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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Line Keeps Getting Pushed Back

I've been told on more than one occasion that I ought to keep my faith and beliefs to myself. You know, the old "faith is meant to be private, but not public" attitude. Or "you believe what you want to believe, and I'll believe what I want to believe". To be faithful Catholics, it's not possible to agree with those attitudes. Faith is meant to be personal, but not private. Christ told the disciples at the conclusion of St Matthew's Gospel to go out into the world and make disciples of all nations. Kinda hard to do that if we fail to profess our faith, first through the way in which we live our lives, supported by being prepared to "make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you..." (1 Pet 3:15).

Still, there are many in the world who want us to shut up and go away. They don't even want to see the witness of faith, whether it be praying outside of abortuaries, or the mention of Christ's name in public venues, or having bishops speak out on moral issues. They would rather we just stay in our homes, or worship in our churches, and not cause a ruckus or influence society beyond the warm and fuzzy social justice issues of stocking the local food cupboard or joining the Habitat for Humanity effort.

That imaginary "line in the sand", that the secularists have drawn with the expectation that Christians will dutifully remain on their side of, isn't a stationary line. It's continually redrawn backwards (from the Christians' view), pushing us farther and farther away from the mainstream social arena. And all too often, there is very little resistance.

And it's being pushed back again.

From the Atheist Cleaners Could Sue Christian Care Homes Over Crucifixes

Church care homes could be forced to remove crucifixes from their walls in case they offend "atheist cleaners" under the new Equality Bill, Catholic bishops have warned.

The way the bill is written means non-Christians could sue for harassment if church authorities do not remove religious imagery, according to Monsignor Andrew Summersgill, general secretary of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

He said the bill, currently being examined by Parliament's Equality Bill Committee, could have a "chilling effect" on religious expression.

Under the terms of the bill, harassment is defined as "unwanted conduct with the purpose or effect of violating a person's dignity, or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment".

Bishops are concerned that religious authorities could be left in an impossible legal position, because under the bill it would be up to the employer to prove that displaying such an image did not amount to harassment or an employee.

In a written statement to the committee, Mgr Summersgill said: "A cleaner may be an atheist or of very different religious beliefs. Nonetheless if a cleaner found the crucifixes offensive there would be no defence in law against a charge of harassment."

He added: "If this bill is serious about equality, everything possible must be done to avoid it having a chilling effect on religious expression and practice."

The bishops are also worried that they Equality Bill will establish what they believe would amount to a "hierarchy of rights", with the rights of homosexuals overruling those of religious expression.

So now it appears that the line is beingextended through the public square into private property. How much longer before individuals' homes will be included under this so-called Equality Bill? Is it that much of a stretch to think it couldn't happen? Say you have a repairman come in to check on the furnace - and he's an atheist - and when he sees the crucifix on the wall, and a modest shrine to Mary in the corner, and an image of the Divine Mercy above the fireplace - what's to stop him from claiming harassment?

Perhaps one day I could be pulled over by a sheriff because a driver in a nearby car was offended by my "Catholic Radio" bumper magnet, or maybe you'll get ticketed for having a Pro-Life sticker in your rear window. Or maybe a fellow carpooler will feel harassed because you have a rosary hanging from your rear view mirror, and demands you take it down, or they'll file a suit against you. I like to pray before meals in restaurants - if I'm with fellow Catholics, I'll ask them to pray with me. If I'm not, I'll pray silently. Is it too far-fetched to believe that someday, restaurants may have a "No Praying" sign right below the "No Smoking" sign, because other patrons were offended?

I have some advice for the bishops. Stop being worried about this legislation, and battle it. Stop fretting over the fear of being sued, and make a stand, here and now. Yeah, it may be impractical to hire only Christian cleaners, but there cannot be capitulation on obscuring Catholic identity. The PC Police and the thin-skinned secularists must be told that no one has the right to not be offended. If someone feels "harassed" over a person's display of faith, it is probably because they have either abandoned their faith and it pricks their conscience, or they refuse to understand it and are thus intimidated by it. Well, it's time to show intolerance towards the intolerant (charitably, of course). It is time to instruct the ignorant. If our faith is indeed worth dying for, then it also ought to be worth fighting for.

It's time to pick up a stick, draw our own line in the sand and say to the secularist: "You shall not cross!"