Religious groups also guaranteed protection from discrimination

Posted: Wednesday, July 11, 2001

The separation between church and state is one of the most important principles of our government. The very first Anglo settlers in the New World came here to escape religious persecution in Europe. So our founders were very attuned to creating a country in which people would be able to worship the religion of their choosing and not feel intimidated by the government.

But sometimes our country has become so obsessed with enforcing that line that we forget that we also are a country in which many people consider themselves religious. ...

That was the fundamental question facing the U.S. Supreme Court in deciding whether the evangelical Good News Club could hold meetings in a New York school after school hours. The club in question met immediately after school let out.

The court ruled 6-3 that the school had to treat all community groups equally. In short, if it was going to allow Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and other youth groups to meet at the school, it couldn't exclude the Good News Club just because the group espouses an extremely evangelical message.

That's fair. Government has no business excluding groups from using public facilities simply because the message is controversial, even if the message is religious in nature. ...

The United States is perhaps the most diverse country on earth. Often, we struggle with that diversity, but over time we have learned to celebrate it as well. ... Religious groups should not be discriminated against because of their beliefs. That, too, is a vital part of our Constitution.

-- The Bellingham (Wash.) Herald

July 2

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