What is Freedom of Religion?

Most western countries include freedom of religion as one of their basic rights. Originally this came to be when the government would punish you or at least limit your rights if you were the wrong denomination of Christianity. This is where the United States of America came up with the separation of church and state. This does not mean that the ten commandments can’t be in a public building, it means that there can be no establishment of a state church.

Our situation has changed somewhat from that time but we still have freedom of religion, at least in name. Most would say that we have the right to be whatever religion we want to be. But what does that look like? Is there actual freedom to express our religious views?

What if a science professor expresses privately that they believe in an intelligent designer, although they teach evolution without mention of the Bible? What if a politician has a pro-life position based on religious beliefs? What if a business owner states that they believe in traditional marriage?

Obviously there are competing rights at play here. You have people who believe they have the right to express religion and you have people who believe they have the right to never encounter religious ideas. I have read in number of articles that there are religious rights but that they must always be trumped by LGBTQ rights. I am not against LGBTQ rights, but who made the decision that they are a higher right than religious rights?

In other articles, I have read that religious people have freedom of expression but society also has the right to punish them for making such an expression. That is nonsense. That is like saying I have the right to steal other people’s possessions, while the police have the right to arrest me for acting on my right. A right is not a right if you are punished for it.

Again I ask, what is freedom of religion? In truth freedom of religion is the right to believe what we want as long as we keep it to ourselves and thus prevent others from being offended. I would suggest that is no freedom at all.

I have written elsewhere on freedom of expression in this article.

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