Volume 92, Issue 30
Wednesday, October 28, 1998
Eliminating the proclamation
Re: Haskett and proclamations
To the Editor:
Anyone reading the London Free Press this week will know of the current tensions at city hall. According to the press, city council voted on Monday that "all ceremonial functions of the city and mayor be screened by the London Race Relations Advisory Committee to ensure they meet the city's policy on non-discrimination."
Mayor Dianne Haskett expressed shock at a decision that she says would allow an unelected group "limitless authority" over her datebook and letter writing. She is quoted as saying that the decision is a violation of her freedom of thought and expression.
Many people reading about this conflict involving the mayor probably can't help but recall her insistence that she would not proclaim a gay pride week some months ago. They will remember the legal wrangling that followed. They will suspect her opponents of trying to make sure that her or any future mayor's personal and religious commitments do not affect consideration of future requests for city hall endorsements.
Much of that may, however, be moot. The Free Press reports that council has decided to eliminate official proclamations altogether. Small wonder. Who would want to make public proclamations if the threat of legal action, human rights commission investigation and public denouncement is steadily being hung over the head of the proclaimer?
Who would want to consider publicly endorsing or refusing to endorse, any activity if such consideration requires the complete disavowal and fracturing of the most deeply held personal and religious convictions?
In the future we can expect fewer and fewer public endorsements of virtuous activities. Perhaps this is part of the price we will have to pay if we continue to engage in and support public denouncements (a form of humiliation) and if we depend primarily on the use of law to resolve personal and public differences (with mild apology to those counting on job security in the legal professions). A society increasingly characterized by such priorities will foster withdrawal from the public sphere of principled persons.
It will require people of unusual principle and virtue to advance out of this trend. Are you game? And what will be our source of virtue?
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