Op/Ed. A little Faith. 3.15.2000

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A Little Faith
If we get the government we deserve, most indications from the General Assembly suggest that perhaps we’ve all been guilty of some major gaffes in our past lives to earn the redolent reek emanating from Frankfort this past session (with two weeks to go at press).

But then, karmic payback isn’t a very “Christian” concept, so the legislature can comfortably ignore such heathenistic rants.

In a session that saw over 1400 bills filed, it seems reasonable to point out a few inconsistencies.

For example, why would legislators rant about the sacred trust of protecting “our children” and oppose even the most modest gun safety regulations? Why would they rail against the scourge of AIDS and bury a sterile needle exchange program in committee?

Why would they condemn sex education and birth control in virtually the same breath they use to advocate restricting abortion?

Why would legislators argue that insurance coverage for contraception will force Catholic business owners to repudiate their beliefs (HB 450 promotes health coverage parity – it doesn’t make birth control mandatory – “good” Catholics can still “just say no” or continue with “family planning”… and while they’re at it, they’re still free to name the results of their adventures in the rhythm method after Rep. Bob Heleringer who proposed a conscientious exemption amendment). And as long as we’re on the subject, can we ALL STOP referring to the “morning-after pill” (a high dose of emergency contraception) as “the abortion pill” (RU 486, an abortifacient)?

Why were the people who insisted that the HOME is the only appropriate place for the teaching of private, personal, family matters (such as sex education) the same people who had zero problem with private, personal, family matters (such as faith and religion and Judeo-Christian dogma) being imposed on students in public schools (whether or not it subverts the constitutional separation of church and state)?

And not another word on how this country was “founded on Christian ideals” – yeah, sell that one to the Arapahos and Shoshones (in exchange for some more pox-infected blankets), Lord Amherst. If everyone’s suddenly so inerrant, let ’em figure out when the ACTUAL Sabbath is and keep it holy, just for starters.

As is so often the case, this is an area where I defer to the college freshmen I spend a few hours with every week – who, at 18, still manage to regularly show up the legislature when it comes to their powers of critical thinking.

One of their assignments is to write a proposal (i.e., they identify a problem and propose a solution). Popular topics always include overpopulation, abortion, birth control, and anything else that’s likely to provoke a good fight.

For the most part, this group got a hearty chuckle out of House Bill 440 (which promotes abstinence to the exclusion of all else as part of any school’s sex education curriculum).

In this legislative utopia, sex only happens within a marriage between consenting (and by the way, heterosexual) adults.

Contrast that with a more common-sense assessment, written by a college freshman as part of a policy proposal: “While choosing to have sex is, in a way, accepting the responsibility of [the] consequences, many are not ready to raise a child or are unable to support one. In this world of abused and hungry children…America should make birth control cheaper and more accessible. By providing birth control you aren’t promoting sex, you are guarding against pregnancy.”

As for the handful of bills promoting the posting of the Ten Commandments, we’ve had our say, and so have the readers for the most part. But primarily, even constitutional advocates have still been writing from the position of the majority. For example, most of the mail we’ve gotten on the subject starts off like this: “I might be a Catholic-Presbyterian-Methodist-Episcopalian, BUT I still favor the separation of church and state.”

So I’ll offer the last word on the subject (for us, for now) from one of my non-Christian students who turned in this short writing assignment on the first amendment.

I had to ask his permission, and promise him anonymity, because when he wrote it, he specifically asked me NOT to share it with the class as part of our usual workshop process, because of the possible repercussions.

He said I was welcome to use it here though, especially if I thought “it would make any difference.”

He wrote, “A majority of people in this country like Christian influence and say there needs to be some. But they don’t know what it feels like to be the minority. In all of my previous education, I was one of the three minorities in the whole school and probably the only one with a differing view on religion. Many things people do and don’t even realize it. Every Christmas I had to purchase gifts for my classmates and help decorate a room for Christmas. For two months I had to look at a Christmas tree and sing religious songs. One time I told my teacher in elementary school that I did not want to sing along with the class, and she made me sit outside the door by myself. Making me the outcast again, feeling embarrassed and rejected.”

And the solution to this state of anomie we live in where a first-grader can now shoot a classmate is to post “Thou Shalt Not Kill” on the wall? (Sound it out, folks. Because if this is now starting at six years old, we’d better hope everybody’s hooked on phonics.



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