I don't tend to think about religious freedom as an issue that I need to confront on a daily basis.
I spent twelve years in Catholic school, where it wasn't exactly odd that my family went to church. Then I went to Berkeley, where, though my continued practice may have weirded some folks out, the general attitude of acceptance and open communication tended to win out over any direct prejudice. Right now, I'm a Catholic going to a non-denominational church, and I feel less and less that I need anyone's approval of my own, personal faith.
Now that I'm older, I can also realize that this is a Christian country, in a lot of ways, and many people of other faiths may not agree with my statement that we have religious freedom in the USA.
I remember a few years ago when a local Sikh community wanted to build a temple in the rural part of the city. People freaked out. First, they claimed that the temple would be on land zoned for agriculture, but that argument fell flat against the dozens of essentially Christian churches out in that "agricultural" part of town (I say "essentially," because I'm still not clear if Mormons are Christian...). So, unless the city council wanted to come out and say they were uncomfortable with the Sikh religion, they couldn't get out of the temple being built. I drive by that temple several times a week.
In Church on Sunday, the pastor talked about a Chinese Christian who was pulled out of his house, reading the Bible, and taken to jail. The government held his 77 year old mother hostage, in the hopes that he would give over the names of other Christians. The pastor was amazed at the strength of this man, to sit and read the Bible as the police stormed his house.
As the words about a man who is not free to practice his religion flowed from the pastor's mouth, I knew that I needed to write about religious freedom, something I am allowed to have in this country primarily because I practice the dominant faith of the nation.
I will now make the "duh" statement of the post: People should be allowed to practice their religion without prejudice.
For example, those who practice Judaism should not have to come to work on Yom Kippur, and we should find a way for people who are not Christian to get time off for their holidays without having to take leave. I get Christmas and Easter off without even trying (though I do have to take leave on Ash Wednesday if I want to make it to mass on time). Can't we have some kind of barter system where those who aren't Christian can earn leave to celebrate their own religious holidays?
But beyond what needs to happen in the US, there need to be changes on the international level. People are fighting to be part of a particular religion; people are fighting to practice any religion; people of different faiths are flighting over whose is best.
There are resources that can encourage us all to help fight for world-wide religious freedom (or, even, the freedom to not practice any religion whatsoever, if that's your choice.
(while these sites offer interesting information, before giving money to any of these organizations, make your own investigations into their viability).
* International Coalition for Religious Freedom
* Center for Religious Freedom
* Compass Direct (information about persecuted Christians)
* Workplace Religious Freedom Act (information on a government bill)
* The Pope Speaks Against Violence in the Name of Religion
* Buddhist Monks Under Attack
If you have information you'd like to share about your own religion or another resource about religious freedom, please let me know!
Update: An interesting article in the NY Times talks about a possible solution to some global warming, or at least one worth investigating before it's too late to be of use.