Posts Tagged ‘freedom of religion’

Two Quotes on Religious Freedom

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

Two important quotes on religious freedom:

The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right.

James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, 6/20/1785.

It is important for western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit.

Barack Obama, Remarks at Cairo University on a New Beginning, 6/4/2009.

Please note that in the above statement, President Obama departed from his usage of “freedom of worship,” and granted “freedom of religion” instead to those at Cairo University.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved

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Our Lady and the Public Way

Monday, July 19th, 2010

During September of 2009, the statue of Our Lady of the New Millennium was displayed on the road outside the John Paul II Newman Center in Chicago.

Source: John Paul II Newman Center

This 33 foot tall, 8,400 pound stainless steel statue was commissioned by the late Carl Demma, designed by sculptor Charles Parks, and travels on a flatbed truck equipped with specialized hydraulics to raise the statue. In 1999 in St. Louis, Pope John Paul II blessed this statue, which circulates in Chicago and other areas during visits to hundreds of parishes and religious communities.

An interesting phenomenon sometimes occurs when the statue is present, in that people, especially older people, may bring out their lawn chairs, arrange them in rows, and then sit to contemplate the statue and pray the Rosary. Flowers and candles are often placed at the base of the statue.

During the period in which the statue was displayed in September, 2009, the Director of the Gender and Women’s Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago adjacent to the John Paul II Newman Center raised objections on separation of church and state grounds against the statue being displayed in a public street, and made a complaint to local government authorities.

Below is my response to the university community, dated 9/16/09–

Re: Religious Statue on Morgan Street

Colleague,

In a free society, the public way, is just that, the public way.

What may not be widely known is that the public way in Chicago extends from the center of the roadway, across parkways and beyond the sidewalk, and usually a few inches into the front lawns of most properties. The public way is maintained at public expense for the benefit of all citizens.

On Morgan St. between Taylor St. and Vernon Park Place the road and sidewalk is maintained, at public expense, up to the boundaries of two religious-affiliated institutions, the John Paul II Center and the Levine Hillel Center.

In the constitutionally-protected free practice of their religions, participants at both of these two centers engage in activities which take them into the public way before, during, and after the practice of their religions.

Religious freedom implies public expression of religion. Public expression implies that this expression occurs where it can be seen and heard. Inevitably, in a free society, public expression of religion will take place in the public way, and the law has recognized the right of citizens to use the public way, within reasonable boundaries, for the purpose of religious expression.

From time to time, citizens can request a permit to close down a street for a party, or for a religious observance. The law respects the right of citizens both to congregate peaceably and to congregate for the purpose of the expression of their religion. Cities allow the temporary reservation of public space as consistent with both the right to congregate, and with the right to freely express religious belief.

There are some who would argue against the public expression of religion in any public space whatsoever, and who would reduce religious freedom, which implies the public expression of same, to the status of religious tolerance, which can imply the practice of religion, but religion kept out of the public way entirely.

The US Constitution guarantees religious freedom, not simply religious tolerance. Religious freedom, like other freedoms, inevitably is exercised in public space. As long as the practice of religion does not pose a continuing public nuisance that disturbs the rights of others to freely enjoy the tranquil use of their property, practitioners of religion are within their rights to step from time to time into the public way within the boundaries of the law to express their religion.

To deny the use of any public street under any circumstances by religious practitioners is to deny the practice of religious freedom.

Religious freedom is one of the foundations of this Republic, both in an intellectual and in a social sense. Such freedom drew and continues to draw citizens to our shores, and its very idea draws us together in diversity in a nation, because such freedom is mutually beneficial to a population in which there are substantial differences.

The establishment of religious freedom in America was an advance for humankind. It is essential for the diversity we have achieved as a nation. But religious freedom can only endure as it is continually practiced. One way to support religious freedom is to respect the rights of others who practice a belief that is different from our own. Such an act of respect provides a foundation for diversity.

If UIC truly respects diversity, then we will continue to respect the rights of others to publicly–and peaceably–express their beliefs in public space–even if this expression involves the transportation and display of a large statue for a limited time within the public way.

Universities have been for centuries the defenders of human freedom. It is therefore very contradictory for some at a university to argue against an essential human freedom.

I can’t very well advocate and work for diversity within the University, but to then take offense at the practice of diversity when it appears across the street.

Cordially,

Albert Schorsch, III

I add today, 7/19/10, that those who wish to reduce the American right to freedom of religion, which implies religion in public places, to the more restricted freedom of worship, which may not, are proposing to reduce an essential human freedom. Freedom of religion implies free public expression of religion.

© Copyright 2009, 2010, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved

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