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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Separation of Church and State

This happened last month but i am only getting around to writing about it. We were invited to Ryan's cousin's "graduation" from nursing school (you'll see why the quotation marks in a moment) in Orange County. I thought she went to a public school, so was surprised to see it was held in a large Protestant church. We figured maybe there were too many attendees to fit in to the college auditorium so this was the biggest local place, or else that Michelle, who is extremely religious, did in fact go to a religious school.

So, we met his family there and proceeded to attend what turned out to be what they called a "pinning ceremony" for what was in fact, a public California community college where his cousin got her AA in nursing. They started the ceremony with prayers and as each person walked across the stage and got pinned, they read an announcement, similar to those high school yearbook dedications, where the graduate thanked people and left messages for classmates. Almost all of them started out "___ would like to thank God, and her husband and children" blah blah blah.

One of his cousin's classmates sang a Christian song "Lift Me Up" or somesuch thing, which Ryan was amused to notice was set to the tune of an old Irish drinking song.
There was one person who did not attend the ceremony, and she had a Middle Eastern sounding name (or maybe I am remembering this wrong?) so I built up this whole story in my head about how she must have been really uncomfortable with this whole Christian aspect to what should have been a secular graduation from a public institution.

It's baffling to me that this is 2007 (or rather, was 2006) and these events are allowed to occur in the United States with taxpayer funds. Whatever happened to separation of church and state? What's worse, his cousin and the other people around seemed to really enjoy it and I seemed to be the only one at all surprised/shocked/amazed at the religious aspect.
We need to make sure church and state are separate. Even if all but one person worship at the same church, if they're attending a public institution paid for by taxpayer money, they should keep ALL religion of any sort out of the equation.

The simple test for this, if people find themselves so surrounded by others of their same religious background that they don't see the forest for the trees, is to think, what if someone of a religion you completely disagree with wanted to hold the ceremony? Would the organizers want someone who worships a flying spaghetti monster to hold a pastafarian ceremony at their graduation? Would this be okay with them? If not, then they should drop their oh-so "open" prayer at a Protestant church where just because they didn't utter"Jesus", they think they are supposedly including every other religion because of course every religion believes in God.

On a related note, I think it's awesome that finally a member of Congress did not use a Bible for a swearing in. Now if we can just get "in God we trust" off of the currency and prayers out of Congressional sessions, we'll have real progress.

1 comment:

stud-horse said...

Hey! I'm a pastafarian! I take offense!

(btw - The FSM was a big part of a recent two-part South Park episode. RB might be interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_God_Go)