for release April 26, 2002
by Melodie Davis
Right, or Left?
It's time to come clean. My husband and I lean different directions. In most elections, we cancel out each other's vote. He's a Southerner, I'm a Yankee. His father served as a solider in World War II; my father was a conscientious objector. But I knew these things about my husband almost from the day I met him.
I came to the conclusion the other day that maybe it isn't so bad having right and left together. After all, how would you operate if you had two left hands, or two right hands? Didn't God make both right and left on our very bodies? Don't we need opposites sometimes to balance each other?
How many times have you heard someone who was way far out either direction, and you thought: they are making flying leaps of logic! They are glossing over truth and facts to come to the conclusion they want. I have heard liberals I'd be ashamed to identify with. Environmentalists who perch in trees so they won't be cut down, or refuse to drive cars. Then there are far righters who sail to points so wacky that even moderate righters drop their jaws, such as those who say the terrorist attacks were caused by dropping prayer in schools. There are excesses on either side when no one brings a reality check.
What do I mean by flying leaps of logic? Anytime, especially on radio or TV when you don't have a chance to talk back or get into the conversation, someone makes a statement that is a half truth, and you want to say, "but what about?" and then he goes on to make another statement that builds on something that was only a half truth to begin with. At least to you.
Take an issue like school prayer. You would think someone like me would be all for school prayer, right? I believe in teaching good values, I'm a Christian; I'm a supporter of the family, education, etc.
I was intrigued by an interchange on e-mail on this topic recently. A fundraiser for a large Christian organization was trying to get people to sign a petition regarding how taking prayer out of schools has destroyed the U.S. moral character. The fundraiser claimed there were instances where 1) teenagers were handcuffed and forcefully arrested because they were praying around the school flagpole; 2) that a judge outlawed Bible studies anywhere within city limits, including local homes; and 3) that it is unlawful for any student to pray, read the Bible or talk religion on school property in Florida. The person who shared these stories was seeking information to find out if they were true. Were they just rumors? Distortions?
A substitute school board member and parent of three responded to the third example above since she knew the situation in Florida first hand. She said there are student Bible study groups in a number of public schools in Florida, which meet in the schools during school hours. (If the school grants space for clubs of other student-organized activities, it must do so for Bible, or for Koran.) She added that some of the clubs met in schools "which do not have particularly receptive administrations. I cannot imagine that these administrators would take such chances with their jobs if such a law were on the books."
She goes on to explain that the rumor may have come from cancellation of certain "Bible as Literature" courses, conducted [almost] as Christian Bible/prayer groups, in which students who were not Christian were being ridiculed. Students took the class in good faith that it was an objective literature course. This took place in a nearby county but she said it did have a ripple effect: some local high school principals withdrew Bible as History and Bible as Literature courses, presumably from fear of lawsuits.
The bottom line is that there is truly more freedom than would first appear. I would guess that the other examples above were a mixture of some fact and some distortion. But that is only my guess. I feel like many others that anyone who wants to pray in school can and there is no special virtue in public, corporate prayer in a setting where people don't mean it anyway. By the way, a complete guide to what is allowed or not allowed in public schools in the U.S. is available from the First Amendment Center (800-830-3733) or from www.freedomforum.org <http://www.freedomforum.org> and specifically at <http://www.freedomforum.org/templates/document.asp?documentID=13092>
So how do we get along in communities where people have different viewpoints?
Maybe by looking at our different views as we do in a marriage. There needs to be give and take. If it is good to have some balance in a marriage, then maybe it is good or at least okay to have some balance in a country.
What do you think? Write to: to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.
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