Reasonable Accommodation Is a Two-Way Street

There’s a lot to dislike in the Quebecois government’s recent bill that would outlaw the wearing of religious symbols by public servants—presumably including everyone from police officers to teachers to hospital clerks. But the government isn’t entirely wrong in its concern about religious wear in public.

I’m on record as opposing this government, or any Canadian government, placing restrictions on head coverings except in the extreme and easily remedied cases of identification. I’ve put those arguments herehere, and here.

What is particularly odious about this recent legislation is that the Quebecois government is mandating symbolism that says, “Religion should be kept out of public life” while insisting that it is intending merely at symbolism that says, “The state is religiously neutral.”

If the latter were really the government’s concern, however, then letting people wear any religiously-themed clothing or jewelry (that, of course, didn’t interfere with their work—common sense has to apply here) would be a fine way of demonstrating the state’s neutrality. “We welcome into public service Jews wearing kippahs, or Sikhs wearing turbans, or Christians wearing crosses, or Wiccans wearing pentagrams, since all such people are indeed our neighbours and our fellow citizens.” Period.

Requiring people to shed their religious symbols—which amounts to refusing to hire any observant members of some religions, since such people have the integrity not to compromise with an overweening state—serves a different purpose. It restricts the “right” sort of Quebecer to one who doesn’t belong to such groups or one who is indifferent to his group’s customs. The law won’t, in fact, purge the public service of religious believers—just of those who are serious about religions the Quebec government would prefer to stay out of sight, and certainly out of public life.

The proposed legislation is therefore the very definition of religious discrimination. It imposes a rule that hurts only some religious people, not others, rather than “reasonably accommodating” their religious preferences. And for what? To cater to the preferences of the Quebecers who dislike or fear members of such religions? To squeeze certain religious people out of public life? Those are hardly commendable motives.

[For the rest, please click HERE.]

Franklin Graham Starts “Super-Group”

CHARLOTTE, NC (Associated Press) — Franklin Graham, son of famous Christian preacher Billy Graham, announced today he was forming a “super-group” with Jerry Falwell, Jr., and Franky Schaeffer. 

“We will play exclusively Christian music, of course,” Graham said at a press conference in front of the huge barn that houses a museum in honour of his famous Christian father. “And that means country-and-western—or, as we prefer to call it, ‘sacred music.’ None of that disgusting and impurity-prompting jazz or flip-flop, that’s for sure.”

Graham indicated that Falwell, son of famous Christian preacher Jerry Falwell, will sing harmony and play rhythm guitar. “Jerry feels most comfortable when he can back up lead singers and players,” Graham explained. 

Schaeffer, son of famous Christian author Francis Schaeffer, will be on drums. “Yeah,” Graham said with a smile, “Franky really likes to bash things. So he’s a natural drummer. We’ll tour with a full extra set of drums because we’re pretty sure Franky will eventually destroy whatever he’s working on.”

Graham himself will provide the lead vocals and play lead guitar, occasionally also playing lead harmonica and lead kazoo. “I like leading,” he said modestly, “and my leading both Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association shows that I can easily and capably lead more than one thing at a time.”

The band currently is without a bassist. “Like every group, we need bass for gravity, for a certain weight and substance,” explained Graham, “and we just haven’t found anyone who can bring that to our group yet.” 

Graham indicated that the nascent band had approached the son of famous Christian author Tony Campolo, but they found that Bart Campolo had devoted himself to the Renaissance sackbut repertoire. “That was quite a shock,” Graham allowed. “I’m kinda disturbed by the idea of him playing an instrument that slides around so much. I like a bit of pedal steel as much as the next guy, but nothing but sliding pitches? Where does that end up?”

As for the band’s name, Graham indicated that they would call themselves “The Sons of the Pioneers.” When another reporter indicated that that name was already in use by the Country Music Hall of Fame ensemble famous for “Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds,” “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” and many other hits, Graham—son of famous Christian preacher Billy Graham—just grinned and said, “Well, we clearly have no problem exploiting names made famous by other people, so I think we’ll stick with it.” 

The Perils of Public Prayer

According to The Washington Post, “State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz was on the ninth ‘Jesus’ of her opening prayer in the Pennsylvania statehouse when other lawmakers started to look uncomfortable.” No wonder.

In less than two minutes, Borowicz managed to set off a firestorm of controversy. “[The prayer] blatantly represented the Islamophobia that exists among some leaders — leaders that are supposed to represent the people,” said Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell, a Muslim. “I came to the Capitol to help build bipartisanship and collaborations regardless of race or religion.”

And Rep. Jordan Harris, who identified himself as a devout Christian, criticized Borowicz for “weaponizing” her religion.

So what exactly was wrong with Ms. Borowicz’s prayer—and wasn’t?

Was it all those mentions of “Jesus,” instead of a nicely American generic God, as in the official motto “In God We Trust”? Was Representative Borowicz clearly aiming thereby to rile up her non-Christian colleagues?

Well, maybe. But I’ve learned not to attribute to wicked motives what can be accounted for merely by…difference.

If you have prayed with certain kinds of Christians, as I have, you know people who do pray in exactly this way, with “Jesuses” and “Fathers” and “Lords” and “justs” serving as verbal punctuation and intensifiers. If you’re not used to that style of prayer, it’s odd, even off-putting. But there’s no reason to assume it is dark with nefarious intent.

It is also perfectly fine to pray in Jesus’s name in public if you’re a Christian who has been asked to pray in public. If I’m a Vaishnavite Hindu and I pray to Lord Vishnu, you likely would get exactly what you asked for: a sincere prayer to (my) God.

[For the rest, please click HERE.]