Baltimore Archbishop William Lori has drawn a correlation between the religious persecution in the
Middle East and Christians in the United States. He states that, while religious persecution in the United States and Europe has not reached the level it has in Muslim nations, it is evident that there are threats to religious freedom in the West. At the heart of Archbishop Lori’s claim is the idea that religion is, increasingly, seen as a private affair and not something that should be a part of a person’s whole life.
The United States was founded on the principle of Religious Freedom. From the beginning, Americans were encouraged to live their religious beliefs, and that very Right was formulated into the First Amendment to the Constitution. But in recent years, the freedom to practice one’s religion in their daily life has come under scrutiny. Today, anyone wishing to practice their religion must do so on their own time. The taboo of “discussing religion and politics” has gone from a polite suggestion to the norm. People are discouraged from discussing their religious beliefs at work, for fear of offending someone.
The discouragement of religious freedom in the United States is not marked by the violence that is seen in the Middle East. According to Archbishop Lori, there is more of a “bureaucratic creep” against the right to live one’s religion on a daily basis – regardless of where one is. Because it is not so obvious in the United States, people do not recognize the problem, and therefore no one is speaking out about it.
But once the problem is recognized, as Archbishop Lori has, steps may be taken to remedy the situation. Religious intolerance in the United States does not need to reach the point of the persecution in the Middle East and Africa if people here stand up for their right to freely practice their religion. The right to practice one’s religion applies to everyone: Christian, Jew, Muslim, or Buddhist. This is one of the foundations of the Freedom that Americans enjoy, and it should remain a cornerstone of American society