Bahai News - Bush's Jesus Day Is Called Insensitive and a Violation of the First Amendment
August 06, 2000
Bush's Jesus Day Is Called Insensitive and a Violation of the
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
Now what seemed purely ceremonial has turned into a controversy for Governor
Bush. As word of Texas' Jesus Day has spread, the Republican presidential
nominee has come under criticism for insensitivity to people of non-Christian
faiths and a disregard for the First Amendment.
''The assumption is that Christianity is the norm for America,'' said Phil
Baum, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, ''and that Jews
and other minorities are here essentially as guests at the sufferance of our
hosts, in a secondary position, which is an uncomfortable situation to be
Mr. Baum called the proclamation ''an egregious and blatant violation of the
spirit of the First Amendment.''
Mr. Bush, who has put his Christian faith front and center in the campaign,
has tried to project an image of inclusiveness to people of all ethnicities
and religions. In the past, he has been put on the defensive for saying that
the only way to heaven was through Christ, and for naming Jesus as his
favorite political philosopher.
Now the governor's office has been receiving letters and e-mail messages
from people outraged by the proclamation, or asking if it is true, said
Linda Edwards, a spokeswoman for Mr. Bush.
''George Bush is sensitive to those concerns,'' Ms. Edwards said, ''but
is also mindful of the longstanding tradition of governors in both
parties to honor individuals and organizations for their good works
through greetings and proclamations.'' Governor Bush has also signed
proclamations supporting Bahai centenary day, Holocaust Remembrance Day,
and a Hanukkah celebration, in Austin, she said.
which Ms. Edwards said was written by the governor's staff, begins:
''Throughout the world, people of all religions recognize Jesus Christ
as an example of love, compassion, sacrifice and service. Reaching out
to the poor, the suffering and the marginalized, he provided moral
leadership that continues to inspire countless men, women and children
''To honor his life and teachings, Christians of all races
and denominations have joined together to designate June 10 as Jesus
Day,'' it reads. ''Jesus Day challenges people to follow Christ's
example by performing good works in their communities and
The proclamation was sought by the ''March for
Jesus,'' an Atlanta group that organizes marches and assistance for
the poor in about 500 cities on the same day each year.
Pelton, founder and organizer of the March for Jesus, said in an
interview: ''To me it would be a stretch to see that proclamation as
being demeaning toward other religions. It's meant to point out that the
things that Jesus taught are consistent with what many religions
Religious groups routinely seek such proclamations, and
since the proclamations do not have the force of law, involve no money
from taxpayers, and call for no particular action, they are difficult to
challenge in court, First Amendment experts said.
of support for religion is not the same as declaring National Dairy
Week,'' said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for
Separation of Church and State. ''Any time government embraces a
particular religious viewpoint it violates the spirit of the
Bruce Lincoln, the Caroline E. Haskell Professor of
History of Religions at the University of Chicago Divinity School,
added, ''With the exception of Islam, all the major religions emerged
before Christianity, so there is no place for Jesus in their original
foundations and scriptures.
''They carefully worded this thing to
make it look like they've just got a good guy here, and so the state of
Texas can have a party for him without running into church-state
problems,'' he said. ''It's patently fraudulent.''
©Copyright 2000, The New York Times Company
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