Earlier this week I blogged about Gillian Gibbons and her legal problems in the Sudan. Ms. Gibbons teacher to some, infidel to others, has been officially sentenced to 15 days in jail. Luckily lashings were not a part of her sentence. Unfortunately for her students but perhaps fortunately for her she will be deported as soon as she serves her time. I say fortunately because CNN is reporting that hundreds of Sudanese protestors are calling for her execution.
This international event I believe highlights a bigger question. When do the responsible behaviors required by all trump the religious freedom of some? Or more specifically, what do we do as the collective when specific religious beliefs interfere with the comings and goings of a just society? Justice refers to behaviors that are fair and reasonable. When behaviors based on religious beliefs become unreasonable, (as the often do, interestingly enough) when do we as a society, say, enough, already?
In this country we have said it before. When a religious belief forces children to marry, or encourages abortion clinics to be bombed, homosexuals to be tortured, or crosses to be burned in the front yards of African-American homes, we use words like deplorable, obnoxious, criminal, hateful and scream, enough! We arrest these folks and in our tradition of separating our churches from the state, if found guilty, we punish them. In essence we state that we don’t give a damn about the religious beliefs of some when those beliefs interfere with the personal liberties, freedoms and basic rights of others.
As our global society becomes more interconnected more discourse about acceptable practices and standards must occur. The beauty of this conversation is that it does not have to stem from a religious context. Because religion isn’t a requirement for one to be ethical this conversation doesn’t have to take a my-religion-is-better-than-your-religion tone. In fact, to be affective, religion needs to stay out of it and a just, reasonable society needs to merely step up and say – No fucking way. Knock it off. Don’t even go there.
The fact is a teacher trying to include her students in a lesson on animal habitats made a mistake based on being an outsider of a particular culture. She’s guilty only of a cultural fopah. A societal snafu, if you will. Her intention was not to offend the members of an entire religion. But when the riot-like response to her honest mistake takes the intention of calling for her death, we need to take a stand.
So I respectfully ask our current President to stand up and say, enough. Not as a Christian but as a reasonable, logical and ethical human being. I ask the folks running for president to say, “knock it off”. Not as a Mormon, or a Catholic or a Christian but as human beings that recognize the need to make a statement. Take advantage of this moment and take a stand so that if and when an incident happens here on our soil, the precedent that ethics and justice trumps religion will have already been set.