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Minority Rights and Public Prayer

June 25, 1986

Dorothy Skow (Letters, June 15) ridicules atheist James Brodhead's objections to a prayer at a public graduation. In another letter, Jo Ann M. Smith says that people who do not object to such prayers are in the majority.

Skow may not realize that the early Christians were regarded as atheists by the Roman state. They did not participate in the cult of the emperor; they undermined the Roman family and they were anti-social. That is why they were thrown to the lions.

Smith has not read J.S. Mill's "On Liberty." Mill defends the right of the minority from the tyranny of the majority. Our American legal system differs from those of the past in one vital way: It defends the right thing even when the right thing is practiced by a lone individual in defiance of all others. This is the foundation of our freedom.

Brodhead calls himself an atheist, which is really an adherent of a religion of Reason. He is entitled to the full exercise of his beliefs and to freedom from the intolerance of the majority.

Public school graduations are better marked by the observation of a few moments of meditative thought, when those who wish to pray may pray and those who wish to ponder may ponder.

As for Christianity, Ms. Skow, Christ was an example of incredible tolerance. His associates were the scum and traitors of society. His principle of radical inclusiveness transformed his era and needs to be revived in this one. It is better to practice the tolerance of Christ than to ridicule an honest man or to pray in public--"as the hypocrites do."



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