Jan 15

No One Seems to Understand Precedent

Franklin Graham Gets His Way

Last week Duke was going to allow the Muslim Call to Prayer to be played from the bell tower before Friday afternoon services in the chapel. Note that the services themselves were not new. Duke allows a wide variety of faith based organizations equal access to the chapel and it hosts a number of different kinds of services, while maintaining the university's traditional Christian identity. The only thing that was changing was that the call to prayer would be heard.

That is, until some people got their nose out of joint.

Franklin Graham is the public face of this, although by no means the only voice or instigator, who demanded that Duke cancel it. You can read the linked article, or to any of numerous ones found on the internet, to get the details. It boils down to Islamophobia in specific and xenophobia in general.

So, does he not have the right to express his opinions? Yes he does, by all means. He has the right to do and say whatever he wishes to express his faith. He even has the right to call on others to follow his example. He has the right to ask Duke not to engage in practices he finds offensive. Duke has the right to act within the best interest of its students and larger community as it sees fit. Of course.

But there is a problem.


What we have here is an outspoken minority (and yes, I do think Graham represents a minority of Christians in America) being allowed to force the actions of a private institution with veiled threats. Duke has allowed fear of consequences to do something that they had determined, with careful consideration I might add (listen to some of the interviews), to be right and proper for their community.

Do you know what happens when you compel someone through fear to do what you want?


Graham, et al., fails to see how quickly this is going to turn around. What happens when a Catholic organization objects to a Baptist prayer? What happens when atheists demand an end to Christmas caroling at Duke?

And yes, I know that stuff happens all over the country.

Once upon a time in America, back before were were United States and honestly after, we used to fight over religion. With fists, and rocks, and guns not just words. We allowed mobs to run people from town to town because "we don't like their kind around here." We hung and tarred and burned people for not using the exact same words to address God that we did.

We do not, generally speaking, do that anymore. Not as badly, at least I want to believe that.

But when we allow the virtual equivalent of an angry mob, and that is exactly what the entire campaign has been, to set policy we renew old precedents. We make future actions valid based on the specifcs of the immediate case. Once you give in to one bunch of guys with pitch forks and torches you are fair game for everyone that comes along. Just next time the guys holding the torches will be the ones barrign the door and manning the buckets and wondering how this could happen.

When you persecute others all you do is establish that it is OK to persecute. Demonize a faith and your faith will be demonized. Throw stones, the other guys will get guns.

So do us all a favor. If you disagree with something, talk about it with reason and civility. Discuss, debate, but do not threaten.

If you can't or wont do that?

Then just shut up.

One Response for "No One Seems to Understand Precedent"

  1. […] still, this event happens in a local context of tensions between Muslims and Christians over the Duke decision regarding a call to prayer. Creating a situation where the waters are likely to remain murky and the facts are going to have a […]

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