Orange Order shoots itself in foot with 'RIP' furore
The Orange Order has an unfortunate habit of casting itself in a poor light. A case in point is the article in the Orange Standard decrying the use of the letters RIP - Rest In Peace - by Protestants when noting the death of a friend.
The argument is that the phrase is unProtestant and unbiblical, with suggestions of Catholic superstition.
While theologians can debate this argument - and a radio talk-in programme heard various views for and against - it all smacks of a rather arcane discussion that doesn't really apply to what ordinary people who use the phrase really mean.
RIP has become an accepted way of ending a message of regret at the death of a friend and is not seen by the vast majority of people who use it as pertinent to any one Christian denomination.
To describe it as unProtestant reminds non-Protestants of the Orange Order's ban on members - though often ignored - attending the funeral services of Catholic friends.
What it does is give the wrong perception. As we saw at the Twelfth just past, the Order is trying to broaden the appeal of its demonstrations and to make its culture more widely known and understood. In that respect it is making progress and deserves due praise for it. But it needs to emphasise more strongly what it stands for rather than what it stands against. And that is for internal as well as external consumption.
In an organisation of its size, inevitably there will be elements who are sectarian - that is probably more of a problem among those who associate themselves with the Order than among actual members - but emphasising its anti-Catholicism rather than its pro-Protestantism means it will continue to suffer a blighted image.
What it also does - and it must be made clear that this is totally unacceptable - is give excuse to equally sectarian elements on the other side of the community divide who express themselves through attacks on Orange halls, two of which occurred at the weekend.
Quite rightly they are classified as hate crimes and it is incumbent on all within nationalist and republican communities to condemn them unequivocally.
On this the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it is unfortunate that a country which classes itself as Christian can continue to find divisions in the way we follow our common faith rather than rejoice that we still hold any.