Public Square

Four Reasons Religious Freedom Matters for Society

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Religious freedom bears implications for our lives, just like the biblical view of freedom and economic freedom. In fact, religious freedom is entwined with these other freedoms.

The amount of religious freedom we possess impacts our ability to flourish. As the following list will show, religious freedom impacts a range of things necessary for building a strong, vibrant society.

Religious Freedom Supports Free, Flourishing Societies

Religious freedom creates space for the cultural institutions, norms, and values that support free societies. Dr. Joe Connors, an economist at St. Leo University, has been researching the impact of religious freedom on political and economic freedom. He shared some preliminary findings in a recent interview, saying that religious freedom “on a preliminary level…does seem to have an impact on the average income level of each person. It basically means there will be less poverty and more overall prosperity.” Religious freedom impacts our ability to flourish.

Religious Freedom Supports Civil Liberties

As I’ve written in previous posts, religious freedom was important to the founders because they knew we would begin losing our civil liberties without it. They considered  religious freedom to be a prerequisite of those liberties. Why? Leave it to a Frenchman to sum it up nicely. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “In America, it is religion which leads to enlightenment and the observance of divine laws which leads men to liberty.” (You can read more about George Washington’s views on religious liberty here, and more about James Madison’s views here).

Religious Freedom Upholds Families

Religious freedom and strong families have always been partners in the history of the United States. The pilgrims sought religious freedom and a place to settle, live, and worship God in a way they saw fit. The social, civic, and legal systems they created in order to carry this out were closely aligned with their strong Christian beliefs, which, for the most part, were perpetuated by the family.

They saw the Christian family as a little church, a little government, and a little society. It was in the family that future generations would be trained, learning the values necessary for leading significant, purposeful lives. The family’s goal was to honor God by promoting Christian values in the next generation so they would make a positive contribution to society. Religious freedom helped create the space for making such contributions.

Religious Freedom Allows for Faith to be Lived Out at Work

Downgrading religious freedom to religious tolerance impacts the freedom you have to live out  your beliefs at work. In past religious freedom cases, the government has asserted that seeking profit is a completely secular pursuit, and that once we go into business, we lose our religious freedoms in the context of those activities. As Wesley Smith has summarized, “All who engage in such secular undertakings must accede to the precepts of secular ideology. The government establishes these precepts through the passage of laws and promulgation of regulations.”

If you believe in the Christian view of work, religious freedom is essential to living out that belief in a way that brings all of life, including your work, under the Lordship of Christ.

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  • Olav

    Hi High,

    Thank you for a great article!

    In much of the reading and analysis I’ve done of the state of the world and many countries, it’s seems that the shift to religious tolerance, from religious freedom, has primarily resulted in a gross deterioration of our moral compass in all societies around the world. You write that, “the government has asserted that seeking profit is a completely secular pursuit, and that once we go into business, we lose our religious freedoms in the context of those activities.” – Well to me this has hit the nail on the head, summarizing the issues we face in the “secular” working world. God is removed, and an entrance is created for people to do as they please and to follow the post-modern mantra of, “If it feels good, do it”.

    I absolutely love what you write about the family unit being the place where our future leaders are made. I’ve often asserted that church growth itself starts at home, for the family unit is the bedrock of the church.

    So in your opinion, how would you emphasize the family unit being the area to bring about economic change into our world? Do you believe this is possible in areas where either religious freedom and/or religious tolerance is “practiced” as you described above?

    Olav Tollner

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