Tolerance and the First Amendment
May 07, 2013 | 6269 views | 0 0 comments | 850 850 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Come July 4, we as a nation will have been wrestling with it for 237 years. I’m not sure we’ve gotten any better at it.

Satisfactorily defining liberty, that is.

Especially when it comes to those items included in the First Amendment.

You know – the one guaranteeing freedom of religion, of speech, of the press, and of the right peacably to assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances.

So simple, and yet so complicated.

Other items in this edition address last week’s celebration of a National Day of Prayer in Marshall County.

Meanwhile, east of here in the central Kentucky town of Stanford, Lincoln County High School has decided it will hold its commencment May 24 without a student-led prayer, in response to the objection of six students.

So, just whose rights are being trampled here?

Would it be the half-dozen who don’t want a prayer to be part of the graduation ceremony and don’t wish to have to put up with one?

Or will it be all the others who want (or, at least, are willing tolerate) a prayer but will apparently have to do without one?

Note the word “tolerate” in the preceding paragraph. We hear a lot about tolerance these days.

Sometimes, the ones shouting the loudest about tolerance are the most hard-line intolerable.

My sympathy is with the school administration. It finds itself in a no-win situation.

The senior class president has already said that the school cannot prevent him from praying.

The aforementioned First Amendment would seem to support the class president’s position in that regard.

Is having to sit through commencement and listen to references to a diety so intolerable?

Personally, if the commencement included something that was so offensive to me, I would have no desire to be a part of it. I wouldn’t want anyone to change the procedure just because of me. I’d just skip the whole thing and have the school mail my diploma to me.

(After sitting through several uncomfortable hours at Murray State a couple of years ago, I kind of wish I’d taken that option then.)

The question: Is this really something that requires a formal protest and a change of policy desired by only a handful of people?

Or is it merely a subject guaranteed to gain publicity and accommodation?

Many people proclaiming to be Christians often demonstrate an alarming ignorance or disregard of the true message and teachings of Jesus Christ, but I am skeptical whether anybody at Lincoln County High School has been abused, threatened or subjected to something truly illegal or intolerable just because he or she wishes to be an atheist.

If there have been any crimes committed against these people, I’ve missed media reports of them, and there was no mention of any such incidents in stories about the protest of the prayer and the principal’s decision not to have one.

Apparently it was all about, as one of the protesting students put it, “graduating from Lincoln County High, not Lincoln County Church.”

Really? That’s what it’s all about?

A republic is set up to provide some protection for the minority and prevent blatant mob rule, which is what a simplistic democracy would enable.

But at what point do the opinions of such a small minority completely cancel the wishes of so many others?

In this argument, one side claims that the traditional practice of having a prayer does not infringe upon the other’s rights.

The other side claims that it does.

So, who’s right, and who’s wrong?

For more than 136 years, we’ve been struggling with questions of that very nature.
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