The State of Religious Freedom in America

Freedom of religion is under attack in our country, where more so than any other it should be protected. I am appalled.

I was on a plane last night and I overheard two young men discussing various social situations and concerns. “Overheard” is probably the wrong word, because they were both speaking loudly enough to be heard four rows away over the drone of a plane engine. So, rather than be irritated by their rudeness, I decided to see just what it was they were so passionate about.

While I was entertained by their ideas about the future (in 25 years, no one is going to own a car because they will all be driven by robots, they projected), their ideas about religion were dismaying to say the least.

Their conversation started with the recent presidential inauguration. One of the young men was very upset about the ceremony because he didn’t know it was going to be “so Christian.” He expressed how worried he was about the future under Donald Trump knowing that he is “so Christian.”

Huh??? Of all the things an American citizen could be concerned about the president’s religion should most definitely NOT be at the top of the list. When did being a Christian become something to be feared? How is the religion of 75 percent of our nation someone’s biggest worry in the ushering in of a new president?

There are over 243 million Americans who are “Christian.” If these people, as a group, were scary and horrible, we’d all know by now. But most of them just go about their lives and try to help their family, friends and neighbors however they can. Sure, there are a few bad apples who use religion as an excuse to spread hatred and intolerance, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Last I checked, unreligious people spread hatred and intolerance, too.

As a member of a newer religion—Scientology—I’m used to people getting a bit uneasy about my religion until they actually know something about it. But in a nation that was founded with freedom of religion as one of its most basic tenets, you would think that a religion that’s been around several millennia should be off the hook, so to speak.

Which is why the young man’s “worry” seems, to me, to speak to a more basic problem. Freedom of religion is under attack in our country, where more so than any other it should be protected. I am appalled.

Instead of worrying about the president’s religion, let’s worry about the death of the freedoms guaranteed by our constitution at the hands of the everyday American. I really don’t know how we got to a point where a politician’s religion is such an issue, but I think we need to step back and learn to allow people to believe what they want without being so judgmental. I hate to say it, but we are far less tolerant as a society now than we were several decades ago. My Christian grandmother was more inclined to find out about my religion before judging it than young people I’ve met who are supposedly products of progress and champions of tolerance.

When tolerance doesn’t apply to everyone, it’s not tolerance.

It’s hypocrisy.

Deanne Macdonald
Business consultant and student of life.