I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. Every Sunday I go to my church and speak those words. Each week, as I stand in my church choir and thank God that I can stand there freely. And I thank God that my friends, most of whom do not share my religion, can go to their synagogues, mosques, and temples or stay home without persecution. While I believe completely in my religion, I also believe that individuals have an unalienable right to their own beliefs.
In the United States, we are lucky to have this right delineated in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights, a document so important that I’ve memorized each of the ten amendments. My favorite line is the first, placed prominently for its importance: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This secures my right to attend my church on Sundays and for others to stay home. Not only can I believe what I want, but I am sure that my country will never try to force a religion on its people.
My grandfather and his family did not originally live in the United States. Before they emigrated to the U.S., they were forbidden from practicing Orthodoxy. As an eight year old boy, my grandfather resorted to attending church services in farm houses at odd hours rather than give up on his beliefs. Eventually his family came to the United States and were free to attend any church.
The religious freedom offered by our country for over 200 years is the reason my family is here now. I am forever grateful that I can believe in One Holy, Ecumenic, and Apostolic Church, that no religion is being forced upon us as a country, and that my friends and I can live together regardless of the many differences in our beliefs.