Wednesday, February 08, 2012
Once upon a time, in the mid-20th century, a small Southern town faced a dilemma. The signage clearly marking public facilities was, in some cases fading, in other cases rusting. Why, one could hardly tell if the waiting room in the bus station, the drinking fountain set into the courthouse wall, or the restroom at the train depot were the one for "Whites Only" or the colored one. If this was let go, children might even inadvertently dive into the wrong swimming pool!
This was a town full of good ol' boys, so they decided things the good ol' boy way. ALL the signage in the town would be freshened up, and every property owner in town, whether an individual or a business or organization, would contribute just a little bit to keep the signage clearly readable, in order to prevent any unanticipated (and presumably unwanted) integration. So they called the plan "Preventative Services."
The good ol' boys announced this plan with much fanfare, and the Mayor himself made a public appearance. If they anticipated what came next, it may have only been to focus public pressure on the recalcitrant, so they would learn to conform to the accepted norms of the small society.
A local minister came forward. He objected to his church being levied even just a little bit in the cause of preventative services. He had always preached from the Bible, you see, and the Good Book says, "honor all men" and that's what was written in the Congregational By-Laws, which anyone could look up and read right in the Town Hall files from when they registered the church property long decades ago.
One of the Mayor's office workers made some conciliatory noises about finding a workaround, but it would certainly not, on the basis of principle, mean that the pastor would be relieved of his civic duty of contributing. After all, this was something for the whole town's benefit, so one church's obscure (and ignored) teaching would not be allowed to stand in the way of progress.
The good ol' boys just snickered. Didn't the Reverend know that 90% of his parishioners practiced segregation in their home and business lives? (The Reverend visibly saddened at that reminder of how far his people were from the biblical teachings they claimed to believe in.)
The story is not yet finished. For more about the Reverend and the good ol' boys, you can refer to any of the following links. Granted, they are about a different situation entirely (and from the year 2012!), but so many principles still apply:
The good ol' boys most recent talking points, answered by the Reverend, point by point.
Who's paying for the signage? Just the town's property owners? (Background information included.)
The Reverend's initial response to the Preventative Services project. (At the time, the Mayor had promised to look into ways of accommodating the church's concerns.)