Every year on September 17, we observe Constitution Day, a moment to reflect on the great foundation of our democracy. Colleges and universities are required by law to observe this day in some manner. This year at Trinity, one of the ways we observe this moment is to engage in a public discussion of our basic freedoms on this blog.
I have invited members of the Trinity community to reflect on two questions about the First Amendment — threats to Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion. Today and on subsequent days this week, I will be posting the answers you submitted. Others are welcome to join this discussion by posting comments directly on this blog, or send me your thoughts via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are the questions:
1. Has Freedom of Speech gone too far? Should there be more limits to stop extremists from provoking violence, e.g., threatening to burn the Koran? Or, does the fact that people feel free to be outrageous show the strength of our freedom?
2. Is Freedom of Religion in danger? Is government doing enough to protect everyone’s right to practice their religion in peace and safety? Should some religious leaders chill out when it comes to advocating for their rights?
Here are the first several answers from members of the Trinity community, more to come later this week….
From Waseme Zuwema Berry, Class of 2011:
“Freedom of religion is undoubtedly is grave danger. The signs and warnings are evident as the media continuously portrays the Islam religion, for instance, as radical, heretical, and dangerous. Persons who aren’t learned in the Islam religion (adolescents, non-religious, etc.) are mainly influenced by the stereotypical renderings of the Muslim faith. As a result of misinformation, the spread of anger and frustration rapidly moves throughout our society. Unfortunately, there has been a population of Islam Radicals that have chosen to commit monstrous acts upon the United States and neighboring countries—- yet, this does not negate the overall intrinsic inner beauty of the Islam faith and its rich culture. If the media spent nearly as much time highlighting the positives of Islam and drawing attention to those followers that are AGAINST the atrocities of terrorists, the rights and safety of Muslims would not be in limbo.
“I am a Christian, that is, a believer of Jesus Christ (as the Divine Son of God). My faith teaches me to, above all, Love others and to live in peace among them. My faith does not subscribe to the belief that mistreating others and forcing one’s “faith” upon them is acceptable or right. For example, burning the Holy Books of another faith group—only incites rage, fear and animosity towards the person (s) / faith community which is committing the act. Surely, this is not the answer to verbalizing one’s disparagement with another culture or religion. Moreover, as a Christian, one can take a look at Jesus’ actions in the story of the, “Woman at the Well” (John 4:1-26). In biblical times, Jews were not to associate with Samaritans at any length. However, Jesus did not mistreat or ignore the Samaritan woman as he approached the well, but he kindly asked her for a drink of water and spoke to the issues of her heart. In the end, the Samaritan woman was restored from her life of adultery and pain. It is implied that she walked away from the well, a better woman than before! This is a prime example of how we ought to treat other human beings of various faiths. All in all, religious leaders need to take a moment to analyze what it truly means to be a believer and “faith follower”. Past times are evident of the harm that religious intolerance can have on various cultures and races. In order for us not to repeat the unfortunate aspects of our history, we must take a stand against tyranny and instead, love & respect each other to the fullest.”
From Erika Goergen, Blue Class:
From James R. Risse, Graduate Student, School of Education:
“Freedom is alive and well in the U.S.A. today. With the predominance of media outlets for whatever outlandish ideas one espouses, we can expect to see what has existed in silence all along. Previously these opinions and attitudes were left in the closet and celebrated on rare occasions with cross burnings and lynchings. I believe bringing these perspectives out in the open is a good thing. People can finally see how their attitudes are accepted, or ridiculed, by the mainstream and perhaps learn from their efforts. The rest of us can learn that the world isn’t quite the “safe” place we assume and take actions accordingly.