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Tuesday, Nov. 28
The Indiana Daily Student


In response: 'Jesus take the wheel'

In something that we have come to expect from Riley Zipper, he has written an extremely flippant article rife with non sequiturs.

Mr. Zipper alleges in his article, “Jesus take the wheel,” (published Sept. 17) that a Pennsylvania youth should not be charged with a misdemeanor under a 1972 statute forbidding “the desecration, theft or sale of a venerated object.” The act in question was him simulating oral sex with a statue of ?Jesus on private property.

Consequently, Mr. Zipper’s argument is that the Pennsylvania law in question is unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

This argument is tantamount to saying that the defacing and lewd treatment of religious iconography placed by private individuals outside their homes is perfectly kosher.

Mr. Zipper continues to base his argument on the conjecture that this would not have provoked outrage if the same was done to a statue of Muhammad or Buddha. Given the widespread condemnation of the Qu’ran burnings in 2011, I doubt this scenario would ever happen exactly as he describes.

When considering the First Amendment, as with any Constitutional issue, we must try to understand the context in which it is written. With the United States at the time of the Constitution’s drafting a hodgepodge of adversarial Christian denominations, the Founders sought to quell the religious issue once and for all for a more stable ?society.

Thus, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion,” followed by what is colloquially known as the Free Exercise Clause, “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

In this instance, we fail to see how this statute violates the Establishment Clause and, in fact, is perfectly valid under the Free Exercise Clause.

The case in question is not Pennsylvania putting up the statue as an endorsement of Christianity. We believe that this statue is within its bounds because it allows for the free exercise of religion, protecting those who do so from mob rule and snap judgments of the majority.

Perhaps the most befuddling argument of all is Mr. Zipper’s dicta in the rest of the article where he assumes the authority of the new Pope where he decrees that iconography or those items defined as “venerated objects” are technically heresy, heedless of the context of the law.

As he so eloquently phrases it, “Treating a statue as a venerated ?object is idolizing the statue itself.” Irrespective of the accuracy of Mr. Zipper’s theological musings, that is not the point of the statute.

The Pennsylvania law referenced used the term “venerated object” in order to maintain impartiality to protect all religions equally.

Even within the broad umbrella of Christianity, we hold different views on religious symbols.

In that vein, we hold that items such as Qu’rans, Buddhist shrines or nativity scenes are safely within the realm of “venerated objects” — objects to be respected. Mr. Zipper, however, conflates a very narrow reading of this definition with his own agenda, simply assuming that “venerated objects” are the exclusive domain of Christian iconography and extrapolating that simple semantics represent hypocrisy of the highest order from lawmakers and religious figures.

In sum, we are not surprised that his sentiments are currently in vogue amongst the intelligentsia on campus. We live in a citadel of supposed enlightenment, away from those who “(bitterly) cling to guns and religion” to quote then-Sen. Obama.

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