Religious freedom is experiencing a global crisis.
Restrictions on the freedom to choose a religion or to choose no religion at all are under serious threat or are already restricted. So, also, is the free exercise of religion in manifest worship or practice, not only in autocratic regimes like North Korea, China, or several Middle Eastern countries, but increasingly also in Western democracies.
Globally, “40 percent of world countries suffer high restrictions to religious freedom or freedom of belief. Since many of them are populous nations, however, this adds up to 5.9 billion of the world population.” And among Christians, “more than 300 people are murdered monthly throughout the world because of their religious faith.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Christianity is “the most persecuted religion in the world.” Some 215 million Christians are being persecuted due to their faith, according to Open Doors, about 1 in 12 Christians worldwide.
While Christians may be the most persecuted religion in the world, they are followed closely by Muslims, Jews, and other religious minorities.
In the U.S., “according to Pew Research, more than a third of all Americans born after 1980 identify with no religion. That is the highest percentage ever. In a recent Gallup Poll, only 47% of American adults said they were members of a church, mosque or synagogue. It was the first time since Gallup began asking Americans about religious membership in the 1930s that a majority of Americans said they were not members of a church, mosque or synagogue.” What this means for the future of religious freedom in the US is uncertain, but it does not appear to be a positive trend.
Religious freedom in the West, or what we call “free societies,” is becoming politicized. Now, religious freedom or religious liberty are even being denigrated as just code words, or worse, “dog whistles.” For example, in 2016 the chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, created by Congress to protect the civil rights of all Americans, issued the following statement: “[t]he phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ [are…] code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, [and] Christian supremacy….” Such attitudes would have been unheard of just a few short years ago.
America’s Founders considered the fact of and practice of religion the best means of maintaining personal responsibility, social order, and self-government. Without the moral compass religion provides, they believed, there is no restraint. Men and women do what’s right in their own eyes, which is to say, chaos.
So, the need to protect the precious God-given unalienable right is not just something to worry about in authoritarian countries elsewhere in the world but right here at home.
Recently it was my privilege to host a webinar for SAT-7 called “Collaboration for HOPE: Religious Freedom, the Most Precious God-given Right.” Our guests were Shirin Taber, Director of Empower Women Media, Rita El-Mounayer and Phil Hilditch, both of SAT-7 International. It was an enjoyable learning experience and can be accessed here:
Religious freedom is the bedrock freedom. To lose religious freedom is to lose our foundation and potential as a free and open society. Without religious freedom, the liberty to think, decide, worship as one’s convictions direct, how can we say we are truly free?
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2021
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