Friday, June 24, 2011

76 Wicca Street

I heard about the flap over "Seven in Heaven" St. in New York.  Personally, I think the name's a bit hokey.  But it's not my city, it's not my street.  It's not mine to name.

And I meant to say something about it -- it was one of the things I was considering for a post.  But you know.  I have a job.  And my young grandson's family to help as right now mommy and daddy are working their humps off to make ends meet.  So we've been babysitting, putting their garden in.  Plus you know we have a house, too.  There's stuff to do.

But over at Morgan's place I was lured in to commenting by tim (love ya, man, and I'm not trying to piss you off or anything, nor you me -- so let's just get that out of the way) -- but here at The Clue Batting Cage we do work hard to try to correct misconceptions that have been drilled into peoples' heads (including ours!) over the years -- about what the First Amendment means.  And what it doesn't mean.

The thing is, the Federal Government didn’t fund that sign. And if it did, it shouldn’t have, not because it’s “religious” (it’s not), but because it’s a local street and the Federal government shouldn’t be involved in it whatsoever.

The first amendment was written in order to keep the Federal Government from establishing a State Religion, like the Church of England, where an unelected Church Official (The Archbishop of Canterbury) was a State position as well as a Church position. The 10th Amendment says that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. So if somebody wanted to establish a Mormon town and name all of their streets right out of the book of Mormon, that’d be cool by the Constitution.

The first amendment doesn’t say anything about religious expression in general other than to say that it is protected (in the free speech clause), it only says that “Congress Shall Pass No Law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

The Hard Rock Cafe, one could say, is a drinking establishment. It is an establishment of drinking. Might also be an eating establishment. But it is an officially recognized organization (a company with a charter and a name that does specific things in their own way). Similarly, an “establisment” of religion would be a Church such as the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, the Episcopalian Church …. etc.

Everyone seemed to get this until about 1949.

In the beginning, some states even had state religions, believe it or not.

Thing is, the Founders never imagined anything other than Christian churches being “legitimate” as far as religion.  If they had, they'd probably have written something to that effect in.   I think there was a little fear of real religious persecution of anyone, including non-Christians -- but probably more afraid of people deciding that certain brands of Christianity weren't really Christianity. Yes, a bit culture-centric. But seriously, are we really trying to suggest that any element of culture with religious references is illigitimate? They came from a place where some Christians persecuted other Christians because they had the power of the state behind them to enforce it. Since “Congress Shall Pass No Law”, there’d be no such law to enforce. But it doesn’t say “Cities shall name no street.” It’s flat-out ludicrous on its face.

It was asked if we would be offended if a street were to be named "There Is No God" Street.  Well, if the City Council or elected county officials decided they wanted to name a street “There Is No God Street”, ok. Fine. Not going to be too many cities where the culture (and cities do have culture, and some of it can be religioius) and if some whacked out council did it and the people of the city didn’t like it the people would vote them out next time around and re-name the bloody street.

Like it or not, a nearly homogeneously Christian population with mostly Christian representation who never imagined the country would be anything other than that started this country — historically, it has Christian roots and most Americans continue to call themselves Christian. We are allowed to have a culture and we are allowed to have symbols and words and holidays that come out of that culture represented in our street names and park names and fountain names or whatever. It’s gonna show up in public. Deal with it. The founders also extended religious tolerance to non-Christians. That’s right. Religious tolerance brought to you by Christians. But tolerance does not mean accomodation.

You don’t see cries for taking down totem poles.  The Druids thought Oak trees sacred, but you don’t see people screaming about Oak street and until recently, ACORN was federally funded. We refer to the skies beyond our atmosphere as “The Heavens”. Nobody’s forcing you to pray to any God, much less in a particular way, or to keep you from praying to yours or clinging to your claims of non-existence of said being when they talk about “The Heavens”.

Many of the “Muslims” I know are really what I call “cultural Muslims”. They use a lot of the terms and symbols of the religion, but they rarely, if ever, go to a mosque. They’re “Muslim” like a lot of Americans and Europeans are “Christian”. Merry Christmas. Happy Easter. Happy (St.) Valentine’s Day. Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Happy Thanksgiving. Oh God! Oh Jesus! Heck, even “Geez” came from “Jesus” (as in, a way to “say” it without violating the “taking the Lord’s name in vain” rule). And Heck is a euphamim for Hell. And Golly for God.
I’m not offended by Hanukkah. I wouldn’t be offended by Amitabha Buddha Day. Or street. Look, here’s a condo for sale at 76C Wicca St. in Kewdale, WA. I’m pretty sure the ACLU and/or whoever it is suing over “Heaven” street or whatever aren’t beating down the door to get that changed. Nor are Christians. Towns, rivers, mountains, streets … named after American Indian religious terms. Devil’s Tower National Monument. Devil’s Den State Park. Devil’s Garden in Arches National Monument. Nobody’s offended. Stonehenge replicas and totem poles in public parks. A lot of Christians were outraged when the Taliban blew up those ancient Buddhist statues. Why? They recognize their cultural and historical significance. It’s absolutely insane in the modern world to try to forcefully sanitize religious influence from a culture. At least for the time being, they are not only intertwined, but long-infused. And from my experience with human nature, this is not likely to change.

All of this hubub isn’t really about people being offended. It is about using government as a stick to beat up on people that militant atheists don’t like — because of their religious beliefs. It’s the opposite of the protection the first amendment was intended to provide. It is using government to persecute people of certain religious beliefs. It’s worse than that, it’s cultural persecution on a grand scale.

"Congress", in the context of The Constitution means the Federal Congress and not the States' Congress',  Congress passed no law to name the street. What law would be broken if the city were to rename the street? None. So, what law passed by Congress named that street? The Constitution gave Congress no authority to name the street, and Congress indeed didn't name the street by law or any other method. and The 10th Amendment stands out there just pretty much not caring except to say "hey, states, y'all're on yer own here. Go for it."

Congress, as I said, had no hand even in making the street outside of getting State and Local governments hooked on Federal money for their streets and highways so that the Federal Government could regulate them -- which is a BIG problem we need to correct in the first place.

I think it's a big stretch to say that if Congress allocated money for street signs and some street maintenance in New York and that the People of New York through their elected officials decided to name a street "Seven in Heaven Way" that that meant that Congress passed a law that had anything to do with "respecting" an "establishment" of religion. One can drive or walk down "Seven in Heaven" way without worshipping or acknowledging nor making any religious observation whatsoever any more than my driving to Devil's Tower means I'm worshipping Satan. One can even flip off the street sign or fart in its general direction and the law will not lay a finger on you. That is the meaning of and the purpose of that bit of the Constitution. Nothing more.

Consider this. A good definition of a Liberal as any is someone who can rationalize anything to mean anything he wants it to mean, regardless of what the author intended (and this serves as "proof" of his superior intelligence). But in my experience, once you get two or three generations down the "this could be interpreted to mean" logic chain and you are in a fantasy world.


Whitehawk said...

At work now so I can't comment much. May follow up later... I agree with all you have said. The Founders intended Americans to be free in religious expression and that expression can be public or private.

For the Federal Gov't to say they could not name a street "Seven in Heaven" is to say and demonstrate that we are NOT free.

You know how jealous I am for our Christian roots. With all that has been said in your post about other faiths being free to express themselves, I hope we never forget the underlying principles for our social structure, economy and governement were taken directly from Christianity e.g. property rights, Sunday a holy day, our holidays are/were almost exclusively Christian etc.

Over 2 centuries has shown it to be a superior set of philosophies,
principles and beliefs. We are certainly in trouble now, I understand, but we have been in effect tearing out our Christian roots for the last 40-50 years.

Without an understanding of good and evil we are doomed to experience the latter personally, if not by chance, by choice.

Whitehawk said...

BTW, I can so sympathize with the life happening all around that you need to address. We're going through a kitchen renovation now, still have to keep the regular job going, oldest daughter moving to college town, son getting ready for football...

Best regards my friend.

tim said...

OK, sorry Philmon, was a little busy myself. My nephew, my only nephew, is in town all the way from Cali. And since he’s at that age, 16, were this may be his last trip back here, NY, for awhile, I’ve spent some quality time with him. Phew…

Not gonn’a rewind or debate much of what you wrote. Just basically wanted to acknowledge that indeed I read it. Besides, we agree…for different reasons…but still…no need to go on and on.

If I don’t talk to ya’ beforehand, have a great 4th of July. As we celebrate our nation’s independence via the historic Declaration of Independence. Which…hold your breath you militant atheist a-holes…-

“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them…”

Holy crap, there’s that damn word Gggggoooood…Remove it NOW!!!

Seriously , have a great and safe holiday, Philmon and everyone.

philmon said...

God, I really need to strike that word from your comment. I mean, Holy Cow (Hindu) we're spreading all of that bad juju (Voodoo). We should be spreading good Kharma (Buddhist) and become One (Taoism). I could Go On, but that might insinuate re-incarnation (various religions).

Well I hope you have a great 4th, too, with pixies and fairydust (Druids and other Pagans) lighting up the sky.

Or just some cool, giant explosions that say "America. F*ck Yeah!"

tim said...

"America. F*ck Yeah!"