Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bigotry and "Community Values"

From The Friendly Atheist, there is a post from yesterday titled, Local Government Shouldn't Be Serving God concerning the "mission statement" of the City of Hudsonville. That statement says:

The City Commission and Administration of the City of Hudsonville strive to serve God through the strengthening of family and community life and are committed to excellence in providing quality municipal services.
We Pledge to protect the lives and property of our citizens, provide for responsible and orderly growth, and to promote the beliefs and convictions, economic opportunities, and quality of life for all residents.

Apparently, the Grand Rapids Press thinks that "the mission statement hardly poses a threat to religious freedom or the Constitution. The sentence simply reflects deeply held community values."

That’s it. Nobody is being asked to subscribe to a certain set of beliefs or take part in a ritual not to their liking. Nobody is being forced to pray to a foreign deity, or to any deity at all, for that matter. Nobody’s being asked to agree. In fact, in a democracy, dissent is actively encouraged. In defining their mission, city leaders sought to make a statement about value and purpose that reflects their community.

Are people being forced to pay taxes?

Is it not the case that they are being forced to pay taxes to an organization that reports itself to be "striv[ing] to serve God"?

If this is true, then people are not being asked to subscribe to take part in a ritual not to their liking - they are being forced by law to contribute to such a ritual.

And what does this statement say about the position of any atheist who might want to run for public office? Clearly, he cannot subscribe to the "mission" of serving God. So, the statement does force citizens to subscribe to a set of beliefs - it forces political candidates to subscribe to the mission of serving God, and disqualifies any candidate who cannot subscribe to that mission.

This statemetn may well reflect strong community values. However, Jim Crowe laws, when they were in effect, also reflected strong community values. It is also the case that Jim Crowe Laws, and the Hudsonville mission statement, both express the value of exclusion and segregation - of taking two groups of people who by right should be considered political equals, and elevating one group above the other.

If these are "strong community values", then there is something wrong with that community - and with the paper that endorses them.

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