CRAMER: Religious intolerance is on the rise

Most small children learn that many of the first colonists to the United States were pilgrims seeking the freedom to practice their religious views.
May 22, 2013

The Church of England — the mother church of my own denomination, The Episcopal Church — was not only established as the state church, it also explicitly sought to suppress nonconformist and Roman Catholic groups within the country (this is a part of Anglicanism’s history over which we repent, and from which we have turned).

But, still, we teach our children at a young age that some of the first colonists came here because they wanted to practice their religion freely. There is an important nuance to be made here. The Puritans, along with other religious groups arriving in 17th-century America, wanted to practice their religion freely — they did not want freedom of religion.

Most of the early religious groups in the colonies sought to exercise control over their area, passing laws and ordinances based upon their religious belief systems. It wasn’t until the late 18th century, when our Constitution was created, that the ideal of the free exercise of religion began to take root.

As we all know, the ideal of freedom of religion is not universally affirmed.

On Monday, the State Department published the “International Religious Freedom Report” for 2012. This annual report flows from understanding that religious freedom is a basic and universal human right, as articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a declaration that “has been the touchstone and the global standard for the protection of human rights around the world since 1948.

The findings of the 2012 report indicate a rise in religious intolerance around the world. Laws that keep individuals from being able to freely choose, practice, change or even reject their religion “remain pervasive.” In particular, discrimination against Jews and Muslims is increasing in several countries.

Anti-Semitic prejudice, including either denying or glorifying the Holocaust, continues throughout the world. In Egypt, for instance, the media itself has participated in Holocaust glorification or denial at different times.

In Venezuela, one of the presidential candidates who was a Catholic was persecuted by the state-run media. They published various anti-Semitic statements about his Jewish ancestry.

At another time, a group gathered in protest to Israel outside a Venezuelan synagogue chanting Anti-Semitic slogans and throwing fireworks. Openly Anti-Semitic political parties have gained seats in parliaments in Europe and violent attacks against Jews in Europe is on the rise.

In Europe and Asia, particularly, rhetoric against Muslim continues to increase. For instance, in Belgium and India, laws and regulations are passed to restrict traditional Islamic clothing. In Burma, a Buddhist majority country, the Muslim minority experiences lethal violence, even having their villages burned to the ground.

Even within Muslim majority countries, the majority sect — whether Shia or Sunni — often persecutes the minority sect.

And the report indicates that the age of Christian persecution and martyrdom is far from over. In the Sudan, credible reports indicate that the authorities destroyed two Christian churches — one an Episcopal church and the other a Catholic church. In Pakistan, a mentally disabled Christian girl was imprisoned on blasphemy charges for more than a month. In Nigeria, Boko Haram extremists killed hundreds of Christians and Muslims.

When Secretary of State John Kerry announced this year’s report, he acknowledged that our own country’s record on religious freedom was not perfect. In particular, I would note that our country’s ideal of freedom of religion continues to be misused by some religious groups as an excuse to prohibit others from a free exercise of their religion.

Roman Catholic leaders seek government support to keep employees from having equal access to birth control. Many Christian groups continue to support laws denying gays and lesbians the right to marry — a restriction on my church’s freedom to exercise our religion, which includes an official rite for blessing same-sex relationships.

And, of course, Anti-Semitic and Anti-Islamic rhetoric has also continued a troubling rise here at home.

The universal value of freedom to practice your religion does not extend to permission for religious groups to restrict others from having that same freedom. People of all faiths, both domestically and around the world, need to continue to promote the ideals of actual religious freedom and tolerance.

The Rev. Jared Cramer serves as rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven and as dean of the Lakeshore Deanery of the Diocese of Western Michigan. His reflections on life and ministry can be found at carewiththecure.blogspot.com.

Comments

Lanivan

How's this? Our "tyrannical government mandate", aka Obamacare, forces citizens to use Viagra by covering it via "government fiat", regardless of their religious beliefs, which will lead to more porn and thus greater tolerance towards same sex marriage; which will lead directly to everybody "letting it all hang out" and the inevitable dissolution (or worse) of "all societal norms", and the demise of Western Civilization as we know it, with the greatest impact on the Institution of Marriage among Humans, and included in that demise, but not limited to, gerbil/wombat populations.

Wingmaster

Funny how twinkling in the wind finds the linked article (aka windchime)..hmmm why the interest in the article? Twinkle away just don't get any on ya!

GrandHavenJohn

You retired guys crack me up. Keep up the good work!

Yaright

I was just thinking the same thing...hours of noting to do...wow

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