by Gray Graham
This past week will go done as one of the most momentous ones in the history of the United States. One was brought by tragedy, the other was brought by great joy. These events are polar opposites and probably indicate a deep conflict that will continue to evolve in our country. When it comes to our beliefs how much freedom do we actually have?
Because of the sins of the past, the federal government has been forced to enact laws to protect the lives of individuals from the states and individuals. It was not that long ago that you had governors and police departments cracking skulls and using attack dogs on peaceful protesters fighting for their rights. Since people were not able to respect others, the government had to do it for them; otherwise nothing would have ever changed. While to many this has been a great thing, for others it has caused a deep fear of the government controlling their lives.
Many would say that most of the people that have this fear are the ones that have been trying to take away the rights and lives of others for so many years, and they fear that the same things are about to be done to them. Most of the people with this fear are also the ones that have a deep seeded hate of those different than they are. But what about those that truly wish to harm no one but they do not wish to be harmed themselves? In America today and the future, will they have that freedom?
We are starting to see that this called into question with some of the laws that have been passed across the country in an effort to protect the civil rights of homosexuals, the government has infringed on the religious rights of individuals who hold thoughts that are not popular today.
This might be the only case where we can safely say that the founders of the United States would have a humungous problem with these events. We all remember that this country was founded on the principle of religious freedom. The whole reason the first settlers came here was to escape religious persecution, and that was something that they valued above everything else. The ability to live your life based on your faith is as American as you can get.
As our society has evolved religious freedom has been limited by the government. As I said before too often this religious freedom was used as a way to discriminate and harm others and it will always be that way. Now we are seeing examples of religion beliefs being used against people in their everyday lives.
While the government is a secular institution, people are not. The overwhelming majority of Americans have religious beliefs. Studies show that America is the most deeply religious country in the world. For many people their faith is what guides them in life and is the most important thing to them. Their beliefs are not something that they can put on hold, but that is exactly what our government has started doing to individuals.
We have seen the government fine a business for not baking a wedding cake for a homosexual couple because of their religious beliefs. We have seen the government arrest and fine a man for feeding the homeless in a public park. We have seen a city prevent a restaurant from serving the homeless because other businesses in the area objected. We have seen a trendy posh store forced to hire someone that does not meet their high fashion standards because of their religious beliefs.
I am willing to bet that your view of religious freedom changes from case to case based on how you perceive the individual issue based on whether you look at the world through a religious or secular lens and that is one of America's greatest strengths and her greatest weakness. We are a country that is greatly diverse but we are also a country with conflicting beliefs and those beliefs often come in conflict.
The next great issue our country will have to decide is how we are going to balance competing beliefs in the future. The old standard of for the good of the public just isn't going to work anymore when the public itself is deeply divided.