The Divisive Message
And The Golden Rule
The American Civil Liberties Union has asked the Rocklin Unified School District to remove a conspicuous "God Bless America" sign from one of its schools. In response, the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday gave its blessing to "God Bless America," urging public schools to display the expression as a show of support for the nation. The nonbinding House resolution, passed 404-0, responds to several cases around the country where the ACLU has objected to displaying the words at schools, saying that religion and patriotism should not be intermixed at public expense. Several Radical Religious Right organizations are urging their "sheep" to write to the Superintendant thanking him for helping them eradicate the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution.
From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <email@example.com>
To: "Kevin Brown" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: The Divisive Message And The Golden Rule
Date: October 18, 2001 9:40 AM
Mr. Kevin Brown
Office of the Superintendent
Rocklin Unified School District
5035 Meyers Street
Rocklin, California 95677
Phone: (916) 624-2428
As a kid I was held after school for refusing to recite the Christian Science prayer which our teacher, a Christian Science practitioner, forced all students to recite each morning. I was not a Christian Science practitioner and that prayer was thus a lie. I was not about to tell lies to myself or anybody else, so I refused to even open my mouth.
As a kid I was taunted many times and once beat up because I didn't know what a "Catholic" or a "Protestant" was: those words were never used around our household and I didn't know what they meant. All I knew was that the Catholic kids hated the Protestant kids and vice versa -- until such time that they found out that I didn't believe in God. (I didn't even know what they were saying!) At this point, the kids joined together to beat up on me!
This was shortly after the McCarthy Era had petered out, about the time a new slogan, "In God We Trust," had begun to appear on our money (1964). I can still remember one teacher who kept talking about how they had recently changed the Pledge of Allegiance (1957) and she could never get it right (they finally implemented the changes as I was entering school in about 1960).
Those who put "In God We Trust" on our money, who put "under God" into our Pledge of Allegiance, who now want to put "God Bless America" everywhere, talk about "religious freedom." I'm not sure I know what "religious freedom" means, except that it allows the majority, the Christians, to trample the rights of those of us who think the Christian claim is falsehood, who think the Christian concept of morality is based mainly on the greed of the Christians. So instead I talk about "Religious Liberty" -- a concept with which I am intimately familiar.
Today the ones who squashed our Religious Liberties and installed the Christian religion as supreme in the United States during the 1950s are at it again. "In God We Trust" was not enough for them, they had to have more! "Under God" wasn't good enough for them, they had to have more! To look the other way while a handful of politicians sang on the steps in the aftermath of the most tragic day in our history was not good enough for them, they've now got to take the very song that gave these politicians comfort on that day and use it as a precedent for further installing the Christian religion as the very religion which our Constitution promises that "Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of."
Instead of a song of joy that some (but not all) Americans may sing in peace, "God Bless America" has now become a divisive war cry, a weapon of hate against those of us who only want those Liberties promised to us by our Constitution, against those of us who refuse to let greed prompt us to inflict our religious views upon other Americans.
No, I'm not sure I know what "religious freedom" means, but I do know what Religious Liberty is. As a kid, we studied the United States Constitution at home. We did this because I had three ancestors who signed either the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence.
In our home, we spoke highly of the so-called Silver Rule: "Do not unto others what you would not have done to you." The Silver Rule is much less intrusive than the Golden Rule of the Christians -- and it works much better, to boot. According to the Golden Rule, the Christians are telling me that since they want the schools to sing "God Bless America" and to bandy about this very divisive slogan at school (they "do unto others"), then we should urge the schools to sing another classic but divisive song of peace, John Lennon's "Imagine" (as they "would have others do unto" them). If they (theoretically) want me to do to their kids what they are doing unto our kids, then they must therefore agree to my proposing that the kids sing this song which echoes the sentiments of the past five generations of my family:
"Imagine there's no Heaven
However, I will not do this. I am not a Christian and I refuse to follow the Christians' Golden Rule. Instead, I will do better. I will practice the Silver Rule and will insist that nobody gets to be the favorite. I will insist that the schools provide no further justification for children to hate and beat up those kids who are not Christians. In exchange, I will balk if anybody wants the kids to sing John Lennon's song.
The politicians sang "God Bless America" and I would sue except that the Supreme Court ruled that if the only damage comes from the fact that it was illegal for them to do this while acting in an official capacity, there is no damage. (This Supreme Court case was invoked by U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver in her ruling on the case involving the town of Gilbert, Arizona, which was sued for a few years ago for issuing a National Bible Week proclamation. See the Introduction to our National Bible Week Poster., the text of which is mirrored in our Big List of Quotations.)
Fortunately, the Supreme Court has not extended to the schools this license to divide America along ideological lines. Thus, I wholeheartedly endorse any move which tries to stop the Rocklin Unified School District from teaching kids that one religious sect is favored over the other sects, and that religiosity is favored over naturalism. Please replace the "God Bless America" signs with flags; please replace the singing of "God Bless America" with the National Anthem or some other less controversial song.
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
people with no reason to believe
Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.