Rights And Freedoms — Part II — Freedom Of Religion

As I noted in my post of December 2nd, I am doing a brief ‘mini-series’ about ‘rights’ as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and how they are often abused or misinterpreted.  This post is Part II of that series.

1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, 15 December 1791

The ‘freedoms’ that are guaranteed to the people of this nation under the U.S. Constitution are often misunderstood, sometimes intentionally, and other times out of genuine confusion.  But I would like to make one thing very clear … a ‘right’ is a right for everyone.  If I give you a chocolate bar and tell you it’s okay to eat it, that doesn’t give you the right to force someone else to eat a chocolate bar.

Specifically today I’m addressing a touchy topic:  freedom of religion.  Let’s start with the facts.  This is what the First Amendment has to say about it …

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

These are known as the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause.  Together with the constitutional provision prohibiting religious tests as a qualification for office these clauses promote individual freedom of religion and separation of church and state. Where in this simple sentence does it state or imply that any one religion is the sole or ‘official’ religion of the country?  Where does it say that one person has the right to force another to share their beliefs or values?  It doesn’t.  It doesn’t actually even say that anybody has the right to any religion, only that Congress shall not make laws regarding religion or prohibiting religious practices.  For some, that would be enough.  Ask an atheist living in Iran … they would be thrilled to have such freedom.

Through the years, freedom of religion has been interpreted to mean one thing and another, and in recent years still another.  One of the most significant areas of debate is LGBTQ rights.  Let’s return for a moment to the chocolate bar analogy.  Say Judy is allergic to chocolate and cannot eat it, but her neighbor Bobby loves chocolate and is not allergic.  Now, Judy certainly has a right to steer clear of the Cadbury, just as Bobby has a right to buy it and devour it.  Are you with me so far?  What would you say, though, if Judy tried to make it illegal for anybody on her street to buy or eat chocolate simply because she cannot eat it?  Laughable, yes?

But it isn’t laughable when a person whose religious beliefs are that marriage can only be between a male and a female as identified at birth tries to force their views on an entire nation of 330 million people!  Okay, nobody is going to tell those people they can’t believe that, for it is their right.  However, not everyone shares those beliefs.  Other people who do not belong to person A’s church and do not share their beliefs, have rights too.  Joe and Thom have a right to fall in love and marry by law in most states, yet there are some who would take that right from them because and only because it is not in sync with their own religious beliefs.  I’m trying to be nice here, but that is bigotry, plain and simple.  It is saying that you do not have a right to be different than person A.  It is every bit as wrong as saying that Black people don’t have a right to live in your neighborhood or Jewish people don’t have a right to send their children to the same school your children go to, or women don’t have a right to earn the same pay as men for the same job.

Nowhere in the Constitution or any other government document does it say that one religion takes precedence over another.  You have the right to be you, and I have the right to be me, and Joe has the right to be him, as long as we do no harm to others by exercising our rights.  For Joe and Thom to be in love and marry does no harm to anybody, and yet … and yet millions of people would like to see their marriage declared illegal, would like to take away their rights. 

Religion is a choice, and here in the United States it is a choice that we are fortunate to be able to make freely, for there is no state-sponsored religion, no Sharia law, no religious mandates such as there are in other countries.  We should exercise that freedom as we see fit … each of us as individuals … but we should not attempt to force our views on others, for that is depriving them of their rights.  It’s all a matter of respect.  Live and let live.  Why is that so hard for some to understand?

28 thoughts on “Rights And Freedoms — Part II — Freedom Of Religion

  1. Thank you for sharing!!.. I am not into religion and I believe people can believe what they wish… ar my late wife’s passing she were visited by a Chaplain, he ask her if she had a religion and she said “no”, he then ask her if she believed in the hereafter and she said “yes’, he then said “good, for it’s what is in the heart that matters, not a name above a door”… 🙂

    That being said, religion/faith based ideologies are exactly that, a ideology based solely on faith (established centuries ago) and have no solid evidence to support that claim..therefore, with all the advances in technology and knowledge it is becoming more and more difficult to support faith based ideologies and what the universe is seeing is a element of desperate people living in fear of their faith… ( sort of like telling a Harley rider he has to have a motorcycle with and electric motor)… 🙂

    Hope you and yours are having a pleasant holiday and until we meet again..
    May love and laughter light your days,
    and warm your heart and home.
    May good and faithful friends be yours,
    wherever you may roam.
    May peace and plenty bless your world
    with joy that long endures.
    May all life’s passing seasons
    bring the best to you and yours!
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think you and I view the idea of religion much the same. Not only do I see no evidence to support the ideology, but I see much that proves the contrary. While I respect each person’s right to believe as they wish, I don’t appreciate it one bit when people try to ‘convert’ me to their ways. Respect is a two-way street. I think you’re right … it gets harder and harder to support the beliefs that most religions teach, and people are trying their best to cling to those beliefs even when it’s near impossible to actually believe.


      • We follow our dreams/beliefs as it gives us a reason to venture on down the path of life, unfortunately for me religion often times closes ones mind and there are elements of today’s world societies that use religion to justify their actions against another… “What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?” ( Mahatma Gandhi)… 🙂

        I think I will just follow my heart with an open mind, cannot go wrong.. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • I agree … that’s what I do as well. I have to live with myself and my conscience 24/7, so I try very hard to do what I believe is right, and I don’t need religion to tell me what that is. 😊


  2. Well articulated, as usual, Jill. I acknowledge that the predominant religion in the U.S. is Christianity, but it really pisses me off when people say that the U.S. is a “Christian nation.” It is not, and the First Amendment to the Constitution that most of these Christians claim to cherish, makes that perfectly clear.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Fandango. Yes, the predominant religion is Christianity, but it is around 70%, and there are so many varieties of it … it’s rather like Heinz 57! Like you, I am furious when they call this a “Christian nation”, for in essence that means I am not part of this nation, nor are about 1/3 of the people who live here and pay taxes to the U.S. government. I am sick and tired of religious bigotry and hypocrisy. Sigh.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I love your comparison with the chocolate bar. That’s the best way to make the stupidity in those discussions visible. Only because we have not had something or have not experienced something or are not interested in something, does under no circumstances make that thing wrong or even illegal.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I debated whether to use that analogy, but I went with it because sometimes if you put things into the simplest of terms, when people read it a lightbulb comes on and they at least think a bit more about it. We are all humans, and by nature we are flawed, but in my mind, the biggest flaw is that of individuals feeling superior to others because of such ‘criteria’ as skin colour, religious beliefs, ethnicity, gender identity, or anything else. People need to learn to tend to their own business and let people be who they are. Sigh. Methinks the world will never learn this lesson.

      Liked by 3 people

      • You need examples to make people listen and understand. Because then they can relate to it. I used a lot of examples and analogies in my book to make it easier to understand what I wanted to convey. So, keep that up.
        I just said to a friend yesterday, that it still feels so bizarre that we reached a point we thought we had left behind long ago. But it seems we haven’t yet. But it needs a dramatic change to cut such old strings. So, everything coming up in one big bunch looks to me like that big and dramatic change. I don’t know when the peak is reached but it will bring clarity in our collective thinking and feeling which will cause a change in direction.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Jill, one of the things gets overlooked in my view is people equating those who want to deny the rights and freedoms of others with people trying to protect the right and freedoms. This is why the famous line from the former president does not hold water that there are good people on both sides. One side is saying your rights are less than mine, while the other side is saying my rights are as important.

    The true test of any action is the following. In any argument, substitute a minority US religion or atheist when it says Christian and put the word Christian in the place where the argument wants to constrict rights. See if the statement still holds water. If it does, then it passes this entrance test for further discussion. If it does not, then it should be set aside.

    The other is it is a slippery slope to allow people to deny service. Do we want to return to a time when African-Americans must get their food as a takeout from the back window? Do we want to make Jews where a Star of David pinned to their garments? Do we want to deny work to people because they are gay, lesbian, etc.?

    America is better than this. You may want to read my post this morning about Rev. Robert Schenck’s testimony on the “deal with the devil.” Keith

    Liked by 4 people

    • You’re so right … there is no ‘moral equivalency’ here. And I really like your ‘true test’ … it needs to be applied before any argument goes further. I’ve had some mixed thoughts on the issue of whether a person should be forced to provide service to all, but frankly, if you don’t want to do so, you shouldn’t start a business. I wonder about these people … if they worked in an office and the person sitting next to them was gay, would they quit their job?

      I once thought that America was better than this, but today it seems the people are trying their best to disprove it, to convince us that America is not much better than it was in 1800 when slavery was the accepted norm. I did read your post … a good one, my friend.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. This bears repeating, no matter how many people I upset: Your founding fathers said not one word when indigenous people were not allowed to practice their religion. They went so far as to criminalize the Sun Dance. They sent Indigenous children to religious schools to beat the savage out of them. If this is religious freedom, I want no part of it!

    Liked by 7 people

    • I agree that the Indigenous People were treated horrifically in every way. That does not mean, though, that we cannot have religious freedom going forward. We cannot undo the past, but we can resolve to do better in the future.

      Liked by 2 people

      • No one is asking you to undo the past, though I have no idea if an American government has ever apologized to its Indigenous people for the crimes of the past. All I am saying is all this BS about religious freedom, especialliy for non-whites, has yet to be proved in govermment.

        Liked by 1 person

        • It’s doubtful … heck they haven’t apologized to the African-Americans for holding them slaves for over 200 years, either. Still, I don’t think that means we cannot accept religious freedom that allows everyone to believe or not as they wish, without shoving their views down other people’s throats.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Rights And Freedoms — Part II — Freedom Of Religion | Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News

  7. The first amendment rights are, not guaranteed to the people, they’re only, conditional, as the book by Caroline Kennedy and Ellen Alderman showed, and the people aren’t guaranteed these rights, and the rights that are givens, can be stripped by the government as the government sees, fitting, so, people aren’t really, free.

    Liked by 2 people

    • What books do you refer to by Caroline Knnedy and Ellen Alderman? I’d like to check into them, but don’t know which ones you mean. Well, people ARE guaranteed these rights so long as governments don’t decide to throw aside the Constitution. For 235 years, the foundation of our rights has held firm, but today it seems to be on the verge of crumbling. Sigh.

      Liked by 3 people

  8. Your interpretation of the first amendment removes the right of some to feel Superior, to place themselves in Charge, to be important. That would never do. Religion itself implies that Superiority over other religions that they all try to enjoy and that they impress on the young from the get go. Religion should be banned, especially State Sponsored Religion if favour of a worldwide peace movement with an International Earth Conservation movement designed to create equality, brotherhood and aid for the third world countries. as Blow (Benign Leader of the World) I shall promote this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah yes, and therein lies the problem … one of the human flaws is that need to feel superior to somebody. I think that we need to step up that timeline for your ascension to the position of BLoW before this world implodes!

      Liked by 1 person

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