The freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance
Why Religious Freedom Matters, Even If You Are Not Religious
Religious freedom is one of the most important human rights in the Constitution of the United States. It guarantees freedom of thinking, expression, and the right to act upon what you as an individual truly believe, according to what your conscience and morals dictate.
Religious freedom goes hand in hand with political and economic freedom. So whether you’re religious or not, you still have a role to play within the political and economic spheres which go together to produce a flourishing and morally productive society.
A diverse, productive society allows for religious freedom and freedom of individual conscience which is critical to the establishment of a healthy, diverse society. Religious freedom allows for many different beliefs and faiths to flourish.
Additionally, it protects the rights, beliefs, and morals of all people and groups that fall under the constitution, whether religious or not, including the most vulnerable within our society. The freedom of religion furthermore allows for the freedom of public expression on moral and social issues. Religious freedom is therefore also freedom of individual morals or conscientiousness.
Most importantly, freedom of religion means that you don’t have to go against your core morals or values to conform to the culture, the government, economic laws, practices, or beliefs. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be religious, consider a society without religious freedom.
Religious freedom still guarantees non-believers the right to their morals and the right to act and speak according to them peacefully. Without religious freedom, you won’t be allowed to speak, act, or be yourself at work, in school, or during social activities.
How Religious Freedom Reinforces Our Other Freedoms
Our freedom is supported by economic, religious, and political freedom. Within a productive society, each has an equal role in working together simultaneously. Society will come to a catastrophic end if one of these should fail. Additionally, you cannot criticize one or two as being inadequate without considering the third.
For example, a society’s economic and political freedoms cannot be argued as being inadequate if you don’t take into consideration the religious, cultural, or moral aspects of that society. Abuses taking place in economic and political freedom have core checks and balances in the realm of freedom of religion where morals and conscientiousness are formed.
In other words, capitalism has virtues that need to be respected for it to be successful. These virtues include initiative, creativity, truthfulness, cooperation, civility, and responsibility. Without these virtues, a society cannot flourish in any capitalist market and will become impoverished.
The Bible goes further and identifies and encourages 35 moral virtues that guarantee any free enterprise system to be successful. The most notable is truthfulness and honesty, which allows for trust to be formed between enterprises. A corrupt society without trust and the violation of contracts and agreements will lead to businesses becoming reluctant to do business.
Unless these values aren’t deep-rooted in the consciousness and character of individuals in a society, free enterprise will slow down over time. Ultimately everything will come to a painful grinding stop where the regular Joe Soap will have to bear the harshest consequences of a fallen society.
Issues With Religious Freedom
This said, does your freedom of religion allow you to do whatever you want under the cover of the right to freedom of religion? The answer is a big no. The Supreme Court has stated that the US federal government can limit freedom of religion. However, this can only be done when there’s a compelling interest to protect the common good of society and when it’s done to limit the harm there may be caused to others.
Religious freedom has been cited in cases where there have been allegations of discrimination. For example, should a photographer be forced to take photos at same-sex weddings if he or she believes that these celebrations are against their religious beliefs? Or should a gay designer be forced to create flyers for a religious group’s rally opposing same-sex marriages?
Again, in both cases, the answer should be no. The reason for this is that the US federal government doesn’t have an interest in these cases since the common interest of society hasn’t been violated and there’s no direct harm done to others.
In the United States, everyone benefits from religious freedom. Agnostics, Jews, Atheists, Christians, and Muslims. It preserves our diversity and covers all citizens equally. People of different faiths, beliefs, and world views can co-exist without fear of prosecution from the government. A society that represses religious freedom attacks the individual civil rights of its people, including their human dignity.