Faiths should be preserved at holidays

| December 21, 2013 | 0 Comments

Religious freedom is a right, a responsibility a privilege — agree?

Chaplain (Capt.) Charles “Chuck” Williams, North Community Chaplain

Williams

Williams

Numerous and recent events in the news underscore the reality that our treasured religious freedoms are under assault, even in our military communities.

It seems that today the mere “possibility” of someone being offended at a religious symbol or display is now sufficient cause to rescind the Constitutional protections of the First Amendment against prohibiting the free exercise of faith.

I wonder if people realize that in doing so they are undermining their own right to a freedom of religious expression, even the “religion” of “secular humanism,” as defined by the Supreme Court of the United States.

The first clause of the First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” The intent of this Amendment was to preserve the right of all Americans to believe in whatever religion they choose, or even not to believe, without coercion or force. However, having a nativity scene on a military installation does not force or coerce anyone to adhere to the faith that, that display represents simply because they see it.

A nativity scene is merely a seasonal expression of an essential event for Christians, a faith that many adhere to in our communities.

Additionally, for several years now, military installations have changed the name of their tree lighting ceremonies from “Christmas” to “Holiday,” simply to appease so as not to offend. Given that Christianity is the only religion that incorporates a lighted tree in its celebration this time of year, to change that name is to redefine and diminish the meaning and significance of that religious celebration that the majority of people treasure.

And if this practice is appropriate, why don’t we do this to other faiths and their symbols?

Recently, our base enjoyed a well-attended Menorah Lighting Ceremony for those Jewish service members and their families to celebrate Hanukkah. No effort was made to rename that event the “Holiday” Nine Candle Lighting Ceremony. Nor would we want to because that would show disrespect to the faith of our neighbors in the Jewish community.

Protecting the right of everyone’s freedom of religious expression is the right thing to do, and a privilege that we chaplains are called to defend. Respect and honor needs to be paid to the integrity of other people’s faiths. Appeasement knows of no such respect and honor.

Before President George Washington left office he wrote in his “Farewell Address” in 1796:

 “Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

 Preserving the integrity of the principles and message of our respective faiths in our community assures us of the blessings of goodness, health and prosperity that God would have for us and our families. But to devalue it can only be done to our own peril.

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Category: Footsteps in Faith, News, Standing Columns

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