The United States is on the verge of another military conflict. Imagine that, in response to this, a pacifist parent began standing atop the steps of Concord High School, where two of her children go, to recite passages from Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Now imagine that school officials, in response to a single complaint from a pro-war organization, tell the mother that she can stay, but only if she remains completely silent and makes no demonstrative movements.
How would this crackdown on one citizen's speech be received by the anti-war movement? By the ACLU? By editorial writers across the country? The self-described champions of our civil liberties would not stand for it. In this country, that sort of content-based censorship of citizen speech is to be applied exclusively to Christians. For that is exactly what happened to Concord mother Lizarda Urena as the civil rights brigades have watched passively, largely in silence.
In February, Urena showed up on the steps of Concord High to pray for the students' safety after unfired bullets were found inside the school. She kept up this morning routine, praying out loud (but addressing God, not the students) until an out-of-state anti-religion organization complained to the school. Urena was ordered off campus.
She returned this semester, but she prays silently now.
"As long as she's doing that and not being demonstrative in what's she's doing, that's working so far. But this is a day-to-day kind of process," school board president Kassandra Ardinger told this newspaper last week.
In other words, as long as she does not speak, she can use this public property.
What would happen if Urena were joined by another citizen, one concerned about, say, childhood obesity, who stood beside the muted mother and recited low-fat snack food recipes? Would her mouth be ordered shut, too? Would an athiest arguing against the existence of God be muffled?
If the answer to either of those questions is "no," then Concord's school system has unconstitutionally silenced a citizen based upon the content of her speech. Perhaps some civic-minded Concord resident will help us find the answer.
Lizarda Urena's forced silence should concern everyone, as should the silence of what passes for a civil rights movement in this country.