OPINION | Be religiously inclusive and fair

In an increasingly global world, awareness of religious variety practiced in our country is important.

Christianity is still the primary religion practiced by United States citizens.

Of the 35,000 citizens the Pew Forum surveyed in 2007, more than 78 percent identified themselves as Christians.

Butler University promotes diversity among its faculty and students, at least through the way it presents itself.

These calls for diversity stretch to different faith groups because students practice a variety of religions on this campus.

However, the societal norm is to focus strongly on Western Christianity and its numerous sects.

The university closes down in the weeks surrounding Christmas, but no other religion’s holiday  receives a similar treatment.

Many businesses are also closed during Christmastime.

Stores and businesses open late and close early on Sundays because this is the Christian day of rest.

The Pledge of Allegiance references “God,” which only applies to certain monotheistic religions.

While these spiritual accommodations appeal to a majority of the population, 22.6 percent of American citizens still do not identify themselves as Christians.

These school and business closings do not benefit them religiously because Sunday is not necessarily their holy day of rest, and they may worship more than one god or no god at all.

Non-Christian religions have a wide variety of holidays, observances and traditions that do not align with those of Western Christianity.

Unless a store or school is owned by someone who practices a different religion, society in general does not recognize these holidays.

Society needs to be aware of the fact that other non-Christian religions exist and require  attention.

There is no perfect, surefire solution when it comes to promoting religious diversity in the community.

To suggest Butler should cancel classes on every holiday or day of observance for every religion would be ridiculous.

Instead, we should focus on increased awareness of faith diversity.

Being informed is an integral part of being able to respect those with different religions.

And this respect is what leads to cooperation and growth among the faith community.

Sophomore Mallory Russikoff, a Jewish student, said she would like to see professors be more aware of when significant holidays are for students of different religions.

“Because Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are each just one single day, I think we should have them off as a community, especially because Yom Kippur is our holiest holiday,” Russikoff said.

“It would be very respectful to do that for everybody. Also, professors should never schedule tests on those days. If we make a conscious effort to not schedule important events on those holidays, it would be beneficial.”

Observing religious holidays often includes altering one’s diet and setting aside time for meditation in some way.

Butler should accommodate people who are changing their lifestyles while observing these various holidays and rituals.

For example, having more kosher options in the dining halls would make it easier for Jewish students to observe their traditions.

Also, setting up a small room for students to pray and meditate in without distraction would be beneficial for several students.

Another positive change on campus would be educating the student population about the traditions of a variety of faiths.

Offering seminars would allow students the opportunity to learn more and would provide a forum for discussion on ways to diversify our thinking.

Making our society revolve less around Western Christianity will create an atmosphere of acceptance, which is important in a country founded on the ideal of religious freedom.

When people have to miss days of work or school in order to practice their religions, they may not feel entirely free.

We cannot resolve this issue overnight because a lot of education and awareness-raising has to take place.

So, we need to cooperate with people of all religions in order to make our society welcoming to all kinds of diversity.


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