This is old news, but it’s worth repeating. It’s a letter from a Christian Air Force officer written in 2005 — and written to, of all sites, the Worldnutdaily. And they published it. The officer recounted his experience of being stationed in Hawaii and living in an area that was dominated by Buddhist and Shinto believers, making him a member of a small religious minority.
When he went to a local high school football game, he was not surprised when someone came on the PA system before the game started and asked the audience to rise for an invocation. He was surprised when it turned out to be a Buddhist prayer. And he recounts how he felt at the time:
We were frozen in shock and incredulity! What to do? To continue to stand and observe this prayer would represent a betrayal of our own faith and imply the honoring of a pagan deity that was anathema to our beliefs. To sit would be an act of extreme rudeness and disrespect in the eyes of our Japanese hosts and neighbors, who value above all other things deference and respect in their social interactions. I am sorry to say that in the confusion of the moment we chose the easier path and elected to continue to stand in silence so as not to create a scene or ill will among those who were seated nearby…
Needless to say that was our first and last football game. Although many of the students we worked with continued to invite us to the games, we were forced to decline. We knew that if we were to attend again we would be forced to abstain from the pre-game activity. And not wanting to offend our Asiatic neighbors and colleagues, we simply refrained from attending.
And he then imagines how much more difficult it must be for a child to resist the enormous pressure to conform if they don’t belong to the dominant religion in their school:
The point is this. I am a professional, educated and responsible man who is strong in his faith and is quite comfortable debating the social and political issues of the day. Yet when placed in a setting where the majority culture proved hostile to my faith and beliefs, I became paralyzed with indecision and could not act decisively to defend and proclaim my own beliefs. I felt instantly ostracized and viewed myself as a foreigner in my own land.
We often advocate the practice of Judeo-Christian rituals in America’s public schools by hiding behind the excuse that they are voluntary and any student who doesn’t wish to participate can simply remained seated and silent. Oh that this were true. But if I, as a mature adult, would be so confounded and uncomfortable when faced with the decision of observing and standing on my own religious principals or run the risk of offending the majority crowd, I can only imagine what thoughts and confusion must run through the head of the typical child or teenager, for whom peer acceptance is one of the highest ideals.
He then pleads with his fellow Christians to stop supporting the insertion of religion in public schools, telling them that “unless you’re ready to endure the unwilling exposure of yourself and your children to those beliefs and practices that your own faith forswears, you have no right to insist that others sit in silence and complicity while you do the same to them.” Hear, hear.