Earlier this year, with appropriate fanfare, we acknowledged the 50-year anniversary of the March on Washington. Many of us paused to consider that pivotal event and what it means to America today. There were numerous public discussions on how far we have come in race relations, how far we need to go and how the civil rights movement influenced other movements for equality — for women; the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community; and people with disabilities, among others.
Though these discussions covered an array of important social, economic and political issues, they were generally silent on a matter that touches many Americans: religious bias and discrimination. Most discussions failed to consider how our nation’s powerful movement for justice and civil rights affected freedom of religion for people from every tradition and none. To be fair, addressing religion and those who are religiously different is not easy. To be true to the promise of liberty from which the civil rights movement drew strength, we must find ways to include people from religions that are different from the traditional Christian base of our nation. We must also acknowledge and include people who consider themselves “none,” meaning people who don’t identify with any religion (e.g., atheists, agnostics, spiritual but not religious).