Staff Ed: Religion in the Papers -dlh

William Dalsen

Several Lawrentians have approached members of the editorial board and voiced concerns following the publication of Ann Miller’s controversial letter to the editor in last week’s issue. We respect these concerns, and we think it is appropriate to speak to them here.
The primary concern seems to be that this newspaper, by publishing a religious letter, endorses the view of the author, or at least supports the author’s attempt to impose her religious values upon the community. Of course, editorials attempt to persuade readers as a rule: an editorial without a clear contention as to what the author thinks we should believe is hardly worth the paper its printed on.
But religion is not an ordinary subject. To some, an “invitation to believe” incites memories of past religious conflict, where conversions were made more often by force than by the printed word. An invitation to believe is taken to be an invitation to divide individuals on a visceral level, an invitation to be intolerant of nonbelievers, and an invitation to look down upon ********– to fundamentally disrespect *********– those who refuse to believe. These kinds of reactions are understandable, and it is equally understandable why some would be concerned with Miller’s letter.
We nevertheless hold that publishing the letter was the right thing to do. We believe that open discussion is a weapon against intolerance, we believe that free speech will facilitate free-thinking, and we believe that open debate can determine the veracity of our views. By publishing that letter, we are not endorsing a religious faith, but enabling the community to evaluate it. We believe that, in accordance with the ethics of journalism, all individuals and groups on campus should be able to express their views, in the hope that the community will benefit from the ensuing discussion. We hope that Miller’s letter will accomplish this end.