Paul Butzi |||

Dan KB6NU opines on this reddit post about an amateur radio club that starts meetings with the group chaplain offering an invocation:

Hello, newbie here. I am studying for my test, and just connected with my local group. Everyone was really nice and helpful. But. They have a club chaplain” who began the meeting with a convocation. It was short and mumbled. And I can’t be sure what he prayed for, buy as a non-Christian this made me uncomfortable. I said nothing, as a guest there, but I wanted to know if this is a common thing.

Let’s examine what we can know from the quoted reddit post.

The meeting starts with the club chaplain’ making a convocation[sic]’. Let’s assume that what was actually meant was that the chaplain made an invocation - a little speech at the start of the meeting. Maybe it was a prayer, maybe it was some non-sectarian but generally religious-ish speech about how everyone gathered was there to serve their community. The person didn’t really hear, so they don’t know, and neither do we.

So we have, on the one hand, a prospective member who is uncomfortable with someone praying in his presence (and perhaps praying on his behalf or that of the group). And on the other hand, we have a club consisting of members who are all ok with this opening invocation practice.

Who is excluding whom? Did someone stand up, point at this prospective member, and shout This guy isn’t praying along with the rest of us? He doesn’t belong here!” No, we all know that didn’t happen, because the club members were very nice and helpful’.

I’m guessing the situation is this: there’s an amateur radio club. Some of the members are very religious, likely some are very not, and some fall along the spectrum in between. One of the members is a member of the clergy of some faith and serves as group chaplain. I’m guessing the invocation is along the lines of God, thank you for giving us this opportunity to gather and build community around our shared love of amateur radio.”

The members are all, more or less, comfortable with this. Likely, some of them wish this practice would end, some are indifferent, and some really appreciate it.

But on the issue of starting meetings with some prayer or quasi-prayer, all of the members are willing to set aside any disagreements about this practice and focus on what they have in common - interest in amateur radio and an interest in sharing their experiences with others.

We all know this is the likely scenario.

We might call this agreement to set aside religious disagreements so we can talk about and do things related to amateur radio together’ a policy of tolerance and inclusion. People are tolerating one another’s different religious affiliations and attitudes because they want to do something together. That’s a good thing.

Now this prospective member shows up. Without apprehending any details of this invocation, this guy decides it makes him uncomfortable. He asks if this is a common practice. He doesn’t need to ask to know this - we all know that in 2022 clubs starting meetings with a prayer of any sort is uncommon.

So what, exactly, is this guy really asking? He’s asking what should be done to make this club stop this practice. You know this. I know this. Dan KB6NU knows this, too, because he offers to reach out to the club to ask that they reconsider the practice.

So, let me summarize: we have a club, the members of which were really nice and helpful”, so we know they aren’t trying to get him to leave. The club meeting starts with a prayer of some sort, which is accepted by the members as fine likely despite the varied religious views of the various members.

And we have this prospective ham. He is rejecting the niceness, friendliness, and helpfulness they are extending to him because this invocation at the start of the meeting, which is not intended to be off-putting to him, makes him uncomfortable.

Dan KB6NU is certainly right that someone is not being inclusive in this picture. But I don’t think it’s the club members, I think it’s the guy who thinks this invocation should be eliminated because it makes him uncomfortable.

Dan seems to think that ditching this invocation at the start of the meeting will lead to greater diversity, and that greater diversity is good.

My point would be that getting rid of the invocation might make this prospective member more comfortable. It will also make some of the current members feel less welcome, because ditching the invocation tells them that their religious views are unwelcome.

Suppose they ditch the invocation, the prospective ham joins, and some number of current members feel alienated and leave? We’ve taken a group of people who were all getting along, likely with a variety of religious views, and we’ve booted out some of those tolerant members just to add one intolerant member. How has this achieved the goal of diversity?

If this prospective member can’t handle being in the same room as someone who is praying, he’ll probably be intolerant about other things. He’s going to be uncomfortable with people expressing political views he doesn’t share. He’s going to be uncomfortable with people expressing social views he doesn’t share. And he’s going to insist that whenever something makes him uncomfortable, that something must be banned. That isn’t diversity, or inclusion, it’s one person using a heckler’s veto to impose his will on everyone else.

I’m all in favor of being thoughtful about such things. If we’re unintentionally making someone feel excluded by doing something that doesn’t matter to us, we should stop doing that.

That said, if a prospective member suggests they feel excluded because your club does’t conform to their standards on religion, or politics, or social views, I think an appropriate response is There are a lot of different amateur radio clubs, and we would be delighted to help you find a club more suitable for you.”

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