Religious Freedom

Extends to Minorities

"The judgment is now the law, and we must obey it as Christians," spoke Bill Murray, evangelist, at the Prayer Rally in Pontotoc on August 3, 1997, as reported by the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.  These are strange words from one who just last year helped champion the cause of Pontotoc Citizens For School Prayer.  The cause was one in which disobedience of the law was cheerfully encouraged as the "Christian thing to do" by Murray as well as many of the local clergy.

I remain disturbed by the message many Christians are sending to the youth of Pontotoc County.  In essence, those who have supported the School Prayer issue have told our youth to disobey the law if they disagree with it.  Such examples, on the part of role-models, erode the morals of the persons they are intended to benefit.  There are already enough folks who violate our civil laws without Christians encouraging one another in their disobedience.  These who promote disobedience to the law are the same folks who, had they lived in Jesus' day, would likely have been disappointed that he did not seek to throw off the yoke of Roman oppression.  The example set by Jesus along with his teachings merit a reevaluation by supporters of School Prayer.

Once all the legal fees have been paid, the supporters of the North Pontotoc School Prayer issue will have given in excess of a quarter million dollars. Such is a grievous waste of resources if you accept the claim by ACLU attorney, Danny Lampley, who, according to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, said the Biggers' ruling was very similar to the offer the ACLU made before the case went to court.

I am amazed that while swallowing the bitter pill of defeat, many have sought to claim victory in their loss.  Again, I would quote Murray, "We have won our case.  Our children can pray in the schools." To which case is he referring? If he means the case heard by Judge Biggers concerning Herdahl vs. North Pontotoc Attendance Center, he should be informed that not only did Herdahl win that one, but every Christian in the United States also won.

Any ruling that favored North Pontotoc would have opened the doors of prayer from every religion to be heard by the students of North Pontotoc.  Admittedly, there are not a great many different religions practiced in Pontotoc County, but there are more than most people realize.  I have yet to meet any Pontotoc County Christian who wants their offspring listening to or participating in prayers offered to a non-Christian god.

It is time for citizens who, in the name of Religious Freedom, support School Prayer to admit that the only prayer they support is Christian prayer.  If these citizens desire the School to be an extension of the Church, then theirs is the right to establish private, religious schools to propagate their belief. Otherwise, I encourage them to continue religious training in the two institutions sanctioned by God, the Home and the Church.  Sadly, the average Christian is unwilling to share his faith with others and expects the Church (and for some the School) to take up his slack.

As to Murray's statement "Our children can pray in the schools," I challenge him or any other person to submit proof that the case has ever been otherwise. Prayer will always be a communication between God and an individual.  Are we to believe that silent prayer was once usurped by a court that found for his own mother's lawsuit? Given the amount of time Jesus committed to personal prayer and His emphasis upon prayers being expressed from the heart rather than to be seen of men, I am led to question the true motives of some supporters of School Prayer.

Concerning political spokespersons at the recent gathering, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal credits Congressman Roger Wicker with the following. "In Pontotoc, 99% of the community wanted school prayer, and yet a heckler or two were allowed to veto the will of the vast majority."

If the quote is correct, then this is a good example of a politician distorting the truth.  Really now, 99%? That implies 99% of the residents are Christian. Even if his figure were accurate, you could not even get 99% of the Christians to agree on a definition of school prayer, especially with Baptists forming the majority in Pontotoc County.

I am more than a little surprised that a politician would be supportive of civil disobedience, as exemplified by North Pontotoc School authorities prior to the Herdahl suit.  However, I do admire the political skill of Congressman Wicker in the use of the word heckler rather than minority.  Ms. Herdahl represented a minority, not a heckler, but the congressman is smart enough to know Pontotoc County, along with the rest of his congressional district, has enough minority groups that he might lose some support if he spoke the wrong word.

The congressman's statement that one or two were allowed to veto the will of the vast majority, should suffice as grounds to question his legislative qualifications.  Veto is a legislative option largely reserved for the chief executive to help control rash political action by the legislature.  Ms. Herdahl could not and did not veto the will of any group, rather she sought recourse to right a wrong using the very legal system that the congressman has sworn to uphold in both his law practice and his congressional service.

I am neither a lawyer, nor a student of constitutional law, but I must ask, when has our nation empowered the "vast majority," with the mandate to trample upon the rights of the minority, however small the minority may be? I understand the principle of majority rule as well as the next citizen, yet I have not lost sight of the fact that unrestrained majority rule is nothing less than tyranny by the majority.  Individuals bent on waving the banner of majority rule, should remember an adage of American jurisprudence, "The rights of one individual end where those of another begin." Whenever this nation ceases to respect the rights of minorities, then we will no longer be a democracy.

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