The United States is a unique country in its Constitutionally-guaranteed Freedom of Religion. Other countries may have an implied freedom, but in the United States it is law. But what does that Freedom of Religion mean? To most, it means that the Government will not interfere in their churches, which is a true statement. For some, it means that there must be a clear distinction between religion and Government, the so-called “separation of Church and State”. This is also a true statement. But Religious Freedom in the United States goes deeper than that.
This week, the Catholic Pope is visiting the United States for the first time, and he is expected to bring many messages with him from a Catholic, albeit liberal Catholic, perspective. One of these is likely to be something to do with Religious Freedom in the United States, just as he spoke of Religious Freedom in Cuba before coming to the United States. For Pope Francis, Religious Freedom is more than the separation of Church and State. It means that the State allows the Church to live as it wishes. This means that people of religion in the United States are free to live their religion – whatever that religion may be – as they see fit, without interference from the Government.
Recently, the United States has seen an upheaval of religious tolerance in a purely legal sense related to how the Government treats those wishing to express their religious views and live their religion in their daily life. These cases are sure to have caught the attention of the Pope, and while he may not speak of them directly, they may be the subject of some of what he talks about when he speaks of Religious Freedom. In the United States, the People have the Right to live Religion as they want, but lately have been denied that Right by the Government. Labels may be applied to these people, but in reality, they are nothing more than people living their Constitutionally-guaranteed Right to Religious Freedom. Governments come and go, but the Constitution has endured for over 200 years, and in the end, the Right to practice Religion will endure.