“…to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God”.
On December 17, 2014, Hungary passed a law that bans Sunday shopping. The reason, as stated in the article, was that it “protects Sunday as a Christian day of rest”. Other article claims this law will “boost family togetherness”. The point of view in writing this post does not come from the stand of the shopaholic who likes to dawdle in shopping enclaves on her weekly day off from work. The vantage point in writing is that of a Christian whose day of rest is not Sunday. It is apparent that, on the one hand, lawmakers are thinking of family togetherness and are helping Austrians, Germans and Hungarians to it. On the other hand, they profess to be guardians of the Christian day of rest. I would like to review the concept of religious freedom from the point of view of a Bible-abiding Christians who protects Saturday as the Biblical day of rest.
Religious Freedom – a Definition
Technically speaking, religious freedom means the freedom to choose and practice one’s own religion. According to the Article 18 from the Universal Declaration of Rights, anybody has the “freedom of thought, conscience and religion”. The right to religious freedom is mentioned, one way or another, by all international declarations that comprise the acknowledgement of fundamental human rights. It is valid for the constitutions of most democratic countries: freedom of religion is not a right that the state or the civil authority grants its citizens, but a right that goes beyond the juridical order, which the state has the duty to guard and protect.
The Impact of Religious Freedom on Other People’s Life
To be sure, a creed or the practicing of various religious rituals can be declared illegal, but nobody should be allowed to do away with one’s right to allegiance to religious, philosophical or political concepts. Therefore, in addition to fundamental human rights (the right to life/thought/religion etc.), there are rights that can be called “conditional”: the right to expression, to peaceful assembly, to association, the right to practice certain rituals. Religious freedom deals with the latter category.
If religion is defined as worship brought to Divinity, the framework of discussion becomes highly objective: religious duties become more than mere personal options – they are made known by revelation, defined by God Himself. Since God is the Supreme Good, then genuine religion can only be a good-upholding one. No group that opposes individual and collective good can be called religion and can claim the right to become manifest in the name of religious freedom. God never forces anyone to obey and worship Him. Religion, as the Word of God puts it, should only come as an act of reason-infused love:
If you love Me, you will keep my commandments (John 14: 15); Anyone who loves Me will obey My teaching (John 14:23).
The moral perfection of the Divinity involves love and freedom. In order to love their fellow-being who has a different religion or practices different rituals, one does not need to find out whether she/he is right or wrong. Being a human being who is searching for their way in life is enough. He/she is free to say what he/she believes. One is free to listen to them, evaluate, make a decision. One is free to say what one believes in and she/he is free to listen to one, evaluate and make a decision. One’s freedom ends the moment the other person’s freedom begins. Love has a golden rule:
Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets (Matthew 7:12).
Unfortunately, as the course of human history has plentifully shown, laws can sometimes be used to limit religious freedom, persecute religious minorities and suppress freedom of expression. It is my hope that governments vigorously oppose them, thus avoiding any situations when a day of rest is enforced for all Christians.
http://www.bne.eu/content/story/hungarian-parliament-passes-sunday-shopping-ban (accessed on October 22, 2015);
http://www.latimes.com/world/europe/la-fg-hungary-shopping-ban-20141216-story.html (accessed on October 22, 2015);
http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#a18 (accessed on October 22, 2015);
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_religion (accessed on October 20, 2015).