TEXAS FAITH 71: Is religious freedom under attack in America?

Dallas Morning News,

Dallas Morning News,

Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

Is religious freedom under attack in America? If you think so, please explain your reasons.

If you think not, please explain your thoughts.

Some Catholic institutions certainly contend religious freedom is under attack.

Last week, 43 Catholic organizations, including the University of Notre Dame and the dioceses of Dallas and Fort Worth, filed suits in federal courts protesting the Obama administration’s requirement that employers provide workers free birth control.

The original mandate exempted houses of worship, but did include religiously-affiliated organizations and charities. After receiving complaints about their inclusion, the White House offered a compromise that would require insurers to pay for the coverage of workers in such organizations.

But the leaders of those 43 Catholic institutions believe they still face questions of religious freedom. "Our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance," New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan said in explaining the lawsuits.

Catholic organizations aren’t the only religious institutions that are questioning whether religious freedoms are being restricted in America.

Students at Vanderbilt University are protesting a decision by the school to require religious groups to allow people who don’t share their beliefs to run for office in their organizations.

A March poll by Public Religion Institute showed that 61 percent of white evangelical Protestants contend religious liberty is under attack.

And the roiling debate over the sanctioning of same-sex marriages has raised questions in some traditions about whether their religious liberties are being challenged.

Of course, not all Americans think their religious freedoms are under attack. The Public Religion Institute’s poll found that 56 percent of respondents felt religious freedoms were not being threatened.

So, where are you on this issue?

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas 

Although America is a misguided country, ever guided towards materialism, there is freedom of religion in most cases.

I can state this because although the Vedic tradition is over 5,000 years old and its prevalent practice in America has been around for only 40 or so years, the rights of such practitioners have been mostly upheld and not obstructed.

To see all responses of the TEXAS Faith panel click here.