“And where freedom is, the individual is clearly able to order for himself his
own life as he pleases?
Then in this kind of state there will be the greatest variety of human natures?
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.