Does freedom of religion not apply to Muslim Americans?

Freedom of religion is considered by many people and nations to be a fundamental human right. It is the practice that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to practice their religion without persecution. 

In the United States, freedom of religion is a constitutionally protected right provided in the religion clauses of the First Amendment. The First Amendment prohibits the federal government from making a law “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Along with this, The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution also guarantees religious civil rights. It prohibits discrimination, including on the basis of religion, by securing “the equal protection of the laws” for every person.”

Yet, the issue of freedom of religion has become a hot button topic as the 2016 presidential election has candidates addressing who exactly this freedom of religion should apply to. Or rather, if certain people should be subjected to specific laws and restrictions because of their chosen religion. 

This is aimed particularly at those who practice Islam, as anti-Muslim rhetoric has taken center stage when addressing the so-called “war on terror.” 

Since the Paris attacks by ISIS- a group that proclaims itself to be Islamic- there have been at least 42 violent attacks, threats, assaults, protests, and instances of vandalism against Muslims in America. There has also been a rise in anti-Mulsim rhetoric within the Republican party as top presidential candidates debate temporarily banning Muslims from entering the country. 

Leading GOP candidate, Donald Trump, went on record calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” 

President Obama, in a speech given at the Islamic Society of Baltimore in February of this year spoke out against anti-Mulsim rhetoric, stating “We can’t be bystanders to bigotry. Together, we’ve got to show that America truly protects all faiths.”

People’s World took it to the streets to ask the public: What does freedom of religion in America mean to you? How has this situation been affected by politicians and others attacks on Muslim Americans? 

Check out the video to see what they had to say:

Video contributors: Teresa Albano, Rossana Cambron, Mariya Strauss/PW

Photo: Video snapshot


Chauncey K. Robinson
Chauncey K. Robinson

Chauncey K. Robinson is an award winning journalist and film critic. Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, she has a strong love for storytelling and history. She believes narrative greatly influences the way we see the world, which is why she's all about dissecting and analyzing stories and culture to help inform and empower the people.