Author Tom Gilson offered insights as to how to understand "religious freedom" in the broader context instead of settling with secularists' redefinitions.
In an article in The Stream, Gilson states that the secularists' agenda is to strip the nation of its religious freedoms. They work hard in their simplistic semantics in an attempt to discredit the common good for which religious freedom stands for.
Rob Boston of The Humanist defines religious freedom, saying "Religious freedom has not traditionally been interpreted to allow one person to cause harm to another - and subjecting someone to discrimination is certainly a form of harm."
Glison counters this by poking holes at the logic of deliberate generalization. He argues that "discrimination" "can't 'certainly' and always be a form of harm," and is what "we do every moment of every day" and provided examples. His bottom line is to not brand all forms of "discrimination" as "certainly" harmful. Unjust discrimination could rightfully be called harmful, but it will all again fall back to definitions of terms.
"So is it unjust discrimination when we make decisions based on sexual behavior?" Gilson asked.
"We're not asking which view of homosexuality is correct, after all, but which view of religious freedom is," he continued.
"Our question here is, Does religious freedom mean having the right to take a controversial moral stand?"
By framing that question, Gilson's challenge is for readers to ask themselves whether it's worth asserting their constitutional right to religious freedom or not.
What the Founding Fathers Had in Mind
Religion, as understood today, does not have a homogenous definition. Different groups have diverse interpretations as to what constitutes a religion. Nonetheless, Gilson concludes that every religion has one thing in common: a morality-based code of behavior.
"Our Founders enshrined freedom of "religion" that doesn't fit any reasonable definition of religion, then or now," Gilson explained.
While not everyone may agree to one religious group's moral code, under the constitution, they still have the right and freedom to act on their convictions.
"Therefore, when the states ratified the Bill of Rights, they purposely intended to ratify freedom to discriminate based on moral choices," he concluded.
Freedom from Religion vs Religious Freedom
Gilson believes that the Founding Fathers have seen first-hand what happens when religion goes wrong:
"Still, they believed it was better for the sake of liberty to leave religions free to correct themselves, and even to correct the state, than for the state to interfere with religious practice."
Gilson states that there's a good reason for that. Since power can easily corrupt man, imagine the horrors that will be perpetuated in a nation when citizens are powerless to challenge oppressive policies based on their moral convictions because religious freedom is suppressed.
"Religion is voluntary, ordered toward humility, and oriented toward eternity, all of which tends to check its earthly tendencies toward abusing power," Gilson explained.
"When the state starts tilting into tyranny, though, there's little to stop it, or perhaps nothing at all except the people's strength and moral wisdom - which do not come from the state," he added.
On Race and Slavery
Gilson acknowledged that religion, specifically Christianity, has been weaponized by the state to further selfish agenda. History has plenty of records on that including slavery, land grabbing, and racial injustices.
On the flip side, Gilson pointed that corrective efforts have also sprung from within this religion. William Wilberforce and his peers put in a lot of work to abolish slavery. The same could be said about the civil rights movement led by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"This was Christians correcting Christians, with the state finally stepping in to seal the answer in law," said Gilson.
This corrective action gets replicated even on the case of discrimination toward homosexuals and other social issues. Gilson vouched that Christians have been doing it for centuries, so it's best to just allow the process to play out.
The free exercise of religious conviction, according to Gilson, must be considered in "light of other harms... including those that the Founders were seeking to prevent in the First Amendment."