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WASHINGTON (RNS) Half of Americans worry that religious freedom in the U.S. is at risk, and about a third say "the gay and lesbian community” is to blame.

40 Comments

  1. Well I’m concerned that religious freedoms are being eroded in this country BECAUSE evangelicals want their conception of Judeo-Christian values to dominate the culture.

    • This. This exactly. It’s not enough that people adhere to a certain “religious guideline”, it has to be a particular one: It has to be THEIRS.
      I’m a Baptist myself, but I’m the last one to advocate that all laws and government practices cater to my belief system.
      Religion and State are separated for a reason.

  2. Lizzie M. Johnson

    I hear the many concerns about what is going on today and Religeous freedom. I am reminded in God.s Word that these things will happen.He stated man w ill call rigtht wrong and wrong right. They will be lovers of themselves. Even some of the elect will turn away from the teachings that God have laid out for us to follow.This is what is happening now. He stated He is coming back for a church without a spot or wrinkle. He has given His church Authority over this world and what is happening today.It is for us to let our light shine and not to be afraid of the enemy. Christians have more power than the enemy because we have Christ living in us. He stated in all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will direct our paths.We have to pray to God and He
    will give us the answer which is already in the Bible. How many of you are telling others about HIM? It is our duty to let our light so shine. We have to come together like never before. God Bless you for your concerns.

    • - God is a bad parent and role model.
      If God is our father, then he is not a good parent. Good parents don’t allow their children to inflict harm on others. Good people don’t stand by and watch horrible acts committed against innocent men, women and children. They don’t condone violence and abuse. “He has given us free will,” you say? Our children have free will, but we still step in and guide them.

      – God is not logical.
      How many times have you heard, “Why did God allow this to happen?” And this: “It’s not for us to understand.” Translate: We don’t understand, so we will not think about it or deal with the issue. Take for example the senseless tragedy in Newtown. Rather than address the problem of guns in America, we defer responsibility to God. He had a reason. He wanted more angels. Only he knows why. We write poems saying that we told God to leave our schools. Now he’s making us pay the price. If there is a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God who loves his children, does it make sense that he would allow murders, child abuse, wars, brutal beatings, torture and millions of heinous acts to be committed throughout the history of mankind? Doesn’t this go against everything Christ taught us in the New Testament?
      The question we should be asking is this: “Why did we allow this to happen?” How can we fix this? No imaginary person is going to give us the answers or tell us why. Only we have the ability to be logical and to problem solve, and we should not abdicate these responsibilities to “God” just because a topic is tough or uncomfortable to address.

      – God is not fair.
      If God is fair, then why does he answer the silly prayers of some while allowing other, serious requests, to go unanswered? I have known people who pray that they can find money to buy new furniture. (Answered.) I have known people who pray to God to help them win a soccer match. (Answered.) Why are the prayers of parents with dying children not answered?

      If God is fair, then why are some babies born with heart defects, autism, missing limbs or conjoined to another baby? Clearly, all men are not created equally. Why is a good man beaten senseless on the street while an evil man finds great wealth taking advantage of others? This is not fair. A game maker who allows luck to rule mankind’s existence has not created a fair game.

      – God does not protect the innocent.
      He does not keep our children safe. As a society, we stand up and speak for those who cannot. We protect our little ones as much as possible. When a child is kidnapped, we work together to find the child. We do not tolerate abuse and neglect. Why can’t God, with all his powers of omnipotence, protect the innocent?

      – God is not present.
      He is not here. Telling our children to love a person they cannot see, smell, touch or hear does not make sense. It means that we teach children to love an image, an image that lives only in their imaginations. What we teach them, in effect, is to love an idea that we have created, one that is based in our fears and our hopes.

      – God Does Not Teach Children to Be Good
      A child should make moral choices for the right reasons. Telling him that he must behave because God is watching means that his morality will be externally focused rather than internally structured. It’s like telling a child to behave or Santa won’t bring presents. When we take God out of the picture, we place responsibility of doing the right thing onto the shoulders of our children. No, they won’t go to heaven or rule their own planets when they die, but they can sleep better at night. They will make their family proud. They will feel better about who they are. They will be decent people.

      – God Teaches Narcissism
      “God has a plan for you.” Telling kids there is a big guy in the sky who has a special path for them makes children narcissistic; it makes them think the world is at their disposal and that, no matter what happens, it doesn’t really matter because God is in control. That gives kids a sense of false security and creates selfishness. “No matter what I do, God loves me and forgives me. He knows my purpose. I am special.” The irony is that, while we tell this story to our kids, other children are abused and murdered, starved and neglected. All part of God’s plan, right?

      When we raise kids without God, we tell them the truth—we are no more special than the next creature. We are just a very, very small part of a big, big machine–whether that machine is nature or society–the influence we have is minuscule. The realization of our insignificance gives us a true sense of humbleness.

      I understand why people need God. I understand why people need heaven. It is terrifying to think that we are all alone in this universe, that one day we—along with the children we love so much—will cease to exist. The idea of God and an afterlife gives many of us structure, community and hope.

      I do not want religion to go away. I only want religion to be kept at home or in church where it belongs. It’s a personal effect, like a toothbrush or a pair of shoes. It’s not something to be used or worn by strangers. I want my children to be free not to believe and to know that our schools and our government will make decisions based on what is logical, just and fair—not on what they believe an imaginary God wants.

      • Your insight is most thoughtful and in many ways, I do agree with you.
        My comment would be that God does not dictate the affairs of man. However, the positive teachings of God’s love can allow a society to do all the things that God does not, will not or cannot do in society. (The items you mentioned.)
        The very, very, very fine line is that one cannot truly assume God’s will (an incredibly arrogant act) and attempt to act on that assumption. It is that assumption that I believe causes all organized religion to fail God in some way, and causes most of the strife we have created in our global society.

      • To non-thiest: I want to thank you for your thoughtful post. Much of what you condemn is anathema to me, too. The only way in which I disagree with your post is that it feels to me that you are talking about a certain “type” of Christian faith — one that is a very recent creation and quite different from my own.

        As a lapsed Quaker my faith is much more a pre-mid-20th C belief system. My practice is that it is belief in God that should make us feel humble, part of a large picture of creation, not in the least entitled to special consideration and immediate forgiveness. I also believe that we must follow Jesus’ direction of praying privately rather than publicly.

        We do not pray to win a soccer game or for the healing of a child but to find peace and acceptance with the natural course of a natural world which is ruled by natural consequences.

        We have an expression — “centering down” to hear “the still small voice of God.” It can seem like, and perhaps IS, a way of finding an imaginary image of our own creation but whatever one finds when one centers down is private, peaceful, and reinforces the belief that we are each responsible for our own morality.

        Unlike many I know who style themselves “evangelical” or “born again” I do not see God as the author of “fairness” or “unfairness” or expect Him to interfere in daily life to protect the innocent, the guilty, or both. As a 19th C historian I know that no “Christians” in that century did either.

        Both professionally and privately I feel like my head is spinning when I listen to prominent so-called Christians being interviewed who state that the Christian faith has “always” been this that or the other thing. What you take to task in your post is a fairly modern belief system I do not recognize, either.

      • dear non-theist,
        There are several points that you made that make sense, but you did not define a specific god. Not only did you abstain from mentioning a specific god, but you did not choose to compare the god with the beliefs about that god. I can only assume that you must be talking about the Christian’s God. The reason for this is that you assume He is like a father (The words between quotations are yours) “If God is our father . . .”, you assume He is believed to be fair “If God is fair . . .” , you assume the God is unseen “He is not here . . .”, you assume He answers only certain prayers “. . .why does he answer the silly prayers . . .”, and you assume He is good “God Does Not Teach Children to Be Good . . .” Although you could be talking about another god, these arguments make most sense when you are comparing them to the Christian God (Because these are common misconceptions of the Judeo-Christian God).

        Please do not be angry at me. Just read and try to understand.

        You said, “God is a bad parent and role model”. Because, “Good parents don’t allow their children to inflict harm on others . . .” We must understand not everyone is a child of God. Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” Only peacemakers which have faith in Jesus Christ are called God’s children. Galatians 3:26 “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” In other words, those who harm others are not God’s children, and cannot be claimed as God’s responsibility. Beyond that, you must also have faith in Christ to be God’s child. It is the only logical conclusion of the Christian God.
        Another thing worth noting is that parents never prevent their children from doing something. They only punish those children after they have done something wrong. God is the very same way. The murderer has his noose, just as the thief has his cell. I don’t want my children to walk on the street, but I cannot always be watching them and stop them before they can do it. I can only make sure they do not want to suffer the repercussions, but this is not always possible. Because I cannot force the child to chose.

        You also said, “God is not logical . . .” because of how terrible everything in our world is (I am paraphrasing). First, the Romans and the Greeks believed there had to be a god because of all the evil, but you are now saying there cannot be for the very same reason. The amount of evil in the world has nothing to do with a reality of god, but with a definition of that god.
        Second, evil and good cannot exist without someone who is writing the lines of what is good and evil. So, if there is no god than it is up to personal definition of good and evil.
        Hitler, the murderer of millions of Jews, thought what he was doing was good. You could not tell him that what he was doing was wrong unless you had a higher moral code than man. Because if you write moral code that would mean you believed your morals were greater than mine. Therefore, I would simply ignore your code and write my own. If the government legalized murder would it be “O.K.”? They did it many years ago in Germany and the people had no higher code than the law of man, and this error caused the German people to live as high as that moral code. This thinking caused hundreds of millions of lives to be lost.
        However, if you believe that there is a God than moral code can exist. That moral code would have to be according to that God, and if anyone disobeyed it they would be considered a transgressor of that law. Outside of that we can only conclude ethical situations, and ethics are determined by the persons making the decisions.
        Lastly, on this point, if your definition of evil is “suffering” than the amount of time I spend suffering is very minimal. So, I would say the world is a good place, and I can’t wait to see my next day. This makes it very apparent that suffering is also up to personal interpretation. However, if your definition of evil is death, than 155,000 people die every day and 6 billion live. That would mean your statement is inaccurate. If your definition of evil is breaking the laws of the government, than I hope they do not constitute placing the deaf and those unable to speak in asylums like California did in the sixties. If your definition of evil is contradiction of a certain moral code . . . where did you get that moral code from? Romans 2:15 “Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)”

        You also said, “God is not fair . . .” That is a true statement. God is not fair, He is just. If God answered every single prayer, the lottery would immediately go bankrupt (that might be a good thing), the extremist Christian and extremist Muslim groups would have us both destroyed (because they would both pray that way), we would have a billion millionaires (which means that money would be useless), we would have a zombie apocalypse (I’m sure someone is praying for it), and the list goes on. Trust me when I say, no one wants a fair God. Especially the Christian God. If the Christian God was fair we would not be here today. He would have destroyed everyone on this earth for murdering His Son (Because we all are responsible, not just the Jews).

        In response to “God does not protect the innocent”. You are right. He did not even protect His very own innocent Son from being unjustly prosecuted, tortured, mocked, and crucified. In a matter of fact He let Him die. He did this to show you that He loved you. I praise the Lord that He did not protect His innocent Son. If He did not extend His protection to His ” . . . beloved Son, in whom He was well pleased . . .” (Matthew 3:17) What makes me or my miscarried child so special? That is not a contradiction of the Judeo – Christian God. That is an evidence of Him.

        You also mentioned, “He is not here”. There were 500 witnesses of Christ’s resurrection, and there were hundreds of accounts written in detail of his ascension. You can choose to believe their accounts or disbelieve them. It is up to you, but I would much rather choose to believe a man whose moral code says, “If I lie I go to hell”, than I would a man who says, “I am going to do what I think is most logical.” I have never seen Hitler, Napoleon, Shakespeare and I have never seen Jesus Christ, but I believe in them all. The reason is because of the several eye-witness accounts that have been written about these men.
        Jesus is actually more believable than any of these men. The reason I say that is because people today are still hating a man that was supposed to be dead 2014 years ago. More than that they are hating a man that died on a cross because he wanted to show them that He loved them. Why would anyone choose to hate such a loving man? He is also the only man in all of history who is noted with raising from the dead. If any other man claimed that he would be considered an infidel, but the 500 witnesses of Christ made the story a hard one to fabricate.

        I think this phrase, “God Does Not Teach Children to Be Good” is actually aimed at humans rather than God. First, you brought the term “good” out again. Good, without God, can only be defined by individuals not societies. If societies could define good as a unit than why are there thousands of different beliefs?
        Second, “A child should make moral choices for the right reasons.” Morality cannot exist outside of moral code. The right reasons would assume there is a moral code of thinking. So we still have the same problem. Where did the moral code come from? If it came from logic than it is dependent on whoever’s logic is greater, and who determines the greater logic? Societies, and that is the problem. Every genocide and war came to fruition because of an error in society’s logic.
        Finally, “Telling him that he must behave because God is watching means that his morality will be externally focused rather than internally structured.” That goes in contradiction with every Scripture in the Bible. 1Samuel 16:7 “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” You cannot see the heart of man. Only God can. So to tell a child that would tell a child that he should talk to God about fixing his heart.
        To add to it you said, “No, they won’t go to heaven or rule their own planets when they die, but they can sleep better at night.” Shortly after you also said, in regards to God teaching narcissism, “That gives kids a sense of false security . . . “No matter what I do, God loves me and forgives me. He knows my purpose. I am special.” ” There seems to be a contradiction in your belief. Because of this I cannot say it does or doesn’t create Narcissism. The reason i can or cannot say is because I do not know your definition of Narcissism.

        You sound as though you were at one time a Christian. The reason I say this is because you “accidentally” capitalized the word “God” several times. Those times that you did this were times when you were specifically referring to God. This teaching is found in the Christian faith. I hope I did not offend you, but let me just finish with the real reason we Christians want you to believe.

        The night crackled with the sound of an FM radio giving the evening weather. The fog of the sky filled the streets with increasing dangers around every turn. Jason Burnam found himself caught in this ever-growing fog as a ball in a glove. His bright lights, and squinting eyes desperately tried to reveal the hidden lines on the road.
        As he came to the beginning of the bridge life seemed to stand as still as a rock. He hated bridges, and this caused him to edge his way through. Finally, he could not help himself. The car came to a screeching halt. As it did he peered towards the other end of the bridge and found that the bridge he was travelling was out just a few feet in front of him.
        Anxiety overtook him as he started screaming frantically that the bridge was out. He watched as the first car fled past him in an irritated manner. He saw the mother in the front seat and the child stare at him from the back. Soon after another car screeched its way around the man. Before too long, seven cars had ran off the bridge to their death.
        It wasn’t too long until Jason got into his car and rammed the next car that tried to cross. The irritated driver got out grabbed Jason by the shirt, pulled his mangled body out of the car, and prepared to beat Jason. As he did he noticed that the bridge was out and this Jason had saved his life.
        We Christians are trying to tell you the bridge is out. There is only one way across and we want you to make it. My home in heaven is secure. I do not get anything extra for leading you to Christ. I am just wanting to protect you from falling over the bridge. If you wish to persecute us and rid America from this scourge of your intelligence, so be it, but we will still warn you no matter how many times we are ignored, “The bridge is out.” John 14:6 “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

    • your repeated use of the word ‘enemy’ reveals you to be an intolerant and hateful person, ready and willing to subjugate another person against their will to conform to your belief. you are an abhorrent reminder of past tribal human instinct.

      • if someone wages war upon you, they are automatically your enemy. that does not necessarily imply that the one being waged war upon is hateful or intolerant. religious zealots have been waging war against those who do not believe as they do for centuries. are girls seeking an education and subsequently killed or maimed hateful and intolerant? after all, they are the enemies of religious zealots. is every woman in the U.S. who chooses to use responsible contraception hateful and intolerant to those who would legally limit her access to affordable birth control? after all, those who use birth control are the enemies of religious zealots in the Catholic Church.

        it’s time for you to wake up and stop being the enemy of reason.

    • Note, however, that the title of this article concerns religious freedom. It does not exclusively discuss Christian freedom and this is part of the problem with the state of religious freedom in America.

      Historically (and even presently), Christians enjoy a virtually uninterrupted level of religious freedom and religious recognition of power in society. When someone does something that is even remotely religiously neutral or inclusive, they are deemed “at war” with religious freedom (reads “Christian freedom”).

      The replacing of the word “Christmas” with “Holiday” in stores is a perfect example. This was seen as more inclusive by many store owners, yet many Christians were up in arms about a “war on Christmas”, when it was merely an exercise on the part of store owners to adopt a more inclusive message around that time of year to bring in more attention and profits for all groups of people.

      I know of a few examples of pagan stores that have had rocks thrown through their windows multiple times. I know of a Buddhist monastery in West Virginia that experiences a great deal of hostility from neighbors. Some Christian denominations are at each others throats. Many Americans were up in arms and actively sought to block the opening of a mosque in downtown Manhattan because it was a few blocks away from the site of the World Trade Center when it was in reality a Muslim Community Center that had a mosque, but also offered so much more.

      As others on here have most certainly suggested, religious liberty in America is suffering a tad, but most of that suffering isn’t against Christians who are the dominant religion and benefit from advanced social molding; it is against non-Christians who are seen as “the enemy” by people like you.

    • St. Augustine tells us that God and the Scripture inspires only towards Caritas. And yet humans are foolish, and we assume that whatever we like, God likes too. So anytime you think you know what God wants or likes or feels, remember that you’re wrong.

    • Your devotion to your belief is commendable. However, please don’t ask others to trust your sources as infallible.”Teachings that God have laid out for us to follow” are the teachings interpreted by the same people who made the mistakes in the first place. Divine inspiration may be enough for you, but it’s not quite enough for millions, if not billions, of others. Please bear in mind the incredible injustices, tortures, massacres and outrages committed in HIS name by people who justified their actions by “God’s teachings.”

  3. These people worried about religious liberty don’t even know what that means. They think religious liberty means a Christian theocracy imposed by force on all of us. So of course when people resist that nightmarish vision, the theocrats think their religious liberties are under attack.

  4. Well, I DO, in fact, want to change what the Evangelicals think traditional Christian values are. The problem is that what they think are traditional Christian values aren’t. These frightened gerbils are just going to self-immolate eventually because they’re just terrorized by the idea that they will no longer be the majority. My concern is that they will resort, like all terrorists, to just killing those who appear to them to be different from them. Run and hide, little gerbils! Run and hide! or….. Wake the f*** up and find your place in the human family. Sheesh!

  5. *I am a religious person who is greatly afraid of the infringement of my religous freedom*
    There I said it, you may flame me. But I do urge you to read my arguements before labeling me a bigot.

    I believe that we in the nation are constitutionally endowed with enormous religious rights. We (should have) the right to publicly speak our beliefs in the public sqaure, we should not be forced to adhere to beliefs against our religious tenets, and we should not expect others to do so.

    I am sorry that you have been ill treated by “Judeo-Christians” who dont understand your right to not have religion… BUT

    An employer, for instance, who has an objection to contraception should not be forced to provide it. I did not say he should go out of his way to remove access to it, the woman is perfectly free to search for coverage on her own that covers contraception that does not have any connection to the employer.

    A government should fight for the upholding of natural marriage between 1 man and 1 woman because these strong units which were the birth of society are easy to govern. We should get rid of “no-fault” divorce because it turns marriage into a union between two selfish adults and not a union between two loving adults and their children. The government has no interest in “defining marriage” as anything other than a relationship that brings forth children unless they want to tax it.

    I have no problem with “Happy Holidays” I dont think we should require people to say merry christmas, but if the local government feels that it would benefit some people in their community to put up a nativity, or a cross, or menorah, or crecent moon, or giant test tube, then they should do it to serve their citizens.

    Separation of church and state is to protect the church from the state, not the state from the church.

    Look at countries where people dont have freedom of religion. People are killed, tortured or murdered for hsving different religions. In Canada clergy are imprisoned for saying “I think gay marriage is not the ideal way to raise children”

    If this is the governments idea of freedom of speech, I am afraid that one day if my child logically deduces that “policy a” is not something he would vote for, what consequences will befall him?

    I think people on both sides need to really define what religious freedom is.

      • “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” (Amendment I) The phrase “Church and State” doesn’t exist in the Constitution. That phrase comes from Thomas Jefferson, the President, responding to the Danbury Baptist Association. “Separation of Church and state” was a response to this for their security: “Our sentiments are uniformly on the side of religious liberty: that Religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals, that no man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious opinions, [and] that the legitimate power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor.”

        Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Albert E. Bergh, ed. (Washington, D. C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association of the United States, 1904), Vol. XVI, pp. 281-282

        So the phrase in no way, whatsoever, was protecting the state from the church. It was protecting the people from the government. In other words, if you do not want a religion to impose their beliefs on you, you must make it known. Getting on www.religionnews.com, and posting defenses of certain rights does not sound like you are trying to avoid religious impositions.

    • Aaron Nielson writes ‘In Canada clergy are imprisoned for saying “I think gay marriage is not the ideal way to raise children”’. I think he is referring to a particular case, Lund vs. Boisson, the details of may have been inaccurately characterized along the way. Reverend Stephen Boisson was prosecuted on a human rights complaint by Dr. Darren Lund, rising from Dr. Boisson’s 2002 editorial stating in part that “Homosexual rights activists and those that defend them, are just as immoral as the pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps that plague our communities.” This was a civil complaint, not a criminal one, and he was never jailed. He was defended by the Canadian Civil Liberties Union. He was initially fined $5,000 and ordered to cease making such disparaging remarks, but that was overturned emphatically on appeal. So this supposed example of the threat to (vicious bigotry disguised as) religious expression is actually an example of the legal system acting to protect it.
      If there is some other case he is referring to, he’s welcome to be more specific.

    • According to the source website:

      “Notional” Christians are individuals who identify themselves as Christian yet do not meet the criteria for being “born again.”

      • I resent that being “notional”, as if they somehow aren’t Real True Christians. I would argue for “Traditional Christians” or perhaps “Baptismal Christians”, as the whole born-again thing is a post-Reformation was introduced to popular culture in the 60s and 70s.

  1. […] Religion News Service: Poll shows a double standard on religious liberty Half of Americans worry that religious freedom in the U.S. is at risk, and many say activist groups — particularly gays and lesbians — are trying to remove “traditional Christian values” from the public square. The findings of a poll published Wednesday (Jan. 23), reveal a “double standard” among a significant portion of evangelicals on the question of religious liberty, said David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, a California think tank that studies American religion and culture. While these Christians are particularly concerned that religious freedoms are being eroded in this country, “they also want Judeo-Christians to dominate the culture,” said Kinnamon. […]

  2. […] “They cannot have it both ways,” he said. “This does not mean putting Judeo-Christian values aside, but it will require a renegotiation of those values in the public square as America increasingly becomes a multi-faith nation.” …. Read this in full at http://www.religionnews.com/2013/01/23/poll-shows-a-double-standard-on-religious-liberty/ […]

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