Lately, there have been numerous state laws passed or argued against regarding Freedom of Religion, and whether it is permissible for a business to refuse service to someone on the grounds of that business’s religious beliefs (or the beliefs of the owner). However, these laws have met with stiff opposition, and the law in Indiana was not signed by the Governor. But, a Federal law is still on the books, and a recent incident at Hofstra University highlights the power of the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The defendant in the case, a Sikh who wears a turban and is unshaven, was denied access to the ROTC office to enroll in the program. He cited the RFRA, and won his case against the Army, which argued that his turban and facial hair went against the “uniformity” requirements of the Army. However, the Army was unable to demonstrate that by denying the defendant his right to Religious Freedom, they were advancing a state interest. After the ruling in the case, the man expressed gratitude that he is able to live in a country which recognizes and respects his individual Religious Beliefs and the Right to practice those Beliefs in his daily life.
The Federal Government should stand as an example of permitting Religious Freedom, as it is outlined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That Right applies to all American citizens, regardless of their Religious Beliefs, and all levels of Government in the United States should work to ensure that they are not violating that Right by passing laws or statutes which limit Religious Freedom.
The U.S. Constitution is the document which defines what can and cannot be Law in the United States. It affords power to the Federal Government, but also restricts power. When a piece of the Federal Government violates the Constitutionally-guaranteed Rights of a citizen, especially when that citizen is seeking to enter into service to defend that Constitution, it is a grave matter which cannot be overlooked. The Right to practice one’s Religion is a Fundamental Right in the United States, and something that is unique in a world where Religion and Government are so often tied together. But that Right must be recognized and respected so that the United States continues to demonstrate what Freedom is to the rest of the world.