Opinion : Freedom from religion
By Gene Price
Published in News on February 7, 2005 1:55 PM
Two of my good friends and favorite legislators had something of a head-on collision last week.
Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand ordered removal of Bibles, hymnals and a cross from the chapel in the Legislative Building.
Shortly thereafter, Marc Basnight, president pro tem of the Senate, ordered them returned to the chapel.
The chapel is nondenominational and may be used by all legislators -- whose numbers include Christians, Jews and Muslims. Apparently, the only regular use of the chapel is by a group of Christian legislators who meet once a week for services. They provided Bibles, hymnals and a cross.
Senator Rand said he had complaints from some members "who felt uncomfortable surrounded by Christian symbols" in the chapel.
His approach was to remove the symbols, but allow worshippers to bring their Bibles and hymnals when they come -- and take them with them when they leave.
Basnight's position is that religious materials, regardless of faith, can be kept on a shelf in the chapel and placed appropriately when the room is in use by worshippers.
That appears to be a good compromise.
But when might the second shoe drop?
I'll be surprised if my friend Senator Rand does not soon hear from some agnostic or atheist feeling that the chapel should be abandoned altogether. They might argue that they "feel uncomfortable" in their nonbeliefs when in the presence of any symbols of anyone's belief in a supreme being.
Perhaps some folks simply need a greater faith in their lack of faith.
And that could be behind the seemingly steady march in recent years toward an ultimate court interpretation that the Constitution assures us not a freedom of religion -- but a government guaranteed total insulation from any symbol or manifestation of religion.
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