The Religious Banishment Myth, Take 73

Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Religious Banishment Myth, Take 73

On Sunday, I came across a commentary piece in the Newark Star-Ledger, written by New Jersey ex-attorney general John Farmer, Jr. At one point in his lengthy article, Farmer complains about what he calls “the banishment of religious discussion from our public discourse ...”

The banishment of religious discussion? Somebody pinch me. Hasn’t the hottest news story over the past week been the Terri Schiavo case — a story that has been rife with references to religion, the Almighty and theological doctrines?

And did Farmer miss the last presidential debate between Bush and Kerry? In this debate, the two candidates spoke the words God, pray or faith a total of 32 times. (That excludes a few times when “faith” was used in a non-religious context).

It was incredibly ironic that in the very same issue in which Farmer complained of religious discussion’s “banishment” from the public sphere, the Star-Ledger featured:
  • a front-page article related to the Easter holiday that carried this headline: “By an Act of Faith, Hope Is Renewed.”
  • a news story that took up most of page 3 and was headlined, “Pope Is With the Faithful in Prayer” – including a teaser above the headline that quoted the official Vatican newspaper.
  • a news story on page 11 that read like a French Tourist Bureau ad promoting package tours to the city of Lourdes. The article reported that local community groups had helped finance a trip for eight disabled, New Jersey youth to visit the Catholic shrine in Lourdes, a shrine drawing millions each year who visit in hope of healing themselves of a physical or mental affliction.

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