Changing Tides: An Example of Tolerance within Institutional Religious Institutions

#349 #ureligions


A Belfast school, specifically the Hunterhouse College in Belfast, retracted a worksheet after the father of a student complained that a religious worksheet grouped homosexuals with drunks and thieves, as written in the 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11 segment of the Bible. The school board acted promptly to address these concerns, immediately withdrawing these worksheets and apologizing for having sent the worksheets out of the classroom, where its context could be misconstrued as discriminatory.

For all intents and purposes, this situation was an action devoid of malice or heavy handed spiritual conversion. The headmaster of this institution, Andrew Gibson, immediately sought the advice of the Rainbow Project NI, a gay rights charity, for advice. Thus, the seriousness of the situation was clear and present to the leader of this educational facility. By seeking the aid of a community built around the need to support LGB individuals it demonstrates the changing attitudes of religiously oriented educational centers. The proliferation of humanist values, of equality both in the social sphere in addition to the legal, is a significant change of tone from what is generally expected from such institutions, these namely bigotry and intolerance.

The difference of attitudes towards teaching religiosity to students in the UK and North America is striking. The dichotomy is one can be tolerant and therefore non-religious or intolerant and thus religious. It is the exception and not the rule presented within the North American experience that one may possess a strong sense of faith and yet remain impartial to homosexuality. These individuals are celebrated and set as examples to others who would seek to instill religiosity to youth, suggesting that the majority of their ilk are living in a bygone age where intolerance was the accepted norm and should be propagated as a matter of tradition. This is what is commonly associated with institutions and those who propagate their values, as it most often the case with political religions.

That does not need to be the experience however. One may have a strong sense of spirituality or an active participate in an organized faith, and yet not be a bigot. There is no need to perpetuate the dichotomy of faith versus tolerance, as the society we live in now is one where through the rule of law and the changing attitudes thereby, the discourse itself is changing. Liberal humanist values continue to shape institutions long associated with conservative forces, creating through these influences a society reconciled with their faith and the wide variety of people therein. Once one removes the political, the acquiring of influence and the power gained through such means, institutions need not categorize people as the saved and damned, the saintly from the sinner in order to preserve their place of power within that society.


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