Another reason to separate church and state

Slacktivist reports on a teenage atheist who objected to a religious banner that had been hanging in her high school for years.
It’s an innocuous enough prayer, to the effect that ““Our Heavenly Father, grant us each day the desire to do our best, to grow mentally and morally as well as physically, to be kind and helpful …” But as an atheist, Jessica Ahlquist saw it as a message: She’s a second class citizen (I’ve read Catholics saying the same thing about the days when mandatory school prayer was explicitly Protestant).
On top of the court case that followed (the school lost), Ahlquist has received online threats and a state politician called her an “evil little thing.”
Slacktivist’s take is that this is what happens when religion and state intermingle. At some level, believers—even if they generally respect the rights of other faiths—start to see their special status as the norm. Of course the school prayers are Protestant. Of course every city council meeting opens with a Christian prayer. Of course the school hangs religious banners in its hall. It’s not that they’re forcing anyone to believe it’s just, well … who’s getting hurt?
And if someone suggests they are hurt, the response is not that they’re asking for equality, it’s that they’re demanding supremacy. They’re taking away our rights! After all, having that banner/saying those prayers is normal, it’s harmless, why should anyone be offended?
The same is true in other areas. As I’ve mentioned before, I believe a lot of the fury on the right is the awareness that being white, male and Protestant no longer gives you the special status it did 50 years ago; in making everyone more equal, some people feel discriminated against. White men who remember competing like hell to earn a promotion seethe about affirmative action because they never noticed the meritocracy they thought they worked in shut out blacks, women, Irish, etc. (exact discrimination depending on era).
This isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. Some teachers do discriminate against religion, telling kids they can’t read a Bible at recess, for instance, or say grace at lunch (the law and the ACLU are not on the teacher’s side, but people screw up). Opposition to atheist or non-Christian views is often not a matter of blindness to the other view but genuine theocracy: Other faiths are false, so they’re not entitled to the rights that Christians (or Catholics or Protestants or “Bible-Believing” Christians depending on the theocrat) have and the government should reinforce that.
And sometimes, it’s just that a particular faith has gotten used to thinking that while beliefs are equal, some are more equal than others.

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