The local Freedom from Religion Foundation chapter is upset because Governor Doyle ordered the state and US flags to be flown at half-mast for the week in honor of the passing of Karol Wojtylawas, or better known as Pope John Paul II. The Foundation asserts that this is blatantly a case of religious preference. It shows that the State is endorsing one particular religion over another. I disagree with that argument. The late Pope John Paul II was a crusader.
Unlike other “crusaders” such as those that date back to the middle ages, the Pope spoke out against tyranny anywhere in the world and for liberty for all people, Roman Catholic or otherwise. Furthermore, he was the first pope in over 2,000 years to mend ties with other religions, including the Lutheran and Greek Orthodox churches. Finally, he showed that he was a world citizen by defending his own beliefs and the beliefs of others. When major world leaders were talking about war (for example, the US and UK invasion of Iraq), the Pope spoke out against it and continued to condemn it until his death last week.
Because Pope John Paul II accomplished so much for so many people, I don’t see the flags flying at half-mast as a sign of religious endorsement or to commemorate the death of a religious leader. I perceive it to signify the peaceful efforts of one of the world’s greatest leaders. The Pope deserves the recognition he is receiving, and I don’t think Governor Doyle should back off from his decision.
For those of you keeping track, I was raised Catholic, but I’ve turned away from religion in the past couple of years. I do not consider myself as religious, and I disagreed with the Pope’s position on a number of issues. But I still respect him for being the leader he was: strong, charismatic, and principle-oriented. He struggled hard for the betterment of the world’s citizens and made considerable strides through peaceful means towards that end. I dedicate today’s blog to the life work of Karol Wojtylawas/Pope John Paul II.