Individual displays of religion

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

Should an individual be able to display his or her religion in public places?

In the United States, Christians can wear a cross on a chain around their necks. They can display a manger scene in their front yards around Christmas time. Christians can put bumper stickers on their car to proclaim their faith. They may keep a Bible on their desk at work. Non-Christians can also display religious symbols. Conflicts in the United States arise when a person either a) accuses an employer of discrimination for religious reasons; or b) believes there is an inadequate separation of church and state because a branch of government displays a religious symbol in a public place.

France has a law that bans wearing conspicuous religious symbols in French public primary and secondary schools. Although the law bans all conspicuous religious symbols, many people believe it was created to forbid Muslim women from wearing headscarves to school. The French government forbids conspicuous religious symbols because it believes they promote divisiveness.

How about in Georgia? I see people stopping to cross themselves when they pass by a Georgian Orthodox church. Some people make the sign of the cross even if they are riding a bus and the church is barely visible in the distance. Middle-aged and older women may kiss the doors of churches before entering. On Saturday, during Tbilisoba, when the crowds were heavy, I saw many people stop by this priest in order to kiss an icon and receive a blessing. Some of these people then put a coin in the priest’s hip purse. I see no harm in these public displays of faith or the priest’s fundraising efforts. I assume that the Georgian government has no objections, but what about the Church? Does the Georgian Orthodox Church encourage or discourage such behavior?

Should an individual be able to display his or her religion in public places?


About keithrkenney
Keith Kenney is a professor of visual communication at the University of South Carolina. He is living in Tbilisi, Georgia, for a year. This blog is about several topics. "CSJMM-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management in Tbilisi, Georgia. "USC-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. CSJMM and SJMC are recipients of a "Journalism School Partnership" program grant from the US Department of State. The purpose of this $750,000 grant is to improve CSJMM and ensure its sustainability. "Tbilisi, Georgia" is about Susanna Melo and my experiences in Tbilisi. "Columbia, SC" will be about our experiences in our home town--Columbia--when we return home. "Georgia" is about Susanna and my experiences when we travel in Georgia outside of Tbilisi. "United States" is about our experiences traveling in the US. "Films and Photography" is about two documentary films I'm working on in Georgia. One story follows how Adishi handles the rapid tourism that is being developed in Svaneti. The other story follows Tamaz Jalagania, who is a craftsman of swords and guns, an opera singer, and an extraordinary storyteller. "Scholarship" is about my current books, articles, reviews, and grants.

One Response to Individual displays of religion

  1. Anonymous says:

    Recently we had an HOA meeting in a public library and a muslim lady covered her head with a scarf. Would that be interpreted as a public display of her religious belief? Same for a man wearing a yamaka. Why can’t religious people keep their religious beliefs in their homes and in their churches? Why force them on me in public.

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