Sunday morning, the Islamic Center of Fort Collins was vandalized. After being unable to enter the building, the vandal (which is putting it lightly) broke through three glass doors with rocks, overturned furniture, dumped out trash and, most distinctly, threw a Bible into a prayer room.
This event hits home, but it has been a part of a growing number of verbal and physical assaults on religious spaces throughout the country.
According to a poll done by the Huffington Post and YouGov 32 percent of Americans believe Christianity should be the official religion of the United States. While the First Amendment protects against this, it is an alarming number to see how many people believe the United States is well represented by Christianity. With recent threats to other religious communities, it is more alarming to see how many believe in this idea enough to act violently. Beyond protections of religion and speech explicitly stated in the Constitution, this country was rooted in one thing: freedom from religious persecution.
A quick history lesson: all the original settlers of the future United States were here for religious freedom. Many of these families were facing punishment for openly practicing their beliefs, so they escaped to a place where they could practice freely. The United States went on to become the first country to have no declared established religion, emphasizing the importance of separating the church and the state.
American culture is not one of Christianity. Christianity happens to be the religion of those who decided to immigrate to North America during that time, but it was even those Christian founding fathers who realized what America became was much more important than a Christian safe haven, it was a country for any and all facing religious, political or any other kind of persecution.
That makes Sunday’s crime much more egregious. For an American Christian to persecute another religious community and destroy the sanctity of their space is the most un-American thing I can think of.
I have little doubt that the increase in religious aggression in this country is tied to the nationalist and immigrant-fearing culture here. It’s a clear connection, but it boggles my mind logically. You would think that the proudest, the most “American” people would be opening their arms to minority religious communities, yet ignorance continues to run rampant.
The rally held Sunday night at the center was somber, but simultaneously encouraging seeing so much community support. As members of the Fort Collins community, it is important to reject any racist or prejudiced rhetoric and continue to hold people accountable for their words.
For those interested, the Islamic Center of Fort Collins has a donation page on their website as well as a GoFundMe page. Funds will go to the repair of their facility as well as increased security measures.
Collegian Columnist Alexandra Stettner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @alexstetts.