By Melissa Butz
The election year is here, with U.S. presidential primary and caucus votes already being cast.
But one bipartisan issue in particular is increasing in global relevance: according to a Pew Research Center report, since 2007, religious freedom restrictions have increased globally.
Whether it is preferring certain religious groups, or the establishment of laws and policies against other religions, restrictions rose more than 44 percent.
Religious persecution is thus stirring greater global concern, and it is an issue that could influence the U.S. presidential elections in 2020.
According to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, every person has the right to safely and freely worship. But Sam Brownback, U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, admits he’s been hearing rising concerns about this “freedom,” and if the amendment still holds true.
“This is a key concern when you’ve got churches and synagogues in the United States being shot up,” he explained.
“Unfortunately, on a pretty regular basis, it happens around the world and people hear about it. You get beheadings taking place in the world because somebody is a Christian. That really stirs people. They’re saying, ‘Look, I’ve had enough. There’s too much of this going on, what are you doing to address it?’”
While a majority of religious persecution is happening outside North America, it’s infiltrating the country little-by-little.
Ambassador Brownback explained how part of his job is to aggressively tackle these issues, both in the states and elsewhere.
For him, having religious freedom supported by both Democrats and Republicans is a key point for the upcoming election.
“It’s going to continue to be, but I think it is an electoral issue,” he said. “The beautiful thing about religious freedom is, to-date, it’s been a strongly bipartisan issue, supported by both parties. We want the topic to stay there, strongly bipartisan, supported by both sides. It’s a basic human right. You should be able to do with your own soul what you choose, as long as you’re peaceful.”
According to a U.S. News World Report, the U.S. ranks as number five in the top 10 countries with the most religious freedom.
It’s topic Brownback said has risen to one of the most important issues for every political party, no matter their beliefs or where they’re from.
It’s enough to agree on the fact that religion should be free.
Religious freedom is more than the ability to worship, it is people’s right to peacefully and publicly live, speak and act according to their beliefs, a right that’s still protected within the United States.