Religious Freedom For Whom?

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9 Responses

  1. I agree with the general premise… we Christians have faltered and been in the wrong in the treatment of others. We have grown far too political and lost sight of the truth. The things we fight for (of course fight is not really the best term to use I admit) are valid but the way we do it is wrong. No one is ever converted or convinced of our right or cause by coercion or being “brow beaten” in an argument. We must first build a relationship of mutual respect, admiration, and acceptance and only then will people listen to what we have to say. Christians as a whole have forgotten Jesus statement “render unto Caesar what Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s”, as well as the Sermon on the Mount’s “Blessed are the peacemakers”.

    I admit I have not read the applicable articles but what concerns me about the ten commandments in the school (and this concern is far below the level of concern I feel about the mistreatment and bullying by the supposed Christians-that is the prime wrong here and should be called out) is that they were removed by the dissenting voice of 1 person. That is not how our country was designed either. I have no personal problem with the commandments being removed by the teacher or the school. It is their room, their property they have every right to do what they see fit with it especially if they feel it does more harm by being there than good. My only concern in that respect is that we start letting small groups tramp over the others… it is still one group ignoring the rights of another. There is no easy solution to this I admit and I have no clue as to an answer that would solve the problem.

    I see stuff everyday that I disagree with or “offends”me in some form or capacity but I accept it as the right of others and I either ignore it or move on. Just because someone disagrees with something is not a valid reason to deprive others of their right to enjoy it. I mean this in response to such as the Ten Commandments issue not as a justification for civil rights violation in respect to race or gender, etc.

  2. Something I forgot to add… This may be controversial but nowhere do we have a right not to be offended–majority, minority or otherwise. I am not condoning blatant offensiveness or being offensive to others for cruel or joking purposes–that is wrong.

    Also… whether one likes them or not, most of our laws are based in some form or another on the Ten Commandments, so finding offense in them just seems like nitpicking to me or at the least trying to force your views (be it atheism or whatever) on others. Respect and acceptance and tolerance does work both ways and both sides fail more often than not.

    • ARKellogg says:

      Thanks for you comment, Alan. You bring up two common fallacies that are frequently mentioned in this context. First of all, US laws are not based on the ten commandments. Only three of these commandments are laws: prohibitions on murder, stealing, and bearing false witness – and these are found in pretty much every country, including non-Christian nations. The other seven are not against the law at all – idolatry, having no other gods, using the Lord’s name in vain, adultery, envy/jealousy, keeping the Sabbath, honoring parents. In fact, our legal system from its founding days was based on secular writings, which you can read more about here:

      Secondly, the plaque was not removed because one person was offended. It was removed because it violated the first amendment – commonly refereed to as “the separation of church and state.” The only people in this case who were offended were Christians after the removal of the plaque. So while you are correct in stating that there is no right “to not be offended,” there is a right in this country that public institutions will not promote or favor any particular religion.

      • Actually the 1st Amendment says ” Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Nowhere is “separation of church and state” mentioned there. That was actually mentioned in a letter by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists and not in an official government document. Now, I agree that it has been used in interpreting the 1st Amendment and there are plenty of disputing views out there on the right of it. And even then the meaning behind the wording is still in dispute… what exactly constitutes “establishment of religion” or “free exercise thereof”?? If a Christian chooses to display the Ten commandments in his classroom he is exercising his religion and any attempt to prevent that can be viewed as prohibiting that thereby violating the 1st Amendment.. in one interpretation. As long as the teacher is not forcing students to worship them or pledge allegiance to them I don’t see where he is violating anyone else’s rights but those who demand he remove them is indeed violating his right to free exercise. The dispute between the sides in the “Separation” debate is between the interpretation of the terms but the exact phrase is not in the 1st Amendment.

        Now, again, I reiterate my earlier statement that the school can have the teacher remove them if they so choose and I have no problem with that.. it is their building, their rules. As a Christian, I am not offended that they choose to remove them, again it is their right. As well as in regards to your original post… I have serious issues with the behavior of the so called Christian students and their parents. They are far in the wrong and should be rightly called to task and held responsible. We have wandered far from your original post’s intent and that was not my intention. I agree with your original intent and points, Christians need to behave better, think before we act, and follow Jesus’s teachings and example much, much better than we have been. We have fallen far from the proverbial tree in that regard and are doing more damage to our witness than we should.

        • ARKellogg says:

          First, it is true that the phrase “separation of church and state” doesn’t appear in the constitution. That doesn’t mean, however, that one can interpret the wording of the constitution as one chooses. In fact, Jefferson’s writings on the separation of church and state have become part of the law. In Reynolds v. United States (1879) the Court wrote that Jefferson’s comments “may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the [First] Amendment.” In Everson v. Board of Education (1947), Justice Hugo Black wrote: “In the words of Thomas Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect a wall of separation between church and state.

          Second, public school teachers are acting on the behalf of the state; thus, it is a violation of the religious freedom of their students if they put up the ten commandments or a menorah, etc. In doing so, they are promoting a particular religion as a state employee. In contrast, a student, who is not an employee, can wear a shirt with the ten commandments as an act of religious freedom. There is a very important difference in these two acts.

          Third, it is important to keep in mind that the language of rights are specifically designed to protect those with minority viewpoints. It is very difficult to believe in a way that substantially differs from the majority of your peers. Most Christians are so comfortable with being in the majority that they take their position of privilege for granted. Imagine, if you were still Christian, but everyone around you was practiced Islam. Would you not feel a little uncomfortable in class if the walls were covered with texts from the Qur’an?

          This brings me to my final point, why would anyone want Christian texts posted in a biology classroom? Students should be able to focus on learning science without having to think at all about their religious ideas. I don’t recall the ten commandments having anything to do with biology. As a Christian, I want my daughter learning about cells and living organisms in biology class, not staring at scripture verses. And if I did want her to be surrounded with religion all day, I am free to send her to a private school or home school her.
          I honestly don’t understand why some Christians are always trying to impose their beliefs on others in the public sphere. Jesus was not impressed with the showiness of the pharisees. Instead, he pointed to those whose actions were evidence of their beliefs — the widows and good Samaritans — as examples for his followers. If Christians truly want to convert and save others, they need to stop spouting bible verses and impress others with the depth of the love in their hearts. The Christian life should be lived not preached about.

          Thanks again for your thoughtful comments. I know that we agree more than disagree. But this is also an important to discussion to have. I wish there were more of these — respectful exchanges — instead of the rhetorical echo chambers that are common place.

          • It may surprise you to hear that I really don’t disagree with most of what you said in your reply to my reply to your

            I agree with your closing statements that we Christians need to stop spouting bible verses and show more love. We need to live the life and not just spout the words. We must build relationships and earn the right to “speak” our views into someone’s life and we have failed big time in that area. No disagreements there.

            Actually we do disagree however on one can interpret words as one sees fit.. that is what we all do. That is what was done initially with the original interpretations, in general we have just taken those original interpretations as “granted” and used them for precedent over time. The thing with interpretations are that there are as many as there are people to read the actual words. And over time sometimes those interpretations change depending on the political make up of the courts deciding. That is part of the beauty of our system (when it works as designed that is) and I have no wishes to change or modify that system, especially when I disagree with the interpretations and decisions made.

            I also agree that the school can decide to have the teacher remove the Ten Commandments or Menorah or whatever he displays, but I still maintain he has the right to display them as long as the school has no problem with it. He may be an employee but he has the same rights as the students. As for your student wearing a Ten Commandments shirt.. I wish we could tolerate that however we are at the point where even students are forbidden to wear such shirts in some situations and some schools. There have been instances where a student was asked to change or not wear shirts with such stuff on them (I apologize I do not have readily have any specific instances at hand but one can find them if one chooses to look) when another student has complained about it. As long as it is not ridiculing another religion or belief system then it should be allowed. In my opinion and my opinion only which is the only thing I can really speak of and to.

            Yes, as a Christian I would feel uncomfortable if my classroom was covered with texts from the Quran, but the issue we discussed was not an instance of the “walls being covered” but a cope of the Ten Commandments was displayed. I would have no problem if a copy of a part or a few parts of the Quran were displayed (especially if they also had examples of the Torah and Bible, but that is not part of this discussion). My point being a few examples or one specific example (such as the Ten Commandments) is not covering the walls and is not “pushing my religion” on those who do not hold to it…it is just me being proud of my faith system. Again, just my opinion not law or anyone else’s.

            In closing… I also appreciate the respectful discussion and disagreement. I wish we could have more of such in our society these days.

  3. ARKellogg says:

    Again, Alan, I want to thank you for your thoughtful comments. Just wanted to clarify one point – I was arguing from a legal perspective. Legally, one cannot interpret the constitution as one wants, and the meaning of the first amendment as it relates to church and state has already been established by the Supreme Court.

  4. Lana says:

    Wow, quite the detailed post. Also, walmart greeters already?! shees, we haven’t even gotton past halloween yet!

  5. lotharson says:

    I am a Germanic Frenchman and the French version of secularism has always been freedom FROM religion rather than freedom of religion.
    I agree that nothing not inevitably causing harm should be prohibited.

    But what about burkas? Why certain Muslim Women like them, for the overwhelming majority they are an oppressing clothe.
    I am not sure that France was wrong to have forbidden them in the public sphere.

    Otherwise I am disgusted by conservative Christians screaming about the Shariah while not recognizing that many laws in the Old Testaments are as atrocious and barbaric as harmful Muslim laws.

    Friendly greetings from continental Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

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