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Sadly Enforced Separation

“Sadly Enforced Separation”

 

            The separation of church and state is a gap that grows wider as religious intolerance increases.  The phrase is drawn from a personal letter written by Thomas Jefferson and has come to apply to the Constitution, which forbids the establishment of a national (or state) religion.  The forced separation between public functions and religious beliefs promotes intolerance and misunderstanding.  Comparative religious education in schools could alleviate the misunderstanding through learning about major world religions.

            As a high school student, I had release time for religious education.  For three years I studied the scriptures and the words of the prophets.  This did not brainwash me into condemning other denominations and faiths.  On the contrary, by strengthening my beliefs and my faith, I was more open to discussions of religion and ideas.  My experience is not unique.  Thousands of students across the United States participate in such religious education each day.

            Critics of such a plan could well ask what quantifies religion.  Should the government sponsor such religious education in public schools?  A religion qualifies as a formally organized group focusing on spirituality, which contains at least 30,000 members.  This would include major world religions, such as Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Shinto, and Hinduism, in addition to smaller, pagan beliefs.

            Why should the government sponsor such religious education?  Simply put, religious diversity is far more prevalent than ethnic diversity.  Diversity education has more branches than are currently being explored.  Misunderstandings and prejudice about religion have instituted countless wars in the history of mankind.

            The solution of elective religious education is not a quick fix, but it will promote a gradual awareness and understanding of belief structure.  As the rising generation understands and accepts differences in beliefs, the gap of intolerance will close, and the future will be stronger.

           

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