Hi guys! I hope you’ve been reading the opinion pieces I’ve been posting. I bring three more to you and these will be my final entries for this series.
I hope you enjoy and send me some suggestions for another topic!
For Chris’s piece, he actually shared the link to his post in the Greensboro News&Record! Check it out as it deals with HB2!
Nonexistent Religious Freedom
I write this piece pulling from a number of different conversations I have had with people in the past and through the PACS program at UNCG. I want to speak to religious freedom as part of the Declaration of Human Rights but also as a narrative of common sense that has become one sided and blind. I am thinking about the different limitations governments often place on people of the Muslim faith especially when deciding what these people can and cannot wear in the workplace, in schools, in public spaces. These policies are put in place disguised behind what they often call “privilege” to be here, to be present, to work in this company, to attend this school. It’s as if whatever tile you are currently standing in on the floor, determines who you are from head to toe. I constantly feel disturbed and uncomfortable with this notion because of how unbalanced this argument is.
Religious expression as a part of a group of people happen in just about every culture and in any way we can think of. Some people wear head scarves, others a rosary around their neck. Some tattoo Jesus’ hands on their back and others pray five times a day. All of the above are ways to express one’s religion and although there is a freedom of religion that supposedly exists among us, (according to the Declaration of Human Rights) we can see over and over that this freedom tends to be controlled by the privileged, the powerful and the non-marginalized groups of a society.
I came to think more about this topic through thinking of the recent ban on Muslim women in the EU to wear their headscarves in the workplace. Some women have been reported to have rebelled and attempted to sue the companies they work for because they have felt discriminated against. However, the EU court has given consent to the companies being sued because they claim that the policy instilled applied to all religions and does not intend to single out Islam (this being a common narrative we hear in these cases). Interestingly enough, it is only with people who identify with the Muslim faith that this has been a problem with.
Let’s also take into account the cases where Muslim women have been asked to take off their headscarves in their driver’s license picture. The headscarf, a scared part of their identity is forced to be removed. However, we don’t hear about people being asked to hide away their rosaries or put away their Bible’s at coffee shop. To me, this is what religion freedom is about and as long as a person is not acting to harm anyone or encourage violence, these different scenarios should be dealt with on equal terms.
These “policies” that are constantly being passed or drafted are ways to normalize a narrative of exclusion and micro-aggressions. We see this all the time and we saw especially during elections and after Trump was elected. Narrative is power and having control of them is something that leaves marginalized groups very powerless. Until we see crosses being banned or rosaries asked to be put away, the policies and movements against religious freedom should not be called equitable and fair.
“Do our children not deserve better?”
North Carolina is a state that is has pushed “Abstinence-Only” education onto students for years. In 2010, North Carolina schools saw a major change in the law regarding sex education when schools were granted permission by the state to provide students with accurate information about Reproductive Health and Safety Education. Unfortunately, according to the Healthy Youth Act of 2009 each school board is required to pass “appropriate local policies to ensure that requirements are met” (SHIFT NC).
In Guilford County this means that school boards have found a way to wiggle within the limits of the new act to still achieve their agenda. Schools teach sexuality education to students in the 7th or 8th grade in a course called “Family Life”. Although the school board does share the specified information with students, they manipulate the system by making this class a requirement in middle school; therefore allowing the material to be censored to ensure it is “age-appropriate”. North Carolina claims the amount of teen pregnancies has decreased by nearly 40% since 2010. However, in the fine print of their website NC Shift discloses that they received “challenges” while retrieving data and numbers could actually be higher.
In 2015, there were still 9,802 teen pregnancies in North Carolina. Of those pregnancies, 22% were repeat teen pregnancies. North Carolina is ranked 22 of the 50 states in teen pregnancy (SHIFT NC).
We are responsible for the ignorance of our youth. We are responsible for the growing or barely decreasing cases of teen pregnancy and STDs within our community and our state. How can we expect the 54,383 cases of gonorrhea reported to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) in 2015 to decrease if we do not educate the youth fully and completely?
“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate to the health and well-being of himself,” as stated in article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. How can we ensure an adequate standard of living for our youth if they become one of the 33,388 reported cases of HIV (NCDHHS) in North Carolina in 2015? The Convent of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article 12, supports, “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”
Our children deserve better. Our community deserves to be healthy. We must ensure that our high school students receive information and resources to have the knowledge and means for preventing teen pregnancy and the spread of STDs.