Religious freedom isn’t religious sponsorship
I got a letter published in The Roanoke Times Monday (though they didn’t print the hyperlinks):
In his letter “Prisoners have more religious freedom” (Aug. 7), Mark Riley makes a regrettably common error: confusing the individual right to practice religion with the prohibition of state-sponsored religion.
Students in Giles County are as free as they’ve ever been to practice religion by posting Scripture on their lockers, wearing Christian emblems or organizing prayer groups outside class time. The American Civil Liberties Union defended such rights for Floyd County High School students in February.
Unfortunately, Giles County public schools have been violating the First Amendment for so long that many residents and administrators are blind to it. A public institution that promotes Christianity above other religions marginalizes every non-Christian student every day of school — half the days of their lives. These students cannot just pick a different school.
A comparison to prisons is strained by the fact that few incarcerated Muslims take the prison bus home each day to pray with family. Moreover, there are Christian prisons, and they don’t demand taxpayer funding. If some residents want Christian schools, perhaps they should extend taxpayers the same courtesy.
It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that the Valleys need to be exposed to the notion of Christian privilege itself. These separate incidents are raising awareness of injustice but possibly not of prejudice.