Freedom of religion and the Greater Church of Lucifer

Raw Story recently reported on the recent opening of the Greater Church of Lucifer (GCOL) in Spring, Texas, and the activity surrounding it. It should be no big surprise that some Christians in the area protested the opening, with such remarks as this one from a protester:

This is what we get when we have freedom of religion… We ought to be filling up the whole street here, that they have to pass through us to get into that church.

According to local news reports, the church was the target of vandalism. This is not only against the law, it violates the very rules that Christians are supposed to live by according to the Bible, one of those being “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31, Matthew 22:39).

Let’s go back to the protester’s quote for a moment. Freedom of religion means freedom to practice any religion, no matter how unconventional, unpopular, or weird. It’s not a “get out of jail free” card to break the law (for example, the GCOL wouldn’t be able to do goat sacrifices any more than any Christian church would be allowed to do something similar based on Old Testament scripture).

If one were to have asked that woman months prior to the GCOL opening if freedom of religion were a good thing, odds are she would have answered along the lines of “yes, people should be allowed to worship God however they please.” But it’s about more than that. From the First Amendment to the US Consitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

(Later case law has extended this to apply to state and local governments as well. See Free Exercise Clause on Wikipedia.)

Oddly enough, the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment has been used by Jehovah’s Witnesses over the years to get laws discriminating against them struck down. I will admit Jehovah’s Witnesses, even among some Christians, aren’t held in that high of regard; I, personally, can understand wanting to spread the gospel, but here in 2015, knocking on doors of strangers is just not the way to do it. Even decades ago, I’m not sure it was the best way to go. I mean, I know where to get a Bible and where the church is if I want to go. It’s not that hard to find the gospel if one really wants it, unless one is literally in the middle of nowhere (even in rural America, churches are not terribly hard to find, though they may be miles away from where one lives).

Anyway, freedom of religion is for everyone. It prohibits the government from discriminating against Christianity (both Protestant and Catholic denominations), Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, neo-pagan religions (such as Wicca), Pastafarianism, agnosticism, atheism/humanism, and yes, even Satanism and Luciferianism. This is of course not an all-inclusive list, but it should give you some idea as to just how diverse religions and systems of belief can be.

This is something that the Christian zealots quickly forget. Many of them want freedom of religion for themselves, but not for the many other faiths practiced across the country. If freedom of religion is there for Christians, it also has to be there for atheists/humanists and organizations like the Greater Church of Lucifer. Anything else is discriminatory.