On January 16, people nationwide will commemorate two important things: National Religious Freedom Day and Dr. Martin Luther King Day. In essence, these two are connected. Dr. King fought for racial equality and opportunity for all Americans to have equal rights, and National Religious Freedom Day is designed to acknowledge the free exercise of religion so that students and teachers can be comfortable sharing their beliefs. Discrimination, hatred and violence against those exercising their religion often generates negative news stories.
It’s often been said that religion and politics are two topics to avoid simply because of the many differences someone can encounter.
While you may have friends who embrace the opportunity to share with everyone they encounter, children learn from an early age how to go about expressing their feelings and emotions. Freedom of speech is one of the First Amendments taught in school. How can we use that right along with discussing religious freedom?
Well, the First Amendment of the U.S Constitution states the following: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Interesting how the First Amendment is designed to protect our freedom of religion. Yet, some are unaware of National Freedom of Religion Day. In Hosea 4:6 God says, “My people perish for a lack of knowledge.” How often in society do we see the consequences of not having knowledge of key issues?
Churches and religious organizations have a unique platform where they can educate their congregation on the importance of religious freedom. There is strength in unity, which is evident when brothers and sisters who share a common denomination understand the importance of sharing their belief. The main message students especially should hear from the pulpit is that they should not be afraid to express their beliefs at school.
Fear is what Satan feeds on, and in the case of limiting evangelism and prayers within the school system, fear enables him to continue to create havoc. We need teachers to encourage students to take part in expressing their faith.
As we know, there are many different denominations which people in society identify with because of their personal beliefs.
If Pastors and church leaders take time out to encourage members about religious freedom, then they will be better equipped to handle situations in which their denomination could be attacked by those who don’t support their belief.
We’re living in a society today where people don’t see a need for religion but more so want to just live their life. The church can help those who are unsure how to express their beliefs by openly discussing the need to exercise the First Amendment right.
Understanding the significance of National Religious Freedom Day starts with congregations providing resources for children, teachers and educators on how they can use their voice in the classroom. As the younger generation embraces the opportunity to freely express their religious beliefs, then communities around our schools and churches will begin to improve. It all begins with using a platform such as a minister to remind members of the congregation that we’re are to be light for the lost in society. Our light shines bright as we celebrate National Freedom of Religion.
A Guide to Religious Freedom
A Free Speech pamphlet available at www.religiousfreedomday.com is designed for congregations to provide to their members and identifies seven freedoms which enable students and teachers to exercise their religious freedom:
- Students can pray, read their Bibles or other religious material, and talk about their faith at school.
- Students can organize prayer groups and religious clubs, and announce their meeting like any other club.
- Students can express their faith in their class work and homework.
- Teachers can organize prayer groups with other teachers.
- Students may be able to go off campus to have religious studies during school hours.
- Students can express their faith at a school event.
- Students can express their faith at a graduation ceremony.
Tyrone Hall is a recent graduate of Florida International University and a freelance writer. He can be reached at [email protected]