On Friday, November 8, 2013, the Post-Gazette hosted their third town meeting on Religion in the Public Square at the Heinz History Center.
The well-attended forum, co-sponsored by The Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy at the University of Notre Dame, was hosted by David Shribman, Executive Editor of the P-G. The panel itself was remarkably homogeneous with representatives solely from a Judeo-Christian perspective; Gerald Seib, (a Roman Catholic reporter from the Wall Street Journal), Naomi Schaefer Riley (a Conservative Jew from the New York Post), Peter Smith ( a graduate of the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, recently appointed religion editor the Post-Gazette), and Rabbi James Gibson from the Temple Sinai in Squirrel Hill.
The glaring omission was the inclusion of any one from the secular community on the panel, which Shribman even admitted in his open remarks. Yet, the discussion that followed, both by comments of the panel and through questions of the audience, made numerous references on the role of non-religious in the US. It was noted that those who mark “None” when asked their religion is now 20% of the public and 30% among those under 30. Yet this group was not represented in a panel asking the “how prominent a role should religion play in our politics and civic life”!
Most annoying was the repeated, yet unsubstantiated, claim that most people in America assume you need some kind of faith to be moral. Despite one question from the audience about the harm religion can do, there was no time spent discussing the delusions that come from a strong religious view or the the “Nones” are just as moral and upstanding as citizens (and in many aspects, even more so). Furthermore, much of the violence against individuals and against countries can be traced to fundamental religious views.
If I heard correctly, this will be the last town meeting on Religion in the Public Square. In some ways that is unfortunate. A truly broad panel that include both religious and non-religious panelist could be much more interesting and informative. Instead the Post-Gazette chose to reinforce a 1950’s view of America where only the religious are seen as moral and that is just wrong.