Freedom of religion vs. freedom to worship
One of our primary political party’s initial platform temporarily proposed freedom to worship instead of freedom of religion as one of its central beliefs. Unfortunately, few Americans noticed or cared. What a sad commentary on this great nation.
“Freedom of religion has unrestrained and extensive meaning. It includes the right of believers to proselyte, have religious schools, charitable institutions, change your religion at will and carry out religious activities in “the public square.” This is in sharp contrast to many nations who only tolerate religions (or religious minorities) so long as they confine themselves to their church buildings and don’t venture into the community. These oppressive nations tout freedom to worship while bringing the full force of government crashing down upon those who dare to speak out on religious issues or convert from the dominant religion to another.
We live in uncertain times. The First Amendment’s guarantees to peaceably protest and petition for redress have been hijacked and our freedom of religion is in a precarious position. Sadly, public opinion seems to be less favorable to freedom of religion than in the past. Perhaps many citizens simply do not have a strong belief in God. Or, it may be because extremists and terrorists groups usurp religious beliefs to justify violent or destructive activities. Nevertheless, freedom of religion must be upheld at all costs.
Free and full exercise of religion strengthens society. Statistics show, religious individuals have better family lives, stronger marriages, less substance abuse and crime, higher educational levels, a greater willingness to volunteer and donate to charities, better work habits, longer lives, better health, greater income, and higher levels of well-being and happiness. Also of note is freedom of religion’s inseparable connection to free speech. It is time for those who are “offended” by religious speech and activities to recognize that any constraint on freedom of religion also places limits on speech generally.
It is no longer taught in school (to our detriment) that individual rights are given to us by a loving God (thus, the term “inalienable”). Our government no matter how arrogant cannot take them away. Only God can do that (or we can give them up by apathy, bad choices or behavior). Unfortunately, God is no longer in fashion in the legal world. However, that does not change the truth.
Religious people must be at the vanguard of the battle to protect religious freedom. It is essential to individual free agency and the other freedoms which emanate from religious freedom. Freedom of religion, of speech, and to assemble are at the heart and foundation of this democratic republic. Moreover, true and abiding faith is an American lifestyle which must be protected. We cannot allow our freedom to believe privately, to exercise belief publicly, and speak religiously in the public square to be diminished any further. The silent majority must awake, arise, and take courage in our convictions.