Religious freedom is an American value. Believing in who you want, how you want, if you want, and when you want is something that Americans take to heart. The First Amendment protects freedom of religion, regardless of whatever religion that may be. However, this topic is one that regularly comes up in discussions and debates, with individual beliefs being demonstrated in their personal and professional lives, as well as in practices, politics, and laws.
According to the article from Pew Research Center (Trainer), seventy-six percent of Americans belong to a religious group and there are 3,000 religious groups in the United States. Clearly this exemplifies why there should be a definite separation between church and state, and why we should not allow religious practices to be part of public institutions. The CNN article (Edwards), argues that the founding fathers did not create the country based on their Christian beliefs, and that this assumption “arose in the early 19th century as later generations of Americans sought to establish a national identity, one that distinguished and exemplified the founding by sanctifying the nation’s origins…This is the origin of the ‘Christian nation’ myth.”
Although the country’s founders did intend to protect religious liberty and to keep religion out of government, the United States is still primarily run by many who have strong religious beliefs and carry those beliefs into their professional lives. In the article “America’s Changing Religious Identity” (Jones), it states that Christians are still the majority while white Christians now account for 43% of the public. However, non-Christian religious groups still represent less than one in ten Americans combined. About 24% of the American population claim to be religiously unaffiliated.
Religious indicators and beliefs need to be stricken from all public documents and debates. The marriage license in the state of Michigan has an “A.D.” on the end of the date line by the signature of the officiant. This is a perfect example of how we are still led by beliefs of the majority which many other religions do not believe in and never have. In fact, people with religious beliefs that were around long before the Christian faith, such as Hinduism, Judaism, and Buddhism are being forced to participate in religious holiday breaks from schools and/or places of employment even though the day holds no meaning or significance to them. And yet, on specific holidays that do matter to them and when they should be at religious services or with family, they are instead expected to work or go to school like any other day.
The related value of freedom of speech often gets caught up with freedom of religion as people and groups are allowed to protest, picket, and march for things that have a religious nexus such as white supremacy and abortion beliefs. Freedom of speech is one of the most important values of American society, and yet when it gets intermixed with religion, it can create a very negative situation whereby anger and violence erupt. While I absolutely support freedom of speech, I argue that it sometimes permits extremely negative repercussions and people should be more restricted as to what is permissible under the law.
“America’s Changing Religious Identity.” PRRI, https://www.prri.org/research/american-religious-landscape-christian-religiously-unaffiliated/.
Edwards, Mark. “Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?” CNN, Cable News Network, 4 July 2015, https://www.cnn.com/2015/07/02/living/america-christian-nation/index.html.
Trainer, Mark. “Why Religious Freedom Matters to Americans.” ShareAmerica, 4 Feb. 2019, https://share.america.gov/why-religious-freedom-matters-to-americans/.