Religious Freedom, Missouri StyleAugust 6, 2012 at 9:37 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
Tags: Amendment 2 to the Missouri Constitution, freedom of religion, Missouri Catholic bishops, Murders of Sikhs, Muslims, Sikhs
According to the New York Times, an as-yet unidentified gunman entered a Sikh Temple in suburban St. Louis during the Sunday service yesterday morning, killing six people and wounding three others. When police arrived on the scene the gunman shot one of them and a second officer shot and killed the gunman.
Attacks on Sikhs in the US increased after 9/11; a Sikh was attacked in Arizona four days after the attack on the World Trade Center. It is believed that in many cases attackers confuse Sikhs, whose male practitioners wear turbans, with Muslims. whose male practitioners do not. There are twenty-five million Sikhs in the world
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Missourians will go to the polls to vote on Amendment 2 of the state constitution, which ostensibly strengthens the right of citizens to express their religion, and in particular, gives students the right to pray in school. According to Examiner.com, it also gives students in public schools the right to refuse to learn things that are against their religion:
“According to the language in the amendment, if a student who believes in creationism is asked to take a test on the scientifically accepted theory of evolution, the student could point to the new amendment and get out of the class. While the idea of creationism is allowed in private Christian schools, using it as an excuse in a public school could create a situation that makes everyone uncomfortable. Controversy could also arise if religions outside Christianity were used in public schools. Christianity is the most dominant religion in America, but other religions, such as Islam, are often looked down on. One could only wonder what the reaction would be if a Muslim student complained that their religious freedom was being infringed.”
Will learning the difference between Muslims and Sikhs be considered a violation of students’ religious freedom? Is the right to massive ignorance protected in Amendment 2, or, for that matter, by the First Amendment to the US Constitution?
Pollsters predict that the amendment will be supported by 80% of the voters, but commentators also predict that it will be held up in court for years. One can only hope.
You may wonder why I am commenting on this in a column about American Catholicism, aside from the fact that Catholics (presumably) oppose the murder of innocent human beings. Well, the Catholic bishops of Missouri, great defenders of religious freedom that they are, have come out in support of the amendment. One imagines catechetics classes in Missouri Catholic parishes in which children are trained to pray for freedom from contraception at public school gatherings.