Religious freedom is a fundamental value of a democratic society. But after more than 200 years of struggling to extend this value widely in the United States, it is threatened in our time. We have become complacent, but it is not too late.
Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, drafted in 1777 was shepherded through the Virginia legislature in 1786. The Statute’s idea that one’s religious identity should be neither an advantage or a disadvantage under the law, underlies the approach to religion and government taken by the Framers of the Constitution and the First Amendment. But the challenges we face are real and we need to consider a 21st century approach that protects the rights of conscience of everyone in our time..
Frederick Clarkson is Senior Research Analyst at Political Research Associates, a progressive think tank in Somerville, Massachusetts. He has been writing about religion and politics for more than three decades. His work has appeared in a wide range of publications from Mother Jones, Church & State, and Ms. Magazine, to The Christian Science Monitor, Salon.com and Religion Dispatches. He has worked as an investigative editor at Planned Parenthood Federation of America; as Communications Director at the Institute for Democracy Studies; and co-founded the group blog, Talk to Action. He is the author, co-author or editor of several books including Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America, and Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy.
He has been called on by the media for expert analysis for his entire career. He has been quoted in major newspapers including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. His radio and television appearances include National Public Radio, Democracy Now, Al Jazeera, the BBC, and the CBS Evening News.
Follow Frederick on Twitter @FredClarkson
Shared charity: Shriners Hospital for Children, Springfield, MA
Presider: Monica Weiss