Easter & Passover Remind Us Why Religious Freedom is Worth Fighting For

March 29, 2024
Easter Passover 2024 | First Liberty Insider

by Jorge Gomez • 5 min read

Jewish and Christian Americans are about to celebrate two of their most important religious holidays. Resurrection Sunday will take place on March 31 and Passover begins just a few weeks later, on April 22.

For millions, this is a joyful season, a time of thanksgiving and celebration. People of the Jewish faith commemorate the miraculous liberation from slavery in Egypt through the “passing over” of the forces of destruction and the sparing of the firstborn of the Israelites. Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on the third day, a powerful reminder of the spiritual liberty and life we have because of His sacrifice on the cross.

In addition to grounding us with an eternal perspective, this season is also an opportunity to pause and reflect on our country’s foundational priorities. It’s a reminder of how blessed we are to live in a nation built on the promise of religious freedom.

As Americans, we should be thankful for religious freedom. But we also need to be tremendously vigilant about protecting this fundamental right.

Defending religious freedom in America is perhaps more important today than ever before. Why? Because there’s no denying that attacks on faith, houses of worship and religious expression are at an all-time high.

Pew Research: Government Oppression of Religion is Rising Globally

According to Pew Research Center’s latest analysis, government restrictions on religion reached a new peak globally. Religious groups faced harassment by governments in 183 of the 198 countries tracked by Pew, the highest number since the study began in 2007.

The findings also show a sharp increase in the number of countries where governments interfere in worship. In 2007, there were 112. In 2021—the latest year studied—that number climbed to 163.

Government repression of religion was most prevalent in the Middle East and North Africa. But diving a bit deeper, government interference in worship occurred in 91% of countries in Europe and 80% in the Americas, which is highly alarming.

Religious persecution isn’t as far away as we might think. Look at Cuba, just 90 miles south.

It’s no secret that being a person of faith on the island is difficult, to say the least. But the communist Cuban government has doubled down in recent years. Religious liberty watchdog Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports record high religious freedom violations occurring in Cuba.

“There was no sign in 2023 of a let up by the Cuban government in respect to the crackdown, including increasingly repressive legislation, that began in 2021 following the 11 July protests,” according to CSW. “The government appears to still be depending on a strategy of harsh oppression and repressive laws to bring the population under as much of its control as possible. It has made it clear that there will be no political or social reform.”

Here’s something else to give Americans more perspective: Pew Research categorizes the United States as having “moderate” government restrictions on religion. That doesn’t sound too bad at first glance. But many of the other countries that fall in the same “moderate” category decidedly are not friendly toward religious organizations and the faithful.

Again, some of the worst oppressors are America’s neighbors. Among them is Nicaragua, which made headlines recently as its president unleashed a harsh crackdown on the Catholic Church. Several U.S. Senators have called for sanctions over Nicaragua’s recent religious freedom violations.

Religious Freedom is Worth Fighting For

Our intent is not to put down or criticize other countries and their people. That’s not what this is about.

We simply want to present information that helps Americans better understand the state of religious freedom around the world—and why this matters to every person here at home in the U.S.

It’s about paying attention to the warning signs around us, especially what’s happening within our country. In fact, studies show that over the past four years, most violations of religious liberty in the Western world took place in the United States.

Pause for a moment and think: what would Easter or Passover be like if there were no constitutional protection of religious freedom? Would we be able to gather at our local church or synagogue? Would we have to worship in hiding? Or worse, would we be forced to practice our faith in fear?

As many of us celebrate and worship freely this Easter and Passover, it’s perhaps the best time to remind ourselves that religious liberty is worth fighting for.

Religious freedom is America’s first freedom—the very first listed in the First Amendment. It’s part of our nation’s DNA. Without it, America would be unrecognizable.

With attacks all around us, let’s not lose sight of what matters most—the First Freedom that makes all other liberties possible. And by that same token, let’s continue fighting the good fight to make sure our country remains a safe haven for all people of faith to live according to their beliefs, free of government oppression and persecution.

Read More:

First Liberty: As Religious Persecution Rises in the West, America Must Remain a Beacon of Hope

First Liberty: New Report Shows Record High Hostility and Violence Against Churches in America

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