When I was young, I saw my parents and others fighting for the rights guaranteed in the First Amendment. They were doing it for me. I thought to myself that their fight would mean that I wouldn't have to do the same thing when I grew up. Boy, was I wrong.
While this post is largely about a specific event in Redmond, Washington, the problem and my commentary is pretty universal -- from the Bush White House to cities across America, the First Amendment is routinely ignored. And those people doing the ignoring have a lot of reasons. Let's take a look at some of the ones for this event:
It's not an Easter event. Then why is held the day before Easter every year? Coincidence?
Easter isn't even mentioned. I haven't been to the event, so I don't know if that's true, but it's irrelevant. If we have a tree decorated with ornaments, a visit from Santa Claus, and we exchange presents on December 25th, do I have to tell you that it's Christmas?
Eggs were part of spring celebrations before Easter; Christians appropriated the symbols. Sure, that's all true -- most celebrations and symbols from most religions were appropriated from things that came before them. Why does that matter? The fact is that Easter eggs and the Easter Bunny are now part of the Easter celebration.
It's not promoting religion. If you make this argument, I'm sure you believe it. But that doesn't matter much -- the question is not whether you think it's religious, but whether it promotes the religion or precepts of the religion to anybody. Like perhaps impressionable young children, who could easily come away with the idea that Easter (and therefore, Christianity) is a good thing -- after all, they got free candy.
It's not very religious. There's no "very" test in the constitution. You can't be constitutional by only promoting a religion a little bit.
It's all in fun. Funny, but I don't remember the part in the Bill of Rights that says we don't have to follow the constitution if it's done in fun.
It's not a city event -- it's run by the Redmond Senior Center. The Senior Center is part of the city. If they are running the event, then it's a city event. The city's web site says it's sponsored by the city.
It's not a Senior Center event -- it's run by some seniors and they have a right to do it. If a select group of citizens wish to run an event, religious or otherwise, then I'm not going to stand in their way. They certainly have a right to do it. But they need to rent the facilities, like any other group (this is pretty explicit in Washington State law), and city staff and resources can't be used to organize or promote the event.
It's not funded by the city. Yes it is. The Senior Center is the city. Earmarking funds for a specific group within the city doesn't change the fact that they are public funds. There's a fee for the Eggstravaganza and those collected fees become city property. Where does that money go?
Here's a test that I like to use.
Substitute the KKK, Nazis, or Devil Worshippers into any situation and see if you have a problem with it. If you do, then it's not ok. You can run through the arguments above and see if you think they would allow the city to sponsor a KKK event. Or you can try this:
The City of Redmond sponsors a KKK ________ every year at the Redmond Senior Center. Your kids can even ________ with Mr. Nazi.
Fill in each blank with the worst thing that you can think of that would fit what you know of these groups. Now take away the words KKK and Nazi, but leave the filled-in blanks. Does that make the idea any less offensive? Or any more legal?
To be clear, I have no problem with the existence of Easter Egg hunts (or any other religious activities). As I said at the top, I'm sure that kids who celebrate Easter find them fun. Whatever your religion is, I will fight for your right to practice it. But, I definitely have a problem with public funds being used for any religious purpose, no matter what the religion is.
Whether you are religious or not, whether you are Christian or Muslim or Jewish or Baha'i or Pagan, your freedom is diminished whenever the government promotes any religion.