Religious Freedom and the 4th of July July 6, 2017 by Jay Tyson
221 years ago, the Founders of our nation wrote a document that has echoed across the world and down through the generations since that time. Among the principles it proclaimed was that the main purpose of government is to protect the rights of the people to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When the Constitution was written, about a decade later, it amplified this theme by listing some of those rights in the first 10 amendments, called the Bill of Rights. One was the right to follow the religion of one's choice. This principle has served our country well. It has prevented the religious strife that has enveloped many other countries at one point or another. It has addressed contentious issues through dialogue and legal reasoning. And it has enabled us to assimilate an ever-widening portion of humanity into this great country. Initially, it found expression by acceptance of a wide variety of Protestants, many of whom were rejected in various countries of Europe. Later, there were large Catholic influxes, which worried some Americans at the time, but the principle of religious liberty was upheld. At another stage, acceptance of Jewish immigrants was an issue. Today, acceptance of people of Muslim, Sikh and Hindu backgrounds is sometimes an issue. These more recent immigrants give us the opportunity to practice anew what our Founding Fathers set down at the beginning: To affirm that all people have the right to believe and to practice their religion without interference from the government or from other people. The affirmation of this liberty is the true expression of American patriotism, worthy of celebration on July 4th and throughout the year.
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