The Cost of Being Different
Yeah, they are all over the news.
How about when the religion isn't Christianity or Muslim?
Not quite as much, is it?
I think that is because others tend to keep their thoughts on religion and their beliefs secret for fear of ridicule, or worse. This is something that has recently hit home for my family. So, I went looking for anything I could find and most everything was very high profile (military stories), or small posts online because virtually all of the stories are available only on the internet. Here is one of the stories I found that could be traced to print.
In Connecticut, Gina Uberti wanted to take time off for Samhain, and approved the time off one year in advance. When a asked why she took off Halloween week by a new regional manager, Gina told her of her religious beliefs, and was fired, according to the Connecticut Law Tribune.
Here is a story that I cannot find in newspapers, only on pagan sites such as witchvox. A school in Detroit, Michigan tries to ban pentacles as part of the dress code because they are afraid of gang activity.
Many other stories that I have found are older, mainly because Wiccans and their children pretty much stay in the broom closet so that they do not feel the sting of harassment...after all, schools hard enough without adding religious harassment to the mix. But what happens when it isn't Wicca, or Buddhism? What happens when it is just the beginnings of finding a religion to call your own?
It started a couple of weeks ago a friend and I were talking. We'll call her Sarah, because she would rather be unnamed. Here's what happened...
Her daughter "Ann" began asking questions about what religion the family practiced. Sarah and her husband talked about it, and decided what they were going to tell her. However, these were not just random questions as she had a school report due with the topic of "What is important to you?"
Sarah and her husband claimed the general title of "spiritual" , fearing that saying more could influence what Ann believed or lead to teasing at school if she told her friends. So only the basics of what they believed were divulged "There is something out there, that we are all part of nature and part of a higher power, and that you need morals and values to keep you on the right path."
It was after talking to her parents, her friends, and some parents of her friends that she decided she was agnostic. She believes in a higher power, and though she doesn't follow the bible, she understands why others do. She also wrote that she didn't think that other religions were wrong, but that there was just too much information for her to decide right now. She also believes that whatever religion others choose to follow is a good thing as long as it feels right to them.
After getting her paper back, she told Sarah why she had asked about religion and showed her the paper. She received a B and thought that was the end of it. Sarah was proud see her take all this information, and draw her own ideas and beliefs from it because it showed independent thought. Little did she know what it would cost her.
On Monday, the entire class was asked to stand up and read their reports. She wasn't nervous about her topic, just nervous about reading aloud, never suspecting what would follow. During her oral report her classmates started interrupting her and asking if she worshiped the devil, and things of that nature. By the end of the day just about everyone in her school heard about her report. For the next four days she was harassed in the hallways, being told that she was going to hell, and that she must be a Satan-worshiper if she didn't go to church on Sundays. Not once during those four days did anyone say anything to the other children. Sarah didn't know about the harassment until another parent spoke to her about it.
After Ann told her parents everything( including how she didn't want to go back to school because of the harassment), Sarah spoke to the teacher about her concerns and wanted to know what could be done. The teacher decided to have a talk with the class over the harassment. What was interesting, is after he lectured on being nice to others, and how one person's religion should never be ridiculed, he said (as Ann quotes it) "acting like that just isn't very christian of you." While, if the large majority of the children were christian (which they probably are), at least one of them obviously wasn't, and it really made Ann uncomfortable.
Though the lecture didn't help much, it did help some, though now the ridicule mostly goes on outside the hearing range of the teachers. What hurts her the most is the fact that she is made fun of and belittled by some of the people she believed to be friends.
No matter a persons religion, or lack thereof, it is not a reason to ostracize or belittle them. Everyone should be free to hold their own beliefs without fear of what might be said or done. Sarah has tried her best to see that the ridicule stops but as the teachers don't hear it,...it doesn't happen.
I have waited until now to post this story because Ann has just started high school. Sarah's husband was offered a job in another county and he took it so Ann could start over in a new school. After moving , she became less depressed and her grades are looking better than they were.