US must come to grips with all religions, not just Christianity

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

SAVANNA MESCH, Associate Editor

Sometimes it feels like the only thing that separates some Americans from the 1950s is knowing how to use a smartphone.

Earlier this month, the Idaho Senate opened with a Hindu invocation instead of a Christian prayer. This prompted Sheryl Nuxoll, a Republican senator who refused to attend, to publicly denounce Hinduism as a false religion, saying that it promotes infanticide and abortion.

Nuxoll added that Hindus may pray anywhere in the capitol building, just not on the senate floor, a place bound by the Constitution.

This incident is an example of religious zealots claiming America as a Judeo-Christian nation, something that conservative Americans are desperately clutching on to in the name of protecting traditional beliefs.

In Indiana, a committee recently passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This bill gives business owners legal protection to refuse services to those who violate their religious views. Basically, this proposed bill would make it totally permissible to discriminate, primarily against same-sex couples.

Disguising discrimination under the context of religious freedom is archaic to me. I look around at people my age and see supporters for gay marriage, labeling genetically modified foods and transgender rights. I’m not saying that every college kid shares the same beliefs, but there seems to be a trend that newer generations have more progressive causes than the one before it.

It’s not enough to pass bills protecting gay marriage, a woman’s right to abortion or dismantling racial segregation. There needs to be a shift of consciousness amongst some Americans. Protecting your religion is not the same as denying the civil rights of non-believers.

I remember my high school U.S. history teacher say that America is not a melting pot, but more like a fruit salad.

While that analogy might seem silly, there’s truth in the prediction that America will be an increasingly diverse nation. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that, by 2043, America will become a majority-minority nation.

We should embrace the evolution of the “American dream.” Most millennials don’t dream of having a white picket fence and two-and-a-half children with their spouse of the opposite sex. Many young people, myself included, hope for a future where religion doesn’t rule the daily lives of every single person in a nation.

The religious freedom that so many Christians are trying to protect indirectly hurts those who have fought long and hard to earn their freedom and equality. Why, in 2015, are lawmakers proposing legislation whose sole purpose is to defy the civil liberties of minorities and senators are making bigoted comments on religions that differ from their own?

The words, “One nation under God,” were not added to the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954 and not once is Christianity named in the Constitution. Americans need to reclaim the term religious freedom and give back its original meaning.

The real liberties being threatened in this country are civil rights, not religious freedom.