By Marty Russell
It’s the first day of the school year since Mississippi’s new Student Religious Liberties Act became law. A high school student approaches his school’s principal in the hallway and makes a request.
“Sir, I’d like to get on the schedule to give a morning prayer over the PA system now that the Legislature and governor say it’s OK to do so in a limited public forum sort of way,” the student says.
“Son, that’s very commendable,” the principal replies. “What do you intend to pray for?”
“I want to pray to the Holy Trinity,” the student says, “so more students can come to know them and recognize their place in their lives.”
“Excellent,” the principal says, breathing a quiet sigh of relief. “Young people your age need to become more acquainted with the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”
“Who?” the student asks, furrowing his brow.
“The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost,” the principal says. “The Holy Trinity.”
“Oh,” says the student. “Not that one. I’m talking about the real Holy Trinity – Google, Microsoft and Apple, the foundations of the religion of new media.”
“That’s not a real religion!” the principal flusters.
“Sure it is, especially among people my age,” the student responds. “There are many of us who believe that Steve Jobs died so we could have a social life and that Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are his disciples here on Earth. That when we die we go up into the cloud where we are redeemed.”
“You mean your sins are forgiven and you have eternal life?” the principal asks.
“No,” says the student. “Every time you use an Apple, Google or Microsoft product you earn points which you redeem in the afterlife for apps and cool stuff and free upgrades for all eternity.”
“That’s not a real religion!” the principal huffs. “Prove it!”
“Any religion is valid to those who believe in it,” the student says. “You’re a Christian, right?”
“I most certainly am!”
“You believe in God and creation and heaven and hell, right?”
“Absolutely,” the principal proudly says.
“Prove it,” replies the student.
“But whoever heard of a religion based on social media? That’s ridiculous!”
“Sure has a lot of followers,” says the student. “There’s lots of religions out there besides Christianity. Would you deny a Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist or even Wiccan student the right to express their religion in the state-sanctioned, so-called limited public forum?”
“Maybe,” the principal admits.
“Then you’re saying you won’t allow the rest of the students to hear me pray to mine?”
“Absolutely no way will I allow it!”
The student pulls a smartphone out of his pocket.
“Hey!” the principal shouts. “You know cellphones aren’t allowed in school!”
“This isn’t just a cellphone,” the student says. “In my religion it’s a religious artifact, just like a cross necklace or a T-shirt with a Bible verse on it. All allowed under the new law.”
The student punches in a number.
MARTY RUSSELL writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.