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The highest law in our land is the U.S. Constitution, which has amendments known as the Bill of Rights. Among those rights is the guarantee that “we the people” have the right to freedom of religion that protects not only people who belong to traditional, organized religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism, but also others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.

As a Christian, I should not be insulted by the facts of history. Rather, I – as well as the rest of us – should be inspired by them. We need to recognize the dangers of extremism — wherever they lie.

Christian extremism across history has been at least as bloody as Muslim extremism is today but it is also factually true that such extremisms have been equally popular.

First, it was the Crusades that pitted Christians against the Muslims and 1.7 million died. The Inquisition came next and Protestants were pitted against Catholics. Thousands were executed ... hundreds burned at the stake!

Even in this past century, Jews were denied entry into the U.S. prior to World War II and as a result, millions of Jews died in concentration camps. It wasn't until 1945 that the United States lifted the ban.

Jim Crow legally ended in the 1960s ... but only after 12 million were forced on the “Middle Passage” from Africa to the Americas. (Explained away as some sort of Christian "saving souls" act.)

As was true in my case, and in the case of others, our hatred was based on what we were taught by our parents and society. (We had just enough religion to know what church not to attend but not enough religion to make us love one another.)

President Obama reminded us that “humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history.” Still, it would be something if we could all wake up one day to the fact that we're all praying to the same God!

Joyce Hackett Smith-Moore