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Religious freedom is an essential element of human dignity

Published: Wednesday, July 29 2015 1:43 a.m. MDT

Deacons sing during a liturgy in Baltimore to kick off the Deacons sing during a liturgy in Baltimore to kick off the "Fortnight For Freedom," a two-week, national campaign to draw attention to religious freedom. Roman Catholic bishops organized the education effort to fight what they consider government attacks on religious liberty. (Patrick Semansky, AP)

“A common theory about freedom of religion suggests that such a value is grounded in a modus vivendi, or compromise: People agree to respect each other's freedom in order to avoid religiously motivated strife,” according to Robert P. George and Katrina Lantos Swett in an article for the Wall Street Journal.

But this view fails to take into consideration that religious liberty is not just a matter of “sensible social compromise, or just and American ideal or a Western value, but an essential element of human dignity.”

According to George and Swett, religious liberty is as fundamental a right as the rights to freedom of speech, press or assembly, and “for those who regard humans not just as material beings but also as spiritual ones — free, rational and responsible — it is obvious that their spiritual well-being is no less important than their physical, psychological, intellectual, social and moral well-being.”

When religious liberty is viewed in this light, it should affect the thoughts and policies of the U.S., conclude George and Swett: “Today, when religious freedom in many parts of the world is under siege, one of the aims of U.S. foreign policy should be to combat such intolerance — not just because religious freedom reduces the risk of sectarian conflict, but more fundamentally because it protects the liberty that is central to human dignity.”

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company