Video: Respecting Other Religions
Religious Freedom Committee Vice-Chair Rahmah answers "Does freedom of religion require respect for other religions?, in the above video. In addition, the written script is below.
Q: Does freedom of religion require respect for other religions? Amina from Washington, D.C.
A: The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In other words, the government cannot endorse or denigrate religion and neither can it deprive any individual of their right to religious freedom .
What do we mean by the right to religious freedom? Under the U.S. Constitution, religious freedom is the right for everyone to practice his or her religion, or to choose not to practice a religion at all.
By giving everyone the right to practice or not to practice a religion, the Constitution preserves this liberty and requires that all religions, and the beliefs of those who do not subscribe to a religion, be respected.
In order to ensure that there is government respects all religions and favors none, the First Amendment also, through the Establishment Clause, prohibits government endorsement or denigration of religion . By doing so, the founders of the Constitution intended to keep the government away from influencing people’s choices about religion.
The founders have created both the Establishment Clause as well as the Free Exercise Clause within the First Amendment to ensure that this liberty is preserved and respected. Taken together, these clauses encompass the often-cited principle of separation of church and state.
The Establishment Clause, in short, prohibits the government from playing favorites based on what people do or don’t believe.”
Here’s an example that puts the Establishment Clause into practice:
Ex) The United States is prohibited from establishing Christianity as the official religion of the country.
The Free Exercise Clause gives everyone the right to choose to worship or not. Here’s an example that puts the Free Exercise Clause into practice:
Ex) If reciting the Pledge of Allegiance goes against a student's religious beliefs, a public school teacher cannot coerce or pressure the student into reciting it.
Here are some more practical examples of how Freedom of Religion requires respect for other religions:
- Public schools are run by the government and therefore, they cannot promote one religion over another. They can teach history and literature that is influenced by religion as a part of their curriculum, but they cannot focus on just one religion in a way that promotes it.
- Students may be excused from certain school activities if those activities conflict with their personal religious beliefs. For example, students have the right to be excused from singing religious Christmas songs in the choir.
- Students for the most part have the right to wear religious garb and accessories in school, such as a hijab or yarmulke.