Freedom of religion has become a controversial issue in the United States. In your opinion, what does freedom of religion or freedom of religious expression mean? How have you observed religion being expressed and/or censored in your own community?
Freedom of Religion
One of most fundamental human rights is the freedom of religion. It protects people’s conscience by allowing them to express themselves and act in accordance to what they truly believe. This freedom is slowly being compromised and eroded around the world but mostly in the United States. There are increasing restrictions limiting how individuals, churches and religious organizations express their beliefs or serve their communities. Church members and people of goodwill are fighting to make sure that the freedom of religion is preserved and strengthened. The topic of religious freedom has generated a lot of controversy in the United States and other liberal countries. Religious freedom should be protected by people from all walks of lives since it protects everyone (Domingo, 2014).
The freedom of religion protects atheists from having bible readings and prayers imposed on them in state schools. Churches are protected in that there is no interference in the hiring of ministers while religious minorities are protected from having a legislature accepted by majorities but indifferent to them being passed. In addition, traditional churches are protected as they oppose abortion and same sex marriage while untraditional faith groups are allowed to carry out their worship practice peacefully. Generally, the freedom of religion protects everyone whether they are believers or non believers. Therefore it is important to have religious freedom intact and not dependent on any political power.
Religion is a vital element of modern society. The basis of the society’s moral ethos remains to be religious beliefs. Religion teaches virtues and informs on the moral action to take. Clearly, the role that religion plays in the society warrants special consideration. Children are taught from an early age to respect other people and their property and to always tell the truth. While it is unlawful to steal, tell a lie or treat others disrespectfully, what grounds most people is their religious beliefs, not the law. They believe that even if the police do not catch them in such cases, their conscience will catch up with them (McConnell, 2013).
The freedom of religion does not only require people to coexist peacefully, it creates obligations. All people who live according to their conscience must also protect the same freedom of other people especially the most vulnerable whether they are believers or not. The best thing about this obligation is that it enables diversity to flourish and be a source of strength for the nation and the world at large. A just and fair society will respect and uphold the freedom of religion and conscience for the minorities and the least popular communities just as it does for the majorities.
There are several benefits of religious freedom to the society. Firstly, freedom of religious expression promotes stability in the society. However, if it is limited, this becomes a source of conflict and violence. Secondly, religious freedom ensures that there is economic prosperity, prolonged democracy, reduced income inequalities and better health. Additionally, the freedom of religion correlates with other civil and human rights. Preserving the freedom of religious expression ensures that other fundamental rights such as freedom of assembly, speech and press are also intact.
People all over the world have been exercising their freedom of religious expression. Every religion has set apart days solely meant to worship or celebrate special holidays. In addition, non believers are also accommodated in the society. People from diverse backgrounds are brought together by common religious beliefs. The role of religion in the society cannot be underestimated. It contributes greatly in keeping the world safe and peaceful.
Domingo, R. (2014). A right to religious and moral freedom?. International Journal Of Constitutional Law, 12(1), 226-247. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/icon/mou001
McConnell, M. (2013). Why Protect Religious Freedom?. The Yale Law Journal, 123(3), 530-861. Retrieved from http://www.yalelawjournal.org/review/why-protect-religious-freedom