The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Where Freedom Is

“And where freedom is, the individual is clearly able to order for himself his

own life as he pleases?

Clearly.

Then in this kind of state there will be the greatest variety of human natures?

There will.

This, then, seems likely to be the fairest of states, being like and embroidered

robe which is spangled with every sort of flower.”

-Plato, The Republic

Indeed America is spangled with every sort of flower- it is a diversified nation

that is home to both gentile and Jew. Its very origins sprung out of a desire

and a need for freedom, among them the freedom of religion. America’s early

peoples came to this country not only in search of economic opportunities, but

also to escape religious persecution. With the passage of time, America has

come to be well known for its freedoms –the freedom of speech, press, religion,

and assembly were granted to all citizens. However, in modern day society,

people like the Attorney General of the United States, John Ashcroft, have put

the rights guaranteed to us all in the Bill of Rights at stake. Ashcrofts’

effort to break the division that exists between Church and State is a direct

threat towards our civil liberties. He has supported actions that try to

implement prayer in public schools to carry out his personal belief that “prayer

can play a unique role in dealing with violence, drugs and other challenges in

the schools” and that “prayer is the answer […] not the problem.” It is evident

that he only cares about placing his personal ideals above all others.

John Ashcroft is trying to impose a totalitarian regime over an egalitarian one

in an effort to satisfy his personal desires. He has supported efforts to have

the Ten Commandments posted in schools not caring that there are children as

well as educators that are not of Christian upbringings. Having the Ten

Commandments instituted in schools is undoubtedly a desire to place Christianity

over all other religions. The value of a democratic society is being put at

stake here, for is not democracy one that supports the equality of rights? So

then, will not the rights of citizens be violated if children are forced to

learn in an environment where their own religious beliefs are belittled? And

what about praying in public schools? Does that not also violate our rights

granted in the first amendment?

It is evident that John Ashcroft has taken steps towards depriving us of the

freedom of religion we are entitled to under the United States Constitution, and

his attempts at breaking the division of Church and State can have no lasting

good effects on the nation. It will certainly destroy the civil rights of

people and undermine everything America has stood for.

In trying to impose prayer in schools and the posting of the Ten Commandments,

Ashcroft is insinuating that Christianity is the only religion suitable to be

incorporated with education. It sort of makes anyone of non-Christian principles

feel that their religions as well as beliefs are not seen under the same light

as is Christianity. Religion should not be evaluated as right or wrong, or

better or worse, for it is neither. Rather, it is simply the way we choose to

practice our faith. I believe that no religion is better than other. They are

all good, or at least the essence of them all is good, it is the selfishness of

individuals that stains good faith. It is the selfishness of individuals like

John Ashcroft who try to place one religion over another that leads to harm.

As a student here at St. John’s University, I have realized that unlike John

Ashcroft’s biased views, St. John’s is a good educational institution because

although it is essentially a Catholic University, it respects the diversity of

religion that exists within its gates. Its open mindedness and consideration

for others is to be praised, for not only does it educate students of other

religious backgrounds besides its own, but it has also considered creating a

praying temple where non-Catholic students can go and practice their faith.

Despite our constant complaints towards St. John’s limited parking spaces and

other such matters, it is also fair to not only see St. John’s University in

materialistic terms, but also see it as a conscientious institution that does

not use its dominant religion to suppress others. As far as John Ashcroft goes,

I am sure his efforts will prove fruitless.

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