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3 Reasons Why Hostility to Religion Harms Every American

By Kelly Shackelford

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July 29, 2016

Hostility to religion in America is escalating. This damages:

  • Ordinary citizens who live normal lives according to their faith and conscience.
  • The bedrock on which stand vital American institutions such as government, education, the military, business, houses of worship, and charity.
  • Our other constitutional rights, including freedom of speech, press, assembly, and government by consent of the people.

Since 2012, First Liberty Institute has documented and publicized this rising tide of hostility to religion in America in annually updated editions of Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America. First Liberty goes to court to protect religious freedom for all our citizens, so it is important for us to know the scope of the problem.

And for the 2016 edition of Undeniable, First Liberty’s team of researchers – led by Senior Counsel and Harvard-trained constitutional attorney Justin Butterfield – found an alarming increase in the number of incidents hostile toward religion.

Every American should share in the concern for at least three reasons:

First, individuals and families are being hurt.

Religious freedom is a fundamental American right. And the hostility to religious freedom affects the lives of real human beings. Attacks are sweeping away small businesses, careers, and ministries.

Behind the legalities are tears and anguish. It’s time for national rejection of discrimination against people of faith.

Second, the hostility affects us all.

The attitude toward religion springs from a relatively small but powerful sector of society composed of influential people and organizations. They consider active faith as irrelevant at best, and dangerous to social progress at worst. As a result of such hostility to religion:

  • Good employees are being unlawfully fired, and productive businesses recklessly harmed;
  • Valuable public servants are being aggressively driven from their fields;
  • Ministries, churches, and chaplains are being threatened or restricted from fulfilling their spiritual callings.

The result is curtailed ministry efforts and therefore, help for students, the elderly, the sick, the poor, orphans, addicts, and the homeless. It is even endangering efforts to show compassion and comfort to current and former members of our military, jeopardizing morale and thus our national security.

One must ask: Is America prepared to sacrifice the benefits of open religious activity on the altar of modern political correctness?

Noted social historian Dr. Rodney Stark of Baylor University analyzed the positive impact of religion in reducing crime, improving education, bettering mental and physical health, increasing employment, and reducing welfare. He conservatively estimated the benefit in the United States to be at least $2.67 trillion per year.[1] Other scholars confirm this overall assertion.

Can we afford to ignore such research and toss away the blessings of free religious exercise?

Third, freedom of religion is foundational to all other freedoms.

From the beginning of the colonies and continuing until today, immigrants came to America for religious freedom. Freedom of religious conscience is part of a person’s core identity, and embedded in America’s cultural DNA.

Further, religious freedom is in the First Amendment because all other freedoms rest upon it. Without the concept of a higher authority to make government accountable to unchanging principles of justice, all other freedoms are at risk of being violated, redefined, or revoked. As the Declaration of Independence says, all men are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights … That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men.”

The good news is that the vast majority of the hostility to religion our attorneys encounter is unlawful. It succeeds only because of its own bluff and the passivity of its victims. Hostility to religion can be defeated in the legal system—but only if challenged by Americans like you.

When you stand up, First Liberty Institute and your fellow Americans will be standing with you offering legal assistance, research, and decisive help.

Adapted from “Hostility to Religion Harms Every American,” Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America, 2016 Edition.

News and Commentary is brought to you by First Liberty’s team of writers and legal experts.

[1] Stark, Rodney, America’s Blessings (West Conshohocken, PA, Templeton Press, 2012, Kindle ed.)

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