What is Religious Freedom?

I have to be very upfront about this particular article I am about to write. I am not against religious freedom in any way. Except when it infringes upon human rights.

To start, we must ask, what is religious freedom? The State Department says this on the subject; The International Religious Freedom Act defines five violations of religious freedom:
Arbitrary prohibitions on, restrictions of, or punishment for: (i) assembling for peaceful religious activities such as worship, preaching, and prayer, including arbitrary registration requirements; (ii) speaking freely about one’s religious beliefs; (iii) changing one’s religious beliefs and affiliation; (iv) possession and distribution of religious literature, including Bibles and other sacred texts; (v) raising one’s children in the religious teachings and practices of one’s choice.

Now, the State Department will list what they call a Country of Particular Concern if the government is determined to have engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom. A list of examples is posted and reads as;

  • torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment;
  • extended detention without charges;
  • causing the disappearance of persons by abduction or clandestine detention; and
  • other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or security

Now then, we have established that the State Department will list a country for a flagrant denial of the right to liberty. Let’s move on.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 says this;

Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation because of race, color, religion, or national origin. Places of public accommodation are hotels, motels, restaurants, movie theaters, stadiums, and concert halls.
The United States Constitution started right off with religion in the First Amendment and says this;
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
In plain English, that means the First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition.  It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an individual’s religious practices.  It guarantees freedom of expression by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely.  It also guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government.
The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibits the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” This clause not only forbids the government from establishing an official religion, but also prohibits government actions that unduly favor one religion over another. It also prohibits the government from unduly preferring religion over non-religion, or non-religion over religion.
So the United States Government is prohibited from taking actions that favor one religion over another. Or over a lack of religion.
So, at what point does the State Department list the United States as a Country of Particular Concern? At what point does the Justice Department start issuing warrants for breach of the Civil Rights Act of 1964? At what point does the Federal Government step in and say “Enough is enough! We created the laws that say we can’t do that!”
Mississippi now joins an alarming number of places that provide “Government endorsed discrimination” and do so openly and proudly.
I’m trying hard to understand why. If your religion says “don’t be gay”, that’s fine. Show me where it says to hate those that are not of that religion and are gay. Show me where it says to make life difficult for those that do not adhere to the same religion. Show me where it says, I’m allowed to hate and ridicule others because they don’t follow my religious beliefs.
What I see, is a bill that allows a deeply religious Christian, Baptist, or any other group to say “I own a restaurant (a place of public accommodation) and I refuse to allow gay people (Title 42, Chapter 21 of the U.S. Code prohibits discrimination against persons based on age, disability, gender, race, national origin, and religion (among other things) ) to eat in my restaurant.
What happens if this same person feels a deep resentment towards the Jewish Faith and decides he will no longer allow anyone of that faith to eat in his restaurant either? Or Black Southern Baptists? Under this broad law, the possibilities are endless.
So I return to trying to understand. My faith teaches me to be tolerant. It tells me that all people are my brothers and sisters, and I have no right to judge them or their lifestyles. My religion tells me to be kind and helpful, to care for those that cannot care for themselves. My religion tells me to allow the rest of the world to worship as they please. My religion tells me to be responsible for my own actions.
Yet my religion is attacked on a constant basis. Most likely, if my religion was made public, I would not be allowed to eat in that Mississippi restaurant either.
Apparently, religious freedom in America means that you can follow any religion, worship in any structure and read any religious materials…as long as it conforms with what the states with these Freedom of Religion Acts follow.
Thank God our forefathers had the insite to make laws escaping religious persecution.
What do you mean, “which God”???

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