Why Religious Freedom is so Important?
When we hear people talking about “religious freedom” we can make an image of a people in a church singing and preaching. But religious freedom is more than a bunch of people gathering inside a four walls named a church, synagogue, mesquite, cathedral, or any other religion related building.
How the religious freedom is envisioned by the United Nations?
The Declaration of Human Rights was enacted by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A). The Declaration is intended to create a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, as a fundamental and basic human rights to be universally protected and it has been translated into over 500 languages.
After a WWII and the living experiences from that, there was expected some kind of treaty that is entails a compromise to avoid the same human errors of the past. From the 58 members of the United Nations at the time, 48 out of 58 voted in favour, none against, eight abstained, and two did not vote. Was that a real compromise with the world or just signed paper to comply with the “peace” after the WWII? The history is the best witness for us and even today we still having many violations of human rights around the world. In other conditions it may not needed to be here writing about the importance of religious freedom.
In the first line of the Declaration of Human Rights (or the first ‘whereas’ for the lawyers. Pardon my sarcasm…) is recognized the natural origin or provenance of human rights.
“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,”
Three words we must highlight in that sentence; “inherent”, “equal”, and “inalienable”. It’s important to realize the real significance of these words to determine the importance of each of the human rights, and thereof the importance of “religious freedom”.
– Inherent is synonymous with something intrinsic, is ineffaceable, inseparable because is naturally built in or inherited by nature.
– Equal is something identical to others in values, importance, equivalence, no difference in essence.
– Inalienable is something that is impossible to be taken away from or given away by the possessor.
Therefore, these fundamental rights are endowed on every human being by the Creator, independently of sex, race, ethnicity… and are often referred to as “natural rights.” Because the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is highlighting the conception of the world populations as a single “human family”, we have to defend the protection of our natural rights. Because it’s the “foundation of freedom”, because it’s the foundation for equality.
The best explanation of this inclusiveness is in the 2nd Article of the same Declaration of Human Rights;
“Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.”
The religious freedom is conceived in the UN Declaration of Human Rights as part of the “rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” or beliefs (Art.18). Even no believers are included in the right to their own free conscience.
The Founding Fathers, almost two centuries before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, understood that religious freedom to be a universal human right that must be protected for the benefit of all. James Madison, founding father and 4th President of USA, in a letter sent on Friday Sepr 7, of 1787 addressed to Jonas Phillips, a Jew in Philadelphia, wrote:
“That all men have a natural and unalienable Right To worship almighty God according to the dectates of their own Conscience and understanding, and that no man aught or of Right can be compelled to attend any Religious Worship or Erect or support any place of worship or Maintain any minister contrary to or against his own free will and Consent nor Can any man who acknowledges the being of a God be Justly deprived or abridged of any Civil Right as a Citizen on account of his Religious sentiments or peculiar mode of Religious Worship, and that no authority Can or aught to be vested in or assumed by any power what ever that shall in any Case interfere or in any manner Controul the Right of Conscience in the free Exercise of Religious Worship-” (Excerpt From Works of James Madison)
Now we can recognize why the Religious Freedom is stated in a higher level, within the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights in the USA Constitution. The same history has taught us how totalitarian government use to start throwing down the religious freedom and the free thinking of the opposition. Because free thinking is a threat for the government and religious beliefs are stronger than any governmental mandate.
Works of James Madison
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