TED had a conference in Albuquerque, and invited Joy Junction, a local Christian organization that bills itself as “New Mexico’s largest emergency homeless shelter,” to participate. But then the G-word appeared, and that was too much for the elevated minds of TED:

However, organizers at Saturday night’s TED event thought a single word on the backs of some participant’s was distracting.

The word was scrawled on the back of t-shirts worn by representatives from Albuquerque homeless shelter Joy Junction. The shirts said “Life is tough — God is good,” but when TED organizers said the shirts had to go, Joy Junction picked up and left instead.

Jenn Munsey from faith-based homeless shelter Joy Junction was invited to set up an educational booth about hunger and homelessness outside the event.

“They knew we were a faith-based ministry,” said Munsey.

After a couple hours an organizer told Munsey folks were complaining about a display of that faith.

“The complaint was our shirt has the word God,” she said.

Munsey told KOB she was in shock, because organizers of an event about ideas told her Joy Junction could turn their shirts inside out, or have some free TEDxABQ shirts to wear.

Nisly says, yep it happened and joy junction packed up and left voluntarily.

“The major goal for Joy Junction at TEDXABQ was to get the audience involved and engaged. To give them a place to plug-in to help fight homelessness in New Mexico,” Nisly said. “The t-shirts were distracting from that.”

Yeah, you are invited to “plug in to help fight homelessness,” but only if you are religiously correct — or rather, irreligiously correct. The only more anodyne expression of theism than “God is good” is “God exists.” One doubts that would have been acceptable to TED. More from the KOB story:

Two hours after KOB’s interview with Nisly, he e-mailed KOB the TEDx content guidelines. Number 3 forbids religious proselytizing — No speakers who attempt to “prove of persuade the correctness of a single religion.”

But Munsey says, she wasn’t speaking and her group did no more than wear the shirts.

Is there any religion that doesn’t teach “God is good”? Does simply wearing that on a t-shirt constitute proselytizing? Only within the rarefied circles of the SWPL Brights, I suppose.

The reader who emailed that story to me comments:

The “Next Big Idea” can’t have God interfere, especially the God of the homeless.

My guess is that this incident was an overreaction by the TEDxABQ people, who gave in to intolerant secularist whiners in the crowd. TED has sponsored talks by Billy Graham (who explicitly appealed to the crowd on behalf of Christianity, at the end). Rick Warren’s TED talk on the purpose-driven life is really excellent. He explicitly mentions religion, and uses that as a basis to challenge all the creative people present to use their particular gifts to serve others. The Tibetan Buddhist scholar and activist Robert A.F. Thurman gave a marvelous TED talk on discovering your Buddha nature. I would have loved to have been there for it. If a Muslim divine has something interesting and challenging to say, and he grounds it in Islam, I am in no way insulted or offended by his proclamation of his religious belief, as long as it is done in a respectful way. Why should I be? Why should you be?

There is something about the mind of militant secularists that cannot tolerate being exposed to anything unlike itself. They are no better than the religious fundamentalists they deplore. They have decided ahead of time that no good idea can possibly come from religion, so it must be excluded. I expect that the TED organization will apologize to Joy Junction.

Still, this is another sign that in the future that’s coming into being, simply being publicly present and affirming that one is a Christian will be taken as a sign of aggression. Error has no rights.