To say that the Kansas City Star missed the story is an understatement. The newspaper reported today on a supposedly modest news conference about what appears to be, oh say, a handful of people who were upset by a teeny governmental thingie. The paper somehow failed to note the most important fact: For the first time in the history of Kansas and Missouri, mainstream clergy and people of faith have come together to battle the religious right.
What they're battling is a resolution to declare Christianity the majority, state religion of Missouri.
I’m not talking a few people here. Fifty-one clergy and lay people from both states signed the statement handed out at the news conference. Among those signing were 32 clergy, including Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, United Church of Christ, Jewish and Buddhist leaders.
They represent a new organization called Mainstream Voices of Faith. The group already has the support of 700 people who have signed up to be recognized as "voices of faith" in this region, said Boo Tyson, executive director of Mainstream, the group that helped form the new organization.
And that unimportant resolution? While it doesn’t have the force of a bill and can’t become a law, it does declare the majority faith of the great state of Missouri to be Christianity. Despite the fact that declaration is buried between statements about how lawmakers believe in the Constitution and will show “respect” for “those who object,” this is the most chilling resolution I’ve ever read. I am particularly taken with the section that notes:
As elected officials we should protect the majority’s right to express their religious beliefs.As a non-Christian, I can only imagine what lengths these fine elected officials will go to in order to “protect” the majority’s rights.
The other thing that surprised me about The Star’s report is that it missed the significance of the people who are behind this frightening resolution. Of course, this is an all-Republican effort. This isn’t surprising since the resolution may well be an effort to give a campaign issue to conservatives who want to attack candidates who believe in the separation of church and state.
What’s significant, though, is that it appears that the leadership is pushing this. If that's so, then how can anyone who isn't an ultra-conservative Christian feel comfortable going before the Missouri House? How will citizens who follow a secular path or people who don't believe in one brand of Christianity know that they're going to be treated fairly?
The resolution was introduced by David Sater, the powerful Republican chair of the Health, Mental Health and Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee. It was passed onto the floor of the Missouri House of Representatives by a 5-3 party-line vote of the Rules Committee.
I’m not as familiar with the Missouri legislature as I am with the Kansas Leg, but Rules Committees are usually made up of House leaders. Note to The Star: If that’s true, then you REALLY missed the significance of this. Did the leadership of the Missouri House vote to declare Christianity the state religion?
All in all, this resolution is not designed to make us non-Christians feel warm and toasty inside. You see, we’re the folks the Missouri leadership has just lumped into the category of “those who object.” We’re apparently also the folks the Missouri Republican leadership thinks the good Christians of the state have to be protected from.
I’ve gotten a copy of the statement issued yesterday by The Mainstream Voices of Faith. It shows how the true mainstream of religion has a much different view of the role of spirituality in American society.
The entire statement is below. I'm sorry, but I don’t have room to list the names of all the 51 people who signed it. If someone really wants them, I'll post them. I’m also going to post some other information about Voices of Faith elsewhere on this blog. Here’s their statement:
Whereas, our forbearers of this great nation of the United States recognized that religious liberty would be among the most important principles upon which our nation would be founded and that the separation of church & state would be an American practice that would insure religious freedom for all; and,
Whereas, the United States Constitution states that government shall make “…no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” and,
Whereas, the Missouri Constitution states that “…no preference shall be given to nor any discrimination made against any church, sect or creed of religion, or any form of religious faith or worship;” and,
Whereas, the Kansas Constitution states that “…no preference be given by law to any religious establishment or mode of worship;” and,
Whereas, as religious leaders and others in the Kansas City metro area and beyond, we wish to exercise our constitutional and God-given rights to acknowledge and define our Creator in our own ways rather than have a definition imposed upon us; and,
Whereas, as citizens of these United States, we understand that elected officials and governments are charged with the protection of the minority from the tyranny of the majority; and
Whereas, we wish to maintain the wisdom imparted in the founding documents of the United States of America; and
Whereas, we as religious leaders and other people of faith recognize and praise a Higher Power that exists above and beyond the institutions of humankind and, therefore, requires neither the protection nor the defense of the Missouri House of Representatives, or any other governmental body;
Now, therefore, let it be resolved, by the signatures that appear on this page, that we, the clergy leaders of Mainstream Voices of Faith, as well as other religious leaders and citizens in the Kansas City Metro area stand with the majority of our congregants, colleagues, families and friends in denouncing the passage of and the spirit behind House Concurrent Resolution 13 of the Missouri House of Representatives; and,
Be it further resolved, that we invite others in our area who are concerned about this kind of encroachment of theocracy onto public life to join us for a rally on Sunday, May 7th, 2006 from 3:00 – 5:00 pm at St. Andrew Christian Church, 13890 W 127th St, Olathe, 66062. More details about this event will be distributed at a later date.
Rev. Heather Entrekin, Co-Chair, Mainstream Voices of Faith
Prairie Baptist Church
Prairie Village, KS
Rev. John Tamilio III, Co-Chair, Mainstream Voices of Faith
Colonial Church United Church of Christ
Prairie Village, KS
+ many more