Sept 11 Awakens America to its Own Religious Diversity

February 9, 2002

Source: Star Tribune

On February 9, 2002, the Star Tribune reported that "ever since Sept. 11 the United States has seen a resurgence of sensitivity to and expressions of civil religion - we value service, cooperation, equality of justice and opportunity, respect for diversity and national symbols and ideas... The Rev. Peg Chemberlin, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Churches, said, 'Part of what we're seeing is a firm commitment to the celebration of religious pluralism. In that it's a central value of a democracy'... Chemberlin said, 'Some people ask me, from time to time, 'Why does the Minnesota Council of Churches work so hard to have an interfaith presence, like the [Sept. 16] memorial service at the capital.' It's not because we all agree. There are major distinctions among us, but it's the result of the value we place on our neighbor of other faith traditions because we honor the constitution, which guarantees the right to religious freedom'... Gayle Graham Yates, professor of American studies at the University of Minnesota, believes that Sept. 11 has given Americans an opportunity to 'reassess what we are when we think of ourselves.' And she assumes that what we are now is much more diverse religiously than when the country was founded... However, she wonders what would happen to established customs that spring from our civil religion if the participants are part of this new diversity. For example, she said, presidents are sworn into office while placing a hand on the Bible. But what if the president were Hindu or Buddhist? Would we still want him or her to swear on a Christian Bible?"