Fox News’ Todd Starnes, who I believe has the unfortunate role of being the male version of the appallingly clueless Elisabeth Hasselbeck, got together with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council the other day to talk about the terrible persecution of Christians in this country.
What has them so riled up? New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision Wednesday to put two Muslim holidays on the school calendar: Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr. New York City is not the first city to do this, but it is the biggest.
The news had predictable results: rights for Muslims means persecution of Christians.
Tony Perkins: But yet when it comes to Christmas and Easter, two very prominent Christian holidays, they’re not on the school calendar, they’re called ‘winter break’ and ‘spring break.’
Todd Starnes: Oh yes. For the sake of tolerance and diversity, that normally means the Christians are going to be discriminated against or their holidays are going to be minimalized.
Starnes told Perkins that one of the holidays (Eid al-Fitr) falls during the summer and so “will only impact kids going to summer school.”
And Right Wing Watch’s Brian Tashman helpfully pointed out that,
Easter always falls on a Sunday, which would explain why it is not on a school vacation calendar, while Christmas does in fact appear on New York City’s list of school holidays [PDF]. The city’s schools are also closed for Good Friday, along with the Jewish holy days of Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah and Passover.
Why didn’t the two complain that those Jewish holy days persecute Christians? Well, because Jews aren’t Muslims.
Instead, Hasselbeck-like, Starnes went on to complain, “For the sake of tolerance and diversity and inclusivity, don’t you think they should rename it something else, like mid-spring break or something like that?
Never mind that Eid al-Adha falls on September 24, which is not in the spring.
Which led to this exchange:
Tony Perkins: If they’re going to be consistent. When 85 percent of the population identifies as Christian but we can’t have a Christmas holiday because it’s religious but yet we can have Muslim holidays, something is not right there in New York City, in ‘The Big Apple,’ something is rotten.
Todd Starnes: You’re absolutely right, Tony. And how many times have we seen this, where the Islamic faith is being given accommodation and the Christian faith and other faiths, quite frankly, are being marginalized. Not just in the public work space but also through the Obama administration.
Tony Perkins: I think the Obama administration has created the environment for policies such as this.
But he’s not. He’s wrong. So is Todd Starnes, who, as The Friendly Atheist is more than happy to point out at Patheos, makes a career out of “making sh*t up.”
First of all about how many Christians there are. In fact, only 77 percent of Americans, not 85 percent, still self-identify as Christian as of 2012 (as it has been falling for years, the percentage is certainly smaller today).
Protestants haven’t been a majority since 2012 and fully one in five Americans is unaffiliated. In 2012, that was 46 million people who were categorized as “nones.”
And alarming as it is that anyone would want to do this in the face of the Constitution’s direct prohibition, only 57 percent of Republicans – barely more than half – want to make Christianity the state religion of the United States. At this point, it’s a relief to discover that almost half of Republicans are still loyal Americans. It’s not as bad as I thought.
In fact, I’m downright encouraged.
Finally, here’s a startler for you: specifically white Christians, the Tony Perkins type, are no longer a majority in 19 U.S. states.
Another point to be made here is this pretend concern for “other faiths,” which Starnes and other conservatives are only too happy, as professed Christians, to themselves marginalize.
And their argument can be turned around: they complain that if Christmas is called ‘winter break,’ and that therefore a Muslim holiday should be “mid-spring break,” but if, as they insist, Christmas is Christmas, why are they objecting to Eid al-Adha being called Eid al-Adha?
If they’re opposed, can’t we start talking right now about a “war on Eid al-Adha”?
And please, let’s not pretend that if it were called something other than Eid al-Adha that Perkins and Starnes would not still be complaining, because a Muslim holy day would still be the reason for the holiday.
Here’s the problem in a nutshell: The New York Times quotes Ibrahim Hooper, spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), as saying, “When these holidays are recognized, it’s a sign that Muslims have a role in the political and social fabric of America.”
Just ask Pamela Geller: “What do all of these disparate players – Obama, de Blasio, Sharpton, CAIR – have in common? A shared goal: the destruction of America.”
The Republican obsession with CAIR borders on the pathological, ironically proving, more than ever, that CAIR serves a vital function in this country.
Yet it is less CAIR here than the reality of Muslims “having a role.” Perkins and Starnes (and Geller) don’t want Muslims to have any role. They don’t want Muslims to be here at all, to have First Amendment Rights period, let alone any influence.
There is no persecution of Christians in America, and granting equal rights to other religions is not an attack on Christians unless, like Perkins and Starnes, you interpret Religious Freedom to mean “freedom for Christians only.”
The First Amendment says we all have equal religious freedoms and unless and until traitors like Perkins and Starnes overthrow the Constitution, it will remain that way.
Can I get an amen?
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.