When we think of America’s birth story our minds go to the very essence of a country that was founded upon “freedom of religion.”
So many of us have it in our minds that our forefathers built this country for anyone to come from any religious background and have a safe haven from persecution. Not many of us are history scholars, however, if we were we would find those sentiments as false.
You may be surprised to find that leaders such as our beloved George Washington cautioned Benedict Arnold to not let the French Canadians’ religion hinder him from gaining their support in the American Revolution that occurred in 1775 according to the Smithsonian Magazine.
One aspect of our country that our forefathers founded was the freedom to exercise or not exercise religion. Previously the head of state of our forefathers country had the church was also the leaders of the state. This forced the citizens to follow the church and state who were one into whatever decisions they deemed best, thus taking away free agency for each one of its citizens. This is why we have a ”secular” government that forces no specific religious view. Jefferson saw the vision of separating church and state with the reasoning being that the law was “meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew, the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.”
When Maryland’s largest school district showed complete bias for the request of a Muslim holiday being recognized in respect for Muslim students, it was a shock to the world when they denied that request. Instead they masked it with removing the holiday names but still being closed for those holidays.
Is the school district simply picking on Muslims or is there a deeper connection that brings them to their decision?
One example of religious persecution after America was established was during the Mormon persecutions. These persecutions led to Mormon members who fought in wars as well as who were law abiding citizens, but faced severe persecution up to sentences of death for their beliefs. From Kirtland, Ohio to Missouri and Nauvoo Illinois, up to having to flee to Salt Lake City, Utah, many Mormons were raped, murdered, threatened and lost their homes due to their beliefs.
Tolerance of change in our country seems to have evaporated. Due to wars and terrorist groups we seem to stereotype Muslims. Instead of looking at them as people, we tag them as “terrorists.” Instead of us setting new expectations and guidance for us to understand Muslims for what they are, we have a barrier that puts us in a state of ignorance that is founded upon fear and miscommunication based upon lack of comprehension.
In September, the Twin Cities Daily Planet posted an article written by Aida AlKadi who had suffered persecution for her religious beliefs over a traffic ticket.
We all have opinions on this issue. Some for and some against the decision of Montgomery County’s Board of Education voted to do.
Here’s one thought that America’s founding fathers made when creating the Constitution and Declaration of Independence which included respect for Jews and Muslims.
“May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants, while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.” President George Washington, 1790.
- Smithsonian Magazine, 2010
- Huffington Post, 2014
- BYU Harold B. Lee Library, 1992
- Teaching Tolerance, 2011
- Twin Cities Daily Planet, 2014