Backing Religious Liberty - For All

By Terry Mattingly Modified: April 3, 2013 at 12:55 am •  Published: April 3, 2013
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The bottom line is that religious liberty is important for believers and unbelievers alike, and is linked to the success of any state or government, said Thomas Farr, director of the Berkley Center. Studies indicate that religious liberty promotes economic development, women's rights, political stability and improved care of the poor and the vulnerable.

But severe restrictions on religious freedom, especially for religious minorities, are increasing and not just in the developing world, he said.

"Christians are the most likely victims and Muslims come in a close second. While most of the persecution takes place outside the West, neither Europeans nor Americans can afford to be complacent," said Farr. "Social hostility toward religion is rising faster in Europe than any other region of the world. And here in America, where religious liberty has long been considered the first freedom of our constitution and our history, both social hostility and government restrictions on religion are on the rise."

For Warren, the key is for Americans to be willing to stand up for the rights of others, even those whose religious beliefs they believe are eternally in error. Many American Christians "need to repent" because they have failed to display that kind of true tolerance, he said.

"God gave us the freedom to chose. ... We make moral choices," he noted. "God gives me the freedom to choose what I believe. God doesn't even force me to love him -- he gives me the choice to love him or reject him. He gives me the choice to obey him or to disobey him. If God gives me that choice, then I owe you that choice and you owe me that choice."

(Terry Mattingly is the director of the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and leads the GetReligion.org project to study religion and the news.)

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