9/11 anniversaries always bring to mind a poignant remark in Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”: “‘She would have been a good woman,’ the Misfit said, ‘if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.’” Even a self-absorbed grandmother, O’Connor observes, looks at things differently when eternity is staring her in the face.
By contrast, memorial services aren’t ideal times for ideologues to insist on keeping the public square as free of religious speech as from tobacco smoke. After all, when humans are quiet and their heads bowed, the tendency is for thoughts to drift toward words (like “God”) that embrace a meaning beyond what can be expressed by chemical reactions that occur during the process of decomposition.
Immediately after 9/11, so it seemed to me, the decades-long war on religion that ACLU-types have waged in this country went dormant. In truth, the war continued—but with somewhat less fanfare. The militantly secular organization founded by Communist- sympathizer, Roger Baldwin, continued to pursue cases that excluded religious expression from that ever-expanding segment of society labeled “governmental”—thus aping the Soviet Constitution of 1947 with its fervent separation of religion and state.
In San Diego the Boy Scouts of America were expelled from Balboa Park because their charter and pledge were too religious. In the process the ACLU pocketed 950,000 taxpayer dollars by utilizing a “fee shifting” rule instituted by Congress to aid poor victims of racial discrimination. That “funding” mechanism is now employed by the far-from-poor ACLU to intimidate municipalities that can’t afford to fight, much less lose, extended legal brawls over crosses, crèches, or invocations.
Other governmental agents simply go with the judicial flow—like the County of Los Angeles when it agreed, under ACLU pressure, to remove a tiny cross from its official seal (whose most prominent figure was the goddess Pomona). This same defensive mentality doubtless informed Poway school officials when they banned Bradley Johnson’s classroom display of possibly offensive “Judeo-Christian” banners like “In God We Trust” and “Endowed By Their Creator.”
Of course, the offensive nature of secular programs in various schools (from parent-circumventing health centers to gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender teach-ins) is never a legal problem. In the wisdom of our courts, one can never be too secular—even if that radical secularity is belied by memorials throughout the district where they deconstruct America’s past. That past, by the way, includes church services that were regularly held in the Capitol building until 1866.
In keeping with ACLU guidelines for government speech, 9/11 commemoration remarks by public officials might, to be safe, follow this religion-free template:
We gather today to remember what happened on September 11, 2001 of the Common Era. On that date the blindly benevolent process of natural selection acted via human agents to kill nearly three-thousand people—thus effecting a slight change in genetic ratios that, in the long run, will establish the viability of surviving species.