Freedom of religion refers to a group of liberties that allows people to choose whether to worship and how to worship. International authorities generally regard these liberties to be human rights and in many countries they are considered to be constitutional rights. Although these liberties are widely included in laws around the globe, they are exercised and enforced to varying degrees.
This concept grants people a number of rights. To begin with, it allows individuals to choose which deities to believe in. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that God’s name is Jehovah and he has a son called Jesus Christ. Muslims believe that the creator of all things is called Allah and they do not recognize Allah as having a son. In a place where there is freedom of religion, a person can choose to believe in either of these or any other deities. This includes the liberty to believe in multiple deities.
A person can also choose not to believe in God at all. Atheists should be protected by the same rights as religious followers. In a society where people are free to choose their religions, they are also generally free to change them. Furthermore, each adult should be free to make the choice for herself. This means that a man, for example, should not be granted the right to declare a religion for his family.
Freedom of religion grants a person the right to observe whatever religion has been chosen. That means that followers should be able to possess religious material, gather in places of worships, and generally live lifestyles that reflect their beliefs. For example, Jews should be free to observe the holidays outlined by their faith and eat according to their beliefs. At the same time, Christians should not have Jewish practices imposed upon them.
There are limitations on these liberties, however. Worship does not entitle people to break the law. A person in the United States (US) cannot lawfully commit murder because his beliefs call for human sacrifice.
Some countries have laws that allegedly grant citizens freedom of religion. However, those rights are not always consistently or efficiently protected. When true freedom of religious belief exists, people should not be penalized for their beliefs. In some countries, despite the existence of law, it is an open practice to restrict the best educational, social, and employment opportunities to members of the religious majority. In these countries, people may also be persecuted for choosing their beliefs.