The following is a mock trial between Christianity and Secularism. It was written by Eleanor Segraves, a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi and a junior at Mater Ecclesiae College.
Christianity vs. Secularism
Judge: “All rise, all rise. Our next case is Christianity vs. Secularism. Ladies and gentlemen, Christianity is on trial; its prosecutor, a coalition of pronounced atheists from Europe and the United States, its defense, the truth as lived and witnessed by the history of Western Civilization. This court is now in session.”
Prosecution: “Christianity, what is your plea? Are you guilty of denying parents the right to give their children a secular education? Are you trying to unite Church and State so that all citizens would be forced to adhere to Christian values? Are you guilty of discrimination and of imposing your system of beliefs on those who do not wish to believe them?”
Defense: “Your honor, my defendant pleads not guilty to the charges made against it. If it would please the court, let me give substantial evidence against these charges.”
Judge: “It would please the court. Please proceed.”
Defense: “The evidence that has been presented against Christianity stems from two recent court rulings that have emerged this week in news broadcasts across Europe and the United States of America. The first ruling occurred in Italy on Tuesday, November 3, 2009 when a European Court of Human Rights called for the removal of crucifixes from all the walls in Italian public schools on the basis that this symbol of Christianity “could disturb children who are not Christian” (Reuters). The second ban against Christian symbols on public property occurred in Warren, Michigan when resident John Satawa filed for a permit to display a Nativity scene on a public median, a tradition that has been held for the past 63 years, and was denied (Drake). The court rulings of late concerning crucifixes and nativity scenes are a direct violation to the fundamental right of every human being to freedom of religion.
“There are two main issues at the heart of this debate. First, beginning with the situation in Italy, there are some parents who have been fighting the Italian courts for eight years because they believe their children “have rights to a secular education” (Rizzo). Second, here in the United States, the atheist organization “The Freedom From Religion Foundation” (Drake) has claimed, at least implicitly in their protest of the Nativity scene, that religion should be relegated to the private sphere of one’s personal life. In both cases, radical atheist groups say that Christianity seems to create discrimination, and that those who are not Christian find symbols such as the crucifix and the Nativity scene to be an aggressive imposition of Christianity upon those who do not wish to accept it.
“Before we begin to refute these arguments, let us clarify our terms. These court rulings are a violation of the fundamental right of every human being to freedom of religion. What do we mean by freedom of religion, or religious liberty? “Religious liberty is a natural right of the human person to civil liberty, i.e. immunity, within just limits, from external constraint in religious matters by political authorities” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2108). Some Italian parents claim they have a right to give their children a secular education. What is a right? A right is a justified claim or entitlement, or the freedom to do something (Encarta Dictionary). What does it mean to be justified, or to have a justified claim? One is justified when one has an acceptable reason for the action taken (Encarta Dictionary).
“Now we may consider our first point. Some Italian parents claim that that they have a right to give their children a secular education and, thus, crucifixes hanging on the walls in Italian public schools violates this right. Upon what claim do they believe they have this right? Western civilization was built upon Christianity and to deny the right to express belief in this religion is to deny the culture upon which Europe has been built. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi commented on the issue saying, “the crucifix was a fundamental sign of the importance of religious values in Italian history and culture and was a symbol of unity and welcoming for all of humanity – not one of exclusion” (Rizzo). He further stated, “Religion gives a precious contribution to the formation and moral growth of people and it’s an essential component in our civilization…it’s wrong and myopic to try to exclude it from education” (Rizzo). Turning to our definition of religious liberty, a fundamental right of every person, we see that religious liberty does not mean the moral license to adhere to error, nor a supposed right to error (CCC 2106). Education is about the “formation and moral growth” (Rizzo) of children and young adults in the truth so that they are capable of reaching their full potential as human beings created by God. Children have a right to the truth, not to a secular education.
“Second, take a look at the situation here in America. The above example of the ban on the Nativity scene in Warren, Michigan is just one incident of many, and it’s only November. In Frankfort, Kentucky, “Christmas trees” have been deemed an offensive title and thus have been given the name “Holiday Trees”. In Amelia, Ohio the word “Christmas” in “Christmas Parade” offended one solicitor, and rather than accepting the title “Holiday Parade”, the entire event has been canceled (Donohue). Every year, militant atheist organizations use the phrase “separation of Church and State,” as a means of “intimidating municipalities and schools into removing expressions of Christmas, a national holiday. However, the grand purpose of our Founding Fathers and the First Amendment was to protect religion, not eliminate it” (Drake). Furthermore, the right to religious freedom transcends the temporal order. Every human being possesses inherent dignity which enables him to freely ascent to the divine truth (CCC 2106). No one should be “forced to act against his convictions, nor is anyone to be restrained from acting according to his conscience in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in association with others, within due limits” (CCC 2106). America was founded by Christians and upon Christian values and our Founding Fathers had no intention of relegating religious expression to the private sphere of one’s personal life.
“It has been argued that public display of Christian symbols are discriminatory and impose Christian beliefs upon those who do not wish to accept them. I can certainly think of cases where this could be true. Let’s suppose that my client were to march into a classroom of young children in an Islamic country and nail a crucifix to the wall and prop up little plastic statues of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the farm animals in front of their government building. This is an imposition of Christianity on those who live in a culture founded on Islam. Crucifixes on walls in Europe and Nativity scenes on public lawns in America are an entirely different matter. To demand that these symbols be removed from two cultures that are rooted and grounded in Christianity is in itself an imposition of secularism on a culture that has been religious for its entire existence. A white wall speaks louder than one thinks.
“Your honor, these two episodes in Europe and the United States risk “artificially severing the national identity from its spiritual and cultural origins” under the mistaken pretext that Christian symbols oblige the consciences of non-believers (Crucifix Ruling Seen as Severing Italy from Roots). On the contrary this expression of religious belief is an inherent right of every human being to religious liberty. We have a duty to uphold the truth in this matter and to respect the foundation upon which our Western civilization has been built, that is, Christianity.
Catechism of the Catholic Church. Strathfield, NSW: St. Paul's Publications, 2004.
"Crucifix Ruling Seen as Severing Italy from Roots." (2009). November 4, 2009 <www.zenit.org>.
Donohue, Bill. "War on Christmas Commences." Catholic League (2009). November 4, 2009.
Drake, Tim. "The Christmas Wars Have Begun." The National Catholic Register (2009). November 4, 2009 <www.ncregister.org>.
Reuters. "Berlusconi Says Crucifix Ruling Denies Europe's Roots." (2009). November 4, 2009.
Rizzo, Alessandra. "European Court: No Crucifixes in Italian Schools." The Assosiated Press (2009). November 4, 2009.
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