Thou Shalt Not Say “Lord”
Did you know that the use of the word “Lord” by a public official (save, presumably, as or in the context of a profanity) violates the First Amendment? Yeah, me neither. I found this out by way of the Washington Examiner, which reports that Tom “Touchy” Flynn of the Center for Secular Humanism nailed President Obama for committing this constitutional faux pas:
“May the Lord bring them comfort and healing in hard days to come,” President Obama said at the end of his speech today, referring to the victims of the Batman shooting in Colorado and their families. By doing so, he “ben[t] the rules” against government establishing a religion, according to the Center for Secular Humanism.
“I think it’s a little unfortunate,” CSH director Tom Flynn told The Washington Examiner. “Even in a situation like this, [when] he leads a public prayer to a deity that is pretty recognizably the Christian God, much as you can understand the emotional context of it, he’s still sending to some degree a message of exclusion to other religions who don’t call their god “Lord” and to non-religious Americans.”
Of course, the Colorado situation is a tad unusual, but that’s no excuse:
Flynn was sympathetic to the president’s position, though. “I can understand the extraordinary nature of this situation in Colorado and why President Obama might have felt really moved to bend the rules this time, but you really can’t.”
Of course, the president isn’t the only one feeling the wrath of the irreligious this week:
Yesterday, Flynn rebuked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for saying that he was “praying for rain” at a White House event. “For a Cabinet official to recommend prayer as a solution or call attention to his own devotions may violate the Constitution’s prohibition against establishment of religion,” he said in a statement.
Let’s leave aside the extraordinary tone-deafness of this (how many atheists do you suppose saw this story and yelled at their computer, “NOT NOW”?). Before pontificating on the First Amendment, Touchy needs to actually read it. The Bill of Rights begins with this: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion….” Granted that the jurisprudence on the so-called “Establishment Clause” is sometimes clear as mud, I think we can all agree that neither President Obama nor Secretary Vilsack made a law in the process of using religious language. Nor did they do anything to compel anyone to do or believe anything.
Unlike what Touchy Flynn would do, if he could persuade anyone to agree with him by banging his spoon on his high chair.
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