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ANOTHER WACO IS BOUND TO OCCUR

The Waco hearings are over and the nation gained few insights into the tragic event that took place April 19, 1993. Before the hearings fade away like old soldiers, some sobering reflections are in order because we have learned nothing from Waco.

And, given our history and record of failure to learn from the past, there will be another Waco.The horrifying memory of Europe's religious wars during the 16th and 17th centuries motivated Thomas Jefferson and many others to fight for a disestablishment of religion in America. Freedom of religion may be the first freedom of the Bill of Rights, but the U.S. government does not have a good record with religion.

In 1839 the Missouri militia drove Mormons over to Illinois; then they had to flee to Utah after the assassination of Joseph Smith and his brother while in legal custody. In 1890 the U.S. Cavalry killed Chief Sitting Bull and massacred the Indians, including women and children, partaking in the outlawed Ghost Dance religion at Wounded Knee.

The Branch Davidians consistently were castigated as a "cult" by detractors and the law enforcement agencies called into oversee the situation in Waco; and the FBI negotiators referred to Koresh's speech as "Bible babble." The Branch Davidians were a sectarian offshoot of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, itself a sectarian millennialist religion originating in the first half of the 19th century.

My suspicion is that a generalized "secular" mode pervades most government agencies, and this attitude leads to a disdain of non-mainline and even mainline religion in America. Yet thousands of U.S. citizens belonging to millennium-imbued religions must deal with government agencies systematically unsympathetic to them and unwilling to learn about them.