Amid the excitement of the GOP convention and the impending hurricane, one little news item slipped by nearly unnoticed:
In Missouri it is now a crime, punishable by up to six months of jail, to disturb a house of worship. The actual wording of the law is, “intentionally and unreasonable disturbs a building used for religious purposes...” Now, besides the obvious question of how a building could possibly be disturbed (though admittedly I’ve never asked a building how it felt), and overlooking some fun inmate conversation that could ensue,
“What are you in for?”
“Armed robbery. You?”
there is the question of how reasonable is this law? No, interrupting a worship service, in general, is not gracious, kind, loving, polite, respectable, or any of those other virtues we vaule. But why do religious services (and only those held in a bona fide “house of worship”) receive special treatment?
What about the wedding ceremony in the neighbor’s yard? What about the high school graduation ceremony at the stadium? What about the quinceanera in the hotel ballroom? Don’t these deserve the same level of protection?
In fact, there is a nearly endless list of services and ceremonies that deserve some level of respect from outsiders, at least enough respect to pass by quietly. But to expand protection to all of them begins to sound like policing personal behaviour too much, and as vaguely as this bill is written, could lead to thousands of arrests, filling our courtrooms with even more silliness and adding nothing to mutual respect and kindness.
Maybe it would be a better idea if someone inside the house of worship talked to those disturbing and politely asked for quiet. Even better, someone in the house of worship could listen to the disturbers, inquiring why they feel they have so little voice, or such great frustration, that they had to resort to yelling in from the outside.