Creating Laws without Sacrificing Religious Freedom
Since time in memorial, religion has played critical roles when it came to the creation and establishment of laws governing global societies. There are several cases in point which point at the role that religion has played over the years and in different societies. For instance, to the Islamic world, the Sharia laws have primarily been used to govern the people. The Sharia law derives its tenets from the Quran, which doubles up to be the holy book of the Muslims. On the other hand, the Holy Bible carries Mosaic Laws which were used to govern the Jewish people on their way to the Promised Land. While such cases existed in the past, the reality of the culturally diverse modern world complicates the role of religion when it comes to law creation. The different religions have different beliefs which make it practically impossible to have laws pegged on them. Therefore, the only sure way of creating laws without sacrificing religious freedom is through a commitment to the non-establishment of religion.
First, it is important for law makers across the world to acknowledge the diversity of the modern day world. Virtually all societies from all over the world are made up of people from different walks of life and who also profess different faiths. In this view, the choice of any one religion as the primary source of a society’s laws will result to the infringement of religious freedom of some people. This understanding then informs the need by societies from across the world to commit to the non-establishment of religion as the only sure way of guaranteeing religious freedom in their laws. By non-establishment, the law makers have the sole responsibility of separating law-making from their religious belief. No single religion should be elevated as a religion of choice when considering the set of laws that are instituted to govern a society.
Religious freedom is equally important to ensuring that religious freedom are not sacrificed at the altar of law making. It must be appreciated that moral are derived from different sources. However, the two main sources of societal morals are the laws of the land and the religious beliefs. Therefore, while formulating the constitution, lawmakers must appreciate the fact that the constitution and religious belief work in tandem to create a just society. However, while coming up with the laws of the land, the constitution must reign supreme of all religious beliefs. Making reference to “The Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Dr. Martin Luther King, it is evident that Dr. King relied on his religious beliefs to push for the freedom and the rights of the citizens of color (King, 2012). Dr. King used his beliefs as a Christian to demand for what the U.S. constitution provided for all citizens of America. It is however important to note that it is not Dr. King’s religion that made it possible for the blacks to gain their rights, but rather the U.S. constitution that provided for these rights.
Societies that have attempted to establish religion within their constitution have ended up limiting religious freedom. Take an example of San Suu Kyi’s excerpt from “In Quest of Democracy”. Here, Kyi notes that in the quest for democracy, the people of Burma have not only explored political theories and practices of the outside world, but they have also looked into the spiritual and intellectual values which have shaped their environment. Kyi further notes that if “ideas and beliefs were to be denied validity outside their geographical and cultural bounds of their origin, Buddhism would be confined to north India, Christianity to Middle East and Islam to Arabia (Kyi, 1992). This view serves further to support the idea that the only way to guarantee religious freedom in culturally diverse world is to stay away from establishment of religion in the constitution.
Societies that have tended to have established religions have ended up denying others religious freedom. This has especially affected Islamic nations that have stuck with Sharia Law. One of the factors that led to the ISIL uprising was the need to create a society governed by the Sharia Laws. Counties that have stuck with such a system of governance have not only ended up as failed democracies, but have also failed to guarantee a significant percentage of its populace religious freedom (Sullivan, 2005). Cases in point include Somalia, Syria, Iraq, and Turkey among others where Christians, for example, are discriminated against and are not allowed to exercise their religion freely.
In conclusion, the only surest way of guaranteeing religious freedom in culturally diverse world is when societies commit to the non-establishment of religion in their constitutions. In other words, people should be given the freedom to exercise their freedom as long as it does not interfere with the rights of others. Furthermore, legislatures must stay away from promoting any single religion as being superior to the other especially when it comes to formulating the laws.
- King Jr, M. L. (2012). Letter from Birmingham jail. Liberating faith: Religious voices for justice, peace, & ecological wisdom, 177-187.
- Kyi, A. S. S. (1992). In quest of democracy. Journal of Democracy, 3(1), 5-14.
- Sullivan, W. F. (2005). The impossibility of religious freedom. Princeton University Press.