Well, on the National Day of Prayer, the Mayor of Sheboygan presided over a prayer event, and said that the Freedom From Religion Foundation should "stick their fingers in their ears," or something to that effect. So, the following letter has been sent, handwritten (as one should always do with public officials) to hopefully set him straight. The final line of the letter echos my last blog entry, but some things just bear repeating.
Dear Mr. Mayor,
I understand you recently presided over a National Day of Prayer event, and instructed members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation to stop up their ears during the proceeding on the principle of majority rules. While I admire your passion, when it comes to “majority rules,” I'm afraid you have been badly misinformed.
You see, where Men have the right to live free, a majority of whites cannot enslave a minority of blacks. Where there is freedom of speech, a majority of fuddy-duddies cannot tell a minority of comedians what they cannot insult. In like manner, where people have freedom of religion, a majority of Protestants cannot tell a minority of Catholics what to believe, nor vice-versa. Nor may a Christian majority tell a Muslim minority what to believe. And, by the same token, a majority of believers cannot tell a minority of unbelievers to pray.
I'm certain that you are a good man and a good mayor, and that you wouldn't have made this gaff unless some staff member or advisor hadn't badly misinformed you. But America is about freedom, and “majority rules,” as you well know, only applies during elections, or if an individual's activity or creed does tangible harm to someone. It really goes without saying that one cannot have religious freedom unless one has the freedom to opt out. That makes the rights of the atheist part of – indeed the most important part of – religious freedom, and those who opt out of all are merely the freest of free Americans. Perhaps you do not like atheists for personal reasons, but we are the canaries in the coal-mine. Our right not to pray protects your right to freely do so according to the creed of your choice.
And call me crazy for saying so, but I really think that America is best defined by free citizens refusing to get down on their knees.
Eric J. Hildeman
Founder of Freethinkers of University Wisconsin Milwaukee.