Religious Pluralism and the Niggling Test


By Mike Appleton, Weekend Contributor

“The First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.”

-Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97, 104 (1968)

“This commission chooses to stand by the tradition of opening its meetings in a manner acknowledging the beliefs of a large segment of its constituents.”

-Brevard County (Florida) Commission Chair Mary Bolin Lewis (August 15, 2014)

On August 19th the County Commission in Brevard County, Florida voted unanimously to reject a request by the Central Florida Freethought Community, an organization of atheists, agnostics, humanists and free-thinkers, to be added to a rotating list of groups invited to give the opening invocation at commission meetings. Instead, the commission approved a letter drafted by the county attorney offering the group three minutes to speak during the public comment portion of its meetings. According to the letter, the rejection was appropriate because, “The prayer is…

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Thoughts On Life and Saying Goodbye

It has been nine days of lots of emotions.  The drive to Idaho helped me reflect and gather my thoughts.  My dad lived a full life, and contributed to the lives of so many people by simply being a fun-loving, caring person.  This was very evident from all the messages we received, and the packed church for his funeral.  The service truly reflected my dad…religion was downplayed, but evident in the caring and sharing.  There were some moments of reflection, and laughter broke out several times.  We had a photo display with pictures that spanned his lifetime, from a very young boy growing up in a working class home through the stages of his life through being a grandfather.  Photos from his grandparents’ house, with his mom and her sisters, from the navy, his wedding to my mom, their first child, the growth of the family and its contraction as my sister no longer appears and then my mom deteriorated before leaving us.  But it also showed how his family grew with my brother’s family growing and then my own and then my sister’s.  There were photos of his active life, goofy faces he would make, even a “fashion show” he was part of for Mother’s Day at the church.

There were people there from throughout dad’s life, and people I have known all my life.  There were also people I had never met before, people whose lives he touched in his simple, caring way.  Dad always liked to see people laugh and be happy.  He hated to see  anyone sad or down.  It did not matter who you were, he did not care.  If you were sad or unhappy, it bothered him and he would do what he could to help.  It was the essence of the man.

We had a closed casket funeral.  We wanted to remember him as he was, not as a lifeless body in a casket.  And the photos brought him to life, back into our lives.  He was present with us, in the thoughts and hearts of everyone there and everyone remembering him this past week.  It was also the time I broke the most.  My dad was one of those people who is everyone’s friend, every kid’s father, and the town shared it with us.  It was still very deeply personal, feeling the pain of loss, of not having someone in my life who has been there for me for fifty years.

We have also spent the past week working on his effects…in his house, in a storage unit, the knickknacks accumulated over seventy-nine years.  Some things have only emotional attachment, loaded with memories, and you look at some things and think “why in the hell was he keeping this???”  But that was also my dad, the ultimate pack rat.  But even the things we want to keep, that mean something to us, are just things.  Dad lives on in us.

Dad’s funeral was on Friday.  On Saturday, I stopped in to see a friend I have not seen in years to talk and catch up.  He was doing well, back to his normal jovial self after getting through years of medical issues I can definitely understand.  It could not have been two hours later that I received a call from him…he had just learned his father had died as well, a week after mine.  His father had been sick for years, and now my friend and his sisters and just beginning to go through the same things I just went through with my brother and sister.  My friend and his family are definitely in my thoughts.

I also found out today another friend’s parents are in bad shape…people I had seen at my dad’s funeral.  His father suffered a severe stroke while driving with his mother, crossed the median and oncoming traffic before hitting a tree.  His dad is in pretty bad shape from the stroke, and his mother has a compression fracture in her spine so she is in considerable pain.  It has not been a good August.  But that is also part of life.  These people enter our lives, and they never leave because they are part of who we are.

The Long Road Home: Day Four

I’m finally all set in my hotel room in Coeur d’Alene.  I drove into the Dave Smith Car Lot Kellogg right around 12:30 this afternoon.  Some things change…some things stay the same.  One thing that has definitely changed in Kellogg over the past 30 years is that it is MUCH greener than when I grew up.  It is in fact much greener than it has been in almost a hundred years.  But that really should not be a surprise.  Nature has a tendency to bounce back once we stop polluting the environment with toxins, even if it takes decades (or in the case of some places centuries).

Dad loved Kellogg, warts and all.  It did not matter that the canyon he grew up in was called Deadwood Gulch, and for good reason.  That little gully is basically blocked off from all access now.  He enjoyed the people, the memories, all that Kellogg had been.  He was tied to the place, and tomorrow the place will celebrate his life and all he contributed to the lives of so many who grew up there as it says goodbye.

We have received countless notes, messages, cards, text messages, and emails from people whose lives dad touched.  Those people live all over the world now, but started in that little town tucked in the western foothills of the Bitterroots in northern Idaho.  Dad had a full life, with lots of ups and downs, just like the little town he called home his entire life.  He saw his wife nearly die from chronic diseases, buried a daughter, watched his other children get college degrees, buried his wife, and had one son move to Texas and then Ohio while the other son went overseas to the Middle East.  He watched his town thrive, even when it was choking on industrial pollution, watched it nearly die from an economic catastrophe, and witnessed it slowly creep back into being a viable community.  We could have never convinced him to leave, and we never tried.  It was home.