Although America remains overwhelmingly Christian in affiliation (if not necessarily in practice), the connoisseurs of multiculturalism like to pretend otherwise—often rather insistently. Public events involving religion must acknowledge Zoroaster and Zeus as much as Moses and Jesus. Multiculturalists find claims about the exclusive truth of any religion, particularly Christianity, especially offensive. They eagerly denounce as a bigot any Christian or Jew who insists on adhering to the first or Second Commandment, even within the confines of his own community.

This attitude, although supposedly sensitive and inclusive, is really insulting to the true believers of any religion. The underlying assumption is that either all religions are equally true or no religion is really true. Multiculturalists have faith in multiculturalism, but little else. And they jealously practice their own inquisitions to guard the dogmas of their secular faith.

One such inquisition was recently waged against a Methodist minister in Marietta, Georgia. For seven years, the Rev. Randy Mickler’s 6,300-member Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church has hosted the baccalaureate service for the graduating seniors of Walton High School. The service, which is a voluntary event for the students, has been Christian.

This year, members of the high school’s baccalaureate committee wanted to alter that focus. They requested that Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and even Wiccans be incorporated into the service and that Christian symbols in the sanctuary, including the cross, be covered and references to Jesus Christ be omitted. A rabbi was also invited to deliver the sermon.

Mickler agreed to the last request, although he insisted that the rabbi speak from a podium instead of the pulpit, which is reserved for Gospel preachers only. As for Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Wiccan involvement, Mickler said no. He also firmly rejected disguising the church’s Christian identity.

Walton High School officials responded by moving the baccalaureate service to the Cobb County Civic Center, with Mickler’s support. But at least one student on the baccalaureate committee—a former student reporter at CNN—saw Mickler’s refusal as a nifty media sound bite that neatly captured the supposed parochialism and intolerance of the Bible Belt.

After the Atlanta media were notified, Mickler’s church was deluged with inquiries. The Methodist minister’s refusal to countenance a polytheistic service in his own sanctuary set off a storm of protests, with special emphasis on the denial of the pulpit to a rabbi. What could this be but antisemitism?

“We are Christians,” Mickler responded, “and the only deity we exalt is God personified in Jesus Christ. When it comes to denying who we are, that’s where we draw the line.” Mickler pointed out that his church regularly loans its parking lot to a nearby Orthodox Jewish synagogue, and that Jewish rabbis have spoken at the church—but not from the pulpit. Previous baccalaureate services had been nondenominational but still Christian, Mickler said. The church had no obligation to host non-Christian worship in its sanctuary.

One of several Atlanta Journal-Constitution stories declared that Mickler’s “inflexible” and “unyielding” attitude had caused the whole community” to “gasp” and had sent Christians and Jews “reeling.” The newspaper recalled that the Methodist minister was controversial for his outspoken support of an anti-homosexual-rights resolution approved in Cobb County in 1994 and for opposing a 1994 Supreme Court ruling barring Cobb County from posting the “Ten Commandments in a court building.

One of the foremost supporters of homosexual rights in Cobb County during the 1993 controversy was Rabbi Steven Lebow, the same rabbi who had been invited to deliver the Walton High School baccalaureate sermon. The latest brouhaha was portrayed as a rematch. A homosexual publication called Mickler an “agent of hatred and exclusion” and pegged him as the direct heir of his segregationist ancestors. The “overwhelming public repudiation [of Mickler’s church] should encourage us all.”

Meanwhile, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution claimed that other Methodist clergy in the area were distancing themselves from Mickler. Some supposedly displayed messages of solidarity with Rabbi Lebow on their church marquees. Mickler countered that he had received hundreds of supportive messages from fellow clergy.

To his congregation, Mickler explained in a Sunday message:

I want you to understand, that never would I do anything to embarrass you or our non-Christian friends. At no time would I ever want our Jewish friends to feel slighted, hurt or embarrassed. I thank God for our Jewish friends’ participation in this church. I would do nothing to cause you to think for a moment that you are not loved or appreciated.

“To my Christian friends,” Mickler added, “I remind you of the words of John Wesley. When he sent the Methodist ministers to America he said simply, ‘Preach Christ.’ Political correctness was not in his vocabulary.”

Meanwhile, with the support of the local United Methodist bishop, Mickler met with Rabbi Lebow to discuss their differences. They agreed to meet again for a game of golf And Mickler sat behind the podium when Lebow gave his baccalaureate address at the civic center. In his speech, Lebow praised Mickler as one of his “heroes of democracy” He added: “Good and decent people can disagree and still respect each other for the passion and strength of their convictions.” After the speech, Mickler kissed Lebow on the head.

Mickler’s church and Lebow’s synagogue will also work together to build a house for Habitat for Humanity. Lebow wrote in an op-ed that:

As an American, I believe in acknowledging and respecting honest religious differences. Mickler has every right to structure what goes on in his sanctuary and what may be said from his pulpit . . . I firmly believe Mickler is not anti-Semitic.

The furor against Mickler subsided.

However, Walton High School’s baccalaureate committee had invited Mickler to deliver the invocation at their civic center ceremony. Complaints from some parents prompted the committee to decide there would be no invocation. Rabbi Lebow was, in fact, the service’s only speaker. His speech, though gracious, was a feel-good, civic booster shot, largely shorn of any theological content that might offend anyone, Baptist or Wiccan.

“I am amazed at the power of the 21st century’s other deity. Political Correctness,” Mickler concluded in a summation of the controversy. “The question for the church, as I see it, is where does P.C. stop? Do we preach Christ or Political Correctness?”

Mickler’s largely liberal-led denomination is hardly known as a bastion of fundamentalism. That a United Methodist minister was targeted by a multiculturalist inquisition because of the standards he applies to his own church building is revealing. In the multiculturalist vision of a “diverse” and “inclusive” America, orthodox monotheism, especially (but not exclusively) Christianity, is not simply eradicated from the public square; it is curbed within the confines of its own religions institutions.

Politically, the Mickler episode shows the authoritarian—if not totalitarian impulses of the demands for “tolerance.” Socially, it is a sad commentary on how fractured America is, that even an overwhelmingly Christian and relatively conservative community is unable to organize common civic events that are not divisive. Spiritually, the episode indicates that Elijah may have been right when he warned that Baal and Jehovah are not compatible.