Freedom of Religion
In the United States’ Constitution, it clearly states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Yet this one line of the Constitution contradicts the fact that about 40 million people in the United States are being abused because of their religion or the lack of having one, and therefore are being denied their right of religion. Countless people are mistreated because of their religious beliefs or the way they are expressing them. These 40 million people may be physically or mentally assaulted just because someone else does not respect their right to follow any or no religion.
By not letting Americans express their religion openly and oppressing them because of their beliefs, America does not truly allow freedom of religion. Being allowed to express our religion, with ceremonies, clothing, headwear, or other rituals without being asked to discontinue these religious beliefs is a right given to all American citizens while in the United States’s territory. But, even though this right is written in the Constitution, many people are not allowed the freedom of religion they have been granted by the United States government. One way Americans’ right to the free exercise of religion is being denied is people being asked to take off a religious item they are wearing or face the consequences. That may be being fired from their job or being asked to leave the property of where they are. An example of this right being taken away from someone was when a woman, Kawal Tagore, who worked in an IRS building and had recently converted to the Sikh faith and was required by her beliefs to carry a kirpan, a 9-inch sword that resembles a knife, but has a blunted or curved blade, as a mandatory article of faith.
She was banned from the building by the federal government because she was in possession of a weapon with a blade of three or more inches (CNN). Tagore was later fired from her job there because she did not keep the kirpan out of the building. She argued that the kirpan wasn’t any more dangerous than other items let into a federal building such as, scissors, metal canes, and real 2.5 inch knifes, but employees inside the federal building were also allowed to use box cutters and cake knives. By the federal government of the United States denying Kawal Tagore her right to express her religion, in this case by carrying a kirpan, they are violating the right to freedom of religion that is stated in the United States’ Constitution. Although the previous act was carried out indirectly, there are also direct cases of Americans being denied freedom of religion.
One example is when theDepartment of Justice (D.O.J.), a branch of the United States government, directly stated that they could force a federal judge’s wife to disobey her religion. The federal judge’s wife is a practicing physician who graduated from Georgetown Medical School, a religious university.
His wife incorporates her religious beliefs into her medical practice, which includes not providing any assistance with reproductive rights because it violates her religious beliefs. But, there is an Affordable Care Act (ACA) regulation requiring IUDs, devices used in a method of birth control, in health-care plans.Benjamin Berwick, a lawyer for the Civil Division of the Justice Department claims that when a business is formed they lose their First Amendment right to free exercise of religion when their business is concerned, therefore stating that this Obamacare regulation applies to religious medical businesses (CNSNews). This Obamacare regulation, violating the First Amendment, should not have been made. People may choose to visit a religious medical practice or not, they are not being forced by anyone to go to a specific business. Contrary to these two events the United States’ Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is part of the federal government and has made several laws against businesses discriminating employees because of their religion and preventing or forcing employees to follow certain religious beliefs.
Even though there are laws preventing situations like the one that arose with Kawal Tagore and her kirpan, this doesn’t mean that America is allowing freedom of religion. Americans can say that they have freedom of religion, but that doesn’t mean that it is truly allowed. Thomas Jefferson stated that ” Erecting the wall between church and state is absolutely essential in a free society.” Biased by their own religion, many decisions made by the government or about the government do not respect freedom of religion. A few examples are the Pledge of Allegiance, American currency, and the chances of having an atheist president. The government was biased to religions with one god when they kept the saying “In God We Trust” on U.
S. currency. Many American voters choose candidates based on the candidate’s religion because the candidates talk about their religion to get more votes. In 2012, Gallup, a website that provides news based on polls, found out that about 54% of Americans are willing to vote for an atheist president while 94% are willing to vote for a Christian. Obviously, through this poll you can see that Christian candidates would dominate an election, just because of the fact that they are Christian.
The fact that candidates for positions in the government will express their religion so voters will be influenced by their religious beliefs is wrong and infringes on Americans’ right to freedom of religion. In many other jobs it is perfectly fine to express religious beliefs, but in a government job the requirements are different because the government is not allowed to do anything relating to religion. By candidates potentially going to be part of the government, they must follow the same guidelines they would use if in office.In the Pledge of Allegiance there is a line saying “under God”. This one line was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954 by former U.S.
President Eisenhower. By the government incorporating God into the Pledge of Allegiance, it is favoring religions with one god and is neglecting people with no religion or those that have religions with multiple gods. Most public schools, which are run by the government, also make students feel that they must stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, that students are expected to recite everyday, by not telling them they are not required to. Despite the fact that most public schools do recite the Pledge of Allegiance everyday, some public schools are becoming more aware of people with any or no religion. By changing Christmas parties to holiday parties and morning prayers to the moment of silence public schools are providing their students with more freedom of religion. While all these changes are complying more with the First Amendment, activitieslike the Pledge of Allegiance and a feeling of underlying religion block public schools from supplying their students with complete religious freedom.
American people are told they can express any religion freely, including no religion, but countless times the government has decided or denied something that is obstructing total religious freedom. For instance, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is helping a man, Ben Hart, to justify his right to a personalized license plate. Hart, an atheist, wishes to print the message “IM GOD” on his license plate. “Kentucky Division of Motor Vehicle (DMV) officials initially refused ACLU-KY/FFRF client Ben Hart’s request early this year claiming that the license plate message was ‘obscene or vulgar’, but then later saying it was because the plate ‘was not in good taste.'” (ffrf).
Ben Hart from ffrf claims that “I simply want the same opportunity to select a personal message for my license plate just as any other driver,” says Hart. “There is nothing ‘obscene or vulgar’ about my view that religious beliefs are subject to individual interpretation.” Hart believes that if people can pick a specific figure that is God, he is just as justified to say he is God. The freedom of religion ignored, the government made many other decisions that neglect this right. One such violation is when the federal government rules that certain religions are not “legitimate”. “In a 16-page decision, the U.
S. District Court of Nebraska ruled on April 12 that Pastafarianism is satire, not sacred, and that anyone who thinks it is a religion has made an error ‘of basic reading comprehension'” (religionnews). Pastafarianism is a religion that has a flying spaghetti monster as its main deity. Pastafarians state that their religious headwear is a colander and some even wear colanders in their driver’s license photo to show that they have the same rights as any other religion. Many people say, like the Nebraska’s U.S.
District Court, that Pastafarianism is a “fake” religion because the main god is spaghetti, but Pastafarianism is a religion made up by humans just like any other religion is viewed by a believer of a different faith. The religion of Pastafarianism was originally made to counter a school district’s decision to include Intelligent Design, the belief that a god created the world, in science class. They did this to show that anyone can make up a religion and that it doesn’t change how “real” or “fake” it is. Regardless of these facts some people argue that Americans do have freedom of religion because it is written in the First Amendment, so American people technically do have the right. But, even if the right is written in the Amendments this does not automatically mean that everyone obeys it, even the government. Americans should follow the right to freedom of religion, but many civilians and parts of the government do not allow it.
The facts laid out before you make it obvious to see that America is not truly allowing freedom of religion. Besides these instances, there are many other events that also violate the American right to freedom of religion. So I leave you thinking with a quote Eleanor Roosevelt, a former First Lady of the United States, once said “At all times, day by day, we have to continue fighting for freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom from want- for these are things that must be gained in peace as well as in war.” Works Cited “About « Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.” Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, “Establishment Clause.
” LII / Legal Information Institute, Gallup, Inc. “Atheists, Muslims See Most Bias as Presidential Candidates.” Gallup, 21 June 2012, Jefferey, Terence P. “DOJ to Federal Judge: We Can Force Your Wife to Violate Her Religion.” CNS News, 25 Feb. 2013, Martinez, Michael.
“Religious Freedom Laws: Some Controversial Case Studies.” CNN, Cable News Network, 1 Apr. 2015 “The Pledge of Allegiance.” Ushistory.org, Independence Hall Association, “What You Should Know about the EEOC and Religious Discrimination.
” The EEOC and Religious Discrimination, Winston, Kimberly. “Court to Spaghetti: You Are Not a God.” Religion News Service, 14 Apr. 2016, “FFRF, ACLU-KY Challenge Rejection of Personalized License Plate Request.” Freedom From Religion Foundation, 22 Nov.
2016, Watts, Jack. “How Many Americans Have Been Abused By Religion?” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost, 17 Feb. 2011,