Columbus Dispatch: [Mayor] Coleman Defies Call to End Prayer Luncheon

Good for him.

Coleman held his 13th Interfaith Prayer Luncheon yesterday despite a letter of criticism from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a nonprofit group that seeks to promote constitutional separation of church and state and to offer education on non-theism.

“First, I believe in the almighty God our father,” the mayor proclaimed to applause and cheers from the about 600 people gathered in the Aladdin Shrine Center for the event. “Second, I believe that we should be doing God’s work here on earth, and I believe in thanking God for bestowing our city with his blessings.”

Read it all.

I never cease to be amazed that very few people ever seem to challenge the validity of the arguments that groups like the Freedom from Religion Foundation mount against (primarily) Christianity. It is indicative of how badly the Church has failed to respond to the intellectual challenges mounted by the Enlightenment. What exactly gives this group the high ground or allows them to dictate the terms of the debate or discussion? The last time I checked, no one died and made the values of the Enlightenment king. Empiricism and rationalism do not inherently have the final say in matters of life nor should they be held as the ultimate arbiter of issues, especially when it comes to matters of religion. Despite scientific advances, there is still evil and death in the world. The Enlightenment and its thinkers have not succeeded in obliterating evil or ridding the world of all its problems as many of its proponents claimed it would. To the contrary, history has shown that progress, the very darling of Enlightenment thinking, is not inevitable, nor even desirable, depending on how one defines “progress.” Neither has secularism produced ideal forms of government or idyllic states. In fact, some of the most notorious regimes of late have been utterly devoid of true religion and some of the destructive lifestyles being advocated by the “enlightened” folk of our day are hardly superior to the lifestyles they seek to replace. What then gives the values behind and associated with the Enlightenment the moral and intellectual high ground? I’ve seen nothing that comes close to providing a satisfactory answer to this question and challenge from folks like me.

Moreover, the foundation’s very name suggests that they themselves have badly misinterpreted the First Amendment, which never was intended to give people freedom from religion, but rather to allow people to worship (or not) as they choose. The framers of the Constitution were reacting, in part, to the fact that the Church of England was an established church and they were determined not to have that happen under their watch, having just gained their independence from England. Here is the exact language from the First Amendment pertaining to government and religion:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Clearly from the language above, if the Freedom from Religion Foundation was fashioned after the concept of separation of church and state, an often misunderstood concept to begin with, there is nothing in the amendment that remotely suggests people should be protected from religion. Neither is Mayor Coleman forcing religion or his own faith down people’s throats. Any reasonable person would conclude this by reading the article or being familiar with the Mayor’s political beliefs.

This then essentially reduces Freedom from Religion’s argument to sheer opinion, one among many, which of course they are allowed to have, misguided and narrow-minded as it might be. But again, what about them or their argument gives them the right to impose their views on others? Nothing as far as I can tell because as we have seen above, they have failed to make their case. They, and others like them, are sadly free to choose death. But they have no inherent right or authority to tell others they must follow their badly mistaken beliefs.

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About Kevin Maney

Fr. Kevin Maney completed his studies for a Diploma in Anglican Studies at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA, and did his coursework almost entirely online. He was ordained as a transitional deacon in the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) on February 9, 2008 and as a priest in CANA on May 1, 2008. He is now the rector for the new parish plant, St. Augustine's Anglican Church in Columbus, OH, part of the Anglican Diocese of the Great Lakes and the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA).