In a recent poll, the majority of Americans indicated that they believe Religious Freedom needs to be protected in the United States. And yet, everywhere you look there are groups petitioning and demonstrating against Religious Freedom. Although most Americans believe that the fundamental Freedom established by the First Amendment needs to be protected, few Americans are willing to go out and demonstrate against those demonstrating against Religious Freedom. Few Americans are willing to step up and show the rest of the country that they believe Americans deserve the right to freely practice their religion in all contexts.
Maybe the problem is that there is a difference between what people perceive to be “Freedom of Religion” in the United States. As defined by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, the Government will make no laws in favor of or against any religion. Seems relatively simple, but this Amendment is so hotly debated, and specifically the clause related to religion, that it has become a hot-button issue in the United States that is not going away anytime soon. So many people have their own interpretation of what “freedom” means, especially when it comes to religion. And that is part of the beauty of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights: it is open to interpretation and debate. But why is such a simple clause so hotly debated?
Freedom of Religion has not been debated up until very recently, but especially in the last five or ten years as society as a whole has shifted its focus on what is and is not permissible. Suddenly, religion is the enemy of so many people because religion stands for an establishment that dates back thousands of years, and must, therefore, be out of tune with the modern era. But there is a reason these religious bodies have been around for thousands of years: they are not open to interpretation the same way the laws of man are open to interpretation.
Yes, we must protect Religious Freedom in the United States, but to do that we must understand what religion is and what it means to millions of Americans.