Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

    United States a rare role model in religious freedom

    The separation of church and state is a fundamental part of Western society. A third grader can tell you what that means in the United States. But not all third graders around the world are granted the separation of church and state as we are. It is not often that I praise the government in a column for their policies. However, in this case, the United States has made important regulations and laws that help to make education available to people of all religions.

    Turkey is a prime example of how a secular authority has taken steps to dictate religious freedom that caused more problems than it solved. When Turkey created their constitution there was a clause in it that made it illegal to wear religious headscarves in public universities.

    This religious oppression was imposed in the first place as a way to be more progressive. In this way, it is perhaps most ironic to note that what Turkey did to try to be progressive the West sees as an act of oppression, certainly an act quite opposite from what we consider progressive.

    This has been a hotly contested question within Turkish politics for many years and in February the issue came to critical decision in their senate. The senate voted to amend the constitution so as to remove this clause. This was an important step in freeing the religious preferences of the people of Turkey from the secular interests of the government of Turkey.

    In this case, steps have been taken to eliminate the problems of religious oppression through secular controls. Before the amendment was passed many devoutly religious Turkish students were forced to either go elsewhere to study (if they could afford it) or, in some cases, to hide their veil under wigs.   In extreme cases, some religious youth were unable to continue their education because of these restrictions.

    Turkey serves as an example of a state in which the secular power has caused discrimination toward their religious population by imposing rules on them. It also becomes clear, by looking at Turkey, how important it can be for the separation of church and state since it was the government that forced the schools to not allow students to wear the religious headscarves.

    The United States has set up important distinctions, through our constitution and laws, that prevent the government from regulating our schools in the same way. Our system is something that we often take for granted in the United States. In truth, this separation of church and state is not something that can be found in much of the rest of the world.

    This is an important boundary in the United States that should remain as firm as the beliefs of those who are alienated from the schools by secular authority. Education should not be something that is based on a selective system. It should be universal to all people, regardless of whether or not they follow the Bible or the Qu’ran, the Tanakh or the Confucius texts, the Hindu principles or the Wiccan ones.

    Though many steps still need to be taken, some countries like Turkey have made important strides in making education more universal to their populations. Ultimately, though, it seems that some other countries could serve to learn a few things from the policy of separation of church and state found in the United States.

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