Freedom of religion, especially on an international scale, is a complex issue that has taken center stage in recent years. The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 states, “Freedom of religious belief and practice is a universal human right and fundamental freedom.” Although international law assures religious freedom, protections are not always upheld.
Although religious freedoms are not uniformly protected, it is clear that international law decisively maintains a universal right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion (Art. 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). But while international law supports religious freedom and freedom of worship, many nations across the world still have limited religious liberty.
Domestic Religious Freedom
In America, all people are guaranteed the right to practice (or not to practice) any faith of their choosing. Alongside preserving the right to practice religion, the First Amendment prevents government entities from establishing a state religion or prohibiting the free exercise of its citizens. While there are legal protections in place to defend the practice of religion, there are many instances of religious oppression or discrimination that can disrupt fundamental freedoms. Attacks on Catholic churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples across the U.S. obstruct religious liberty through intimidation, ultimately interfering with the religious expression of these communities. Thus, safeguards must be established to protect communities of faith from these attacks.
Importance of religious freedom
Restricting the right to freely practice religion establishes a harmful precedent that erodes the integrity of religious freedom. It is vital to acknowledge these violations and strive for safe, empowered communities in which the right to practice one’s religion is not only upheld but prioritized.
In China’s Xinjiang region, Uyghurs are victims of discrimination and detainment because of their religion.
Crackdowns from Myanmar’s army on Rohingya Muslims have caused displacement and death for many of Myanmar’s Muslim population.
Religious freedom, whether domestic or international, is important to all people regardless of religious identification. All people of faith should be able to express themselves and worship in any way they deem fit. Because our religious freedoms in America are held sacred, we must speak up for those whose liberties may be violated elsewhere in the world.
Our Approach To Religious Freedom
Snapshot of our work:
- Passed the first resolution in the United States, at a municipal level, expressing support for the Uyghur movement
- Built capacity within universities in the New England area to advocate for Uyghur human rights
- Hosted two side events at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom that concentrated on race, history, and religious freedom
- Introduced a resolution in the 87th Texas Legislature upholding the values of religious freedom