01 April 2011

Skewing Religious Freedom

There's a recent news event that ticked me off. It has something to do with Giles County, VA. Their administrative website suggests that it's a pretty place to be, but after reading what I saw was happening there, it's an ugly sight.

See, the thing is, Giles County was in the news lately for something related to freedom of religion. Last February, there was a request for the school board to remove displays of The Ten Commandments. Yes, the Ten Commandments somehow is a prominent display in the public school system in Giles County. And some parents saw that as objectionable. Thus, the ACLU has stepped up saying that they would be willing to legally represent the families that are objecting to the displays.

Fearing a lawsuit, the school board decided to take them down. Good thing, right?

Now here's something that I didn't understand. Because of that, 200 students protested, saying they want their Ten Commandments back. You can see the reports here, here, and here. Their main reason for protesting? They claim that they are just exercising their freedom of religion and speech.

How silly is that? Forcing an institution to display a religious item like the Ten Commandments amounts to that institution endorsing that particular flavor of religion. I wonder if these protesters have actually thought their statements through. I wonder how they would feel if I were a Muslim, and I tell the school board to put signs of the Shahada, simply because I was exercising my freedom of religion and speech.

The thing is, freedom of religion doesn't work that way. If you feel so religious that you're compelled to display the Ten Commandments, then do it on your own. Display it on your front yard, display it on your car as a bumper sticker, display it on your body as a tattoo (speaking of which, here is another example of some ironic hypocrisy), but not in a public institution.

The sad thing is that the protesters have been quoted as saying things like This is Giles County and Christ is a big, big, big part of Giles County. For those who don't like it, go somewhere else. and This is America and we can have our Ten Commandments and if they don't like it, they can get out. I feel like these kids need to have a little bit of a history lesson, something involving the First Amendment. It is ironic to see this country, a country who started as a group of people escaping religious persecution in the Old World, who braved the ocean and sailed thousands of miles to this continent just so that they can practice their religion openly and safely, and yet now, these same people are trying to institutionalize their own flavor of religion that they are actually doing what was being done to them a couple of centuries ago.

The funny thing is that religion can be functional at times. But there's so many irrational aspects to it that it becomes dysfunctional to the most superlative degree.

(The Other Hill, from my Ollantaytambo Series)


  1. This is why religion and education shouldn't mix. I can never understand people who bring religion into public places.

    On a side note, I keep on having problem posting comment, the capcha doesn't display well. :-(

  2. Zhu,

    I agree. I don't mind people having a religion, what I mind is when people use institutions like the educational system to promote their own religion.

    Let me see the problem about the comments. Thanks again for letting me know.

  3. You know I came upon an interesting fact when reading about the early Americans. They did not come here to get religious freedom; they came here because they felt that in Europe religion was becoming too liberal. Actually the early Americans did not celebrate Christmas, they even gave fines to people who did. The “fathers” of the country were the ones who made religious freedom part of the foundation of the country, but the early Pilgrims were uber conservative, you know they were the ones who burnt women they thought were “witches” they also killed thousands of Native Americans because they were “heathen” to their eyes, since they believed everyone should be a Puritan Christian. They were also the ones, who later, went to Hawai’i and eradicated the Hawai’ian culture and annexed the country to the US. The early Americans were religious extremists and many have survived – maybe in Virginia?

  4. Vagabonde,

    If that's the case then I shouldn't be surprised then. If this pattern of religious intolerance has been around since the early days, then I guess it's something that perhaps writing about it won't do anything. Too bad.