Monday, February 17, 2003

Religious Persecution in East Tennessee...Who'd-a Thunk It?

I have been remiss for not commenting earlier, but this story about a little girl's harassment over her religious differences is too important to ignore.

Union County has long been one of the more conservative regions of East Tennessee - which is saying a lot for this area. However, not a lot of stories make it out of the rural back roads into mainstream Knoxville press and it's good when one finally does.

You can almost feel the winds shifting as one drives North Knox County up Broadway through Black Oak Ridge, onto Maynardville Highway and through Halls Crossroads to the Union County Line. I feel uncomfortable writing about it in some ways because a lot of my family is from Union County, and some still live in the Halls area. They are good folks, and this is not directed at them.

But, Union County seems to have developed a fast and loose affiliation between church and state, and in the case of the India Tracy above not conforming to the "state-supported religion", aka Christianity, can cause undue hardship and ridicule. Children like India are persecuted by classmates while their teachers and administrators tacitly look on and condone their actions. Our country was founded on the principles of religious freedom, where anyone anywhere can choose which religion to follow - if any at all. However, to Konservatives Kristians these principles do not apply and anyone who is not a Kristian can be harassed, forced to attend Bible classes, and attacked. Her lawsuit against against the Union County School System states that after writing a paper on religious freedom -- religious freedom!! -- India was advised by a teacher to "keep quiet because you'll get in trouble".

You see, in most cases these folks -- and other, higher profile Kristians like John Ashcroft -- have simply misled themselves into believing they are actually Christians. They just aren't, because while they may embrace some of the easier parts of being a Christian...helping the needy, being a good person....they're missing a central tenet - "Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself". Five simple words that mean the difference between a young girl feeling comfortable enough in her religion (or lack of it) that she lives and learns beside other kids to whom her spiritual beliefs are simply points of conversation and not incitements to bigoted discrimination. I think that's the way the Christ I know would handle it...

I would like to see churches in Knox County - on the whole, less conservative than Union County overall but still with a ways to go - do something about their counterparts to the north. Just as we've seen an incident of racial intimidation in West Knox County recently (as SayUncle - here, here, and here - and South Knox Bubba - here and here - have ably kept us up to date on), I think there are opportunities for citizens of Knox County to reach out and communicate to victims of intolerance that not all of us have these same bigoted opinions, we're going to actively work to making our area a better place to live, and that you are welcome here with us.


UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds, LeanLeft, and Loco Parentis have also weighed in. Spread the gospel, brothers and sisters....

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