November 2020 Church & State Magazine | People & Events

A group of scholars and theologians issued a report last month calling for an understanding of religious freedom grounded in principles that respect pluralism, nondiscrimination and noncoercion.  

The report, “All Faiths & None: A Guide To Protecting Religious Liberty For Everyone,” was authored by the Law, Rights and Religion Project at Columbia University and Auburn Seminary.  

“All Faiths & None” calls for a vision of religious freedom that is grounded in six principles and contains specific policy resolutions under each one. 

The scholars say religious freedom must be:  

Neutral: Government must treat all faiths and non-faiths equally, and not single out some for preferential or disfavored treatment. For example, it calls for an end to policies that target Islam.

Noncoercive: The report says government services should be provided free from religious coercion, and calls for an end to religious exemptions that foster coercion.

Nondiscriminatory: No one should face discrimination on account of someone else’s religious belief. The report calls for an end to all government policies that lead to such forms of discrimination.  

Nonabsolute: Religious freedom cannot be absolute. Religious freedom, the report asserts, should not be viewed as a right that trumps other rights guaranteed by the Constitution. In addition, the report notes, freedom of religion must operate within the bounds of the “no ... establishment of religion” provision of the First Amendment. 

Democratic: Some religious exemptions, the report asserts, foster anti-democratic results and should be eliminated. The report also calls for enforcement of the Johnson Amendment to ensure that religious groups do not intervene in partisan politics.  

Pluralistic: Religious freedom means freedom for all. The report calls for protection of the rights of religious minorities and nonbelievers and rejects Christian nationalism.   

The report was authored by Elizabeth Reiner Platt and Prof. Katherine Franke at the Law, Rights and Religion Project, and by Dr. Keisha E. McKenzie and the Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson at Auburn Seminary. It can be read online at: https://lawrights ­religion.law.columbia.edu/content/al  l-faiths-and-none.