The Parade of Privilege: How Government Favors Religion (Privilege #5: The Government PR Campaign)

Luis Granados, director of the AHA’s publishing house, Humanist Press, responds to the Catholic bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom, a 14-day campaign which, according to the Washington Post, “purports to champion religious freedom, but in actuality distorts it by promoting the use of religion as a license to discriminate.”

Religious Privilege #5: The Government PR Campaign

The most astonishing conundrum about the bishops’ “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign is how anyone could imagine that a government so bent on promoting religious belief could be accused of persecuting people for it.

We have a government that in 1954 changed the longstanding Pledge of Allegiance every school child must recite, to insert an “under God” proviso that marginalizes millions of non-religious Americans. This persecutes religion?

We have a government that in 1956 changed a marvelous motto, “Out of many, one,” to another promo spot for religion, “In God We Trust.” (Since we started stamping this on all our currency, its value has declined by about 90%. Perhaps it would be better to trust in sound monetary policy?)

We have a government that allows crucifixes to dot public parks across the land, and spends millions of taxpayer dollars fighting tooth and nail whenever anyone suggests replacing them with symbols that would appeal to all Americans, not just the 60% or so who are active Christians.

We have a government that fills the airwaves with hype over the “National Day of Prayer,” whose lawyers argue in court that mere taxpayers have no legal standingeven to bring a lawsuit questioning whether this is an “establishment of religion” under the First Amendment. If American taxpayers can’t bring these suits, then who can? Martians?

All this unceasing religious promotion has an effect. We have a recent president (the first Bush, the “kinder, gentler one”) who said that “No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.” We now have a presumed presidential nominee who insists that “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.” He’s running against an opponent who proclaims in an official speech that religious faith is “fundamental to human progress.” So those of us who are not religious are against freedom, against human progress, and ought to just take a hike. Except on April 15, when we are regarded as 100% true-blue, red-blooded, and green-moneyed Americans.

Most of us lack a certain empathy for movie stars who whine about paparazzi or multi-billionaires who whimper about being over-taxed. They’re all pikers compared to the sheer chutzpah of bishops complaining that America does got give religion enough deference.

Visit the American Humanist Association’s Facebook page every day beginning June 26 where we counter the Catholic bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom by posting a special privilege experienced only by churches in the United States.