Monday, March 31, 2008

Early childhood religious indoctrination

The facts about early childhood development are fairly well established. Children's little minds are like sponges and they have no critical defenses. Indeed this is what makes the practice of religious indoctrination so morally objectionable. All religions officially sanction the practice, it is calculated, devious, and unfair. Leave aside parental motivations, which as I have stressed over and over I am convinced are noble and well intentioned. I am troubled by institutional motivations -- they have to maintain membership rolls so they have vested interests.

If parents consign their children to religious indoctrination out of love and it is harmful how are we to consider this? It matters not if a drunk driver loves you or hates you when he crashes into you. The result is the same, and the result of a drunk driver's actions are what society goes after them for.

Religions have been given carte blanc in our country to do as they please. Now it is time we take stock and examine where we are. And yes I know the Supreme Court has decided parents can instruct their minor children in whatever religion they chose. This practice is legal (Pierce vs Mass 1944). But, please recall the supreme court gave approval for segregated schools, so that's not an iron clad argument. The supreme court also decided against women's suffrage. In Myner v. Happerstett the US Supreme Court decided that being a citizen does not guarantee suffrage. It was not until the 1920s that women finally had suffrage granted to them.

Times change, Pierce was decided 64 years ago. We move on, our understanding improves, and we should continually strive to make better choices that do not disadvantage one group with respect to another. Particularly, in this case children's interests versus their parents free exercise of religion interests. Why should the free exercise clause be so broadly interpreted? Children have rights, or they sure ought to have them by now.

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