The United States was founded upon the principles of freedom of religion. Our history as a country implores us to remember the importance of this right. Everyone has the right to believe in and to practice whatever religion appeals to their humanity and their souls. However, in recent years, there has been a challenge to the concept of freedom of religion in America. This has become a significant discussion in the 2016 presidential election. The Republican nominee, Donald Trump, has threatened to block people from entry into the United States based solely upon their religion. He has been widely condemned for this statement, even by members of his own party (Dreher, 2015). I believe that his positions on condemning people for their religious beliefs to be reprehensible. I firmly believe that freedom of religion means everyone has the right to choose what to believe. Religion is a personal decision. It is the most personal decision an individual has, as it tends to formulate the very principles by which the individual will live his or her life.

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Therefore, I believe that freedom of religion is the cornerstone of the United States. If the United States is truly to be a country of free and independent souls, these people have a right to decide what they want the guiding ideals of their lives to be. Freedom of religion is this right. One must remember the importance of freedom of religion in the history of the U.S. to recognize its importance. Our first settlers were Puritans and Pilgrims. These groups fled the religious persecution of the Religious Wars of the 16th and 17th Centuries in Europe. They were willing to sacrifice the comfort of a settled world and forge a new life in a wilderness just for the right to worship their chosen God. Furthermore, when the Founding Fathers wrote the Bill of Rights, they did so to ensure the citizens that their rights would be enumerated and protected in the founding document of their nation. Of the original ten amendments called the Bill of Rights, the first one established the right for freedom of religion. The other nine also contain vital safeguards for freedom. However, none of these are as important as freedom of religion.

Freedom of religious allows an individual the right to choose what church, temple, mosque, or other place of worship to attend. This place of worship may be a gathering in the woods for people who profess pagan beliefs. At a time when the Puritans sought freedom of religion, they also persecuted those who were “witches” or pagans. I had hoped that we had evolved to a time when all religious beliefs are accepted. It seemed that we had recognized that there were more than the Abrahamic religions. However, the recent persecution of Muslims clearly indicates otherwise. Freedom of religion recognizes that Islam is a right for those who believe in it.

I have seen religious freedom both expressed and denied in my life. I have had the ability to make friends of multiple religious beliefs. They have enlightened me as to their beliefs and their practices. No, I have not had a desire to join them in these beliefs. However, I strongly believe that my worldview has been expanded by their ability to share their beliefs with me. They do not need to hide in the shadows of society; rather, they can declare their beliefs openly. This allowed me to realize the importance of freedom of religion.

However, I have also seen it denied. I have heard supporters of Donald Trump indicate that they agree that Muslims should be banned from the U.S. They do not believe that the Islamic faith is consistent with American beliefs. Ironically, this very statement is what is inconsistent with America.
Religious freedom is the cornerstone upon which America was founded. If we attempt to preserve our American way of life, we must recognize this.

    References
  • Dreher, R. (2015, December 7). Trump trashes religious freedom. The American Conservative. Retrieved from: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/trump-trashes- religious-freedom-muslim/