I was just clued-in to a post at The Daily Pulse on a meeting between representatives of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council and House Speaker Brian Bosma. According to an account by one of the Rabbis who took part in the meeting, Speaker Bosma had a pretty callous attitude toward how Jewish citizens’ rights might be affected by sectarian Christian prayer as part of the official business of the Indiana House of Representatives.
The e-mail describes the meeting as follows:
Last Tuesday, the Indianapolis JCRCâ€™s Jewish Lobby Day was held. Around 40 Jews from around the State of Indiana came to Indianapolis to lobby our state senators and representatives on a number of issues.
The day ended with a private meeting with Speaker of the House Bosma meeting our group in the beautiful House chambers. We asked questions about full day kindergarten, about the clinics, and a young member of the delegation asked about providing sexuality education in public schools that is more than abstinence based. He responded to everything we asked. Sometimes we liked what he said and sometimes we didnâ€™t. Speaker Bosma wondered why we hadnâ€™t discussed the controversy surrounding the issue of prayer in House chambers. He told us his version of what happened and what he believes, and a passionate exchange took place. The end of this exchange left us, the Jewish delegation, in shock. Speaker Bosma, defending the prayer issue, asked, â€œHow many Jews are there in Indiana? About 2%? There are at least 80% Christians in Indiana.â€ The implication of this statement was that our minority community doesnâ€™t and shouldnâ€™t have any say or any voice. It is about the majority and what the majority wants. The jaws of the delegation dropped to the floor. We were speechless. Everything we believed about this country had just been trampled. Gone was the belief of the constitutional protection of minorities. Gone was not feeling marginalized. Gone was the belief we were not strangers in this country. I am sure that Speaker Bosma is a fine man, but in that moment, for the first time in my life as a citizen of this country, I was scared. It is what I now call the 2% solution (and Jews are much less than 2% of this state) that if you are only 2% donâ€™t even bother to speak up as the â€œTyranny of the majorityâ€ will prevail.
I am sorry to bring such a depressing message as we prepare for Shabbat, but it needs to be said and addressed. I have been reminded about why we need to be vigilant. So I come to you on this Friday, February 17, 2006, to ask you to use this Shabbat to think about joining me and others at times to raise our voices. We might not agree on all the issues, but we agree that as Jewish residents of this State we should have a voice. 2% or less shouldnâ€™t matter. It is not about the majority. It is about us.
As you light your Shabbat candles this evening, light one for this great nation that has allowed us to grow and prosper and worship as Jews without restrictions. Light the other as beacon to our elected officials who if they follow the light will understand that leadership comes with responsibility to all, to be inclusive of all, and to help those who need the most help.
As a lawyer, Speaker Bosma should understand that one of the most important roles of the U.S. Constitution (or any Constitution, really) is to protect the rights of minorities from the passions and preferences of the majority. Perhaps the e-mail does not provide the full context of Speaker Bosma’s statement. But, it scarcely matters. If Speaker Bosma tried to defend government speech that endorses a particular religion by citing majority opinion, he apparently does not appreciate that, far from being a defense, disproportionate power is precisely the reason that government speech should not be used to advance the dominant religion.