COMMENTARY: Celebrate diversity, but respect religious freedom

Michael Sudhalter

Michael Sudhalter

The Politically Correct (PC) Police Department has no shortage of cases it would like to try before a Grand Jury of Public Opinion.

They’ve taken this time to cross the Brazos River into Fort Bend County and take issue with Rosenberg Mayor Cynthia McConathy.

Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separated of Church and State, is reportedly a Lieutenant Commander in the PC Police.

It’s possible that his blood boils over hearing public employees greet each other with “Merry Christmas.”

Lynn, a minister who has probably never visited Rosenberg, sits in his Washington D.C. office and criticizes a McConathy e-mail as “utterly inappropriate.”

McConathy is a minister and former city council member in the community who used her city e-mail address to send Rosenberg municipal employees a “Prayer Challenge for 2016.”

Below is what she included in it:

“Prayer is the means by which we are working together with God for the sake of all that concerns Him and us. Praying allows God to move the hearts of people. Instead of feeling the pressure to convince, coerce or manipulate people into doing what needs to be done, let God instill the vision and burden upon their hearts. As God moves in their hearts, prayer promotes the individual believer’s personal growth in becoming more like Christ.”

Obviously, faith plays an important role in McConathy’s life. And she didn’t break any laws or do anything unethical, nor did any Rosenberg employees or citizens publicly take issue with her “Prayer Challenge.”

We’re a diverse community, but the beauty of that is that we get to use our First Amendment rights to express the wide variety of views and beliefs we hold dear to our hearts.

During a recent personal tragedy that I wrote about two weeks ago in this paper, many family members, friends, and acquaintances expressed their feelings in both religious and secular terms.

To me, the sentiments of those sympathies were more important than the verbiage used.

McConathy probably saw an opportunity to raise morale with the beginning of a new year, and she shared that in the language that is most familiar to her.

“The beauty of the First Amendment is that we are ALL afforded the freedom to express an opinion on any given topic,” McConathy said.

And I think Rosenberg employees may have read McConathy’s e-mail as “Have a great year…here’s something that helped me. Maybe, it can help you, too.”

I could see an employee respond with something like “Thanks for sharing. I hope your 2016 is great, too.”

Isn’t that easier? No Barry Lynn publicity opportunity or national controversy. Just a friendly e-mail exchange.

Employees were – and are free – to take or leave McConathy’s message.

The problem with folks like Lynn is that they cry wolf and by the time there’s a real case of religious discrimination, they’ve lost their credibility. Sort of the way that even the most ardent animal lovers cringe at the thought of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) wasting their collective breath.

But the only thing as bad as Political Correctness is Right-Wing Hysteria.

The folks who support McConathy’s Constitutional Rights to share her Christian beliefs must be OK when folks from other faith backgrounds – or even non-believers – choose to express their views, as guaranteed by that same First Amendment, in a public forum.

Just as Lynn shrieks of a budding theocracy every time a city council begins a meeting in prayer, conservatives need to keep perspective and know that we’re not going down the road of Communism because Starbucks decided to take “Merry Christmas” off their holiday cups.

Let’s try to use 2016 as the year that we tackle real, existing problems and not try to manufacture controversy that may suit a political agenda.

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