February 2, 2009

Eroding Christian Privilege in New Jersey

Map of New JerseyImage via WikipediaJust when I was feeling discouraged, Austin Cline is there with some good news out of New Jersey to cheer me up. It seems that the town council of Newton, NJ, is going to abandon their 60-year practice of opening meetings with an explicitly Christian prayer all because an atheist complained. The atheist's complaint apparently promoted the council's attorney to investigate the matter. Sure enough, the sectarian prayer was in violation of the law. Rather than risk losing a lawsuit, the council wisely decided to drop the prayer.

As Austin points out, the good news in this case is tainted with the realization that the Newton town council knew full well that they were in violation of the law and would have been content to continue to ignore it had this brave atheist not complained. This is Christian privilege plain and simple.

Let this case be a reminder to all: when you see something that clearly violates separation of church and state, do something about it. Failing to do so only allows Christian privilege to persist. As Austin tells us:
Naturally all of this upsets many Christians because they don't like not being able to dominate society. It is, however, a situation they are going to have to get used to because non-Christians in America will not be willing to return to a second-class status. Christianity must cease to be a privileged class of beliefs, institutions, traditions, and people just as "male" and "white" must cease to be privileged classes in America. It will take a long time for this process to be complete, but it must happen.
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