So I had an interesting day today.
Today I had a conversation with our local talk-radio star, John Gormley. John and I are on pretty much different sides of the aisle on many (most?) political and social issues, but today we had a moment of commonality. Beyond our shared affection for True Blood (!!), we both aren’t in favor of a recent complaint filed with the province’s Human Rights Commission.
Some background: In April of this year, there was a prayer offered at a City of Saskatoon Volunteer Appreciation Dinner. One of the volunteers being honored found the dinner grace to be inappropriate in the context, and complained. The complaint eventually escalated to now being a case before the Human Rights Commission. [Star-Phoenix article here]
Now when this story first came out, I was really glad the issue was being highlighted and discussed. I also don’t think public prayers are appropriate, because not only will it bother non-believers in the audience, but chances are the prayer will alienate another belief system. And, thanks to Thomas Jefferson, I’m a big fan of separating church and state.
But that said, I can also understand why a prayer may have been given in the context of the volunteer appreciation dinner. For many believers, it’s just second-nature to offer a grace before eating, and they may not have thought of the implications of their actions on audience members who don’t share their faith. (this doesn’t excuse what happened, but it may explain why it did)
I don’t think that this dinner prayer was meant to subvert nonbelievers or nonChristians in a way that violated their human rights, per se. But I do think that we, as a society, need to talk about what’s appropriate in public contexts (and clearly this prayer wasn’t appropriate) — and then we can hold our leaders accountable for following through on what is best for ALL of us. But, again, I think taking this complaint to the HRC is a few steps further than what I would have done.
SO — to hear more about where I’m coming from, check out today’s interview on John Gormley Live here.
When it’s all said and done, I’m happy with how it all turned out. I feel like I was able to respectfully disagree with the complainant, while also highlighting how diverse the atheist/secular/humanist/nonbelieving community can be when it comes to various issues. I was also able to talk a bit about a case I think would be worthwhile taking to the HRC, plus there were 2 plugs for the different groups I help facilitate (including one plug made by the man, Gormley, himself!).
About 10 minutes after I did the interview, I got an email from a reporter from the national news station Sun News who was requesting me to do an on-camera interview! Crazy. So not only did I have a chance to speak my piece on local talk radio, but sometime tomorrow I’ll have a bit on a national news channel. (if anyone out there can PVR my interview, I’d be much appreciated — hopefully it’ll appear on the website)
All in all, it was a busy day — but a good day. It was a chance for me to share my opinion and hopefully educate others on the diversity of the atheist movement.
The current signature line of my email account pretty much sums up why I decided to speak out on this issue when it could have been just as easy to walk away from it. My signature quote is from Emile Zola, and it reads: “If you ask me what I came into this world to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.”
Today was one of those days I lived out loud. And I liked it.