The Norman Transcript

Opinion

December 15, 2013

Government must protect reigious minorities

NORMAN — Editor, the Transcript:

The Oklahoma legislature’s proposed “Merry Christmas” law is as ridiculous and misguided as the recent erection of a Ten Commandments monument at the state Capitol. Like the monument, this will also attract the attention of other religious groups because it displays such a gross ignorance of the fundamental purpose of separating church and state. The fact that the Satanic monument offered to accompany the Ten Commandments offends and perplexes lawmakers is a sign of how deep this ignorance is.

It can be easy to forget that one of the major responsibilities of democracy is that the majority must project the voices of minorities by not stifling them, and this is probably most true with freedoms such as religion. Freedom of religion does not inevitably lead to freedom from religion in public discourse, but Oklahoma needs to deal with the fact that ours is a secular government, and that it is designed that way purposefully in order to protect all religious expression, as well as protecting religion from the intrusions of government.

Tacitly endorsing Christianity as a state religion through gestures such as these is a slippery slope on many fronts. The implications are not only that the perspectives of practitioners of other religions are not welcome, but that since it is a representative government, that we are all Christians, which is obviously not true.

Every year, the holiday season brings out discussions of the “war on Christmas,” as more and more institutions respectfully recognize the fact that we are becoming a more pluralistic nation who celebrate holidays at the winter solstice different from our own. We are not going to hang on to traditional values in a meaningful sense by becoming parochial and intolerant, but instead by being strong enough to welcome differing views.

MARC JENSEN

Norman

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