be members of a certain church to hold government jobs or to vote.

Many of the founders would have gotten a good laugh out of the FFRF (pronounced “Fruff”?), I think. They would have recognized that the foundation is a great way to provide jobs for a few attorneys skilled in bullying small town officials, with funds contributed by well-meaning donors not bright enough to ask why the FFRF doesn’t take on the big dogs.

Why not demand that the federal government stop giving employees a day off for Christmas? It is a religious holiday, after all.

Why did the FFRF let the United States Senate get away with opening impeachment trial sessions with prayers?

When will they go after the armed forces for having chaplains?

And what’s their plan for currency proclaiming that “in God we trust”?

Get real, people.

Meaningful, genuine discrimination for or against a specific faith organization is a bad thing. It can’t be tolerated.

But feeling you’ve accomplished anything important by bullying a small town is just silly. Surely there are better ways to employ all that lawyer power.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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