Crossroads; politics and religion

Crossroads; politics and religion

Gordon College has petitioned the government based on its religious beliefs, but the Mayor of Salem, Mass. wants to punish them for it. Religious tolerance isn’t what it used to be. Maybe this is payback for the Witch Trials.

Can you pray in a mall? Well, it depends on whether the mall owners will get called out on their decision in public.

Mentioned links:

GUILTY: For Just Being Christian

Understanding the Issues: Gordon College, Religious Liberty and Executive Order 13672

Are Christian Colleges free to be Christian?

Georgia mall not buying into group’s spiritual health, prayer

Hundreds Rally in Support of Right to Pray at Georgia Mall

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Show transcript

One of the things you hear in society is that you should not speak in public about religion or politics. So then, here on Consider This, let’s talk religion and politics, and let the sparks fly.

Gordon College is a Christian college, and like many colleges of that type, has “Behavioral Standards” codes that they ask employees and students to observe for the time they wish to be employed by or a student at the school. The school has an official take on certain Biblical standards, and they think that, if an instructor doesn’t believe in those standards, that person isn’t really going to be an effective teacher of those standards.

And it came to pass that Gordon’s President Michael Lindsay signed a letter to President Obama asking for a waiver to be granted to Christian schools from his impending executive order. The President has pledged to compel Christian organizations that believe in biblical sexual practice to be forced to violate that belief and hire people who violate those practices. This letter was also signed by Rick Warren, and leaders at other Christian institutions, magazines and organizations.

The mayor of nearby Salem did not appreciate this petitioning of the government by Christians in general, and Gordon College in particular. Normally, that would be the end of it. A perfectly legal appeal to the government by one group is spoken out against by someone else. Freedom of religion and freedom of speech; the First Amendment wrapped up in a tidy little package, demonstrating how freedom works in the US. It could almost be an episode of Schoolhouse Rock. There have been indeed others who have spoken out against Gordon College, but the mayor was not content with just speaking. This is the 21st century, after all, and parts of the First Amendment seem no longer applicable.

Mayor Kimberly Driscoll is working to get the college’s accreditation stripped from their program, because she thinks that being a Christian shouldn’t absolve you of toeing the liberal line. Losing accreditation would decimate the college’s ability to draw students. Whatever your view of the usefulness of accreditation, it is clearly something that figures into the decisions of many a high school graduate. If this works, you can be sure that other colleges will be subjected to the same treatment, for merely being true to their 2,000 year old beliefs, held by billions worldwide.

But she doesn’t agree, so she’s going to destroy them. And while that’s in the works, she’s terminated a contract that the city had with Gordon College. The college had been caring for the town’s Old Town Hall. They maintained it, they’d given tours to the community and visitors to the area. They had used it for Gordon events. And they had allowed outside groups to schedule events there as well–all part of the agreement with the town.

Well the mayor just nixed the contract. Not for cause, but just because. There were no complaints or accusations of discrimination that precipitated this; just spite on the part of the head of the local government. But she’s got the power, and if you don’t agree with her worldview, she’ll try to run you out of town.

Which reminds me of another bit of history of Salem, Massachusetts. I guess this is payback for the Witch Trials.

Some women runners in Dublin, Georgia decided to have an evening power walk at the Dublin Mall a couple weeks ago. The “Dublin Girls Run” group, however, is not just about physical health, but spiritual health as well. And, as they often do, and had done at the mall itself since last November, they gathered around to pray first before the exercise.

But an eagle eyed mall cop stepped in quickly to disperse this blatant public display of religiosity. He ran over and informed the group that the mall was private property, and the property owner had decided that prayer was not allowed in the mall. Apparently they’d had problems with people proselytizing, and so they banned prayer inside the mall. The women, who clearly knew the difference between proselytizing and praying, asked to verify this with the mall manager, and he did, indeed, confirm that was the policy.

I’ve often heard it said that prayer is not banned in public schools. It’s just that kids can’t pray over the loudspeaker or teachers can’t lead it. Fair enough, but given the continued attempts to remove religion from public places, and the tendency of government to give in to even one person who might be offended at the slightest thing, you gotta’ wonder how far away we might be even there. There is a difference between in-your-face proselytizing, and just praying in your group quietly. Although some proselytizing is no more intrusive than those folks giving away free samples or approaching you for a survey; both of which I’ve experienced at malls, and was somehow able to resist the urge to buy or answer questions. But maybe that’s just me.

So that was that, until Todd Starnes, an opinion columnist and radio host at Fox News, brought the issue to light. All of a sudden, the issue was in the headlines. And, equally all of a sudden, the owner of the mall, MCK Properties, issued a clarifying statement to the effect that, yes, the mall employees were all mistaken about the policy, and as long as prayer isn’t imposed on shoppers, they have no issue with it.

Yup, everybody misunderstands the policy as soon as someone in upper management has to face the public. Odd how it works out like that.

Filed under: EducationFree SpeechGovernmentReligion