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Asking the Clergy: Should parents allow children to explore other religions?

Rabbi Michael Klayman, Lake Success Jewish Center:

Until our children reach age 18, they live in our homes and are subject to our rules and standards. In terms of education, social behavior, personal values and discipline, we raise children according to our personal standards: providing the tools necessary for them to live independent lives. I believe that religion is one of those values. As religion is an all-encompassing way of life, which demands time, attention and living experience, it is important for us to raise our children in one religion. When they leave home, our children will then be able to make informed decisions about religion.

However, children should learn about other religions and (in nonthreatening atmospheres) share information about their religion with classmates and friends. If we raise our children with a solid and loving religious experience, they will feel secure about who they are - even when learning about other traditions.

As parents and educators, I hope we raise children in a religious tradition marked by love, tolerance and serious values. By doing so, teaching children about other traditions is not only healthy but will reinforce the passion they have for the tradition in which they were lovingly raised.

The Rev. Kathleen Kufs, modern interfaith minister, attends The Gathering of Light Multifaith Spiritual Fellowship, Dix Hills:

As a modern interfaith minister, I believe that people of all ages can benefit from the experience of other religious services, traditions and holidays, all of which are enlightening and broaden our minds. These experiences help to break down religious stereotypes and, instead, connect us with different cultures from around the world.

Freedom of religion is our constitutional right as Americans, a very important and precious right, but the key is in the hands of parents. We have the ability to open doors for our children and ourselves by exploring other religions, as a family. We live in a very diverse community, both ethnically and religiously, and it absolutely would be beneficial to learn more about the people with whom we work, study and play.

It is a pleasure for me to see more and more interfaith couples who honor both religions in marriage, or religiously convert from one to another, thereby setting an example of our freedom to choose, for their children and for future generations.

The Rev. Vernon Lowe, retired minister, former presiding elder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, pastored in Huntington, presided over a district that encompassed Long Island through Buffalo:

If parents have committed their life to Christ, they should impart Christian principles to their children. Some other religions that the children want to explore could be cults. If the parents are of a Christian faith and a Christian doctrine, it is the responsibility of parents to pass that faith on to their children.

It is not a matter of just going to a house of worship, it is a matter of knowing and accepting Christ as your savior. Many other religions have false saviors. Christ is supreme in the lives of all mankind, and he died for humanity. There is nothing wrong with knowing about and studying all religions. It is about knowing which one can give you eternal salvation. I maintain that doctrine without salvation is dangerous. In my religion, one must be born again and accept Christ as his or her personal savior.

Gerry Dantone, founder, Center for Inquiry Community of Long Island, a community of rationalists, skeptics and humanists with meetings in Huntington, Stony Brook, Plainview:

It could not be more obvious that freedom of the mind is a fundamental freedom that we deserve and require for fulfilled and happy lives. It is unfortunate that the vast majority of people on Earth are subjected to often well-intentioned but harmful religious or other indoctrination that, at the least, injures their ability to reason coherently. This is the problem: Indoctrination exists specifically to prevent objective exploration and free inquiry into competing ideas. A truly caring parent would want their child's mind to be unfettered by superstition, faith and dogma and instead be motivated by caring and guided by reason. There should be no Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim . . . children. Yes, all children should be allowed to explore other belief and nontheistic belief systems, but they need a nonindoctrinated mind to do so meaningfully.

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