Saturday, December 11, 2010

It must be Christmas

It must be Christmas in America. The annual rite of paying for and setting up a Nativity scene by the government of a small town somewhere is being challenged. And, rightly so because government should not be involved in sponsoring the celebration of any religious holiday.

But that isn’t what this post is about… that will come in a later post.

This post is about not standing up for what you believe in.

In Brookville, Indiana, a Nativity scene has been purchased by tax payer dollars and is being displayed on town property. A letter was sent by the Freedom from Religion Foundation to the small town’s leaders asking that the crèche be removed. The foundation is based in Madison, Wisconsin. The organization found out about the crèche because someone in Brookville snitched. That has town leaders and supporters of the crèche all upset.

Hazel Graves, a resident of Brookville, says she is a Christian and believes in Jesus. Graves thinks the person who informed the Freedom from Religion Foundation needs to come forward. "There's somebody here in town, and they should step forward if they're so brave, and want to take down our Nativity scene," says Graves.

Agreed. The person who sent the notification to Freedom from Religion Foundation should come forward. This country was not founded on mysterious people making statements and not standing up for them. Wasn’t it John Hancock who is to have said, “I will sign my name big enough so the King doesn’t need his glasses to read it.” Sure enough, right there in the middle of the Declaration of Independence is his name as big and bold as anything. He agreed with the words in the document and was willing to sign his name to it.

But, it appears that the person or persons who didn’t reveal themselves is concerned about the backlash from the small town. If they own a business, some neighbors may not shop there anymore. If an employee, he or she may have a hard time finding a job. Neighbors may even picket the snitch’s home to express their outrage.

But, an issue that conservatives support, those who provide money to political action committees and other organizations need not reveal themselves. Most conservatives support the issue because then individuals and corporations can financially support hotly contested issues and not be concerned about the backlash from individuals that disagree with them.

In Washington state, conservatives argued remaining anonymous on political issues was a right. A petition was circulated and submitted that asked the state to submit a question on the ballot to disallow gays and lesbians the right to marry. Opposing groups in the state asked for copies of the petition so all could see who had signed it. Those that signed the petition and the organization that circulated it argued that people may be subjected to harassment if the opposition know who they were. Ultimately, the Supreme Court did rule that there is no expectation of privacy on a petition.

Hazel Graves stance on the issue and likely many others in town, is a little hypocritical. First, Graves and her fellow town folk, were hoping that no one would tell the world about their crèche. They wanted to keep that little secrete for themselves. But, Ms. Graves, if you are asking the person that snitched to come forward, “if they’re so brave” why are you hoping to hide behind anonymity. You should be brave enough yourself to let everyone know about the Nativity and challenge anyone to come forward to contest it so that the issue can be debated in public.

But there is even a wider reason why that stance is hypocritical. This reasoning does assume that a conservatives in the town of Brookville is the same as a conservatives anywhere in America. The residents of Brookville want to know who the snitch is that informed Freedom from Religion. But, on the other hand, conservatives support the Supreme Court decision that ruled that individuals and corporations have the right to remain anonymous when taking political positions, because they are also concerned about anger being taken out on them by those opposing.

John Hancock must be confused by all of this. He, perhaps having more to fear in the days before the Revolutionary War with England, was more than willing to stand on his convictions. His signature is the largest on the Declaration of Independence. The person who snitched on the town of Brookville needs to come forward (and be applauded). But, all individuals and corporations that support political issues in the community need to also come clean.

Our republic was founded on the idea that openly debating issues was the best way to run a community. Let’s return to that concept.


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