We live in a secular age in which the received wisdom is that religious faith is not supposed to interfere with secular activities and obligations. In other words, religion is OK so long as you don't really take it seriously.
A case in point is the recent action of the National High School Mock Trial Board which decided that high school students with religious obligations should be required to abandon them in order to participate in the national mock trial championship.
The State Champion team selected to represent Massachusetts in the national competition was an Orthodox Jewish school in Brookline, Massachusetts. The national mock trial board scheduled the championship, which was held at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia, for Wednesday through Saturday. As orthodox Jews, the students would not be allowed to observe the sabbath from sundown on Friday until sundown Sunday. The national board refused to give any consideration to accommodating the Massachusetts students.
When the State Bar of Georgia, who co-sponsored the event, wished to make accommodations, the National Board cited their contract and demanded that no changes could be made. This matter was only resolved when Chief Judge Doris Downs of the Fulton County Superior Court ordered that if the Jewish students were not accommodated, that the National High School Mock Trial could not use the Fulton County Courthouse.
Reluctantly, the mock trial board agreed to make concessions to allow the Massachusetts team to compete. However, the national high school mock trial board, which appears to this writer to be an embarrassment to the legal profession (which already has enough embarrassments), made a public statement that they felt that the board was forced into making concessions and that, in their opinion, JUDGE DOWNS had no legal right to take the action she did. As a member of the Georgia bar, I am proud of JUDGE DORIS DOWNS. If the National High School Mock Trial Board wants to sue the Georgia Bar and Fulton County for breach of contract over this, BRING IT ON BABY! I am sure we have some fine attorneys of the Jewish faith in Georgia that will be happy to represent the Judge and State Bar pro bono.
In other faith notes, yesterday I visited the nursing home where my grandmother is a patient and listened to a choir from a local MENNONITE community sing. These are definitely people who take their faith very seriously and are counter-cultural in this society. The women don't wear make-up, don't wear pants, and keep a covering on their heads. The New Georgia Encyclopedia says this about the Mennonite communities in Georgia:
"Mennonites derive their names from Menno Simons, a Catholic priest in Holland who, after joining the movement in 1536, unified and led scattered Anabaptists suffering persecution under various European authorities. . . . Mennonites tend toward a literal interpretation of the Bible that often leads them to practice a rigorous form of communal discipleship that does not always conform with modern society. Many communities choose to adopt a rural, separatist lifestyle, and these groups frequently restrict the use of modern technology, dress in traditional attire, and retain their native German language. . . ."
If, as the Baltimore Catechism says, the purpose of our life on earth is to "To know God, to love Him, to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with him forever in Heaven," then we would all be well advised to take a few pointers from Mennonites, Orthodox Jews and others who take God seriously.