There is something about the name Jesus Christ that drives the non-believer mad. Any reference to the name (or to a quotation) of Jesus arouses in the non-believer a dissonance that cannot be aroused by any other source. I thought about that dissonance – a feeling I used to experience regularly - when I received a call from a distressed co-worker who, unlike me, does not have the benefit of tenure.
That untenured co-worker was distressed because his supervisor had told him that some people were offended by the use of Bible verses in emails sent using the university email system. The university system had been altered to include a function that allowed people to add a personal signature. That signature appears automatically at the bottom of every email they send. Some employees had chosen to add a Bible verse below their name and to save it using the signature function.
The problem, according to the employee who contacted me, was not that some people were offended by the Bible verses. The problem was that there was a proposed ban, which was, according to his understanding, to apply only to Bible verses. This was surely done to preserve the so-called “wall of separation” between of church and state.
This “wall” is mentioned nowhere in our Constitution and is generally used as a device to impede the free exercise of religion, which is mentioned in our Constitution. This notion has been used to ban references to Christmas from my campus. It has also been used to remove the phrase “Good Friday” from the university calendar.
I took special interest in the email signature issue because I have seen a good number of emails with personalized signatures, including, but not limited to, the following:
*Quotations of Confucius
*Quotations of Nietzsche
*Gay Pride Rainbow Flags
The five signature examples listed above have at least two things in common: 1) They are all potentially offensive to someone. 2) They are all examples of constitutionally protected free speech.
I am personally offended by the gay rainbow flag. The rainbow is, to me, an Old Testament religious symbol. It represents a solemn promise from God to His people. It should not be used as a symbol of pride for a lifestyle that is proscribed by the Old Testament. Nonetheless, I would fight for any homosexual or homosexual activist if his, her, or its right to use this symbol in personal emails was under attack from a fundamentalist Christian.
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