In a state where the people are known for their warmth toward and tolerance of others, our politicians continue to parade their intolerance. They try to scare us with unfounded fears of Sharia law being imposed in an American justice system while insisting on imposing their own religious beliefs and practices on American citizens.
Once again our legislators are introducing a bill (H.3526) that would strike a blow against religious tolerance by forcing prayer into our public schools.
Just like those religious extremists abroad whom they fear, they have decided that religion is not a private choice between God and an individual, but a proud public statement of their superior moral ground.
They blindly contend that a child who does not share their Christian beliefs would be allowed to leave the room.
Who among us adults feels free to announce the difference of our belief by leaving the room where a public prayer is being said?
In my 62 years, I have sat through prayers in public and private forums, embarrassed to be excluded but unwilling to exclude myself further by leaving.
In America, we should not have to identify our private religious beliefs by excluding ourselves from a meeting, nor should we be forced to sit and pretend we share those beliefs for fear of judgment.
If an adult is not able to comfortably assert her difference of religious belief, we certainly must know that it is wrong to put a child in that conflicted situation.
And it is wrong for our legislators to continue to insist that their own religious beliefs take precedence over others' beliefs.
They feel a need to publicly proclaim their Christianity, but others - Christians as well as non-Christians - desire a public forum in this country where religious privacy is cherished.
We should let our legislators know that we are confident enough in whatever faith we practice that we do not need to force others to witness our profession of that faith.
We condemn extremists of other religions for forcing others to conform to their beliefs; we should certainly practice respect for the beliefs of others here in the United States.
We need to tell our legislators to get on to the business of improving the conditions of the people of South Carolina rather than dictating our religious practices.
Agnes F. Pomata, Ph.D.
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