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Respect differences

It may be time for the “Christian values” advocates to hit their American heritage reset button. As my late mother reminded me, there was no “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance when she attended school in the 1920s, and its addition in the nervous 1950s hardly stayed the lynching of blacks down in the Bible Belt.

Our Constitution prohibits religious tests for public office or a state faith for good reason: Privileged denominations have no right to dictate belief for others. Sectarian public school prayer ended because Catholics rightly objected to Protestant prayers (and vice versa), and likewise for Jews or Hindus or Muslims, let alone atheists or agnostics.

It is ironic enough that many courthouse Ten Commandments monuments were part of the publicity campaign for Cecil B. DeMille’s splashy 1956 movie, but the cartoon of an idyllic pre-1960s Christian America makes for an even less entertaining show that does justice neither to our civil institutions or to the worthwhile protection of genuine liberty of conscience that all citizens of the United States should expect and respect.

James Downard



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