Conflicted Feelings: Defending Religious Freedom

I’m reading the story below, and it’s giving me two distinctly different feelings.

US keeps eight nations on religious freedom blacklist

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged governments Tuesday to do more to defend religious freedom as Washington released a report citing eight countries with troubling records on the issue.

“We reaffirm the role that religious freedom and tolerance play in building stable and harmonious societies. Hatred and intolerance are destabilizing,” Clinton said, releasing the State Department’s International Religious Freedom report for the second half of 2010.

The report named China, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, North Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Sudan and Uzbekistan, a list unchanged since 2009, as “countries of particular concern” regarding religious freedom.

Of course I feel approval for the statement, because I’m all for those Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. Not just here, but all over the world.

The report, previously published annually, detailed actions such as active state repression, violence against religious groups, apostasy and blasphemy laws, anti-Semitism and restrictions on religious attire and expression.

All of that stuff sounds bad, yes?

But the basic theme of the story — that everybody should have equal rights, and none of those rights should be taken away — fails to address this invisible OTHER story: that some of us have for a long, long time enjoyed special EXTRA rights that are denied to everybody else.

How free and equal are you if you have to pay taxes, but somebody else has the freedom to NOT pay taxes?

How free and equal are you if you’re expected to tell the truth and deal honestly with your fellow man, but somebody else has the freedom to lie and manipulate people with known falsehoods?

How free and equal are you if you’re expected to respect other people’s beliefs, but some of us — religious pitchmen — often seem to be free to thrust their beliefs into classrooms, textbooks, courthouses, political campaigns, polling places, weddings, funerals, public events, public meetings, TV, radio, hell, even onto our money?

So yes, protect religious groups worldwide from repression. But also demand they pay their fair share.

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