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Bad Neighbors

Jack Hunter claims that because Christianity is part of South Carolina culture, those outside the mainstream should accept state government favoritism and sponsorship of Christianity in the form of Christian-themed license plates. ("Separating Church from Hate: Refusing to allow 'I Believe' plates is an exercise in bad manners," Dec. 24)

Apparently, Hunter doesn't understand the difference between individuals expressing their cultural views and government favoritism of a religion. The former is free speech protected by the Constitution, while the latter is an endorsement prohibited by the Constitution.

Individuals, including government representatives acting as individuals, may have bumper stickers that say "I Believe" or "Jesus Is Lord" or "There Is No God But Allah" or "There Are No Gods." We the people are free to express our beliefs, but we must not look to or allow the government to approve or disapprove of religious messages.

Hunter's argument for special rights because the "overwhelming majority" are Christians is reminiscent of a decades-old argument used in South Carolina to favor the overwhelming majority of white people. Our Bill of Rights protects minorities from the tyranny of the majority.

Hunter closes by calling someone like me who opposes government sponsorship of Christianity a "bad neighbor." I have neighbors who hang signs or promote causes I oppose. That is their right, and I don't call them bad neighbors. A bad neighbor would be one who would treat me as a second-class citizen.

Hunter makes the analogy of a dinner guest's rudely criticizing the food prepared by his or her host, rather than adapting to the situation. Like Hunter, I am a citizen of this country and no more a guest of this country than he is. A good neighbor does not try to impose beliefs on others or seek government assistance to do so.

Herb Silverman
President, Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry

Bad Manners

Being able to put "I Believe" on license plates by itself would be a great thing for the state to put on a license plate. But that isn't what Mr. Hunter is saying, is it? ("Separating Church from Hate: Refusing to allow 'I Believe' plates is an exercise in bad manners," Dec. 24)

No, he is saying he doesn't understand why "I Believe" with an image of a cross can't be on the license plate. Mr. Hunter acts like he doesn't understand why the state won't put it on there and why it's important to not put it there. I feel he does something a littler more sinister. He feigns not to understand the point by equating it with bad table manners.

I'm sorry, Mr. Hunter, but why didn't you write an article about why you thought that God-believing and God-worshipping is a hugely important thing to do in life? Why didn't you write about how what makes this country so much better than other countries is that it is based on people escaping their country because of religious persecution, and here in America found a place where they didn't have that. It is for that very reason we wouldn't want to put a divisive God acknowledgment on our license plates when we could have a symbol of our belief, in God, that all Americans can share.

Mr. Hunter, it is divisiveness in religion that is the cornerstone of most world conflicts. Feigning not to understand the divisiveness is almost as bad as the divisiveness itself. Isn't that what happened in Nazi Germany? No one knew. If people all just stood in the direction of the Lord rather than faced other people and told them only they know what God wants, we would all be doing a lot better. So don't cop out and stand with your hands in the air.

When you are ready to march to the Capitol and demand an "I Believe" license plate (without divisiveness) be printed, I'm right there with you.

Robert Bocknek


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