Writer: Diversity is country’s strength

Letter to the Editor

Posted: Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I’m writing in response to the letters of Alice Shannon and Robert Ralls, (Jan. 29 and 30). While I am no longer shocked by such outrageous and frustrating claims as were made in these letters, I am disappointed that my community would in any way support such bigotry.

Statements like “Muslims are trying to dominate our way of life” and “atheists are the reason crime is rampant” are clearly not based on fact, but also hateful and discriminatory.

Allow me to direct your attention to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The combined establishment and free exercise clauses state, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or promoting the free exercise thereof.” This statement is interpreted by our Supreme Court to be a prohibition of the establishment of a national religion by Congress and of preference of one religion over another or of religion over nonreligious philosophies, but also as the absolute freedom of the individual to believe whatever he or she desires.

In the words of Thomas Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by Congress was intended to erect “a wall of separation between church and state.” That said, what difference does it make whether our Congressmen and women are Muslim, Buddhist, Christian or otherwise?

Surely Congressman Keith Ellison’s constituents could not have been unaware of his belief in Islam, yet he was elected by majority rule anyway. I can only assume they felt he was the best man for the job. If he is a qualified and responsible leader, he will fulfill his position and represent his state to the best of his ability, without being influenced by his religious preferences. It is my fervent hope that the same can be said of our Baptist, Catholic and Methodist representatives.

If you don’t buy into the Bill of Rights, Alice Shannon and Robert Ralls, then perhaps you should “get off our country.” Personally, I find your radical assertions an anathema to the essential tenets of the democracy we so often celebrate as the best in the world.

I miss the Soldotna of my elementary school years, before I realized my community can breed such hate and misunderstanding. What reason do I have to return home from college to a place where my friends of different race, religion or sexual preference are disrespected and treated like lower class citizens?

Why do we boast about America’s melting pot and teach our kids to be color-blind if we continue to discriminate against each other?

Diversity is our strength, not our weakness. If we can’t agree to disagree on the issues that make us individuals, if we can’t accept a new perspective as legitimate even when it doesn’t suit our personal needs, then our country can never reach its fullest potential.

Kelly King


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