Be Careful What You Pray For

George W. Bush has taken
pains to emphasize that his plans for faith-based initiatives are broad enough to
encompass all religious sentiment. But if the experience of one college newspaper
editor is an indicator, tolerance has its limits. The point was made clear
recently when the U.S. Secret Service paid a visit to the editorial offices of
the Stony Brook Press, a student newspaper at the State University of New
York in Stony Brook, Long Island.

The reason for the visit? The paper
had run a piece titled "Editorial: Dear Jesus Christ, King of Kings, all I ask is
that you smite George W. Bush." The author, Glenn Given, a 22-year-old senior,
had jokingly asked that Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft, "and if it's not too much
trouble, the rest of George W.'s cabinet" also be struck down.

That hasn't
happened. But Given's prayer was certainly heard by the feds. Seems that
"smiting" is not the sort of faith-based initiative the president had in mind.
The Secret Service interrogated Given but made no arrest. The resident agent in
charge of Long Island's Secret Service office said the visit was in accordance
with "national policy." Nevertheless, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the
Press saw the incident as an infringement on First Amendment rights. In a letter
calling on the Secret Service to issue a formal apology, the group noted that
Given hadn't limited his holy wrath to Republican officeholders: He had also
included Carson Daly, the preening host of MTV's Total Request Live (TRL).
"The fact that Carson Daly was included in the panoply of petitioned smitees
should have made it obvious that the editorial was satire," the committee
intoned.

For his part, Given is unrepentant. "In writing it, my intent was
absurdity and satire," he said. Given also points out that he framed his
editorial as a prayer in a nod to Bush's own habit of constantly invoking his
religious faith. Indeed, in the editorial Given explained that he had recently
"found" Jesus in light of the November presidential election--an entirely
reasonable proposition, maybe. But we'll have to take him on faith.

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