Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Freedom of worship
Freedom of worship and freedom of religion have two totally different meanings. Freedom of religion is a matter of choice but not of action. Freedom of worship takes choice to the point of action. What is a belief of the mind and private to everyone but the individual, becomes manifest the moment an individual begins to carry out a physical manifestation of that belief.
Second of the "Four Freedoms"
When President Roosevelt outlined the second of the Four Freedoms in his State of the Union address to the United States Congress in 1941, he stated that the second freedom was "freedom of worship". It was the right of every person anywhere in the world to worship God in his or her own way.
The foundation document of the United States of America is the Declaration of Independence which states that basic freedom flows from "Nature" and "Nature's God". There is no further identification of this God. It was in that same spirit that President Roosevelt outlined the second of the Four Freedoms.
Unfortunately in recent years sectarian violence in the name of religion has come to the front pages of the world's newspapers and to the headlines of radio and television news bulletins.
It mattered not in the closing years of the 20th Century and the opening years of the 21st Century whether the violence was provoked in the name of Protestant Christianity or Catholic Christianity when the subject was peace in Northern Ireland. The same holds true for Israeli Jew versus Palestinian Muslim, who both refer back to the same holy texts about Abraham being the father of their peoples.
Freedom of worship is the ability of all peoples to not only believe, but to act out their belief, without doing harm to any other person who holds a different belief and a different mode of worship.
Application of this freedom
The ideals of the "Four Freedoms" were embodied into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 due to the work of the widow of President Roosevelt. A freedom of the individual to worship God in his or her own way runs into problems when the application is applied to more than one person. When two people hold different interpretations of how to worship God, conflict can and often does arise.
If a nation is a theocracy or if a nation is composed of a majority who all worship God in the same way, the chances of conflict are diminished because all individuals want to apply this freedom of worship in the same way. But of course this does not help the minorities within those majority countries. They are immediately in conflict with the social and economic system.
If an employer discharges an employee for failure to report to work on a day that the employee considers to be a holy day, or a day of rest, the employee may hold that their own individual right to freedom of worship has been violated. The only way around this problem is for the employee to address the issue of worship, if it is outside of the mainstream, before seeking employment. In this way a contract can be established between the parties, especially when employment laws are created to make such contracts possible. Violation of the terms of an employment contract due to a surprise action on the part of the employee is neither fair to the employer, nor an ethical undertaking for the employee. Honesty, disclosure and a meeting of the minds is the foundation of all contract law. Dishonesty, concealment and ambiguity are viewed as reasons to void a legal contract.
Freedom of worship was the normal rule in Antiquity, where a syncretic point-of-view identified strange deities as foreigners' acceptable conceptions of more familiar gods. A community of traders could expect to be autonomous in a city under their own laws, with freedom to worship their own gods. When the street mobs of separate quarters clashed in a Hellenistic or Roman city, the issue was generally a perceived infringement of some community's rights. The Greek-Jewish clashes at Cyrene provide a disastrous example, but all the cosmopolitan cities were the scene of tumults.
Some of the historical exceptions have been in regions where one of the revealed religions has been in a position of power: Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam. Others have been where the established order has felt threatened, as shown in the trial of Socrates or where the ruler has been deified, as in Rome or the Persian empire, and refusal to offer token sacrifice was similar to refusing to take an oath of allegiance. This was the core for resentment and the persecution of early Christian communities.
Freedom of worship in India was encapsulated in an inscription of Asoka:
King Piyadasi (Ashok) dear to the Gods, honours all sects, the ascetics (hermits) or those who dwell at home, he honours them with charity and in other ways. But the King, dear to the Gods, attributes less importance to this charity and these honours than to the vow of seeing the reign of virtues, which constitutes the essential part of them. For all these virtues there is a common source, modesty of speech. That is to say, One must not exalt one’s creed discrediting all others, nor must one degrade these others Without legitimate reasons. One must, on the contrary, render to other creeds the honour befitting them.
During history some countries have accepted some form of freedom of worship, though in actual practice that theoretical freedom was delimited through punitive taxation, repressive social legislation and political disenfranchisement. Compare examples of individual freedom in Poland or the Muslim tradition of dhimmis, literally "protected individuals" professing an officially tolerated non-Muslim religion. In Islam the proscribed punishment for apostasy is death. These protections, being highly selective and advanced to communities rather than individual, could also be withdrawn. They were examples of the ruler's beneficence, not inalienable rights.
In most parts of European society there was no individual freedom of worship from the suppression of non-Christian worship with the Theodosian decrees of 391 AD, under the influence of Ambrose of Milan until the Enlightenment of the 18th century. Even 16th century edicts of toleration (Augsburg, Nantes) left little room for individual freedom of conscience, under the principle of cuius regio eius religio ("Whose the region is, his religion"), and did not extend toleration to small powerless minorities, like Anabaptists.
In 1944 a joint committee of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America and the Foreign Missions Conference of North America, formulated a Statement on Religious Liberty:
Religious Liberty shall be interpreted to include freedom to worship according to conscience and to bring up children in the faith of their parents; freedom for the individual to change his religion; freedom to preach, educate, publish and carry on missionary activities; and freedom to organise with others, and to acquire and hold property, for these purposes.
- Four Freedoms - modern and legal origin of the term "freedom of worship".
- Freedom of religion
- Religious toleration - is sometimes allowed in various degrees by states as a form of legal endurance in the absence of absolute freedom of religion, when a supreme religion has been previously established by a state.
- Religion and abortion
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