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The Importance of Freedom of Religion

Category: 2015 Middle School (Grades 6-8)
Student: James Pocchia
School: St. Patrick's School Staten Island, NY (Richmond County)
Teacher: Phyllis Vreeland and Diane Sussuma

Our country is a society built on freedom . While all our freedoms are spectacular, I believe that the greatest of them is freedom of religion. As stated in the first Amendment to the United States Constitution, freedom of religion prevents our govenunent from forcing citizens to practice any single kind of religion. Thanks to this wonderful Amendment, all sorts of religious practices have taken root and spread in our beloved country, from Catholicism to Hinduism . In fact, as reported in the New York Times and Staten Island Advance, my local newspapers, the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, proclaimed his interpretation of our Amendment in his recent Philadelphia speech, fittingly delivered near Independence Hall. We witnessed history unfold before our eyes, as the Pope moved people with his words, announcing that religious freedom is a "fundamental right" for all citizens. Freedom of religion definitely makes the lives of citizens of the United States better. As a citizen myself, I can say with resounding truth that freedom of religion has made life on Staten Island better. No person has to worry about being punished wrongly or being ridiculed for his or her beliefs. For instance, I can freely attend a Catholic school and Sunday mass. One of  my mother's closest friends is Jewish, but my family is Catholic. Thanks to freedom of religion, we can be very close with one another (I even refer to her as my "aunt"), despite the fact that we celebrate different holidays and believe different things. Most importantly, religious freedom means respecting the beliefs of others, and, in the words of Pope Francis, renouncing the use of "religion ... for hatred and brutality". All in all, religious freedom is a special privilege; it should bring all people together and encourage "peace, tolerance, and respect".


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