On Religion and Respect

The issue of Religion is not so very very difficult if we but distinguish between “freedom of” in contrast to “freedom from”; and “private right” in contrast to “public realm”; and commit to the respect of each on behalf of everyone.

For respect is the unwritten social contract which enables people of different cultures to live together in peace and harmony:

Every person has a “private right” to “freedom of” religion. The right of private worship is sacred in a civilized society. Thus; the practice of private religion must be free from State interference or social censure. So long then as no one is harmed in any way, each individual or collective groups simply must be free to worship as they wish without interruption or interference by the State OR BY ANY OTHER religious body, institution, or individuals.

At the same time, these being private rights, then the free exercise of one’s religion must naturally be restricted to the home and/or church building/grounds. Whenever religious relics, traditional teachings, prayers, adoration, singing, and otherwise are practiced, promoted on behalf of, or imprinted into the public realm or onto public property, then the rights of all non-religious or “different religion than” peoples have been infringed upon and undeniably violated. The restriction of the practice of one’s religion to the private sector is only practical in the light of both the nature of the freedom of religion and the neutrality of and therefore freedom from religion in the public sector.

Therefore, the “public realm” simply must be a “freedom from” religion zone. Neutrality in the public realm is the most practical means by which to protect the rights of and at the same time to respect the beliefs of all peoples. Neutrality in the public realm then is the proper means necessary in order to protect the private rights of religious practice, and at the same time to respect the faiths and philosophy of all peoples. Such neutrality then being an effort to give preference to none over any other.

Neutrality with regards to religion in the public realm then protects everyone’s rights, including all but not exclusive to any particular religious group and/or ideology. This is in fact to respect the faiths and philosophy of all peoples, in an effort to give preference to none over any other. And such is only right since the public sector belongs to the public at large. Thus, no person of one faith should have to read passages from the holy book of another faith inscribed on a public park bench. Furthermore, no parent of any given faith should have to subject their children to being lead in prayer by a Public School Educator which is directed to a different deity than that of that family’s religious beliefs.

Public neutrality is simply the most practical means by which to show proper respect for each person’s faith and beliefs.

CONCLUSION:

Respect is the unwritten social contract which enables people of different cultures to live together in peace and harmony.

As a matter of respect for each individual’s right to their own personal beliefs and private religious practices, society must never allow those rights to be infringed upon or denied.

Then again, as a matter of respect to each individual’s right to their own personal religious beliefs, society should ever maintain an absolute and unqualified neutrality in the public domain with regards to any religious beliefs whatsoever.

For respect is the unwritten social contract which enables people of different cultures to live together in peace and harmony.

Dave Henderson
Denison, Texas

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One thought on “On Religion and Respect

  1. I like the approach but see some problems. This distinction would ban religious parades, for example. I suggest that religions should have access to the “Commons” like all other organizations, which means they apply for a permit, pay associated fees, etc.

    With regard to “The right of private worship is sacred in a civilized society. Thus; the practice of private religion must be free from State interference or social censure.” I agree with the second statement but not the first. The first is odd in that the state is secular, so nothing can be sacred. The second has to be enforced properly. Currently the activities of a church that occur on its own grounds are tax-exempt. But churches also engage in commercial activities that generate a great deal of funds (most in real estate). In any area in which a secular activity (rents from real estate not used for church purposes, like renting out the meeting hall to the Elk’s Club, or renting out an entire high-rise building in N.Y. city) generate funds, those should be taxed. Currently churches use their “tax exempt” status to run commercial enterprises tax free and that is not appropriate. The churches defend the practice and say the profits are funneled into church activities, but that is irrelevant. Those monies aren’t being donated to create a new school or build a new sanctuary, that is they were not being paid for a religious purpose. A broad tax-exempt status such as we now have is government support for religion that is too extreme.

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