Jaywalking: Amend this

John Walker
Opinion Editor

I have not had much of a spiritual identity for most of my adult life. Growing up I was raised a Southern Baptist and was forced to go to church. But like many in my generation the onset of information technology and globalization opened up a world of ideas.

And so I became aware of the world in which we all live and how it was fundamentally different than my own. The world does not work according to one set of beliefs. Our founders tried to explain this when creating our constitution and set very specific guidelines to keep our country from falling into the same internal threats as many other democracies.

This is why the first amendment is so important. It gave the people freedoms not traditionally allowed. One of these is the freedom of the press, which you are experiencing right now. The other is freedom of speech, which can be represented on both these opinion pages or verbally. There is also the right of assembly, so we may meet in groups and discuss the goings on of our government (because that’s what college students do when they gather in large numbers).

Finally, and out of order, is the separation of church and state. “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Does this mean we can’t have prayer groups across campus? As is certainly evident on our own campus. Does this mean the government can shut down churches who speak out against it? Of course not. We do not persecute religion in this country.

Likewise, the heavily religious in this country need to take a step back and stop attacking those who are fighting to protect the first amendment. Our school cannot endorse any religious entity because we are a public institution.

Recently a young woman in Rhode Island challenged a banner hanging in her school gym that had a prayer written on it. Being a public high school, they are not allowed to endorse any religion. After a successful lawsuit the young woman received backlash for her actions. And what should have been congratulations for her support of the constitution became damnation and threats from her own peers. Self-proclaimed Christians were threatening the life of a young high schooler. It’s a growing trend in our country and a scary one at that. As Americans we need to take a step back and evaluate how we react to these situations. I am sure it is frustrating for the Christian community to see old standards fade away. But the law is the law, and when we let one slide the rest will soon follow in an avalanche of social oppression. Don’t believe me? Just read a history book.

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