April 23, 2009
In 1878, President Hayes and his wife Lucy officially opened the White House grounds to the children for an egg roll event on Easter Monday. Except during the two World Wars, weather permitting, all the Presidents after Hayes have continued this tradition. Each Easter Monday, thousands of young people show up for this fun-filled event. Not only is it one of the oldest presidential traditions, it has become the largest annual event held at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
In any event held at the White House, politics is never far from sight. This year, the first egg roll of the new administration was not any different. The souvenir egg was deliberately designed to signal concern for the environment. This certainly is part of the President’s agenda and not without merit. We are caretakers, not simply consumers, of the goods of this earth. But there was a second innovation this year that carries with it a message that the White House wishes to give to the country.
The President enthusiastically welcomed the crowd. Mrs. Obama said, “Our goal today is just to have fun. We want to focus on activity, healthy eating. We've got yoga, we've got dancing, we've got storytelling, we've got Easter egg decorating, and we've got basketball, soccer as well.” But there was more to the event that just fun. It was a political statement made in bright colors.
The Washington Times (April 14, 2009) reported that same-sex parents wore rainbow-colored leis to the event. They were clearly drawing attention to their sexual orientation. What a sad situation. An event in which people of different religions, ethnic backgrounds and diverse moral convictions come together to have fun with the youngsters became a moment for some to push their agenda of changing the culture.
But this was not a spontaneous demonstration on the part of the participants. It was orchestrated by the White House itself. In a studied effort to make a statement about the future of marriage in this country, the White House allotted tickets for the event to gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples. Representatives from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and other groups that promote same sex unions as equal to marriage reported that they had been encouraged to have their members come out to the event.
Events like this are staged, organized and executed on the principle of tolerance. Today’s secular liberalism has espoused tolerance as its foundational truth. But secular liberals do not apply tolerance to every situation with equal zeal.
In the same week that the White House made a point of showcasing its gay- friendly agenda, the White House also issued a request to a Catholic institution that violates the very concept of tolerance. Before the President made his first speech as President at Georgetown, the prestigious Jesuit University, the White House, according to the
Los Angeles Times, asked Georgetown University to cover all religious symbols at the scene of the President's economic speech.
When President Obama gave his speech on economics on April 14, he spoke on a stage in Gaston Hall. Behind the place where the President stood, there is normally seen the monogram
IHS. These letters are the first three letters of the name of Jesus in Greek. For the President’s speech, the university covered the letters.
Why is it acceptable that the President of the United States can be seen one day with gays and lesbians publicly displaying their convictions, but on the very next day cannot be seen in a Catholic institution with a symbol of its faith on display?
One can only wonder about the courage of an institution that hides the symbols of its own faith. Has the symbol lost its meaning? Does the institution value faith as the life-principle of its intellectual pursuit of truth?
The White House’s request for a Catholic university to hide a symbol of Catholicism in order to accommodate the presence of the President is a gross example of the intolerance that has infected the relationship of the State to the Church. At the least, the university’s compliance with the request missed an opportunity to make a statement about a right understanding of tolerance. When partisan politics reign supreme, tolerance for opposing beliefs will quickly vanish. In a just society, tolerance cannot be a one way street.
This is the first of two articles on tolerance.