A lesson in religious tolerance
By VAL TORRENS
North Kitsap Herald Columnist
December 12, 2008 · Updated 4:54 PM
It seems there is a segment of the faith community that feels it is under attack. And Ground Zero for that assault is the Capitol Rotunda in Olympia, the capitol of the state of Washington.
The uproar has been caused by the placement of a placard by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). The placard shares space with a Nativity scene and a Christmas tree. While the state calls it a holiday tree, there is no other faith that has an evergreen tree as a symbol of their religious holiday in December, so they are being less than honest to call it otherwise.
A Chanukah menorah, in honor of the Jewish holiday may show up later in the month as it has in the last few years. So, despite some contentions to the contrary, there is more than one faith that observes a special day(s) this time of year.
The FFRF is an organization of atheists who believe there is no G-d, Creator, higher power or any other name many give to the entity that heads their religion. Apparently, that notion is not something some people in this country can tolerate.
That is too bad given that the reason those who immigrated to this country back at its beginning came to get away from people telling them who and how to worship. That reason has now given way over the last century to introducing religion into public life.
In 1870, Christmas was declared a national holiday. Until then, everyone managed to observe the holiday without any help from the government. Then, in the era of routing out the “G-dless communists,” the words “under G-d were inserted into our Pledge of Allegiance and we put “In G-d We Trust” on our money. It was a rather futile gesture that has done nothing to alter the course of communism. But, it has resulted in lawsuits by people who wish to return our public sector to a religion free zone.
That is what upsets some of the faith community. They cannot accept the idea that there are people who not interested in their religion, let alone any religion.
They also feel compelled to get those who worship differently to convert to their belief system.
This intolerance raised its ugly head during the presidential election when people were ready to discount Obama has a candidate simply because they thought he was a Muslim.
As Colin Powell so rightly pointed out, even though Obama is not Muslim, but Christian, what difference should it make? After all, this country is supposed to be about freedom of, and from, religion.
And, that is a point that clearly is lost on those who are currently railing against Washington State allowing the FFRF placard to remain in the rotunda. They need to take a look at the First Amendment to our Constitution. It was put in to protect the rights of minorities and individuals from being trampled on by the will of the majority.
At present, the majority faith in this country is Christian.
But, that does not give the Christian community the right to impose its beliefs and will upon those who do not share their faith. That is where the First Amendment comes into play.
This is not “political correctness” taken too far; this is the exercising of the rights for which this country says it stands for. Even the US Supreme Court has already found such displays to be legal.
People can protest this action by the state – that, too, is enshrined in the same amendment. But, their solution of removing the offensive display – offensive only in its ideas, not its language – is wrong.
This is when true patriots will stand by the words of Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Otherwise, we have violated our Constitution, an action far more heinous.
Val has been called a community activist — or agitator — depending upon one’s view. She contributes her time in the fields of arts, education, human rights, lacrosse, land use, politics and her Jewish community. Val has been an adjunct faculty member of OC since 1980 where she teaches political science and speech. She resides outside of Poulsbo with her husband and their pets.