Going to a public school is very different than a private school for some obvious reasons: more people in the hallways, no uniforms, and way cheaper. But another huge difference isn’t as evident: religious diversity.
In a public school as huge as Fairmont High School, students practice a variety of religions, but it’s not always obvious because public schools separate the church from the state, and religion isn’t discussed. So here’s some insight into a few of the many different religions followed at Fairmont.
The Protestant church is the most commonly followed church in the United States of America. Senior Amanda Gouge practices Presbyterianism, a subdivision of the Protestant side of Christianity. The main distinction between this denomination and other denominations is that it is run by a committee of deacons and elders. “The deacons are for helping people who need to go to the hospital or have other needs, and the elders help out with Communion. I don’t think other Christian religions do that,” she said.
Gouge is part of her church’s volunteer group, which helps at homeless shelters and takes a mission trip each summer to help out in less-fortunate places. She commented that the people in her church are extremely important to her. “I feel like my church has a really good community of people in my congregation who are always there for me and won’t judge me. It feels good to be there every Sunday because of them,” she said.
The other denomination of Christianity is Catholicism, which Fairmont senior Mary Kate O’Neill practices. “A big difference between Protestant and Catholic churches is that most Protestant churches don’t follow the hierarchy of the churches, including cardinals and the Pope, whereas the Catholic church does,” she said.
O’Neill helps out at her church’s food pantry for those who are in need of food throughout the community. She is also a lector for her church. “I read from the Bible during Mass for the congregation to hear. I can read the first and second reading, but the Gospel, which is the third reading, has to be read by a priest or another church official. But I can read the first and second, and I do,” she said.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is also a denomination of Christianity, but its members also adhere to the Book of Mormon, which they believe is an important addition to the Bible.
Fairmont Senior Ty Dorman is a part of this church. He attends church every Sunday, which splits into three segments: one with the whole church; one with just teens; and one with just 18-year-old guys, which is a priesthood meeting. Dorman also takes time to have fun with his church. “On Tuesdays we do Young Men’s, where everyone gets together to just do something fun like play basketball,” he said.
Dorman believes being raised in the Mormon church has had a big influence in his life. “I usually don’t ever swear, I never plan on drinking, I don’t drink tea or coffee, and I won’t smoke because I was raised in that kind of atmosphere,” he said.
Fairmont Junior Corinn Herrick spends all of her Sundays in a synagogue instead of a church, yet she says there are many similarities. “If a Jew were to go to a Christian service or a Christian were to attend a Jewish service, they would find many things very similar. The main difference is that we don’t believe in Jesus,” she said. Herrick attends religious school every Sunday along with being a part of her youth group to get to know other Jews in her community.
Instead of Easter, Herrick celebrates Passover, a time where she doesn’t eat bread for seven days to celebrate the Jews’ exodus from Egypt. “It’s more of a serious holiday because we don’t do things like Easter egg hunts,” she said.
Meriem Djemel, also a Fairmont junior, takes her religion of Islam very seriously as well. A very prominent part of her religion is how she dresses. “Females have to cover their hair, arms, and legs,” she said. Muslims are not allowed to eat pork and they have to pray five times a day.
Djemel obviously does not celebrate Easter, but she does celebrate Ramadan and Eid. “During Ramadan, I have to fast every day for a month. Eid is celebrated the day after Ramadan. I get to spend time with family and friends,” she said.
For Djemel, religion is a huge part of her life. “It sums up my beliefs and who I really am,” she said.
Agnosticism and atheism aren’t really religions as much as a lack thereof. Senior Carl Lloyd feels he falls into this category. “Just because you don’t know something doesn’t mean you should make something up. You say, ‘I don’t know,’ and try to find the answer,” he said. “That’s how I think we should look at religion.”
Lloyd doesn’t believe there is no possibility of some sort of deity, as a complete atheist would. But he feels none has been found, so there’s no reason to worship one.
However, Lloyd chooses not to be involved in activities with other agnostics. “This isn’t really something I do, it’s something I believe,” he said. “I thought through it and decided that this is how I feel. I don’t really actively support others who feel the same.”
Students’ thoughts on religious diversity
Overall, students appear to be very accepting of the many different religions at Fairmont, and they don’t let it stop them from getting to know people of different backgrounds. “I am a very open-minded person. I accept people for who they are,” said Djemel.
Dorman agrees. “There’s really no sure way to know if there is a religion that’s true, so as long as there’s no violence or anything, diversity is always a good thing because there’s diversity all around the world,” he said.
Gouge sums up her thoughts with one statement. “I feel that faith is really important. I think it’s good to believe in something. That doesn’t mean that you have to go to church every Sunday. That doesn’t mean you have to pray a certain way or do something a certain way. But I believe faith in general is important to have,” she said. “Whatever way you do it is up to you.”