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Religious Tolerance logo

Spirituality, human rights and religious truth


Two Types of U.S. Religious Freedom:
1. Freedom of religious belief, speech,
assembly, proselytizing, etc.
2. Freedom to hate, denigrate,
despise, oppress, or discriminate
against others.

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Some quotations about religious freedom:

  • Judge Vincent Howard at Marathon County Circuit Court, Wisconsin. "The free exercise clause of the First Amendment protects religious belief, but not necessarily conduct."1

  • Michael Terrance Worley. "Attacks on religious freedom will continue and combine unless we change a culture about overly broad anti-discrimination laws ..." 2 (He is apparently referring here to existing human rights legislation -- probably laws that protect people from discrimination based on their gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other factors.)

  • Ken Ham, a leading young Earth creationist, Christian fundamentalist, and the president of Answers in Genesis, a Creationist apologetics ministry: "... we’ve been told that Christians don’t need to worry -- we are free to have our beliefs, but that is demonstrably not true. The government is clearly no longer respecting or upholding the First Amendment. Instead, it is punishing people for having -- and holding to -- religious convictions, namely Christian ones. 3 (We suspect that the term "holding to" in this quotation refers to actually applying a religious belief to discriminate against someone.)

  • Jon Stewart's intentionally amusing comment about "the long war on Christianity:" "I pray that one day we may live in an America where Christians can worship freely! In broad daylight! Openly wearing the symbols of their religion ... perhaps around their knecks? And maybe dare I dream it? -- maybe one day there can be an openly Christian President. Or, perhaps 43 of them." 4

  • Walter Koenig, the actor who played the character Ensign Pavel Chekov in the original Star Trek series: "Religious tolerance is something we should all practice; however, there have been more persecution and atrocities committed in the name of religion and religious freedom than anything else."

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As indicated by this menu's title, the term "religious freedom" has two very different meanings:

  • Sometimes it refers to the term's traditional meaning: the freedom of religious belief, including the associated freedoms of religious speech, religious writing, freedom of assembly with like-minded believers, freedom to proselyze, etc.

  • Other times, it refers to a person's religiously motivated actions that discriminate against, harm, or oppress others. In recent years, "others" have typically been members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community.

Unfortunately, many people do not differentiate between the two terms.

Many Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs) have become laws in states throughout the U.S. These are often heavily promoted as simply guaranteeing individual freedom of belief. However, they often contain clauses that protect freedom of actions based upon one's sincerely held religious beliefs -- actions that discriminate against and harm others. They can be regarded as anti-human rights legislation that encourages people to violate the Golden Rule. I sometimes call such legislation as encouraging the Lead Rule. That is, "lead" as in the metal. It is: to do onto others as one would never in a thousand years wanted to be treated yourself.

In one truly remarkable case in 2014, the Mississippi Senate unanimously passed a RFRA bill that gave individuals the freedom to apply their religious beliefs to discriminate against others. This happened because none of the Democratic senators had actually read the bill before voting for it. They apparently thought that a religious freedom bill was as American as apple pie, and concluded: who could oppose religious freedom?

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Topics covered in this section:

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star The new meaning of the terms "religious freedom" and "religious liberty":

The freedom to discriminate and oppress others on religious grounds << Sadly, a large and rapidly growing section

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The traditional meaning of the term: to believe, associate with others, and practice religion freely:

bullet U.S. group to protect of religious freedom:


President Trump announces new group to protect religious freedom

bullet Status of religious freedom:

Snapshot of religious freedom worldwide during 2010:


Status of religious freedom in the U.S.

bullet Decline of religious freedom in Europe

bullet The U.S. government vs. individual religious freedom

bullet Freedom House report on religious freedom

bullet Religious freedom and the year 2000 presidential candidates

bullet Lack of religious freedom in France

bullet Changing one's religion from Islam to another faith (Irtidad)

bullet Religious clothing and jewelry in U.S. public schools

bullet Canadian religious groups' freedom to discriminate against same-sex marriage
bullet Statements, speeches, petitions, etc. on religious freedom, tolerance, and intolerance:
bullet Excerpts:
bullet Excerpts of statements on religious freedom
bullet In the United States:
bullet National Religious Freedom Day: JAN-16

bullet Guaranteeing personal religious freedom

bullet Petition to regain and preserve religious freedom

bullet Williamsburg Charter on the First Amendment (1988)

bullet U.N. report on religious freedom in the U.S. (1998)

bullet Speech by President Clinton on religious freedom (1995)

bullet Proclamation on diversity and tolerance in Cedar Rapids, IA.

bullet Personal pledge of support for religious freedom
bullet International:
bullet Declaration of a Global Ethic (1993)

Excerpts from "The Principles of a Global Ethic"

bullet International Religious Freedom Day

bullet Statement by UNESCO, on the "Year of Tolerance" (1995)

bullet Statement by Pope John Paul II on the World Day of Peace, (1996)

bullet Statement by the U.S. on freedom of religion in Europe (1999)

bullet The Amman Declaration (1999) concerning the Middle East

bullet The Geneva Spiritual Appeal (1999) on an end to religious conflict
bullet star The International Humanist and Ethical Union's (IHEU) worldwide report on "Freedom of Thought:" Part 1  Part 2
bullet laws and regulations guaranteeing, limiting, or promoting religious freedom:
bullet 1777 Thomas Jefferson's bill for religious freedom in Virginia

bullet 1786 Virginia's "Act for Establishing Religious Freedom"

bullet The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

bullet Religious freedom restoration acts

bullet Workplace Religious Freedom Act *

bullet U.S. "Freedom from Religious Persecution Act"

bullet Religious rights within the US military

bullet Excerpts of laws guaranteeing religious freedom
bullet Other topics:
bullet Links to web sites dealing with religious freedom


An essay donated by Susan Humphreys: "Do people have the right to believe anything they want? Does religious freedom include the right to hurt others?"

bullet Brief quotations about tolerance

bullet Reducing religion-inspired religious conflicts

bullet Religious tolerance and freedom chain letter

bullet Constitutional amendment on religious freedom & compulsory prayer
bullet Related topics:
bullet Religiously motivated religious conflict, oppression, & discrimination menu

bullet Religious laws of the U.S., Canada and other nations

Reference used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. Dirk Johnson, "Trials for Parents Who Chose Faith Over Medicine,"  New York Times, 2009-JAN-20, at:
  2. Michael Worley, "My view: Same-sex marriage decisions and 3 attacks on religious freedom," Deseret News, 2014-JAN-12, at:
  3. Ken Ham, "Religious freedom under attack ... again," Answers in Genesis, 2014-OCT-24, at:
  4. Posted on the Facebook page "Winning Democrats" on 2015-NOV-22. Within 16 hours it had received 15,360 likes and 7,199 shares. See:

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or Home > Religious information > here

or Home > Human rights > here

Copyright © 2006 to 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2006-NOV-05
Latest update: 2016-DEC-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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