Precinct 333

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Double Standard

Chuck Colson offers this anecdote that raises the issue of a double standard regarding religious expression in the public square.

Ironically, while the Supreme Court was debating the role of religion in American public life and whether the monuments of the Ten Commandments could stand on public property, one group of Americans has settled the question for themselves. Medical students in Boca Raton, Florida, recently filled their classroom with the smell of incense and the sound of ancient chants. They lit candles and spoke about the body being the “temple of the soul.” And they did it all “on a state university campus, in facilities funded with . . . tax dollars.”

Did I mention that all this chanting and candle-lighting was in accordance with Buddhist ritual? You didn’t really think that it would be Christian, did you?
The rites followed the final exam in Gross Anatomy on the Florida Atlantic University campus. Students, led by a professor, used them to pay their respects to the four cadavers they had used in class. What the Palm Beach Post called a “solemn closing ritual” ended with the exhortation to “go out and make a new world.”

The obvious question here is: What if Christian, not Buddhist, rites had been used? As columnist Terry Mattingly asked, how would the university have reacted if “rose incense” and “Byzantine” or “Gregorian” chant had filled the air? What if students had been told to “go in peace to love and serve the Lord”?

Where are the ACLU and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State? Why is a non-Christian religious activity, led by a professor, acceptable in a classroom at a state university if identical Christian activity is not?

Colson posits that it is because Christianity demands that society be confronted and changed. It demands that people make a choice to live morally and seek to improve the world. Buddhism, especially in America, makes no such demand. As such, the public expression of “diverse” Buddhism is acceptable, while the public practice if “intolerant” Christianity is not.


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