Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ain't separation great?

"She cannot at her own whim simply enter or leave her religion." So ruled the Malaysian judge who refused Lina Joy, a Catholic convert from Islam, permission to change her religious affiliation on her government ID card. Instead the judge told her she must go to the Islamic law, or Sharia, court and declare herself an apostate, which is likely to get her sent to a "rehabilitation center," according to the New York Times. Conversion to Christianity is illegal under Islamic law. In Muslim-majority Malaysia Muslims must use Shariah courts for certain matters; everyone else uses the civil courts.

There are loads of issues here, from the imperialism that often accompanied Christianity to the ever-escalating "war of civilizations" that some insist on fanning. But I think one thing that all should be able to agree upon is the freedom to choose and practice one's religion. Clearly, some Muslims in Malaysia disagree, and quite frankly there are plenty of American Christians who want to enforce "Judeo-Christianity" here, with the Ten Commandments posted in public buildings (especially courts) and insist that everyone at least sit through prayer in public schools. Religious coercion comes in many forms.

Let's face it: The separation of church and state is a really, really good idea, both for church and state. The case of Lina Joy is one reason why.

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