The response to to my pre-holiday Charleston City Paper column “Separating Church from Hate: Refusing to allow ‘I Believe’ license plates is an exercise in bad manners” has not only been overwhelming – but overwhelmingly negative, something I knew would happen the moment I wrote it (see here).
In fact, the responses generally proved the entire point of my column.
Americans, and Westerners in general, decades-soaked in multiculturalism and liberalism, have developed a visceral, knee-jerk reaction to all things religious. In my column, I made a cultural defense of religious symbolism, whether promoted in public or private. In fact, this part sums up the gist of the piece:
“Religious symbolism today is handled in a way that would be considered unacceptable if applied to any other cultural facet. Imagine a court denying New York the option of issuing Statue of Liberty license plates because not every New Yorker subscribes to the idea of liberty? “
Not one of the responders to my column dared to answer the simple question posed above. Instead I recieved the same old, tired arguments, reflecting the same old, tired anti-Christian prejudices. Writes local atheist-activist Herb Silverman (a man I’ve never met, but understand is a gracious and kind gentleman) of Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry:
“Apparently, Hunter doesn’t understand the difference between individuals expressing their cultural views and government favoritism of a religion. The former is free speech protected by the Constitution, while the latter is an endorsement prohibited by the Constitution.”
It is Mr. Silverman who does not understand. How the “I Believe” license plate, a voluntary purchase, constitutes sponsorship of religion, is mind-boggling, considering the countless religious examples and symbolic gestures that litter American public life. As for individuals expressing their cultural views – culture is a collective experience. The culture of India is not defined by the free will of any, individual Indian, but is a group effort, that takes form over time and through the shared experience of a common people.
In accepting Statue of Liberty license plates, individual New Yorkers may or may not be expressing their individual solidarity with the ideals represented by Lady Liberty, but they are unquestionably accepting a part of their cultural patrimony, which is larger than themselves. I imagine there might be a Jihadist or two in Manhattan who might reject the very notion of liberty – but still accept the license plate as New Yorkers.
Silverman then goes full-throttle predictable:
“Hunter’s argument for special rights because the ‘overwhelming majority’ are Christians is reminiscent of a decades-old argument used in South Carolina to favor the overwhelming majority of white people.”
Ah. Allowing voluntary, Christian-themed license plates is comparable to racial segregation. We should ask black South Carolinians what they think of this analogy. We should also ask them how they feel about “I Believe” license plates. Being South Carolinians, without all the anti-religious hang-ups of their liberal and “progressive” white neighbors, their position wouldn’t be hard to predict.
“Hunter makes the analogy of a dinner guest’s rudely criticizing the food prepared by his or her host, rather than adapting to the situation. Like Hunter, I am a citizen of this country and no more a guest of this country than he is. A good neighbor does not try to impose beliefs on others or seek government assistance to do so.”
So no more support for anti-religious ACLU lawsuits and the like, Mr. Silverman?