How are you celebrating Religious Freedom Day?
The idea of religious freedom was conceived as a shield protecting against government overreach when it comes to religious matters. All Americans, be they Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, and so on, should have the freedom to practice their faith or worldview free from burdensome government regulation or required participation; faith and other individual thoughts are private waters that government shall not wade in except in extreme circumstances.
Religious freedom by its nature must include freedom FROM religion to maintain its integrity as a concept.
We see efforts by Religious Right groups and the US Catholic bishops to take religious freedom, a key individual right, and turn it into something that allows one person to control or make moral decisions for others.
Most people don’t even know that Religious Freedom Day even exists, and those that do celebrate it every January 16 do so for very different reasons. It celebrates the anniversary of the signing of the Virginia Religious Freedom Statute, the substance of which is the ideological basis for the First Amendment to the US Constitution which prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion and prohibits the government from preferring any one religion over another.
The context for the founders was that the US held the promise of freeing its constituents FROM religion, an escape from England’s severe heavy hand. It’s an interpretation much appreciated not only by atheists but by most religionists who realize the imposition of their beliefs upon others is an impediment to that other person’s freedom.
I have written extensively on how the religious right has perverted the entire concept of religious freedom to eat away at church-state separation, democracy, and the rule of law. Their intent is just as dangerous as the Sharia Law they often rail against. These few dozen articles includes an expose on a large, secretive, world wide, fake christian (christianist) cult that infiltrates governments, especially the US government, to impose Dominionism upon every aspect of human endeavor. Dominionism is a POLITICAL philosophy intent on bringing about the reign of their human and flawed version of god’s law.
There is extensive research now on how they have gone about this and what we can do fight back, although we are very late in doing so.
We can’t allow the Religious Right to twist the meaning of religious liberty to the point that it becomes the means by which their theocratic vision is finally and fully realized. For decades now they have fought to erode or redefine the very freedoms the Constitution was written to protect. It would be unwise of us to either turn a blind eye to their machinations or to dismiss the ongoing effectiveness of their efforts.
Outcomes are hard to predict, but I think it is fair to say that the Religious Right is slowly but surely taking significant ground in the battle to turn America into a theocratic state, or a collection of theocratic mini-states, governed by the very narrowest of religious points of view. That they are doing it under the guise of protecting their religious liberty is the greatest of ironies. Their ambitions are to unseat the U.S. as the world’s safest place to explore and express one’s spiritual longings. If left unchecked by those of us who want to preserve an authentic rendering of religious freedom as envisioned by this country’s founders, they will succeed.
Religious exemptions are the primary tool that christianists, dominionists, are using to wack away our religious freedom. It is used as a license discriminate against any group that does not meet their rigid standards. As a group they have become the religious demons the first settlers were hoping to escape. Those first settlers were freedom loving but they were also a product of their roots and their beliefs that christianity was meant to save the world did seed what we are seeing hundreds of years later.
So, I implore you to celebrate Religious Freedom Day this year by redoubling your own efforts and activism to answer and this grotesque and false expression of religious freedom. Whether it is defending equality or the rights of immigrants or anything else, be willing to take on the religious tyranny that today underlies every restriction of human freedom.
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