I know I already posted, but the topic has evolved somewhat and I feel the need to put my two cents in again.
I completely understand where those advocating the silencing of religious speech in public settings are coming from. And I respect their opinions and
the feelings that give rise to them. I also understand the argument that publicly funded schools or other venues should not allow religious speech
because it could be construed as a tacit endorsement of a religion or religious beliefs hosted in said venue.
However, I must respectfully and amicably disagree with that conclusion. On the ethical level, I disagree with it because it is intuitively oppressive
in my mind to bar an individual from expressing their personal beliefs. I also do not agree that them doing so is forcing their faith on others. No
one can be forcibly converted to a religion (barring instances of illegal acts, which are illegal and should be dealt with accordingly anyway.) And
one's personal discomfort at hearing one express their personal religious beliefs should not in my view trump the First Amendment rights or free
exercise clause rights.
On a legal and pragmatic level, I disagree with it because the public funds (barring instances where they actually are, in which case my opinion would
differ somewhat) are not pocketed by the individual speaking, but rather by the individual or collective owners and operators (or stewards) of the
venue or property where the speech was exercised. Unless we are going to say that every form of speech (that is not inciting violence or triggering a
dangerous situation) in a publicly funded venue is going to be strictly controlled by said owners/operators/stewards, which also strikes me as
intuitively oppressive and antithetical to liberty, I cannot agree that this constitutes a state-sanctioned endorsement of a religion. Especially
since it has not been shown that adherents of other faiths (to use the valedictorian speech example) could not have made similar expressions of their
faith had they been the chosen speakers.
On a personal level... when I was in Middle School, our social studies class touched on many different faiths. If we had classmates who were adherents
of those faiths, we were given the option to question them about their beliefs. It was an exercise in religious tolerance and communication. It did no
one there harm to my knowledge, and broadened our young minds in my view. This was a public school. Because anyone was allowed to speak, and because
no preferential treatment was given to any faith, the school was not endorsing a religion or religion in general. They were simply educating us to
their existence. Was this unconstitutional or a violation of any students' rights? I do not believe so. And no one in the class, nor any of my
friends' parents, felt that it was at the time.
I do not feel that hearing the word God, Allah, Christ, Buddha, karma, Goddess, or any other religious terminology violates my freedoms or liberties.
On the contrary, I feel that forcibly barring others from doing so bars their liberties, and severely threatens my own. People being religious -
again, barring specific acts of violence, incitement to violence, or the constitution of danger to self or public - does not harm me. Much less if I
don't believe in anything they're saying. A government suppressing their right to be religious might very well
harm me in due time, however.
This is why I will forever defend and support people's right to adhere to and espouse
their religious beliefs, whether I agree with them or
I likewise support the rights of those who do not care for religion or religious exercise near them to express their views about it. I support their
right to say that religion is "hogwash," that it is "make believe," that it is responsible for many of the world's ills in their view, etc. etc.
whether I agree with that
entirely or not. And regardless of how uncomfortable those statements might make those who are religious.
Though, with all of that having been said, and while everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion or beliefs and the right to express them, I would
- on the basis of my own - strongly encourage
people to embrace a higher degree of tolerance (both toward the religious and toward the
anti-religious or simply atheistic... which I do not consider as automatically synonymous necessarily,) and a greater sense of human fellowship, if at
all feasible for each individual. Those are my
beliefs. So take them or reject them as you will.
edit on 10/1/2012 by AceWombat04 because: (no reason given)