For those of us who live in the United States, freedom of religion is often a very serious issue. There are variety of historical factors that have contributed to its importance, and what’s interesting to me about that history is that many people of many different perspectives on matters of religion agreed to the following:
For example, it doesn’t seem to really bother certain people that religious organizations will be required to provide health coverage that includes services that are against their religion. And it doesn’t seem to bother certain people that in some schools, atheists have been required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, which includes a statement antithetical to their beliefs. And it doesn’t seem to bother certain people that some Muslims have faced discrimination and harassment after the events of 9/11.
Not to mention the worldwide discrimination against various groups, including Jews, Christians, Hindus, Bahá’ís, atheists, and many others. Discrimination on the part of religious groups towards others, whether intentional or unintentional, is something that has been present in our world for a very long time and in many places.
These things do bother me, and I hope that at some point in the course of our nation’s history, we can all decide collectively that we are serious about preserving not just our own freedom of religion, but the freedom of all to practice their beliefs. I hope that we don’t have government requirements that ask people to profess the beliefs of a religion not their own. I hope that we don’t have government requirements that ask people to perform or support what they consider to be unconscionable actions, whether those actions be related to war or medicine or science.
If we don’t stand up for the freedom of religion when it impacts others, we may find that no one is willing to stand up for the freedom of religion when it impacts us. So even if it doesn’t bother you that people of religions not your own are discriminated against, and it certainly doesn’t bother some folks, please keep in mind that the slope is often slippery and fortune often changes hands.
And especially if your group is the one in power, guess who the biggest target of future discrimination is likely to be?