Piotr Studnicki's Blog in 2012
A door in the wall
1802, president Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to Baptists from
Danbury, Connecticut, that the First Amendment to the United States
Constitution is “building a wall of separation between Church &
every church and every state, like every house, needs a wall. A wall
sets limits, defines territory, separates and protects. I think, this is
necessary for life, but it is not sufficient. Church and state, like a
house, need a door or a gate, too, to enable entry and exit of people,
and therefore their meeting and dialogue.
the First Amendment to the United States Constitution that wall and
that door? I think so. I believe that the American Constitution
separating the religious and state institutions in a way that did not
establish a state religion, helps people of various religions and
denominations, believers and unbelievers to gather and work in the true
and full freedom. Therefore, cooperation is possible between a Buddhist,
a Jew and a Catholic priest at the Capitol in Jefferson City.
The Journalist's Creed in Polish
I guess nobody has done it before me. And if someone did it, he did not put it on the Internet (if a Google search is right). Maybe it exists, but only on paper, in a book or an article. But we know, that if it is not on the Internet, it's as if it never existed.
So, much seems to indicate that I am the first. Or maybe better: we are the first. This is the first translation of Walter Williams’ “The Journalist's Creed” into Polish and the Missouri Digital News is the first to publish it. Not by accident. I have seen “The Journalist's Creed” thanks to MDN (you can’t miss it on the MDN website), and for this I am grateful.
“Dziennikarskie Credo” Waltera Williamsa
Wierzę w dziennikarski zawód.
że publiczne czasopismo jest obdarzone powszechnym zaufaniem; że
wszyscy, którzy są z nim związani, w pełni swojej odpowiedzialności,
służą społeczeństwu; że akceptacja mniejszej służby niż służba
publiczna, jest zdradą tego zaufania.
Wierzę, że trzeźwe myślenie i jasne wypowiadanie się, precyzja i bezstronność są fundamentem dobrego dziennikarstwa.
Wierzę, że dziennikarz powinien pisać tylko to, co w swoim sercu uważa za prawdziwe.
Wierzę, że zatajenie informacji, z innego powodu niż dobro społeczeństwa, jest nie do obronienia.
że nikt nie powinien pisać jako dziennikarz tego, czego nie
powiedziałby jako dżentelmen; że dawania łapówek należy unikać tak jak
ich brania; że nie można uciec przed indywidualną odpowiedzialnością
przyjmując od innych instrukcję bądź tantiemy.
że reklama, informacja i opinia powinny jednakowo służyć najlepszym
interesom czytelników; że jeden standard pomocnej prawdy i uczciwości
powinien być powszechnym dla wszystkich; że najwyższym sprawdzianem
dobrego dziennikarstwa jest stopień jego publicznej służby.
że dziennikarstwo odnoszące sukces - i najbardziej zasługujące na
sukces - boi się Boga i szanuje Człowieka; jest stanowczo niezależne,
niewzruszone wobec chwały opinii oraz żądzy władzy, konstruktywne,
tolerancyjne, ale nigdy beztroskie, opanowane, cierpliwe, nieustannie
szanujące swoich czytelników, ale zawsze bez leku, szybko oburzające się
na niesprawiedliwość; nie ulega wpływom pociągających przywilejów lub
wrzeszczącego tłumu; stara się dać każdemu człowiekowi możliwość oraz, o
ile prawo, uczciwe wynagrodzenie i uznanie ludzkiego braterstwa
umożliwia to, równą szansę; jest głęboko patriotyczne chociaż szczerze
promuje dobrą wolę miedzy narodami i spaja światowe braterstwo; jest
dziennikarstwem człowieczeństwa, z i dla dzisiejszego świata.
On religion in the constitution
The Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) discovered and described two methods of reasoning which still remain valid. First, deductive reasoning, which means that a general conclusion is arrived at by specific examples, and second, inductive reasoning, which means that a specific conclusion is arrived at from a general principle. I am convinced of the effectiveness of both methods, but I always closerfavor the first one: from the specific cases and events over the general concepts and theories. This probably explains why after I discovered and wrote about the religious signs in the Capitol in the last blog post, I began a “personal investigation” on religion in the American constitution.
According to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". This brief sentence of the supreme law of the U.S., on the one hand guarantees the separation of church and state, and on the other hand provides religious freedom to every citizen.
The Missouri Constitution in 3 of the 34 sections of Article I, Bill of Rights, enumerates the rights of all citizens of the State of Missouri. Section 5 guarantees:
- “that all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences”;
- “that no person shall, on account of his religious persuasion or belief, be rendered ineligible to any public office or trust or profit in this state, be disqualified from testifying or serving as a juror, or be molested in his person or estate”.
In short, the supreme law of the state of Missouri guarantees not only the right to religious freedom, but also liberty of conscience and belief (also called the freedom of thought or ideas). The freedom of religion and freedom of conscience are different concepts in law and in philosophy, although the two concepts are closely linked. According to the Missouri Constitution, these rights are not unlimited. They “shall not be construed to excuse acts of licentiousness, nor to justify practices inconsistent with the good order, peace or safety of the state, or with the rights of others”.
Section 6 of Article I of the Missouri Constitution also says in specific detail: “no person can be compelled to erect, support or attend any place or system of worship, or to maintain or support any priest, minister, preacher or teacher of any sect, church, creed or denomination of religion; but if any person shall voluntarily make a contract for any such object, he shall be held to the performance of the same”. The citizens of the State of Missouri can practice and support of religion, but they do not have to do this. In other words, membership in a religion (with all consequences) is something voluntary but not compulsory.
Section 7, applies to two dimensions of the separation of church and state. The first element of this “distance” is something as worldly as money: “No money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion, or in aid of any priest, preacher, minister or teacher thereof, as such”. By the way, in my opinion thanks to this financial separation, organized religions or churches can be independent and free, because one of the first element of dependence is economic dependence.
The second element in the relationship between organized religions
and the state of Missouri may be summarized as follows: no preference
and no discrimination on religious grounds. “No preference shall be given to nor any discrimination made against any church, sect or creed of religion, or any form of religious faith or worship”, says section 7 of Article I of the Missouri Constitution.
I will close with two observations:
- If the presence and prayer of representatives of the religious world opening each session in the Missouri Capitol does not break the constitutional law on religion then this practice shows a correct interpretation of law. This means that separation of church and state is not understood as eliminating all prayer and religion from government bodies and actions, but it is meant to keep the government from establishing a state religion for its people.
- The last time I wrote something about the practice, this time on the theory, but I absolutely do not think that I have exhausted the issue. My journalistic investigation is not over. One discovery reveals another one. The practice of journalism is an endless adventure, and perhaps that is why it is so exciting.
The religious symbols in Missouri Capitol
I have to confess, I was not looking for religious symbols in the Capitol and I was surprised to find some there.
During my first visit to the Missouri Capitol, I discovered that in the Missouri House and Senate there are two representatives of the religious world. One of them is a Catholic priest and the other is a pastor of one of the Protestant churches. These representatives of God, called chaplains, open each session with a prayer, pleading to God for all of the Representatives and Senators that they “find wisdom to make wise decisions, strength to stand for what is good for all, and good will to motivate all their endeavors”.
March 20, in the Capitol in Jefferson City was Fine Arts Education Day. I was listening to the concert of the school choirs in the First Floor Rotunda when I noticed that on the walls of the Rotunda there are not only paintings and sentences in praise of democracy and freedom, but also two inscriptions about God. The first inscription about God comes from the Bible and it is a part of Psalm 24: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof”. The other inscription, “Lord God of Hosts be with us yet – lest we forget”, is a fragment of “Recessional”, a poem by Rudyard Kipling, which he composed on the occasion of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
Finally, last week, as I was riding my bike around the Capitol in Jefferson City, I found the table displaying the Ten Commandments. It is located on the territory of the Capitol Complex, between the Fountain of the Centaurs and the Missouri Veterans Memorial. The Commandments are written in Hebrew, the original language of the Old Testament (the part of the Bible common to Jews and Christians) and, of course, in English.
Moreover on the table with the Ten Commandments there are three symbols of faith: the Eye of Providence (or the all-seeing eye of God known also from one dollar banknotes), the Jewish Star of David and the Chi Rho symbol (one of the earliest symbols of Christ). The table was presented to the State of Missouri on June 28, 1958, by the Missouri State Aerie Fraternal Order of Eagles. On its website, we read it is “an international non-profit organization uniting fraternally in the spirit of liberty, truth, justice and equality, to make human life more desirable by lessening its ills and promoting peace, prosperity gladness and hope”.
In thinking about these religious symbols in the Capitol, I ask myself, why people used to put them in a public place? What did these symbols mean for them? How do people understand these signs today? Are they only just historical relics, the characters of past times? Or are they also valid symbols for people today?
A question I’m looking for the answer to is: how can I learn to write well?
I remember well the classes of The Analysis and Practice of Information with Prof. Nicola Graziani at the University in Rome. Can you imagine, that at the Pontifical University, at the heart of Christianity, a professor encourages the students (half of them Catholic priests) to read the books of Voltaire, a French philosopher and writer, one of the biggest critics of Christianity? It seemed like a provocation!
Perhaps it was a provocation to think. We can learn a lot by reading or listening to our critics. But I am sure, first of all, that it was a good way to learn to write. I disagree with many of the ideas of Voltaire, but I have to admit that he was a good writer. He was able to put his words on paper in such a way that I could learn to write from his example. Today, a computer monitor has replaced a piece of paper and a keyboard has replaced a pen, but learning how to write is no easy art. However, we can learn how to write by reading good literature or a piece of good journalism.
From my first days in the USA I am encouraged to learn to write in a different way. First, I read an excellent book by William Zinsser “On Writing Well. The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction”. He said, “You learn to write by writing. It’s a truism, but what makes it a truism is that it’s true. The only way to learn to write is to force yourself to produce a certain number of words on a regular basis”. The same day, I wrote my first long story in English. Then I read MDN’s Syllabus and found a similar invitation, “Try to produce as many stories as you can. In those first weeks, quantity is more important than quality. That’s because the more stories you produce, the more rapidly you’ll develop self confidence”. So I started to write and write. In this way I learn to write not only by producing news for MDN, but also by doing homework, by blogging or by preparing a homily.
Reading and writing are two ways to learn how to write well. They are not contradictory, but complementary. Personally, I think that these are not two ways, but two sides of one way. The way to learn to write well.
A wall of the words
Overcoming a language barrier is bittersweet. Perhaps there are some people for whom learning a foreign language is a piece of cake. I’m sure there are other people for whom it is hard work. I know, because I am one of them.
Maybe you have had a similar experience. If so, you can understand what I mean. If you haven’t, I assure you it’s no fun.
The language barrier is like a high wall standing between people, blocking the real meaning of the conversation. This wall is not built of stone, brick or concrete, but of unknown words, sophisticated phrases, tricky idioms and different accents. But this is not the worst. The language barrier is not only something between you and me on the outside. It’s also something inside of us. I don’t know what it is within you, but in me it is angst.
The experience of learning a new language involves not only the bitterness of misunderstanding, but also the sweetness of absorbing new meanings. It is like discovering a new world with an alternative point of view and a different way of thinking. Maybe that’s why learning a foreign language is so difficult.
Learning a new language is a laboratory that helps me discover myself, my advantages and disadvantages. It’s also a good way to learn the human virtues: patience, tenacity, courage and humility. The effort to learn a new language is beneficial, but it takes a lot of time and hard work. A shortcut does not exist.
Finally overcoming the language barrier is very rewarding, as it creates a bridge that connects us to each other and broadens your world and mine.
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