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Mutual respect needed of various belief systems

Posted on December 12, 2013 by Taber Times

Regarding the Lord’s Prayer debate in the schools. I too am agnostic. I believe that humans can’t know the nature of God or even if God exists. Yet I feel the prayer debate is a non-issue. When my kids were in school they were taught if they wanted to participate in saying the Lord’s Prayer they should. If not, they should stand quietly in respect for the beliefs of others. I don’t feel in any way persecuted or discriminated against by the saying of the prayer and my kids, now grown, didn’t either. They didn’t make a big deal of it and most likely the other kids didn’t even notice that they didn’t participate. As for them being disciplined for non-participation, I’m quite sure I would have heard about it if that had happened.

We live in a country where the vast majority claim some sort of Christian faith. If I lived in a Muslim or Hindu country I would show the same respect for their cultures. And yes, I believe democracy has a place in this debate. The rights of the many should not trample the rights of the few. Yet neither should the rights of the few trample those of the majority. The freedom we’re guaranteed by our democracy is the freedom to believe and worship as we choose, not freedom from exposure to beliefs we disagree with.

Melanie Bell, in her argument to the school board, says,  “This issue can appear complex because of the multiple opinions, sensibilities and subject matter. But it is not. To force or coerce anybody to worship is clearly wrong. For those that cannot arrive at this most basic conclusion alone, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, The Alberta Human Rights Act and the Alberta Education Act all demand that those that wish to be exempt may be so.”

“Those that wish to be exempt may be so.” Absolutely. No one should be forced to worship. Anyone who chooses not to participate in the Lord’s Prayer should be allowed to exempt him or herself from the room, or remain quietly, not in agreement with the religious principle but out of respect for the beliefs of the majority. And the majority are Christian. If, during the Lord’s Prayer a person wishes to meditate on a Muslim or Hindu prayer or consider some other belief, he or she has that freedom. Agnosticism is basically a way of saying I don’t know the answers concerning the nature of God. But I also believe that admitting I don’t know doesn’t give me the right to insist others follow along with me. Christian folks for the most part have allowed me to follow my belief system without insisting I believe as they do. I feel it is only fair that I offer them the same respect.

BRIAN PAULS

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