by Rev. Dustin Bartlett
November 18, 2016
“ You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” – Exodus 22:21
When I was first approached about writing a weekly article for the Custer Free Press, I was specifically asked to write about religion. Not about Christianity in particular, but about religion in general. Of course, I am a Christian pastor. I approach the subject of religion from the perspective of my own religion, and most of my articles reflect that perspective.
This article is different. That’s because this is an article about religious liberty, and for religious liberty to mean anything it must be extended to all religions.
During the campaign, Donald Trump said a number of things that should deeply concern people who believe in religious liberty. He called for a ban on all Muslims entering the country, and suggested that all Muslims already in the country – including U.S. citizens – should be required to register and be tracked in a government database. Now that he is the president-elect, there is evidence he may be planning to follow through on his campaign rhetoric. One of his advisors has said that they are discussing plans for a registry of immigrants from Muslim-majority countries.
This should go without saying, but apparently it doesn’t, so I’m going to say it clearly: Religious liberty cannot exist where the government is directing suspicion at people simply because of their religion. And religious liberty – like all freedom – only truly exists where it protects those in the minority.
I am not a Muslim. I am a Christian in a country that is still majority-Christian. These policies, should they be enacted, are unlikely to affect me directly. But if people in the majority religious group don’t stand up for religious liberty when it is threatened for others, then there is no guarantee that it will exist should we ever become the members of the minority. That’s how freedom works – it exists for all of us, or for none of us.
So, for all people of faith, this is a time to take a stand. The government should not have programs or policies that apply to members of one religion but not another, and in our democratic system that means that the government needs to hear from you. Call or write the members of your local, state, and federal government and make clear that the government should treat all religious people the same. And speak to your Muslim neighbors, and let them know that they are not alone.
I know that you’re probably tired of hearing about the election, but this matters. Religious liberty matters. It is foundational to the success of American democracy.
And although this is an article about religious liberty in general, I’ll remind my Christian sisters and brothers that Jesus once said that treating others as you would have them treat you is a pretty good summary of the of what the Bible has to say, and I’m guessing you, like me, don’t want the government forcing all Christians to register in a database.