Berlin Tali-bans Beer – Happy Hour Todcast

Bird's eye view of beerThe title of this week’s show was chosen because the Berlin, (Maryland) town council put the kibosh on an open container law they passed last year. It seems, for reasons that will never be clear, Councilwoman Lisa Hall got totalitarian religion. Hall gets the second-largest share of the blame because nothing can be done about the other two anti-fun members of the council. James Baldwin has probably said all that needs to be said about the damage religion has done to the African-American community. Plus, white guilt keeps me from commenting further.
This is the fourth draft of the post to accompany the Todcast. The previous three made me sound stark-raving mad. I have a deep, rich, and storied hatred for religion based primarily on its bullying nature. This ill-will (apparently) prevents me from stringing together even a few paragraphs of cogent thought.So here are some facts on which to meditate the next time you feel forced to pray publicly:
The Berlin town meetings begin with the Our Father. In fact, prayer precedes the Pledge of Allegiance.
If you come to petition the council for something, as the merchants of Berlin were, you can’t just stand there and not pray. You must rise and bow your head in respect, if not in participation. But according to the recording of the meeting most of the people in attendance prayed the Our Father aloud when the meeting began.
As a fun aside, Catholics say a different Our Father than other christians. When Berlin had a Catholic mayor he would stop praying where the Catholics normally stop and stand quietly as everyone else finished their version of the prayer.

At the meeting in question, everyone prayed along to the Our Father. Listen to the tape, (it starts at about the 1 minute mark) there obviously is a multitude praying.
If a meeting can only be started by informing God you are there to do his will, it is pointless to complain when the council openly says their decisions aren’t representative of their constituents but rather commanded by God himself.
Seeing good people bullied by religious zealots is where most of my hatred comes from. In my eyes, there is no difference between a Wiccan, a Scientologist and a member of “The Big Three.” Most religious people are happy to be in a club with others who hold roughly the same beliefs.When bullies use this open and most human predilection—the desire to be in a group—to boss people around or to deprive them of the infinite pleasures the human experience has to offer, I see it as existential murder. Making someone else’s life a little worse and justifying it by appealing to a voice only you can hear or a “feeling” you get inside is more than just terrifying. It is evil.

And so, while it would be best and easiest to blame the weak-willed, shortsightedness of the vote-changing, hypocritical Lisa Hall, blame for the reemergence of religious rule in Berlin must be laid at the feet of Gee Williams, the town’s mayor.
Williams, according to our friends at the Dispatch newspaper said the following:
“What you may consider proper is each individual’s decision but this is a legal body, this is not a congregation, and we cannot enforce our personal beliefs on the entire town, even if we find it personally not acceptable.”
This is a tough sentiment to accept on the heels of a meeting conducted under the explicit auspice of doing God’s will. If Williams is against conducting a meeting as a congregation, he should use his power of president (the one who presides). Until Berlin eliminates the prayer at the beginning of the meeting, it can’t hope to defend itself from religious bullying.

Tony Russo
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Tony Russo has worked as a print and digital journalist for the better part of the 21st century, writing for and editing regional weeklies, dailies and destination websites including OceanCity.com and ShoreCraftBeer.com. Tony has written two books on beer for the History Press. Eastern Shore Beer (2014) and Delaware Beer (2016). He lives in Delmar, Md. with his wife Kelly and the only of his four daughters who hasn't moved out. Together they keep their dog and cat comfortable.