Religious freedom: the freedom to follow the religion of one’s choice and to worship without interference. Religious freedom can also mean to be free of any forced religious belief or practice, as in the civil practice of religious freedom in the USA and some other countries. More recently, laws passed claiming religious freedom assert a right to live according to one’s religious values as a worker or business owner, in all aspects of life, including to discriminate against those who have different values, and where one has the economic and cultural power, to have others live by those values even if they are not their own. Here are some quotes about the tradition and values of religious freedom.

The United States government must not undertake to run the Churches. When an individual, in the Church or out of it, becomes dangerous to the public interest he must be checked.

— Abraham Lincoln

That I am not a member of any Christian Church, is true; but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures; and I have never spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in general, or of any denomination of Christians in particular.

— Abraham Lincoln

The best thing about the battered but not totally defeated American tradition of separation of church and state is that we can and should avoid mixing up God and country.

— Ed Kilgore

America is a religious nation, but only because it is religiously tolerant and lets every citizen pray, or not pray, in his own way.

— editorial, New York Times

The separation of church and state is extremely important to any of us who hold to the original traditions of our nation. To change these traditions by changing our traditional attitude toward public education would be harmful, I think, to our whole attitude of tolerance in the religious area.

— Eleanor Roosevelt

Religious freedom cannot just mean Protestant freedom; it must be freedom of all religious people.

— Eleanor Roosevelt

Anyone who knows history, particularly the history of Europe, will, I think, recognize that the domination of education or of government by any one particular religious faith is never a happy arrangement for the people.

— Eleanor Roosevelt

No religion can long continue to maintain its purity when the church becomes the subservient vassal of the state.

— Felix Adler

Every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience.

— George Washington

The Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.

— John Adams

[The Drafters of the Constitution] were intent on avoiding more than 100 years of religious intolerance and persecution in American colonial history and an even longer heritage of church-state problems in Europe.

— John M. Swomley

The separation of church and state protects people of all faiths and no faith. No religion should be able to exercise control over a government and thereby dictate its theology onto any diverse group of free people.

— Laurence Overmire

Whether it’s racism, homophobia, misogyny, transphobia, xenophobia, religious intolerance or other bias – we demand to live in a country where we can be safe to be who we are, believe what we want and love whomever we want.

— Lucy McBath

We will be a better country when each religious group can trust its members to obey the dictates of their own religious faith without assistance from the legal structure of their country.

— Margaret Mead

America’s freedom of religion, and freedom from religion, offers every wisdom tradition an opportunity to address our soul-deep needs: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, secular humanism, agnosticism and atheism among others.

— Parker Palmer

God enters by a private door into every individual.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

There can be but little liberty on earth while men worship a tyrant in heaven.

— Robert G. Ingersoll

Ultimately, America’s answer to the intolerant man is diversity, the very diversity which our heritage of religious freedom has inspired.

— Robert Kennedy

Those who would renegotiate the boundaries between church and state must therefore answer a difficult question: why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?

— Sandra Day O’Connor

I tell them I have worked 40 years to make the W.S. platform broad enough for Atheists and Agnostics to stand upon, and now if need be I will fight the next 40 to keep it Catholic enough to permit the straightest Orthodox religionist to speak or pray and count her beads upon.

— Susan B. Anthony, on the Woman Suffrage platform

When we respect our blood ancestors and our spiritual ancestors, we feel rooted. If we find ways to cherish and develop our spiritual heritage, we will avoid the kind of alienation that is destroying society, and we will become whole again…. Learning to touch deeply the jewels of our own tradition will allow us to understand and appreciate the values of other traditions, and this will benefit everyone.

— Thich Nhat Hanh

The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

— Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia

Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law.

— Thomas Paine

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church. All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit. I do not mean by this declaration to condemn those who believe otherwise; they have the same right to their belief as I have to mine. But it is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.

— Thomas Paine

Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church and the private school, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and state forever separate.

— Ulysses S. Grant
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