Some days ago, O Lord, we celebrated the festival of Purim, which commemorates the participation of Queen Esther in foiling the plans of the wicked Haman to crush our people of Persia under the heel of hatred and prejudice.
Though today we are blessed to live in a country that guarantees religious freedom to all its peoples, we must never let down our guard for always another Haman looms on the horizon.
So let it be, O Lord, that we ourselves never allow hatred and prejudice to taint our feelings towards our fellow beings, and that our country remain ever true to its own precepts; that we the people be free to practice a faith of our own choosing, and each in our own way.
It’s astonishing how twenty-eight years after my grandmother wrote these invocations, circumstances are the same or worse. After September 11, 2001, questions about religious freedoms, prejudice, and hatred multiplied, focused primarily on Muslims. Like any faith, however, what was preached by pockets of radicals wasn’t indicative of all followers.
Most recently, religious freedom was elevated when President Obama requested health insurance plans provide contraceptive coverage for employees who work for Catholic hospitals, universities, and service agencies. Although, it’s confusing to me as to how supporting birth control for these employees, who undoubtedly represent the breadth of religious beliefs, is considered an “infringement on religious liberties and conscience of Catholics.”
Just because someone works for an organization doesn’t mean they should be forced to subscribe to beliefs and behaviors that are counter to their own. No one is telling a bishop to go out and reproduce! And neither should a bishop order a teacher at a Catholic school to be abstinent!
The religious freedoms my grandmother was undoubtedly referring to was Judaism. Unfortunately, anti-Semitism is on the rise, fueled by deniers who claim the Holocaust never happened, hate speech on the Internet, and continuing turmoil in the Middle East.
Even though there might be tumult in various community and cities throughout America, which test the bounds of religious freedoms, the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
This amendment serves as American’s Queen Esther against the temporary uprising of another Haman.