Well, finally, for me at least, some good news. Common sense prevailed over stubborn and misplaced religious conviction or some kind of possibly damaging desire to remain firmly entrenched in the past. As has been reported fairly extensively in the local, and sometimes national and international, news, there has been a fight in Berkley over whether or not to amend the city’s charter to not only allow, but require a 4′ x 4′ minimum nativity scene on the city’s property.
Most people didn’t have a problem with the city’s holiday displays, however somebody did. They contacted the ACLU and together asked the city to remove the religious display, or possibly face a lawsuit. Now some people are going to complain that the ACLU is out to get conservatives or some other b.s., when in fact the ACLU has come to the aid of such, so called, conservative individuals as, Sen. Larry Craig, and none other than Rush Limbaugh. Of course it’s easy to bash someone who defends something you don’t like, but the truth is it’s very difficult to defend something you don’t like, such as individuals who trash talk your organization on the radio on a daily basis. The true testament to the ACLU, is that they will defend anyone’s civil liberties, regardless of political affiliation.
As much as the “Say yes to the nativity scene” folks would like this to be about the ACLU, it wasn’t. After the initial contact from a Berkley resident and the ACLU, the Berkley City Council implemented a plan, originally proposed by the clergy of a local Christian church, to move the nativity scene off of the City’s property, to a location two blocks away on Church property, where it would be displayed without various other Christmas decorations such as presents and Santa Claus, and other religion’s holiday decorations. The beauty of this plan was that those who think the nativity scene represents the true spirit of Christmas get to have a nativity scene unencumbered by distracting non-Christian decorative items, those who don’t believe that the government should be in the business of setting up religious displays at tax payer expense were happy, and the city wouldn’t get sued! Who loses? No one.
Of course someone has to rain on the parade. And that someone unfortunately was the Thomas Moore Law Center, who came into town with a faux citizen action group, claiming that they could tell Berkley citizen’s were upset that they were not going to have a nativity scene (lie number one), that there was an attack on Christian values underway (lie number two), and that the lawsuit would not cost the city of Berkley anything (lie number three).
Well the city didn’t agree. They liked the solution that was already in place. And a whole group of Berkley residents didn’t agree either and formed there own, truly grass roots action group. The group, unlike the “yes” group, did not have outside funding from a group like the Thomas Moore Law Center, was not in partnership with any outside groups, did not bring in citizen’s from other countries (yes, you heard it right, the “yes” group brought in citizen’s of Canada to help in their “cause”), did have all of the Berkley clergy on their side, and the support of all the area’s major newspapers. And after yesterday’s vote, apparently a majority of Berkley’s citizens.
The final result? 55% of voters voted against the charter amendment, and 45% voted for. Fox news made this sound like a close margin of victory, when in reality it was a margin of 10%, which is much higher than the margin of most presidential races.
So common sense prevailed over religious fervor. On election night one disappointed “yes” supporter stated that this was a case of intolerance of Christians. Hopefully she didn’t really believe it, but said it out of anger. This is, of course, not about tolerance or intolerance of the Christian religion. If she wanted to view it as any kind of intolerance, she would have to see that it would be closer to plain old religious intolerance. After all no religious items will be displayed by city hall during any holiday. No one singled out Christianity. It just so happened that the city was violating the first amendment by displaying only Christian holiday display. Of course the “yes” supporters offered to put in a Star of David. But would that do it? Who decides which religious group gets representation? Do the Wickens get a display? How about the Pagans? If the city decides, then that is a clear violation of the first amendment. Also, if this was indeed intolerance of Christians then who is to blame? After all it was a member of a Christian church that proposed the solution. Christian members of the city council supported it, and by the numbers, at least some Christians voted against the charter amendment. So I guess, if it is indeed intolerance of Christians, it was in part at least, carried out by Christians in the community. Do Christians not tolerate themselves?
Intolerance: unwillingness to recognize and respect differences in opinions or beliefs. This definition explains why if intolerance was shown, it was at least equally shown by those who had proposed or supported the charter amendment. Intolerance, and it’s antonym tolerance, works in more than one direction. Not being able to force a religious display to be paid for, and maintained by tax payer dollars, and displayed on tax payer property, does not constitute intolerance. Insisting that the public must support your religious display, is intolerance.
Fortunately, Berkley will not appear to outsiders (at least those with common sense) to be an intolerant community. We will, hopefully, be able to attract all kinds of people. And that we can’t afford not to do.