Sunday, July 03, 2005
Let's not fool ourselves: With court cases like last week's dueling decisions on the Ten Commandments and the decade-plus legal battle on the cross atop on Mount Soledad (part of a veterans memorial), it should be no surprise that there are people in this country that want all traces of religion out of the public square.
Today's poster child for anti-religious bigotry is Scott Berlin of Encinitas. In a letter to the editor in Saturday's Union-Tribune, Berlin argues for keeping Christians out of the San Diego County Fair.
I am shocked and displeased about one of the exhibits at this year's fair.
My family, including two small children, were walking toward the kids' ride area when my 4-year-old daughter asked to go inside a "castle" ahead. As we got closer, I realized that the sign outside the castle said "Ye Olde Story Castle," but just inside a large sign said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved." This was a religious "exhibit" in the guise of a children's booth.
I expect that when I go out with my family to a healthy, wholesome outing like the fair, I do not need to worry about religious people trying to deceptively convert my children. How would those people preaching inside their little castle feel if next door to them was set up the "real story of Islam" in the guise of a children's boat ride or the "true story of Moses and the Torah" in the guise of a merry-go-round?
How do fair officials allow an overtly religious display to "exhibit" at the fair?
I paid to attend a public event on state land, and I have a reasonable right to expect that while there my children, and I will not be assaulted with religion. People are free to worship however they please, and this is a private decision for each of us, but this religious presence at a public fair on state land is unacceptable.
I plan to not attend the fair again, and to encourage my friends to follow suit until I can be assured a non-religious experience for my children while there.
You see what Berlin is advocating here? You can sell just about anything you want at the fair -- steak knives, fishing lures, hot tubs, the entire Ronco product catalog, etc. -- except hardcore pornography and the Veggie Tales. Why? Because Mr. Berlin doesn't want to see it.
The Supreme Court's recent First Amendment jurisprudence should encourage Berlin, but not the rest of us. Justice Stephen Breyer's swing vote in the two recent Ten Commandments cases directs judges to take into account the "divisiveness" of the religious display. What that amounts to is a heckler's veto for the super-sensitive Berlins of the world.
What's next. Will Berlin refuse to walk down a public sidewalk from which he can see a church steeple?
Scott Berlin is a silly person.