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Religious Freedom as a Fundamental Freedom

January 10, 2017

Andrew P.W. Bennett

Faith Communities

Research Report

As we at Cardus continue to advance our efforts to better comprehend, reveal, and reflect on our common life, freedom of religion or conscience looms large. This freedom enables us to live fully as we are and are called to be. It bears witness to the fact that we as human beings have a metaphysical need to make sense of our world and to encounter God.

Beyond the legal framings of religious freedom contained in international human rights covenants is a freedom to contemplate who I am: Who I am in relationship to you; who I am in relationship to the created world; and who I am in relationship to God or to a particular philosophy. The ability to freely and both publicly and privately act on that metaphysical need is foundational to our democracy, our common life together, and indeed to our capacity to recognize and actively embrace the dignity each one of us bears. Without the guarantee of this freedom we are no less free in our interior life, but when freedom of religion is threatened or ignored, the living out of our public lives of faith can be undermined, sometimes gravely so.

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