Religious Bigotry in America

Here are some items for consideration that were mentioned by U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Dick Armey in a speech:

1. After the memorial service for the families and victims of Littleton, Colorado, the May 1st issue of the Denver Post editorialized against what it called the "disenfranchising" nature of this memorial service. According to the editorial page writers, "While the service deftly satisfied the needs of fundamentalist Christians, it estranged too many others who came in search of healing" and due to the fact that the primary entertainment was by "Christian singers Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, and the key speech was by the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, it drove away a sizeable number of people who had come to mourn the deaths. We urge state officials to learn from the error and plan future events to be inclusive, not divisive." In other words, the editors of the Denver Post objected to the families and victims turning to their faith in this terrible time of grief. According to the May 18th edition of the Washington Times plans to create a memorial for the family and victims of the Columbine shootings at the Foothill Parks and Recreational District near the high school were scrapped after the "Freedom From Religion Foundation" threatened legal action. The spokesman for the group said that the memorial would "make non-Christians feel unwelcome at that park."

2. The day after the tragic shooting in Fort Worth this month, the Washington Times reported that Attorney General Janet Reno was asked the next day whether she thought that the shootings had anything to do with hatred or religious bigotry. General Janet Reno warned reporters that it was too early to characterize the Fort Worth shooting as a "hate crime." This reticence was in stark contrast to other cases of bigotry. For instance, last year the Justice Department offered its resources to help prosecutors prove racial bias in another Texas case involving the dragging death of James Byrd within days of the tragic killing. It's been two weeks since the shooting in Fort Worth and we're still waiting.

3. The television show Nothing Sacred lived up to its billing by trying to develop storylines with ministers of the cloth engaging in immoral activity or finding ways to belittle people of faith all together. According to the New York Post which ran in March of 1998, Nothing Sacred set an all time low for viewership last year on a major network with 94% of the available market bypassing this program.

4. And Hollywood isn't any better. Movies such as this summer's release of Stigmata attack the Catholic Church accusing it of being on a millenium long crusade to stamp out the true teachings of Christ.

5. The Chicago Tribune reported that the ACLU this year sued the Chicago Public Schools because of its activities with the Boy Scouts of America. Why? The April 26th news story indicated that it was because the Boy Scout oath pledges that a good scout will obey God. By the ACLU's reasoning, such an oath, because it mentions God, makes the boy scouts a religious organization which shouldn't be allowed on school property.

6. On the May 21 broadcast of CNN's Crossfire, Barry Lynn, the Executive Director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State went so far as to criticize the acclaim given to Cassie Bernall, the young girl who was shot at Columbine High because she wouldn't renounce her faith. He said, "I think that what we've done here is to take this one victim, turned it into an example of martyrdom, and then used to it become the springboard for even more exploitation of this tragedy by people with a religious, political agenda." Such insensitivity would have been denounced if said about John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King or even Rodney King.

7. Jeff Jacoby complains in his August 19th column in the Boston Globe of a blatant case of anti-religious bias involving an inner city Boston church. On July 15, the city of Boston sent a letter to Mason Cathedral, warning the church center (which receives taxpayers subsidies to help wayward youth) not to involve its teenage counselors in "religious activities including but not limited to the following: praying, reading Bible stories, drawing Bible pictures, and cleaning in the areas of the church where there are religious symbols. . . .All religious activities must cease immediately." Jeff Jacoby interviewed the pastor. "For five years they've been saying I do good work," says the Rev. Thomas Cross. "This year, everything changed." Conversely, if anyone stood up and said that groups like the National Organization of Women and the National Abortion Rights Action League shouldn't be allowed to operate shelters for battered or homeless women because they can't separate out their political agenda, they would be laughed right off stage.

8. Amazingly, our own federal Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention even funds a middle school curriculum "Healing the Hate" that suggests that among the warning signs for school counselors that a child may be dangerous is if he or she grows up in "very religious" home. This without one shred of evidence showing any linkage between Christians and any of these terrible acts of violence that our nation has faced. Imagine saying that a warning sign that a child may be dangerous or a threat to other classmates was the skin color or sexual orientation of that child's household.

The above is from a speech delivered on the U.S. House of Representatives floor by Majority Leader Dick Armey on September 29, 1999

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