what is religious freedom?
In most countries in the world, religious freedom is something we’re used to experiencing. It means that people can choose to follow and practice whatever religion they want.
However, there are a few people in the free world who seem to be slightly confused about what exactly this entails. If you are a flower arranger and you refuse to serve someone because of their race, their age, their religion or their sexual orientation, you will probably find you’re breaking civil laws that protect people against mindless discrimination. Remember, for those of you confused enough to think a benevolent god believes homosexual sex is a sin, you’re not complicit in that sin unless you have homosexual sex. You can practice your religion freely and arrange those flowers.
Similarly, if your democratically elected government decides based on evidence that a key feature of a progressive and useful healthcare system includes access to contraception, for those of you confused enough to think a benevolent god believes contraception is a sin, you’re not complicit in that sin unless you start using contraception. You can practice your religion freely and pay for decent government mandated healthcare coverage for your employees.
Let’s have a look at some other religious people who, on this basis, might feel their freedom of religion is being tampered with:
- The Mormon you probably wanted to make President, Mitt Romney, might decide he can’t attend meetings with tea and coffee present, or speak when any women in sleeveless tops are present. He just wants to practice his religion freely.
- Your Jehovah’s Witness employer, Serena Williams, might decide she doesn’t want to pay for blood transfusions to be covered in your healthcare package. She just wants to practice her religion freely.
- Your favourite entertainer, the rapper Ice Cube might decide that women aren’t allowed to attend his concerts unless they wear the hijab headscarf. He just wants to practice his religion freely.
So, to all you religious enthusiasts out there who think freedom of religion involves being placed above civil laws and telling other people how to live their lives, I would just like to inform you that somewhere along the line you have been sadly misinformed.