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Knocking on Heaven's Gate - April 16, 1997

Richard Brian McCarty

The folks of the Heaven's Gate cult probably had no idea they would provoke such thought from the world. I really doubt they would care, one way or the other. Those folks were nuts. They thought they were catching some kind of ride on a Magic Bus to take them away to another world. With taxes like they are, and tax day closing, who can blame them for wanting a way out? I feel sorry for their families and friends. But, the reaction to their act shows how nuts America may be.

There are three reactions in particular that are bothersome. First, there is the notion in the astronomy community, and in the media, that one can not enjoy the beauty of the Hale-Bob comet now because they Heaven's Gater's believed their Greyhound to the stars was cruising behind it. The astronomer who discovered the comet took it upon himself to hold a press conference to explain that the comet was a comet. And, on CNN, a woman asked how could someone enjoy the beauty of the comet now?

Well, let me tell you how this amateur astronomer did it. I got my field glasses and went out on Lake Strom Thurmond on the South Carolina/Georgia border Saturday night and I enjoyed the handiwork of God. I own some rather powerful field glasses, but I could not see the ride the Heaven's Gaters hope to catch. I did not even think about them till one member of my party brought them up. Why let some nuts from California ruin the enjoyment of God's handiwork for the rest of us?

But, there is something a little more dangerous that the mass suicide has shown. The reaction of the national media and the Clinton Administration shows a willingness to put the squeeze on religious freedom. Forty or so people commit suicide thinking they are going to hitch a ride on God's Greyhound. Tragic, but not national obsession worthy. Let's not give those nuts the attention. I hate to put it this way, but with 250,000,000 people to worry about, did the suicide of 40 or so nuts really effect the nation in proportion to the media coverage of it? And, if I see one more reference to other cults, I think I will form an anti-media cult. They are laying the groundwork that some religions just should not be able to exist.

But, the reaction from Attorney General Janet Reno is the most troublesome of all. She stated she is going to help any way she can. When I first heard that, I thought it was just a continuation of the Clinton Administration's never ending need to be right in the thick of any national news story. But, there is more to it than that.

She went on to talk about the cult in a manner that would lead one to read between the lines that she would like to see religious cults eliminated. That scares the UFO out of me! I do not support cults. Cults feed off the weak and broken and they are products of evil that work against God's love.

But, this is the United States of America, and we are governed by a constitution, not the whims of the Attorney Genera, or the passionate feelings of the writer. Under that, we have freedom of recision, to the extent, as the courts have ruled, that it does not interfere with the liberty of others. If you want to think th Moon is God, go ahead. I will call you a nut, but I will not advocate you to be prohibited from believing it.

Suicide was illegal. There is no doubt about that. But, the acts of faith up to that point were not. It may be hip to want to make these cults pay. And, if they harm, they should. But, if they are weird, then let them be weird.

You see, if we say it is okay for the weird ones today to be banned or harnessed by the Attorney General, ( whose federal powers do not come into play with a suicide on private property anyway), we should be prepared to give up whatever is next. Maybe the next Attorney General won't like the way ladies in the local Baptist church can't wear makeup. Or, perhaps she won't like the way the Catholics drink wine in communion.

Heaven's Gate was made up of nuts who were drunk on the tonic of escape the weak and broken crave. Their deaths are tragic to their families, and were probably in vain. I feel sorry for the cult members and their families. They have my feelings of sympathy and pity. But, I am not willing to give up my enjoyment of the Heavens because of that feeling, or give up religious freedom to prevent it from happening again.

Richard Brian McCarty has worked on several political campaigns of conservatives. He holds a Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina and a BS degree from Lander University. An experienced writer, McCarty's columns are written from a distinctly Southern point of view. He is sometimes Southern, sometimes conservative, sometimes humorous, and sometimes all three.

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