“A robust freedom is not merely what political philosophers have referred to as the ‘negative’ freedom to be left alone, however important that may be. Rather, it is a much richer ‘positive’ freedom—the freedom to live one’s religion or belief in a legal, political, and social environment that is tolerant, respectful, and accommodating of diverse beliefs.”Elder D. Todd Christofferson
Even when you understand the importance of religious freedom and know the basics of what it involves, you may still wonder what it means for you on a practical level. Will it affect your job? Will it have an impact on your children at school? Will it affect religious gatherings in your community? The answer to most questions like these is probably yes, because issues relating to religious freedom occur every day. For instance:
- People have been fired from important positions for expressing their religious beliefs in favor of traditional marriage.
- The ability of religious parents to influence how their children in public schools are taught about sensitive sexual matters is being challenged.
- Religious schools with faith-based honor codes requiring chastity and fidelity are being threatened with possible loss of accreditation and denial of student aid and research contracts.
- There’s an active effort to discipline or silence some professionals because of their religious beliefs and speech about marriage, family, gender, and sexuality.
- A new movement has arisen to repeal or severely weaken the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a key United States federal law protecting religious freedom that had strong bipartisan support when it originally passed.
- Prominent voices now want to deny churches tax-exempt status.
- Government has tried to force religious owners of businesses and even Catholic nuns to provide insurance coverage for drugs they believe cause abortions or are immoral.
If these examples seem too distant from your neighborhood, consider how it affects your conversations and the way you act on your core beliefs in these situations:
Of course, it’s hard to give examples of every situation you’ll encounter regarding religious freedom, because they’ll be different with each person you interact with. But if you start looking for them in the news and in your everyday interactions, you’ll find that examples are everywhere. Just think about how the situations you see, hear about, or experience would be affected if people didn’t have freedom to live according to what really matters to them (so long as it doesn’t harm the health and safety of others), as established in the First Amendment. Then prepare now to know what you’ll do the next time you’re given a chance to protect religious freedom.
Visit the complete Religious Freedom—Picture Quotes collection in the Media Library.