Before the Revolutionary War many colonies required that everyone join a particular religion. Dissenters could be imprisoned, tortured or even killed. This led the Founding Fathers to mandate freedom of religion. For many years this seemed to be a settled issue. The rise of politically active evangelical Christians and Islamic radicals has brought this issue front and center. It is hard to pick up a newspaper without reading a story that involves freedom of religion.
In my opinion no government should endorse a religion, restrict a person’s right to practice their religion or confer special privileges on members of a particular faith. It is vital that common sense be used in applying these standards.
Like the KKK, militias and other fringe groups, the radical jihadists make up a very small portion of the Muslim community. We need to take strong action to ferret out anyone who wishes to do us harm. This has led some politicians to exploit our fears by attacking everyone of that faith. Most noteworthy is Trump’s call to ban all Muslims entry to the country and Cruz’s call to patrol Muslim neighborhoods. This is not only patently illegal, it is counterproductive. We should focus on the needles not the haystack.
Clearly having a teacher instruct children on his or her religion is a violation of the separation of church and state. Yet many want to go to ridiculous lengths to remove even the most innocuous reference to a faith from government. If a valedictorian wants to make reference to a deity, I see no harm. Schools and colleges ban the use of the word Christmas even though it is also a secular holiday.
Recently a case has gone to the Supreme Court that pits the Little Sisters of the Poor against the Obama administration. President Obama seems to feel that the right to free contraception should take precedence over freedom of religion. We hear a lot of claptrap about denying women the right to contraception. That’s not even in question. They claim that they only require health insurers to cover it . They do not realize that most groups of a decent size do not purchase health insurance. They pay the claims themselves and hire insurers to administer the program. Forcing religious groups to go against their belief is clearly wrong.
The so-called religious freedom laws are also in the news. These arose over the refusal of bakeries, photographer, etc. to provide their goods and services to gay weddings. These laws will open the floodgates to all kinds of religious discrimination. This is not acceptable. Any business that serves the public must serve all the public. However, they still have control over what they sell. For example, a Christian baker cannot be forced to bake a pornographic cake.
We need to take guidance from the framers of the Constitution and Bill of Rights and push for freedom of religion for all. That is part and parcel of what America is all about.