“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.”First Amendment, The Bill of Rights
What does religious freedom really mean?
Religious freedom is more than just the freedom to believe what you want. It’s also the freedom to talk about and act on your core beliefs without interference from government or others, except when necessary to protect health and safety. It also allows people with similar beliefs to form religious organizations that govern their own affairs. All of these freedoms are established in the United States through the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights: “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.” (Read more about the freedoms established in the First Amendment.)
Why does it matter so much?
Agency is essential in Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation, and religious freedom ensures we can use our agency to live and share what we believe. Everyone needs to have that freedom, no matter what they believe.
Yet despite its importance, religious freedom is increasingly under assault around the world. That’s why the Apostles have spoken about this topic dozens of times in the last decade. As prophets, seers, and revelators, they recognize the need to defend religious freedom. Each of us has a role to play.
What can I do about it?
You don’t need a legal background to make a difference. In everyday life, you can:
- Become informed about the basics of religious freedom and understand your rights. Study the materials on this site and stay aware of what’s happening in the news regarding religious freedom. You can follow this Facebook page to stay more up-to-date.
- Live and respectfully share your beliefs. Have meaningful, kind conversations with those of differing beliefs. Focus on seeking to understand one another’s perspective and finding common ground that unites you. While such discussions might create some tension, which occurs naturally in any democracy, if you proceed with faith and compassion rather than fear you’ll often discover fair compromises that result in a stronger society.
- Find simple ways to help protect the rights of everyone to act on their beliefs. You can attend city council meetings, vote, and contact your government representatives to express your views. Get involved in the democratic institutions and conversations around you.
- Build trusted relationships in your community among people of diverse opinions. For example, serve in your neighborhood, get involved with your business or professional association, run for a school board, or coach a sports team. As you get to know more people and understand each other’s beliefs, you’ll be better able to find ways to protect one another’s rights in a way that benefits everyone.
Learn more about each of these areas on this section of LDS.org; while specific to the United States, many of the principles can be applied in other settings. As you study the content, prayerfully seek the Spirit to know what Heavenly Father would have you do to understand and protect religious freedom.
Visit the complete Religious Freedom—Picture Quotes collection in the Media Library.
Note: The content on this site is intended for use in the United States, though the principles can be adapted for laws and circumstances in other areas of the world.