In reading Kelsey Dallas’ Aug. 20 article “Americans under 30 are less supportive of religious freedom than other adults,” it really shouldn’t surprise anyone that attitudes about religion and religious freedom vary from one generation to the next, and particularly among millennials, those who have grown up in today’s digital age.
While most of Dallas’ article is open to debate about how the attitude of millennials will affect religious freedom, I would add a caution to anyone, millennial or not, who supports concrete restrictions on specific types of religious freedom, including the right to worship. Such restrictions, even if given the blessing of a Supreme Court ruling, could have the potential of being disastrous.
In 1940, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Minersville School District v. Gobitis that all schoolchildren must salute the American flag, including those who were Jehovah’s Witnesses, despite their religion forbidding the saluting of any flag. As the result of this ruling, Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the country were subjected to many types of verbal and physical violence. Likewise, many Jehovah's Witness churches were hit by vandals and even arsonists.
In response to these attacks on Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Supreme Court issued a second ruling in 1943, in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, which in effect overturned the Minersville case of 1940.
Regardless of one’s negative or hostile attitude toward religion and religious freedom, to take such hostility and cement it into the laws of the United States would not create a more peaceful, uniform, progressive society. Rather, this nation would face the same violent divisions we have already seen in places such as Northern Ireland, the former Yugoslavia and, of course, the Middle East. I can’t imagine any millennial supporting that.
Clark Roger Larsen