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Freedom of Religion

To be honest, I can understand why the Framers of the Constitution included freedom of religion as one of the specific rights that they listed that should not be infringed upon.  They were probably tired of the Church of England pushing itself on them as the official state religion of their mother country.  And I would likely feel the same way.  Which is why I don't like it when people try to say that America is a Christian nation.  It's like they're just not understanding the concept of religious freedom.

But, at any rate, I just wanted to say that I think it's absolutely silly that we talk about freedom of religion so much, and that people abuse that "right" all the time.  Yes, I do believe that people should be free to believe whatever they like.  They can believe in a magical god that created the whole universe in 6 days if they want to.  I really don't feel threatened by that, and until they start making it illegal for me to get married, they're not harming me in the slightest.  But, the reason I think enumerating "freedom of religion" as one of the bill of rights is that it shouldn't be treated any different than the freedom to shop at the grocery store of your choice or the freedom to wear the brand of clothing that you want.

Honestly, do we ever talk of "freedom of groceries"?  Do we need a Constitutional amendment to make sure that Congress never infringes upon the rights of the people to choose whether they want to fill up their car at Shell rather than Chevron?  This is ridiculous.  Everyone understands that we have these freedoms.  You can shop where you like (as long as you have the money for it) and you can buy what you like.  You can wear what you like, you can eat what you like, and you can drive what you like.  This isn't surprising to any of us, and yet it isn't found anywhere in the Constitution.  Nowhere does it protect these specific rights.

Now, I know that there were some people who felt that making the Bill of Rights was a mistake because they thought that if they listed out specific examples of rights that we should have, that some people later on would interpret that to be a comprehensive list and therefore try to infringe upon all the rights that aren't specifically enumerated.  And I kind of agree with that sentiment.  But the reason I think that we shouldn't include the freedom of religion as one of the ones specifically mentioned is because Christians have abused it.  They don't just want freedom of religion, they want special protection.  They want to be placed upon a pedestal.

One of the most disgusting ways that Christians abuse this is by saying that we need to have Christians in office--that someone isn't fit to serve in a public office unless they belong to a certain church.  This is precisely one of the problems that the Framers were trying to avoid when they put the claus about religion in the First Amendment.  They didn't want people to be pressured into believing in one specific religion.  The Constitution also says that no one should ever be required to pass any kind of religious test in order to serve in office.  That means, among other things, that they should not be required to be Christian.  We need to break out of this mindset that only Christians are fit to be elected.  What someone believes is personal and should have no impact on whether you vote for them.

Also, churches such as the LDS church are now using the phrase "freedom of religion" to combat gay marriage.  They're saying that they're merely exercising their freedom of religion in order to push their beliefs on everyone else by making gay marriage illegal, and that if we were to make gay marriage legal, that would be infringing on their religious freedom somehow.  This is nonsense.  If it's legal for someone to marry someone else, that has no impact on your religious freedom.  If you believe, because your religion teaches you, that gay marriage is sinful, then the simple answer is for you to simply not marry someone of the same sex.  You don't need to make it illegal for other people to do so.

This is why I think that we need to have a much narrower interpretation of what "freedom of religion" means.  It shouldn't mean that you get to only vote for someone whose religion you approve of.  It shouldn't mean that you get to dictate public policy based on what your specific religion teaches.  It should mean only that you get to pick your own religion, believe it, and practice it as you see fit (and inasmuch as it is in accord with the law).

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