I live in a country with an long established tradition of free speech and freedom of and from religion. I have the right to say anything I choose - as long as my speech does not incite hatred or such. I have the right to choose my relationship with Spirit - which rituals I will observe and which I will not. I give thanks that America has no state agency to ensure that I bow to the east at scheduled times or that I show up to listen to someone's particular version of the hereafter. I am equally thankful that my personal communion with Spirit is not forbidden - even if my beliefs and practices are not those of the majority.
Why would I bother expressing my gratitude? Because these freedoms are not inherent to the nature of life. Freedom of speech and religion are not common in the world even today, and they were less common in earlier times. Far more important, these freedoms are under attack in America today. There are more than a few Americans who would choose to suppress these rights. Perhaps you remember the comics published in Denmark that parodied Allah? The reaction from some was to call for the murder of the comics' authors. But is that so alien to America. Are we strong enough in our support of our American freedoms to support and encourage those who parody religious beliefs and practices that are common in America? Are we strong enough to encourage all sincere religious beliefs and practices however different they may be from the majority? Are we individually confident enough in our personal beliefs that we do not feel that they require government sanction to retain validity? Do Americans in 2009 still have the strength and generosity, as our American forefathers did, to allow others the right to hold beliefs that differ from our personal beliefs?
America is a magnificent country. Amazing things happen here. Electing a president from a racial minority is a magnificent accomplishment. Having a woman in serious contention for the presidency was also a great indicator of acceptancy. We have come so far. And yet, in the area of religious freedom, we appear to be in danger of stepping backward. I fear that America is not yet ready to elect a Buddhist or Atheist President, but I hold that one day America will accept religious differences as easily as racial and gender differences.