Posts Tagged ‘religious freedom’

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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Separation of Church and State – let’s get real!  Atheists Raging War on Soldiers’ Memorial is something that is absolutely an insane waste of time, money, and should be utterly condemned.  This one just totally sets me off, I’m not sure I can even write about it and be calm and rational.  91 years ago, the community (probably a few Christians on the town council, or volunteers at the fire house) of Woonsocket, MA, wanted to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers of their community who fought in previous wars.  They erected a monument with good faith of heart that they thought would honor those who died, including three brothers who were killed in WWI.  They erected this monument with no malice towards anyone, with no pretense to offend or even convert anyone – just to honor the dead in a respectful manner.  91 years later, an atheist, decides to sue the town to remove the cross that is part of the memorial – and not only that, but demands they remove an image of an angel and “the Firefighter’s Prayer” from the Woonsocket Fire Department’s website. What makes this even more outrageous is that a group which is heavily funded is attacking this small town knowing damn well the town can’t fight back as it will bankrupt Woonsocket.

When this monument was erected, I can only assume that the good towns people of Woonsocket wanted to honor their fallen, and they felt comfortable building the monument as they did.  This monument then has captured a time, culture, belief of a group of people and is a mark in time, a mark in history.  No one today, has the right to change the decisions made 91 years ago about how to respect their loved ones.  The Constitution of the United States has never meant that we should have freedom from religion – the first amendment was to protect America’s religious freedom.  To allow all faiths and non-faiths as it may be to choose their belief system.  This in no way shape or form means images of a specific religion must be removed, even from state or federal property, just because this image is outside the belief system of another person. There may be other legitimate reasons, but not because one person complained.

This country was founded on religious freedom, the ability to choose to believe or not believe.  Different belief systems can be a good thing – it can help people open their minds to how other people see things.  Many religions do have symbols that represent their faith, and it’s part of their practices to use these symbols.  Even outside of religious beliefs, many cultures have different practices, and if we are truly freedom minded people, these symbols and cultural norms must be tolerated and even embraced.  An atheist who demands a cross be removed from a monument erected 91 years ago is trampling on the free expression of a people who simply wanted to respectfully honor their dead at that moment in time, and is now ingrained as a part of the history of that small town – and that’s all it is.  Tearing it down would be a complete and utter disrespect of those people who chose to erect it.  Leaving it in place as is captures a town’s moment in  time, and how it felt and dealt with tragedy.  How can this cross, representing a deity an atheist doesn’t believe exists, trample on his first amendment rights?  It almost seems completely opposite – he is trying to impose his belief system through a “demand (law)” which is what the first amendment protects us from!

God bless America!

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