While the Montana Legislative Fiscal Division is busy trying to decide if closing Northern would be a good money saving option Havre continues to be featured in the news around the state, but not necessarily positive news. The Belgrade News had an excellent article in today’s paper about our little ACLU complaint that was filed by the very Havre Professors whose jobs we are now supposed to save by rallying around the college to prevent yet another attempt to either close or reduce programs. You think people that would lead you to believe they were of superior intelligence like these intellectually superior professors would know when we need some positive press around the state instead of news stories about their half-baked ACLU antics.
The following is what the good folks of Belgrade are reading about our little community in their paper tonight.
A WOMAN'S WORLD
Sorry situation in Havre
By Izzy Lyman
This is sorry.
In keeping with the childish mea culpa craze that continues to sweep the nation, the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana wants an apology from Montana State University-Northern officials for allowing a spiritually-incorrect minister to participate in the school's 2010 commencement program.
The ACLU-Big Sky chapter claims that the religious orations of Pastor Tim Zerger, who offered the invocation and benediction at MSU-Northern's graduation, weren't sectarian enough.
School faculty members contacted the ACLU after the cap-and-gown event in Havre, grumbling about the "evangelical Christian prayers given."
Professor Janet Trethewey, who is also a member of the Havre City Council, complained that the "minister in question was definitely proselytizing."
John Snider, an English professor, huffed that he did "not wish the state to force me to attend graduation as part of my job and then force me to listen to any prayer from any religious tradition."
Fortunately, Ms. Tattletale, Mr. Small-Minded, and the American Civil Anti-Conservative Union weren't around when Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount in the original Aramaic, or we U.S. Americans might have never read the sermon in everyday English.
During his graduation day prayer, Zerger, who is affiliated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, described Jesus, not as his home boy or as an inspiring leader on par with Che Guevara (trendy descriptions that might have appeased Commissars Trethewey and Snider), but as a "personal savior."
Although this is how Christianity's founder actually described himself, Elizabeth L. Griffing, ACLU-Montana's legal director, wasn't impressed with such historical accuracy.
Griffing dispatched a five-page letter to the Board of Regents and a pair of higher education lawyers, who work for the state, and claimed that the Establishment Clause and Montana Constitution had been violated by Zerger's prayers.
For good measure, she also referenced Lee v. Weisman, a Supreme Court case about public prayer at a middle school graduation ceremony held in Rhode Island. Given how over-the-top the complaint is, one wonders why Griffing didn't also insist that the Geneva Conventions had been violated and demand that the matter be settled at the International Court of Justice in the Hague.
Nowhere in the lengthy letter were Zenger's offensive religious orations cited. Apparently, there is no video of the pastor or text of his remarks floating around on the Internet.
So it's the professors' word against The Word (John 1:1).
Attorney Mathew D. Staver, of the Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit litigation organization dedicated to promoting religious freedom, says the American Civil Liberties Union is wrong.
"The ACLU wants to treat a university graduation like a kindergarten class. The Supreme Court has never prohibited prayer or religious viewpoints from college graduation ceremonies. The ACLU needs to grow up in its understanding of how the First Amendment works on college campuses," Staver said.
Professors Trethewey and Snider could stand to do a little growing up of their own and be more gracious toward a fellow Montanan whose big sin has been to follow his heart.
But, of course, you already know how this is going to turn out. Even if the ACLU doesn't extract a pound of flesh from university officials, it'll be a cold day in you know where before Zerger is invited to deliver an invocation or a benediction or both at a public institution of higher learning.
Conversely, Tim Zerger now has fodder for a rousing sermon about the continued silencing of Christians in the public square.
Deliver it while you can, Pastor.
Izzy Lyman is a freelance columnist and former Belgrade resident who contributes "A Woman's World" exclusively to the Belgrade News. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org