December 14, 2007

No More Crosses For Spokane Police Chaplains

According to The Christian Post (yes, I do get all my news from this source), police chaplains in Spokane, WA, are going to have to remove the crosses from their badges to settle a lawsuit filed by Ray Ideus, a Christian pastor for 30 years who is now an atheist. Lest the right-wing lunatic fringe do more sniveling about "whiny atheists," I think it is important to be clear about why it is necessary to remove the crosses.

It should be noted at the outset that no court is ordering the removal. The city is agreeing to do so as part of an out-of-court settlement. Thus, ranting about "activist judges" would be misplaced here.

So why would an atheist file suit over the crosses?
Ray Ideus, a former Lutheran pastor of 30 years, claimed in his suit that the Christian-Latin cross included on the badges worn by chaplains in the Spokane Police Department is an "impermissible incorporation of a particular religious symbol in a government insignia."
By including crosses on the badges of police chaplains, the department is endorsing one particular religion, giving it preferential treatment over all others. As Ideus puts it, "It's not a Christian police department." Right, it is a public police department, supported by tax dollars, and expected to protect and serve all citizens, several of whom will not be Christians.

I fail to see why so many Christians cannot grasp this rationale. Because many Christians are intelligent people, I must conclude that they understand it perfectly well and simply chose to ignore it as long as their particular religion is favored. Many do not think about it because they have never really needed to. Indeed, this is why Christian privilege is rarely apparent to Christians.

What both saddens me and makes me proud at the same time is that this is another example of it falling on atheists to defend our Constitution. It saddens me because I would very much like to see more examples of other religious minorities coming forward to contribute to the erosion of Christian privilege. I'm not saying this never happens, but it does not happen enough. And yet, I do feel proud to belong to a group (i.e., atheists) who is willing to stand up for the rule of law.

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