Family Research Council

Hostility to Religion: The Growing Threat to Religious Liberty in the United States

By Family Research Council

Many of the first European settlers on American shores sought freedom from religious persecution. Decades later, the Founding Fathers considered religious liberty to be a paramount principle in the new United States. Religious liberty is our "first freedom," not only because it is listed first in the Bill of Rights but because without it, all other freedoms are impossible: The Founders affirmed that allegiance to God precedes allegiance to the state, and that our rights come from our Creator, not the government. This is the essential assumption upon which our entire system of government has been built. Religious liberty was so important to the Framers of the new United States Constitution that they included it in the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . ."

Fast forward three hundred years, and hostility to religious expression in the public square is reaching levels unprecedented in the history of the United States. Militant atheists target long-existing crosses and historical markers of America's religious heritage in public places. Teachers tell young school-children they can't read their Bible in school. Private citizens and the government alike are attacking religious expression by other citizens. Whether it's a media backlash to merely expressing a faith position on sexuality, or the use of nondiscrimination laws to punish religious business owners for their decisions, threats to free speech and free exercise are heating up both in the courts and the public square.

This publication contains a list of documented accounts of hostility toward faith in the United States today, broken down in the following four definable types of incidents: Section I: Suppression of Religious Expression in the Public Square; Section II: Suppression of Religious Expression in Schools and Universities; Section III: Censure of Religious Viewpoints Regarding Sexuality; and Section IV: Suppression of Religious Expression on Sexuality Using Nondiscrimination Laws.

Most of the documented accounts here have occurred within the past several years. This, in and of itself, is troubling. But in some areas, particularly with regard to statements and positions on sexuality (many of which are documented in Sections III and IV below), hostility toward religion has increased at an exponential rate. This trend should cause any freedom-loving individual to be truly alarmed.

Americans urgently need to be aware of the suppression of religion in this regard. Yet this should not just concern those whose rights are most immediately affected, for the principles underlying suppression of rights in this area will very quickly and easily lead to the restriction and suppression of free inquiry and critical thinking. All should be concerned that suppression of rights, particularly as outlined in Sections III and IV of this publication, is the product of more insidious forces which ultimately will erode liberties for all Americans, regardless of viewpoint or level of concern with these immediate issues.

As Americans' awareness grows, we can focus our attention on the public debate and the state of the law. Liberty does not maintain itself, and in a democracy, many voices are constantly clamoring for desired protections and privileges to be enshrined in law. As we become more fully aware of and engaged on the issue of hostility toward religion, we can more effectively defend civil liberties and restore religious liberty to its proper place in American society.

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