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America's religious freedom has nothing more than face value

China Daily | Updated: 2022-08-17 08:00

A church in Matthews, North Carolina, the US. [Photo/IC]

Over the past decade, the share of US people identified as Christians has fallen from 77 percent to 65 percent, and the share of those with no religious affiliation has risen from 17 percent to 26 percent, while the share of people affiliated to a certain church has dropped from 70 percent in 1999 to 47 percent in 2020.

At the same time, discrimination against non-Christian beliefs, politicization of religion, rampant Christian nationalism, church scandals and the prevalence of cults run rampant in the United States, proof of how "religious freedom" in the US has been seriously infringed upon.

The principles of separating the church and the state and freedom of worship have been written into the US Constitution, but some states stipulated that only Protestants could hold public office and established official churches supported by the state government for long after the founding of the nation. Discrimination and persecution against Catholics continued into the 20th century, and discrimination against Judaism also runs deep in the US.

Former US president Donald Trump used hatred of Islam as a political tool to get votes in 2016 and issued a travel ban on nationals from select Muslim countries shortly after taking office. Even atheism has been stigmatized in the US, with many Americans associating it with immorality and even criminal behavior.

US judges often falsely cite atheists' "lack of morality" as an excuse for denying them child custody. Seven states still have laws prohibiting atheists from holding public office or testifying in court.

Religion has been increasingly politicized and religious belief has been seriously threatened by political struggles in the US. Political struggles over "religious liberty" even extend to the US Supreme Court, which handled only three "religious liberty" cases in the first 100 years of the US' founding, but more than 70 cases in the last 80 years.

Many churches in the US, the Catholic churches in particular, have become mired in scandals, seriously violating the freedom of religious belief and human rights of the believers.

In such an environment, a large number of Americans have broken away from mainstream society and are resorting to religious fanaticism, resulting in the emergence of cults. Although most cults are rarely exposed because of their small scale and secretiveness, many of them have caused extremely serious humanitarian disasters in the US.

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