Religious freedom means standing up for another person’s beliefs

Source: The Hill

By Zeenat Rahman,

Today is National Religious Freedom Day, the anniversary of the passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, a statute written by Thomas Jefferson disestablishing the Church of England in Virginia, and an important precursor to the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment.

What does that have to do with me, you ask? Well, 2019 saw the greatest increase in violence against religious communities in almost a decade in this country. Religious freedom, one of our core First Amendment principles, supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance. It was visionary for Thomas Jefferson to separate from the Church of England at a time when separation of church from state was practically unheard of, and even today it is a protection for citizens that is pretty unique to America.

So why then is something that is a constitutionally protected right that should be beneficial to all citizens (even those of no faith) so polarizing? Religious freedom has come to be perceived as something that is only meant to protect some citizens at the expense of others. This avoidable clash has fomented the culture wars and only divided us further. In order for our religious diversity to be a strength, we need a radical reimagining of how we perceive religious freedom and its connection to all faith communities.

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