The First Amendment protection of religious freedom is designed not just to protect the religious traditions that the majority of us like or feel comfortable with. It is meant to protect religious traditions that the majority may find strange or objectionable.
The ten-member medical team killed in Afghanistan last month included a German, a Briton and six Americans who brought their varied skills in health care and in regional languages to remote parts of the poverty-stricken country. Several of the volunteers had spent years in such perilous missions.
The first time I taught an introductory
world religions class, one of the students was a quiet Afghan named
Mohammed. When it came time for oral presentations, Mohammed talked
about Jesus. As a devout Muslim, he knew a lot about his subject.
Dr. Paul Farmer, an infectious disease specialist known for his work in Haiti, has been to Liberia and planned to go back again in the fight against Ebola. According to Farmer, the outbreak of Ebola is a symptom of a very poor and weak health-care system in the three West African countries where it is spreading. In Liberia there is one physician per 100,000 people, compared to 240 in the United States. The president of Liberia points out that the Dallas Cowboys stadium uses more electricity each year than her whole country. Vaccines and drugs don’t exist because Ebola’s victims are poor and—so far—not very numerous (London Review of Books, October 23).