True Religious Freedom Must Acknowledge Intersecting Identities

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Religious and cultural diversity are among our nation’s greatest strengths. The vibrant tapestry of America is made of people with diverse identities, backgrounds, and experiences. Religious freedom, guaranteed by the First Amendment, is the possibility of a nation in which people of all faiths, philosophies, and identities can thrive. 

But all too often, people with intersecting identities find themselves targets of discrimination. A recent survey of nonreligious people found that, “LGBTQ persons regularly conceal their nonreligious beliefs and are more likely than their non-LGBTQ peers to encounter stigma and discrimination in nearly every aspect of their lives — education, employment, mental health services and within their families — due to their beliefs.”

Nonreligious LGBTQ People Face Heightened Stigma

Just as people are free to explore matters of faith and personal conscience, people should also be free to express their sexual orientation and gender identity without fear of discrimination or harm. For people who face discrimination on the basis of their nonreligious beliefs and LGBTQ identity, the effects of stigma can be particularly harsh. 

The survey found LGTBQ participants encountered significantly higher levels of discrimination than their non-LGBTQ peers in every area. One-third (33.2%) of LGBTQ participants encountered negative experiences or discrimination in education settings due to their nonreligious beliefs, compared with 28.1% of non-LGBTQ participants. LGBTQ participants were one-fifth (20.3%) more likely than non-LGBTQ participants to have encountered negative experiences or discrimination at work. These disparities were also demonstrated in healthcare and adoption or fostering programs. 

True Religious Freedom Protects All Faiths and None

Complex and intersecting identities reflect American’s national diversity. True religious freedom protects the rights of all Americans, both those who practice a religion or those who don’t profess a particular faith. It doesn’t privilege or assume dominance of any one viewpoint, enabling all of us to thrive. 

In fighting for both religious freedom, we must embrace opportunities to reaffirm that all people–not just people of faith–are protected by the First Amendment. We must embrace a future where all are free to follow the religion of their choosing or no religion at all, with respect for the autonomy of others to do the same.

Learn more about how Interfaith Alliance works to advance true religious freedom for all.