There is room for everyone on the road

There is room for everyone on the road

Anna Punswick, Guest Writer

First and foremost, this letter is not an attack on the author as a person, nor a petition to persuade them to change their beliefs. This response is solely to provide a different perspective on claims made in the “Stay in Your Lane” opinion piece. 

The author begins their piece by criticizing the amount of religion-centered billboards that lined I-70 as they drove to Saint Louis, remarking that the messaging pushed religion when the author believes that should be a private matter. The author supports their belief by citing the freedoms protected by the First Amendment, noting that the amendment “calls for a separation of church and state.” 

The author’s interpretation, however, and use of the First Amendment to criticize religion in politics is incorrect. The First Amendment gives Americans the freedom to practice, or not to practice, any religion they may choose. This means that the nation doesn’t have a state-mandated religion or a theocratic government. Thus, the advertisements in question don’t violate this amendment because they are neither paid for nor endorsed by the government. The First Amendment does not condone the erasure of religious beliefs from American society. The First Amendment is about freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. 

Texas’s SB8 bill is adduced as proof of the violation of religious freedom by the author. The author references Mathew 22:37-39 to argue against Christian and conservative opposition to abortion. The large majority of United State senators and representatives are Christian, and religion certainly shapes individuals’ views on political, economic and social issues; however, there will be no citation of scripture in this letter, as it contributes to the incorrect idea that abortion is merely a religious issue, which has furthered partisan divide and legislative battles on something that is truly a humanitarian problem. There is no need for a reference to a Bible verse in order to understand that killing people, whether unborn, living on Death Row, and everyone in between, is wrong. 

The abuse within the Catholic Church that the author references is a sickening malversation. The author correctly categorizes these atrocities as “heinous acts.” No one should ever have to experience sexual, physical or emotional abuse, and the abusers should be subject to harsh repercussions. The author’s insinuation, however, that every Catholic is indirectly complicit and in support of these horrific crimes is not only completely false, it is slanderous. Every diocese-a collection of churches within a designated geographical region-in the United States has a division that provides assistance to victims of abuse. This division aids them with finding a mental health professional, filing criminal and diocesan charges against their abuser, and more. The leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Franics, has demanded justice for the victims, and to “acknowledge and condemn” the actions of the abusers, noting “if one member suffers, all suffer together with it.” To generalize the conduct of a large group based on the terrible actions of a minority is what leads to so many of the problems in this world. This way of thinking has led to an increase of hate crimes against Muslims in America after 9/11, and the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans in internment camps after the attack of Pearl Harbor during WWII, among others. Blaming large swaths of society for the wrongdoings of others only further alienates people from one another, and highlights what separates us, rather than illuminating the humanity that connects us.

Free speech means the author can say what they believe without government-related consequences; free speech also means that one can provide a counter to another’s viewpoint. Requesting that Christians abstain from discussion of their beliefs violates Blue Valley Northwest’s Equity and Inclusion Statement, which states that everyone should be treated “fairly in language and in action.” 

 “Blue Valley Northwest values every individual and the diversity they bring to our community. Everyone shall be treated fairly in language and in action without regard to race, religion, national origin, financial status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. We students, parents and staff, will hold each other accountable to this mission.” 

The statement also dictates that persons should “hold each other accountable to this mission.” This is the purpose of this letter. It is not acceptable to specifically target a group of people and bash them for their religion. This does not mean that anyone should have to agree with the religious beliefs of others, but it does mean that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect regardless of their place of worship. There is room for people of all faiths and no faith to contribute to the school community. Rather than telling Catholics to stay silent about their faith, let’s develop a school community where all students, staff and families can share their religious views. After all, there is room for everyone on the road.