What Is the U.S. “Freedom of Religion”?

What Is the U.S. “Freedom of Religion”? December 8, 2015

Donald Trump, Republican candidate for U. S. president, has called for the U.S. government to ban Muslims from traveling to or settling in the U.S. This new Trump proclamation has raised much outrage even by all of Trump’s other Republican opponents running for president. They claim it is an infringement on religious freedom guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

Yes, the U.S. Constitution guarantees religious freedom, but the courts have qualified this privilege. For example, in a major ruling in 1987 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against polygamy that had been endorsed and practiced by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints what was centered in Utah. And the U.S. courts have always been aware that in ancient times there have been many religions, including in the Americas, that practiced human sacrifice. Thus, the U.S. Constitution guarantees religious freedom, but not carte blanche.

As I have posted repeatedly, Islam is a monotheistic religion based on a sacred text–the Qur’an. In this respect, it is like the other two, major, monotheistic religions–Judaism and Christianity. They, too, are based on a sacred text–the Jewish Bible (Old Testament) for Judaism and the Christian Bible (Old Testament and New Testament) for Christianity. Adherents of all three of these religions who do not abide by these respective sacred texts historically have been considered by their own members as “liberal” or worse.

I have also posted that the Qur’an has some very troubling texts that advocate extreme intolerance toward other faiths, including those of Jews and Christians. Most disturbing is that the Qur’an repeatedly commands religious violence to be directed against “idolaters,” “infidels,” and “unbelievers.” It portrays Allah saying of infidels, “‘Strike off their heads, strike off the very tips of their fingers!’” (8:12). It adds, “We will put terror into the hearts of the unbelievers” (3:150), i.e., non-Muslims who include Christians and Jews. Notice the word “terror.” The Qur’an often commands “believers” to “fight for the cause of God” and to “make war” with, and to “kill,” unbelievers. It asserts, “the faithful … will slay and be slain” because “fighting is obligatory for you” (2:216; 4:89-91; 9:5, 38-41, 111, 123; 47:4; 49:15).

Some argue that such texts should be understand, and thus restricted, to the time in which they were written, a time when Muhammed was involved in war. But these texts have no such context, so that they do not forbid readers applying them universally and thus to themselves during the time in which they live. And there are so many such texts. Those who so argue don’t convince me. Especially Evangelical Christians, of which I am one, are known for emphasizing the application of scripture to their own lives. That’s what these Islamic terrorists are doing.

And President Obama’s speech this week, in the wake of the San Bernardino massacre in California, just didn’t cut it. The rating of it was miserably low. He continues to refuse to speak of “Islamic terrorism.” He earlier made light of ISIS. He says Islam is a peaceful religion. Yes, I think most Muslims are peace-loving peoples. I have had some Muslims as friends. But I oppose these violent verses in their Qur’an.

See my post on 1/8/15, “Did El-Sisi Say Revise the Qur’an?” This president of Egypt made an important speech saying of the Qur’an, “that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the centuries, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world. It’s antagonizing the entire world! Is it possible that 1.6 billion people [Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants—that is 7 billion—so that they themselves may live? Impossible!”

I don’t agree with much that the arrogant Donald Trump trumpets in his political campaign or otherwise. I don’t support his recent call to ban Muslim travel. But I think a strong case can be made that the Qur’an has verses that promote killing of innocent people who practice other religions that don’t harm others. Because of this, I am not comfortable with Muslims adhering to such a book that promotes such violence.

Thus, I wonder if the Qur’an fails the qualified rule set forth by the U.S. Constitution and its courts concerning “the freedom of religion.” Since the Qur’an itself forbids the freedom of religion, and even advocates violence against all other religions, maybe the Qur’an as it stands should be forbidden by freedom-loving peoples if they continue to suffer massacres from it such as the 3,000 Americans killed on 9-11, the Paris massacre of 130 people a few weeks ago, and now the 14 killed in San Bernardino, California, last week. I think President El-Sisi is right–Islam needs a reformation of itself and its sacred text.

 


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