November 12, 2013

By Taylor Nichols

Photo by Shaylee Vigil
Photo by Shaylee Vigil

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a home where anything I wanted to become, do, or believe was accepted without a second thought. I was never pressured to follow any certain religion by my family and friends, but was taught at a young age to accept people for who they are and respect their beliefs.

One of the most important rights we have is freedom of speech. As a journalist, this is a core part of the way I operate both professionally and personally. Freedom of speech and the separation of church and state are values that are essential to our country and all of its entities, but there is often a grey area between the two. Because we have freedom of speech, many people want to share their religious practices everywhere, in ways such as leading prayers in public schools.

I was recently offered bibles by multiple people on Whatcom’s campus. While I fully support and appreciate members of my community trying to share something that I assume plays a huge role in their lives with me, the unexpected and surprising presence of religion in a place where I go every day to get an education unsettled me.

I have enjoyed the experience of sharing something I truly love with the people around me and in my community, and continue to experience that every time a student comes to me and tells me they liked something they saw in The Horizon.

That being said, I feel that something as personal and delicate as religion has no place at school. I come to school every day to get an education, and someone handing out religious material of any kind to me feels vaguely like a personal violation. I respect and wholly appreciate others’ beliefs, regardless of what they are. I see it as my responsibility as a considerate member of society to do so, and I feel it would be disrespectful for me to attempt to change someone else’s beliefs about something as subjective as religion.

I have never had a negative interaction with anyone who is in some way trying to share a religious experience with me, except when it was unsolicited. I have enjoyed taking part in different types of spiritual practices in the past, and benefitted from them, because I was consciously making the choice to learn about someone else’s religion and experience different forms of devotion.

When someone asks me if I want a bible, says “God bless” to me, or asks me to recite “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, I feel like an unfair assumption is made that I hold certain beliefs, which seems unintentionally disrespectful. It’s important to remember that others may not have the same beliefs you do and to always be mindful of that.

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