City of Ames is tolerant toward Minortiy Religions

According to a national survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life in July, 2006, 67 percent of Americans consider the U.S. to be a Christian nation. This number has drastically increased within the last decade, as in 1996, only 60 percent of Americans agreed with this statement. In actuality, according to the CIA World Factbook, 32 percent of the U.S. population is made up of minority religions. It is the Christian integration into American society, however, that places a variety of pressures on people who are a part of religious minorities. A number of religions are represented at Ames High. While students are predominately from sects of traditional Christianity, others belong to different religious groups. Some of these students feel uncomfortable with the Christian influence on their daily life. Others find the influence to be barely noticeable. Senior Sarah Jackson, a Mormon, has felt the pressure of being part of a minority religion. She said that she’s been approached about the topic more than once. “I’ve been talked to about it a few times,” she said. “I’m sure [the people involved] only had good intentions, but they were very out of place.” Jackson is part of about two percent of American population who are Mormons. Mormonism refers to the followings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members of this church do not consider themselves Protestant, but do consider themselves a part of Christianity. A member of the Jewish faith, senior Yoni Ackerman has also been approached about his religion on several occasions. “I have been told I need to convert or I’m going to hell.” This hasn’t had a large impact though, as he stated, “I’ve never felt pressured because I’ve never really taken it seriously.” Junior Jacob Canfield, a member of the Bahá’í faith, hasn’t felt impacted by negative pressures either. “Sometimes there are good discussions going on with what people believe,” he said. “But, I haven’t really ever felt pressured by other religions.” The Bahá’í faith originated in Persia in the nineteenth century. It focuses on three core principles, the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of mankind. In Ames, there are around 18 followers of the Bahá’í faith. Students from minority religions have faced Christian undertones in the high school’s curriculum as well. In history classes, much time is spent disusing time periods centered on Christian development, such as the Reformation. In A.P. English Literature and Composition, students read The Bible as a literary source. School assemblies, like Rachel’s Challenge, which was presented to the high school earlier this fall, have also appeared to have Christian religious undertones. “I felt a little uncomfortable in Western Civilization class just because I hadn’t heard a lot of the Christian terms before,” senior Ege Inanc said. “But, Christianity is a big part of European history and I had no problem learning about it.” Inanc is part of one percent of the U.S. population that is Islamic. Islam is currently the world’s fastest growing religion. “During Rachel’s Challenge there was an underlying view of Christianity and it made me feel a little awkward,” Jewish sophomore Ben Nadler said. “[Christian pressures] never really bother me unless someone forces it on me, which happens about once every two months, not too much,” Nadler said. “I think it’s great that people read the Bible in English class,” Canfield said. “Quite a few people haven’t read it, and it has had such a great cultural impact on world.” Ames High is made up predominately of Christian students. Those who belong to other minority religions sometimes feel uncomfortable by the Christian undertones in their daily life. However, many students feel lucky to live in a community such as Ames, which has allowed them to express their beliefs.