Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fishers of Certain Men: A Teachable Moment for Atty General Holder

The issue here is obviously one of “separation of church state” but it is perhaps not the one we arrive at first. The Federal government cannot in good conscience fund discriminatory practices. Period. Eric Holder should renounce any memo or policy endorsing such a policy. However, as clear as that conclusion seems to me, I can imagine Mr. Holder, head in hands, sitting at his desk wondering why he has to do it in the first place. It should not fall to the Federal government to police the ethics of the Christian faith.

I sympathize, Mr. Holder, I have teenagers, too.

Once, in the urgency of school shopping, I handed my teenager some money and released her into the Mall. “Nothing inappropriate,” I advised her. “Nothing too short or too baggy, I don’t want to see your navel or be able to read the maker of any of your undergarments.” These are words I feel I should not have to say; after fourteen years she should know what is acceptable and what will be thrown out while she is at school.

An hour later she was standing in front of me wearing a cute pink tee shirt that covered all necessary parts admirably, bore the caricature of a cute little bunny, and, in big block letters, expressed a profoundly insulting sentiment. “It’s rude,” I said. “But not inappropriate,” she smiled back. I hissed, “You knew what I meant.”

The Washington Post tells us that World Vision, a faith based group receiving government funds, feels that requiring fair hiring practices “damages its identity and mission.” Any group whose “identity” originates in the Torah, the Gospels or the Qur’an is charged with the original non-discriminatory “mission”: to love one’s neighbor as oneself. If I was that irritated with my daughter over a tee shirt, imagine how Jesus feels when organizations formed in his name adhere to the letter of the law and ignore the spirit of his teaching entirely. Doubtless he did not clench his teeth and hiss his frustration as I did, but he did explicitly say, he had come “not to abolish the law but to fulfill” it. (Matt 5:17)

Federal money should not knowingly be used to fund discriminatory practices, regardless of how far downstream they are practiced. And institutions desiring to fulfill their faithful mandate must examine their practices to be sure that they honor its spirit in order to achieve its goals.

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