This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published January 24, 2016 by The Washington Times.
“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”
In George Orwell’s dystopic novel 1984, the totalitarian Big Brother regime issues perverse edicts reflecting the opposite of what is said.
Likewise, in the American Civil Liberties Union’s dystopic world, “silence is freedom of speech.”
The latest example unfolded recently in the Pittsburgh suburb of Monroeville, Pennsylvania, where the ACLU bullied the city council, which had been considering allowing faith leaders to give rotating prayers before the meetings.
The Council had long been opening with recitations of the Lord’s Prayer, and after a complaint from a single, disappointed petitioner morphed into an ACLU lawsuit threat, the council opted instead for a moment of silence to begin the meetings in the city of 28,000 about 15 miles east of Pittsburgh.
“We think (silence is) the most inclusive option,” Sara Rose, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Pittsburgh office, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “It allows everyone to pray or not pray.”
Well, you could say that about every instance in which speech is throttled in the name of diversity. Until they develop technology to get inside people’s heads and wipe out any thoughts acknowledging the existence of God, they’ll have to make do with gagging everyone in the public square.
Under threats from the ACLU and other hair-trigger-sensitive pressure groups, America is becoming less diverse by the day, marked by fear of offending leftist bullies with briefcases and legal pads. Often, it’s the dread of outsized legal expenses that carries the day.
In late December, the ACLU swooped down in Haddon Heights, New Jersey to make sure that schoolkids attending Glenview Elementary School would not be led in reciting “God bless America” after the Pledge of Allegiance. The school is less than 100 miles from where Islamic jihadists in hijacked jets took down the World Trade Center’s twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001. In honor of first responders and victims of the terrorist attacks, the school had been unofficially doing this for the past 14 years.
In a December 30 letter, ACLU New Jersey legal director Ed Barocas called the practice of reciting “God bless you” in a public school “unconstitutional.” He did stop short of calling it “evil.”
Citing worries about a costly legal battle, Principal Sam Sassano explained to parents in early January that the school will “explore alternative methods of honoring the victims and first responders of the 9/11 tragedy.”
Thus, the kids are now spared uttering the phrase routinely said by most public officials and all U.S. presidents up to and including Barack Obama. Speaking of Mr. Obama, perhaps the school would have had better luck if its tradition was to recite his old pastor Jeremiah Wright’s alternative, “God D-mn America.” Now there’s a sentiment by which even the ACLU might “get religion.”
As for Monroeville, at the January 12 meeting when the council caved on pre-meeting prayer, Mayor Greg Erosenko said he was not thrilled but, in the face of a lawsuit, “I don’t want to make the ACLU any richer.”
Another revealing aspect of this incident, which often occurs where the advocates of official atheism advance their agenda, is the Stockholm Syndrome exhibited by the very people being silenced.
Stockholm Syndrome is the tendency of hostages to become sympathetic toward their captors, usually when the captives detect the slightest instance of good treatment, or at least a pause in bad treatment. Sometimes, the captives even wind up identifying with and defending their captors.
The syndrome is named after a Swedish incident in 1973, when criminals took several bank employees hostage for six days. The victims eventually began identifying with the robbers and even spoke on their behalf afterward.
In Monroeville, the interfaith group representing numerous religious bodies in the community actually had proposed the moment of silence and praised the council.
“We feel that we spoke of and modeled diversity of religions within Monroeville, and council was able to hear that,” said Temple David Rabbi Barbara Symons, who heads the Monroeville Interfaith Ministerium. “We think this is a vote for the strength of Monroeville.”
Perhaps it was a victory, at least, for folks who strive for enlightenment in the sound of one hand clapping. Or in the pews at the Blessed Church of Duct Tape Over the Mouth.
As Big Brother says, “ignorance is strength” and “freedom is slavery.” As for “war is peace,” that’s what happens after one side wins.
The ACLU and its enablers are only too happy to facilitate that kind of “peace,” marked by the silencing of voices lifted to God in pursuit of wisdom and the common good.