Religious Freedom and the Constitution
Religious Freedom and the Constitution
Freedom of religion – or perhaps you prefer to use the term religious freedom – is one of the most fundamental principals in American society. Freedom of religion was one of the few “absolute musts” in 1787 when delegates at the Constitutional Convention met to create a framework for American government – a framework we know as the Constitution of the United States. In fact, freedom of religion is such an important aspect of the system which our founders set up that opposing the concept of religious freedom means also opposing the concept of America. If you don’t agree with freedom of religion, you are un-American – it is that fundamental to our system.
Religious freedom means that none of us can be coerced into holding or proclaiming specific beliefs in regards to religion. We are all free to worship as we please; or not worship at all if we choose. Religion is a matter of individual conscience.
Religious freedom also means that the government cannot take sides by promoting one religion over any other religion.
Religious freedom does NOT mean that we can bully those with different beliefs. Religious freedom does NOT mean that we can impose our prejudices on society by claiming “religious freedom” to do so. The government must stay neutral; this means that the government cannot allow institutional prejudice in the name of religious freedom.
Religious freedom in America is meaningless unless it is reciprocal. When you choose to do something in the name of “religious freedom”, you must be willing to allow those with different beliefs to take similar actions. If you wouldn’t agree that it is okay if the shoe were on the other foot, then you are the one interfering with religious freedom. “Religious freedom for those who agree with me but not for those with different beliefs” is NOT true freedom; it is un-American.
- If you make a public display out of mocking, bullying, threatening, or intimidating those who are exercising beliefs different from yours – and if you support those who do – you are the one acting in an un-American manner. Religious tolerance is fundamental to the American system.
- If you think that it is okay for businesses which are open to the public to deny service to individuals because of “religious freedom”, yet you would oppose giving the same right to businesses whose owners might disagree with something about you, then you are the one acting in an un-American manner. Selling to the public is a choice made by business owners, not a government-enforced denial of religious freedom.
- If you complain about the government not displaying religious symbols and messages, and if you complain about public schools not leading public prayers – but you wouldn’t find it acceptable if the symbols, messages, and prayers were based on religious beliefs that you don’t agree with – then you are in opposition to fundamental American principles.
America’s founders deliberately made freedom of religion a cornerstone of American society. The Constitution demands that government in the United States must remain a secular government. A secular government is necessary for religious freedom to exist – a secular government is NOT anti-religion. Religion is a matter of personal conscience. A secular government is the only kind of government which can keep it that way. The concept of separation of church and state is built into the American system through the Constitution.
Freedom of religion is a fundamental American right. This cannot be changed without destroying the basic concepts which the United States was founded upon. Everybody’s rights hinge on the acceptance of rights for others. Nobody can take rights away from others by calling it “religious freedom”.
Protecting the rights of minorities is also a fundamental American principle. In America, no majority can take rights away from minorities. This is true of all rights guaranteed in the Constitution, including religious freedom. Whether or not your beliefs are in the majority is completely irrelevant.