When Church-State Separation is “Anti-Christian”

Our American Humanist Association legal center sent a letter last week to the mayor of Stockton, California, criticizing him for sponsoring a prayer rally. In the aftermath, we can get an interesting glimpse at the mentality of religious conservatives via an article appearing in Christian Today. The article tells readers: “A group of atheists has once again made an anti-Christian move by condemning the mayor of Stockton, California, for hosting a prayer rally after a six-year-old girl was shot.”

But wait a second: Anti-Christian?

If you think about it, the allegation that our objections are “anti-Christian” essentially proves our argument. That is, the article is implicitly conceding that the mayor’s activities were in fact pro-Christian. (If objecting to the activities is “anti-Christian,” then the activities themselves must be pro-Christian, right?) This, in turn, is basically an admission that the mayor was violating the Establishment Clause, which forbids governmental activities that have a purpose or effect of promoting a particular religion.

Nevertheless, not surprisingly, the article is highly critical of the AHA for objecting to the mayor’s Christian favoritism. I guess we shouldn’t let the Constitution get in the way of that good old-fashioned Christian privilege. If you don’t like your tax dollars being used to promote Christianity, the answer is simple: move out of Stockton!

What the good folks at Christian Today don’t realize is that the AHA has no objection to prayer rallies when they are sponsored and conducted by churches or private parties. It’s governmental sponsorship of prayer rallies that becomes problematic. That seems like such a simple distinction, but we repeatedly see conservative Christians failing to grasp the concept.