OK…I saw an article tucked away in the back pages of a newspaper recently and decided to make it the focus of this week’s blog. Liberty, MO, a suburb of Kansas City, held a community concert series recently and invited a certain group to perform. That group, Sidewalk Prophets, is a band whose members are Christians. They’ve won a Dove Award, plus their songs appear regularly on the CCM charts.
But, wait. The plot thickens. Seems like a local ACLU group representing the Kansas and Western Missouri Foundation region decided to issue a complaint to the city government citing the violation of the nebulous First Amendment prohibition against government endorsed “religion.”
In reading the actual letter sent by the ACLU (it’s available on-line), it states that their opposition is based on the fact that the group is identified as a “contemporary Christian music group”, and that their agreement allows “three-to-five minutes at each performance in support of American Bible Society’s “She’s My Sister” campaign on behalf of Congolese Women.”
Oh, the other problem was that Prophets asked that attendees bring a can of non-perishable food to benefit a local food pantry run by a local church.
Nowhere in their complaint does it state that anyone from the ACLU actually attended the concert and heard what was being sung, or said from the stage, and it appears that they did not receive a complaint from anyone.
Now, the ACLU has been helpful in a number of cases where someone’s civil rights were actually violated and have held people and organizations accountable for their actions. All good.
But, it seems that this is another case of the ACLU’s angst against any possible Christian expression in the public square (if indeed it even happened in this case), which is clearly not the intent of the First Amendment’s establishment’s of religion edict. Of course, many Americans actually think that a separation of church and state clause is IN the Constitution. In case you are one of them, it is not. Never was. The history of how that came into being is the topic of another discussion.
From what I can tell by reading the ACLU’s letter to the city, the problem seems to be that the ACLU decided to issue the complaint simply because the members of Sidewalk Prophets actually call themselves Christians and are defined as a contemporary Christian band. Much like all bands are defined by their style of music, whether it’s rock, jazz, country, you name it. Contemporary Christian has become a style of music, and by the way, even a non-Christian can play a contemporary Christian song. Many songs are not specifically about “religion”, but issues and ideals that deal with spiritual themes or human rights situations that should be addressed from a moral perspective.
So, should the Prophets not have been invited by the town of Liberty because the band members are Christians or because of how their music is defined? Would the ACLU have a problem with U2 playing in a community concert series if they were asked because Bono and The Edge claim to be Christians and often will sing songs that deal with spiritual and political issues?
And this is where the political correctness issue seems absurd. The problem wasn’t that the ACLU received a complaint from anyone about the Prophets performance, or that they even have any information that Prophets used their platform to evangelize. No, they were there to sing their songs like any artist. Should they be penalized for their style of music?
Do their songs promote spiritual themes? Maybe. Is it “religious” to promote loving your neighbor by encouraging concert attendees to bring food for the local food pantry, even if it’s run by a church? Or promote the “She’s My Sister” campaign to bring attention to the human rights violations committed against women and children in the Congo as a result of war? These were the things that the ACLU stated as being problematic in their letter to the governing body of Liberty. Really?
It seems like the issue here is that Prophets is being singled out BECAUSE of their faith…not because they did anything to step over that vague line of separation of church and state. The town of Liberty chose to ask this group to perform, not to evangelize on the town’s dime, but because they were good enough to be asked. If this group were avowed atheists, would the ACLU have objected as strongly? Why even mention in the complaint the issue about the local food pantry and trying to help women struggling to survive in the Congo. I doubt if the person receiving that food from the pantry cares that Prophets is a Christian band. I wonder if the ACLU in that region ever gave food to that pantry.
Maybe the ACLU in this case might consider what’s in their purview, and not worry about scenarios that never took place or so fear that the town of Liberty had the audacity or ignorance or both to book a band with Christian roots to perform in a free community concert series.