Religious Freedom: Double Standard

When I think of the proper separation of church and state I think of the concept of the institutions.  I really think the intent of the separation came about because back in the history of the founding, the head of England was also the head of the church.  They were, in many respects, the same.

This lead to the condition where the official function of state was to discourage, and even make it illegal to practice, other religions.  I don’t think it was the goal of the time to make sure government didn’t contain religion, only that it not BE religion. There are numerous instances of examples of this belief.

George Washington firmly felt that Divine Providence played a role in The War of Independence.  He credited the divine for the happy circumstances of chance that favored the Americans.  He ordered his officers to attend church and pray regularly.  In his many speeches he referred to America itself as the Divine Experiment.

I would expect Washington to represent that government isn’t meant to be free of religion, not at all.  I think he felt it was critical to have religion explicitly IN government.  Rather he would defend one man’s desire to pray to his understanding of Providence and another to his.

Clearly this isn’t where we are today.  In today’s version of the separation there can be no representation of religion IN the state.  We can’t pray before a city council meeting, we can’t have a prayer banner in a high school and we certainly can’t pray before meals or during a graduation.

I think this modern reading of the intent is wrong.  However, given the myriad of other issues we’re facing, it’s pretty low on my list of fights to fight.  I’m not an overly “outward” religious person.  I don’t wear signs of my faith, I don’t need public affirmation for me to feel spiritual.  I mostly say grace quietly before meals but I don’t engage in any other public display.

However, what really gets me about this whole “war” is the one sided fight we’re seeing from the left.  It’s as if we’re not just making sure we separate religion from state but only Christian religion from the state.

Take the high school choir singing the Islamic worship song:

A Colorado high school student quit the school choir after an Islamic song containing the lyric “there is no other truth except Allah” made it into the repertoire.

James Harper, a senior at Grand Junction High School in Grand Junction, put his objection to singing “Zikr,” a song written by Indian composer A.R. Rahman, in an email to Mesa County School District 51 officials. When the school stood by choir director Marcia Wieland’s selection, Harper quit.

 …

“I don’t want to come across as a bigot or a racist, but I really don’t feel it is appropriate for students in a public high school to be singing an Islamic worship song,” Harper told KREX-TV. “This is worshipping another God, and even worshipping another prophet … I think there would be a lot of outrage if we made a Muslim choir say Jesus Christ is the only truth.”

District spokesman Jeff Kirtland rejected Harper’s analogy.

“This is about bringing diversity to the students and showing them other things that are out there,” Kirtland told KREX. “The teacher was open with the parents and students do not have to participate in this voluntary club choir.”

Now, I happen to be okay with the singing of “Zikr”.  I believe the district when they’re saying that the intent is about diversity.  And even if it wasn’t, who cares?  Muslims attend our schools ad have the same “want” to sing their faith as other religions.

But seriously?  Schools are no longer allowed to sing Christmas carols or hand out candy canes, but Islamic songs of worship are okay?

And while schools everywhere are reacting to violence in their buildings, they are at the same time making exceptions for religions; non-Christian religions:

A Detroit-area district says it’s allowing Sikh students to wear a small, religious dagger to school, MyFoxDetroit.com reports.

The decision by the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools reverses a ban put in place in December after a fourth-grader at a Canton Township elementary school was found with a dull, 3- to 5-inch kirpan.

The kirpan represents a commitment to fight evil in the Sikh tradition. The dagger is a religious symbol that baptized Sikh males are expected to carry.

Perhaps Christians should simply claim that it’s “part of their religion” when they make the case that they need a place and a time to pray.

Finally, there’s the story of the girl who attends the Church of Body Modification.  According to the tenants of this faith, body piercings are central to their beliefs.  As such, a school policy that prohibits such piercings violates her 1st Amendment rights.  However, the school didn’t back down and the ACLU stepped right in:

RALEIGH (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union claims in a lawsuit filed today that a North Carolina school violated the constitutional rights of a 14-year-old student by suspending her for wearing a nose piercing.

The lawsuit from the state chapter of the ACLU seeks a court order allowing Ariana Iacono to return immediately to Clayton High School, which has kept her on suspension for four weeks since classes started.

The complaint hinges on Iacono’s claim that her nose piercing isn’t just a matter of fashion, but an article of faith. She and her mother, Nikki, belong to a small religious group called the Church of Body Modification, which sees tattoos, piercings and the like as channels to the divine.

“This is a case about a family’s right to send a 14-year-old honor student to public school without her being forced to renounce her family’s religious beliefs,” wrote lawyers from the ACLU and the Raleigh firm Ellis & Winters in a brief supporting the lawsuit.

The Johnston County school system has a dress code banning facial piercings, along with short skirts, sagging pants, “abnormal hair color” and other items deemed distracting or disruptive.

I don’t know, I’m certainly skeptical of this interpretation of the the divine, but hey, who am I?  However, school policy states that nose studs are forbidden.  Yet because of her faith, the ACLU sued [and won] allowing religious exceptions.

Again, the expression of religious faith of our citizens isn’t prohibited by the founders.  Heck, the expression of faith by our leaders while in service to the country isn’t prohibited.  But, if you ARE going to restrict religious liberty, you should be even handed.

 

2 responses to “Religious Freedom: Double Standard

  1. In general, I agree. Tuesday in my class on World Politics I spent the day comparing the histories of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, primarily to help students understand the different cultural traditions and that the extremists who urge violence are not representative of the teachings of those faiths. In general, I think people should respect different religions and find radical anti-religious atheism to be a kind of faith itself – a faith that a God cannot exist!

    When I was in 3rd grade I recall doing a Christmas pageant with Christian carols – plus a Jewish song, an American Indian song, and a few others (I was narrator – my first public speaking!) I can see people being upset if school events are treated as if they were in a church – everyone is expected to pray, etc. But overall I think people need to lighten up and be less litigious – and be respectful of religious belief.

    • I can see people being upset if school events are treated as if they were in a church – everyone is expected to pray, etc.

      Totally!

      I don’t want kids to go to a public school and be expected to learn stories from the Bible or the Koran. However, those kids ARE Christian, Jewish and Islamic. To deny them the expression of that, to not allow schools or the state to recognize people are in essence faith based, is silly and wrong.

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