A Braver America on National Religious Freedom Day

A Braver America on National Religious Freedom Day January 15, 2020

American flag & steepleIn America, land of the free, no freedom is more fundamental to our identity than freedom of religion. It is one of the most hopeful building blocks we have to ensure that we remain a global symbol of what rich and inclusive diversity looks like and what it adds to everyday modern life. I’m a pastor – that is why I value this piece of my American heritage so deeply. 

Of course, we haven’t always lived up to our full promise of religious freedom. But the idea remains a perfect one and worthy of defending loudly and in the broadest sense, from all misuse and misinterpretation. It’s especially sad and ironic that this year we must use National Religious Freedom Day to hold President Trump and his administration accountable to their constitutional duty to protect this core value rather than not recklessly undermine it. Each year, since 1993, the President of the United States has celebrated this day and urged America to join with him. In 2020, it’s Americans who should ask the President to remember what religious freedom truly means. 

A broad cross section of religious leaders from varied traditions are raising concern over recent thinly-veiled attempts to use religion to sanction legalized discrimination. This is exactly what the Trump administration quietly attempted with two 2019 efforts. One proposal would permit medical professionals to deny life-saving health care to LGBTQ people under cover of their personal religious beliefs. A second proposal would permit foster care and adoption agencies to deny their services to LGBTQ families also in the name of religion.

You don’t have to be a person of faith to see the dangers of this. We must not wrap oppression in the name of religion. 

People of conscience need to remind elected leaders why it’s morally odious and flagrantly un-American to open the door to these kinds of proposals. Our Constitution lays out strict protections against public discrimination and has clearly defined separations in place to guard against sly attempts to bend the intent and the application of legal freedoms. 

People around the world are dying because their religious freedom is not protected. The tenor of our times is grim with the rise of violence against women, people of color and increasing anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim attacks. We have to resist and reject all policies that heighten the potential for more widespread discrimination.  

As a Christian growing up in the South, I used to hear about a place called Maurice’s BBQ. Maurice barred African Americans from his restaurant because he believed they weren’t created in the image of God. He believed he had the right to enforce that discrimination in his public establishment. I’m glad the Supreme Court decided he did not have that right.  

I don’t want to go back to an era where people are discriminated against and those discriminating feel empowered by their religion. I want to protect the full meaning of the land of the free. 

The only belief needed to join this fight is a shared commitment to that founding idea of a nation built to be free for everyone. Hate loses all power when people of every background exercise our freedom in love – the greatest freedom we have.


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • tsalagi152
  • bill wald

    Everyone should have the right to believe . . . anything. No one should have the “religious” right or any right to pester anyone. Jesus advised if a person wants to worship God, do it in your private residence and not on a street corner. People of your religion whom you want to join your worship inside your private residence, no problem.

    What does this have to do with employer-employee or business-customer contracts? Anyone has a right to start any legal business in any location zoned for that business and then create his own customer list and list of working and operating conditions and rules. The business must operate under the rules set by the state and local government.

    The government has no right to specify who must be accepted as customer of any private business. A business owner has a right to specify the services that will or will not be offered at his place of business.

    Offhand, if all employer-employee duties and obligations were listed in a labor contract, problem is solved or settled by the words in the contract. Most civil rights laws violate words written in our Constitution but my opinion has no legal authority. All legal authority to define what the words mean rests with
    the Supreme Court and If I want to live in the USA, I must follow their opinions. I also have the right to leave the US as long as there is no warrant for my arrest.

    Our American problem is that Republicans don’t like the US Constitution as amended and adjudicated but the Democrats love it.

  • Entirely Separate

    This would certainly apply to the current removal of the freedom of choice regarding vaccinations. The erosion of this right is very aggressive in Legislatures country-wide, pushed by advocates of Big Pharma and the investors in vaccine companies. Thousands of children have been injured and died from “unsafe” vaccines, and millions in compensation been paid out, but the vaccine companies conveniently hide behind protective legislation where injured families can’t sue. To date there is NO independent research into the “safety” of these vaccines – NONE whatsoever, despite legislation in place requiring this. Why can’t citizens make a choice to keep their children safe when this requirement is not being enforced.

  • Judgeforyourself37

    Have you not heard of “The Herd Immunity?” If all children are immunized, with the exception of babies who are too young, or children with compromised immune systems, are vaccinated we would not have the deadly measles outbreak that is so prevalent in our nation. Wake up, ask your physician. Frankly, if I was a pediatrician I would refuse to see any child who could be vaccinated and was not vaccinated.

  • Judgeforyourself37

    I hate to break your bubble, buddy, but the GOP contains most of the folks who say immunizations should be up to the parents. Of course the GOP is dead set against choice when it come to a woman and HER reproductive system.

  • Marc Wagner

    Your opening photo suggests that freedom of religion is granted only to Christians of various flavors. That’s not ‘freedom’ for Jews or Muslims, or for Hindu, or Buddhist, or how about Atheist or Agnostic? Let’s be honest, most Christians do not want religious freedom for non-Christians — let alone Progressive Christians who care about the teachings of Jesus — not Christian Dogma.

  • Marc Wagner

    So I should be allowed to put your child at risk because I didn’t vaccinate my child?

    Unless you home school your unvaccinateed child and keep them away from other people’s kids, that is exactly what you are doing.

  • bill wald

    Agree that immunizations should be up to the parents but then the children should not be permitted out in public places. It is a public health and tax expense issue. In theory, only unvaccinated people should be infected but still, the public picks up the financial cost, not the victims and their parents.

    The parents should home-teach their kids or make other arrangements.

  • Entirely Separate

    Herd immunity? The only true immunity is gained by no vaccines. Year after year, layer after layer, the vaccine “belief” built upon itself until today children are subjected to dozens of vaccines by second grade., Most parents are uncomfortable with this barrage of chemicals, disease, and animal residue. They pray and worry after their children are injected. If they seem unscathed after a few days, they think all is well. They may not consider the potential for long-term effects from vaccines … or the complete absence of safety data on the vaccine program their children are participating in. To date, despite the existence of thousands of never-vaccinated children, there has not been a “completely vaccinated” versus “never vaccinated” study to compare the difference between the short and long term health of both groups. The reality is that vaccinology, as portrayed to the public today, amounts to writing religion on the back of ignorance. Why are the vaccine companies not held to account with the many thousands of injuries and deaths arising out unsafe vaccines? Millions have been paid out in compensation to victims – and to date there is NO PROOF that these vaccines are safe – NOT ONE trial has been carried out. I wouldn’t trust a pediatrician who is being rewarded for every child he/she vaccinates – their motive is only money, not the welfare of my child. Read: Dissolving Illusions, Disease, Vaccines, and the Forgotten History by Suzanne Humphries, MD and Roman Bystrianyk