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Posts Tagged ‘freedom of religion’

Merriam-Webster defines offend as: “to cause (a person or group) to feel hurt, angry, or upset by something said or done”.  Over the past few months, you saw stories of Christmas being “banned” from a variety of public places – Christmas trees being re-labeled as Holiday trees, and many stores and businesses afraid to even say Merry Christmas.  All of this in the name of being sensitive to others – not to offend people.  What is it specifically about Christmas that hurts someone, makes someone feel angry, or upsets them?  Does the celebration or observance of the “birth” of a historical figure upset you, hurt you, make you feel angry?  Is it the deeper meaning of what this observance stands for – that a large number of people believe this historical figure is the Son of God?  Merriam-Webster goes on to further define offend as:  “to be unpleasant to (someone or something)”.  Could all the decorations that have become a tradition of Christmas be unpleasant?  Or could it be this alternative meaning: “to do wrong : to be against what people believe is acceptable or proper”.  I’m certain this version might apply – that someone who does not believe in what Christmas stands for finds all of this celebrating unacceptable or improper.

One of the fabulous things about America is our freedom – our ability to live our lives as we choose, believe what we want to.  OK – but there is some framework around this freedom – the laws that a free society agrees upon to keep order – like not stealing , killing, etc.  For the most part, these laws follow from a set of morals passed on by tradition.  Our Bill of Rights outlines what our founding fathers found important enough, creating this document to support our freedom.  Freedom allows us to believe in and celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or nothing.  I choose to be a Christian (Episcopalian) and celebrate Christmas (and other religious “feast” days).  I celebrate in private or with a congregation – and I may decorate my home with lights in December.  I do this because I live in a country that provides me the  freedom to do so.  I do NOT do this to hurt, anger, or upset anyone.  If someone is hurt, angered, or upset by this, then they have chosen to be upset – yes, chosen to be.  Now – if you  attempt to ban some celebration because someone is choosing to be offended – then you are interfering in my right to free expression of religion – you are suppressing freedom!

Oh – but what about separation of Church and state – you can’t celebrate Christmas in a public school – or in a public square…. Lawyers and legal scholars will argue what our first amendment really intended – and the lawyer who can explain this in the most elegant manner might convince us this really means you really shouldn’t pray before a local government meeting, or the ten commandments shouldn’t be posted in a school – but if you read the words:

From Wikipedia:  “The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights.”

Prohibits the making of any law – either respecting an establishment of religion – or – impeding the free exercise of religion.  How does a prayer said before a government meeting violate this?  What law was made?  The founding fathers did not want a repeat of the control the Church of England had over the government.  It also provides all of us the right to be free to exercise our religious beliefs.

America – as a melting pot of many cultures should rise above the fray and embrace ALL of the richness we as a country are blessed with.  I personally enjoy learning about other cultures, religions and the traditions that accompany them.  I am not offended by someone who embraces a different belief – it expands me as a human being to learn about other traditions and beliefs – it does not offend me.  It also doesn’t change what I believe. I imagine that many people who are either for or against Christmas celebrations even understand how these traditions came about – about the origins of Christmas celebrations – or even about how our current celebrations were “created” in America.  For the curious – here’s a link to a relatively brief history lesson on Christmas.

I am offended when someone purposefully tries to hurt me – physically –  in the name of their religion or belief, as we all should be.  However,  people who are quick to choose being “offended” by a Christmas song should instead, try this, (Merriam-Webster helps out again): Respect, “to act in a way which shows that you are aware of (someone’s rights, wishes, etc.)”  Let’s respect others beliefs – but not at the sacrifice of our own.  Let us embrace the richness of our diversity and celebrate our freedom.  Let us share our cultures and traditions – not to change, but to understand.  Let us be open and learn – especially with our children – and not shut them out – don’t make understanding others beliefs taboo.

Let’s make 2014 the year of Respect!

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