Freedom of Religion in Illinois and the Extreme Right

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryIn my personal experience throughout life, while all U.S. states have freedom of religion, some are more free than others. In my view, Illinois is among the freest states that allow complete freedom of religion. Illinois has just about every religious faith you can think of; be it Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, and Taoism. In fact, the oldest temple of worship in the Bahai faith in the whole world is located right here in Illinois. Just about every faith known to man can be found in Illinois. This is important because there should be no religious tests in any faith, and a complete separation of religion from any and all state government is necessary so that all religions are free to exist and practice in this state without interference.

There is no question that Christianity is the majority religion in Illinois. Of course, it is divided into at least four branches; they being Roman Catholic, Protestant, Eastern (Greek) Orthodox, and Coptic. All four branches of Christianity are in Illinois. All four branches are able to freely practice what they believe in this state. This is as it should be. Sadly, there are those who want to change the face of this state to make their view of Christianity the dominant religion. One example of this is the Illinois Family Institute. They wish to promote religion (Christianity) in the public schools, creationism in the public schools even though the U.S. Supreme Court struck this down in 1987, making homosexuality essentially a crime, and to end the separation of religion from state.

Of course, Illinois being primarily run by the Democratic Party, it is highly unlikely that religious extremism will ever get legislated in the Illinois State Assembly or signed by the governor. The one thing I worry about are extremists taking the law into their own hands. If they cannot get their way in the legislature, they might take up arms and harm the innocent. This has been the case against Jews in Illinois (as well as across the country). Fortunately, the governor in Illinois has done what he can to protect the Jews here. When I passed by a synagogue on my way to an appointment, I saw a police car there twenty-four seven making sure that house of worship was safe. No matter whose faith it may be, it needs to be protected or none are protected. We must not let the current climate of prejudice, bigotry and fanaticism take away what generations of Americans and Illinois residents have and continue to enjoy, and that is complete freedom of religion.

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