13 Freedom of Religion Quotes You Should Know

freedom of religion

By Freedom Forum

Freedom of religion is one of the five fundamental freedoms protected by the First Amendment. And people of all faiths and no faith have a lot to say about it. That’s not new. People have been talking about freedom of religion for centuries. That's where these freedom of religion quotes come in.

Editor's note: These freedom of religion quotes are arranged alphabetically by the speaker or author’s last name.

Discover 13 of the top freedom of religion quotes from throughout history

1. “We believe that nations are stronger, and the lives of their people richer, when citizens have the freedom to choose, proclaim and exercise their religious identity. We have also learned that the denial of religious freedom or threats to it can cause fear, flight, fighting and even all-out war.” — Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State

In an October 1997 speech at Catholic University’s law school, then-Secretary of State Albright discussed hope for a future of religious freedom around the world.

2. “Well, it is my view that religious freedom is the ability to search for the truth. And wherever that takes you — to organized religion or no religion at all — the government has no role in intervening in that search path.” — Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz, 2017 Free Expression Award honoree

In a 2017 conversation on religious freedom and women’s rights, Arriaga, then commissioner on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, discussed the government’s role in religious freedom.

3. “It is not an accident that freedom of religion is one of the central freedoms in our Bill of Rights. It is the first freedom of the human soul, the right to speak the words that God places in our mouths.” — George W. Bush, 43rd president of the United States

In May 2001, then-President Bush spoke about religious freedom to the American Jewish Committee.

4. “Political freedom cannot exist in any land where religion controls the state, and religious freedom cannot exist in any land where the state controls religion.” — Sen. Sam J. Ervin Jr.

In 1966, Ervin opposed a constitutional amendment on prayer in schools that was proposed in response to an often-misunderstood Supreme Court ruling. Ervin argued the ruling preventing public schools from organizing prayer did not limit students’ private prayer. The amendment did not pass.

5. “In addition, thank God, He has given us freedom of religion. Whatever you may believe, no one can close your church because your religion does not coincide with his.” — The Rev. Billy Graham

This Fourth of July “daily devotion” from the late evangelical minister commented on the Bible verse “Fear God and honor the government.” (1 Peter 2:17).

6. “Religious freedom as a legal right means little unless people of all religions are safe to practice their faith, wear their religious garb, speak their truth and in other ways follow their conscience without fear of discrimination, persecution or violence.” — Charles Haynes, religious freedom scholar

The Freedom Forum fellow for religious freedom penned this call to protect religious expression for all in 2018 after a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue killed 11 people and wounded four.

7. “The constitutional freedom of religion [is] the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights.” — Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States

The Founding Father, who was also an advocate for separation of church and state, said this during a meeting of officials at the University of Virginia, which he founded, on March 29, 1819.

8. “I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.” — John F. Kennedy, 35th president of the United States

In September 1960, Kennedy, then a presidential candidate, spoke to a group of Protestant ministers in Texas about his Roman Catholic faith. Kennedy was the first Catholic president.

9. “Asking for the government to treat us all equally no matter what our belief system is not attacking religion. It’s protecting religious freedom for all of us.” — Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State

The advocate for the First Amendment’s prohibition on the government favoring any religion over any other made this comment in November 2022 in response to criticisms of government policies around religious freedom.

10. “The right to believe or not believe is the most fundamental of freedoms. When religious liberty is denied or destroyed, we know that other freedoms — freedom of speech, of press, assembly, and even democratic institutions themselves — are imperiled.” — Former Vice President Mike Pence

In July 2018, the then-vice president spoke at a gathering of religious freedom leaders from more than 80 countries around the world.

11. “At the core of religious freedom is freedom of conscience. Freedom of conscience is a foundation for freedom of speech, freedom of protest [and] freedom of the press.” — David Saperstein, former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom

Saperstein spoke in November 2016, during his term as ambassador-at-large, at College of the Holy Cross.

12. “As an American and a Sikh, I believe that denying religious freedom to some is denying religious freedom to all.” — Simran Jeet Singh, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Religion & Society Program

Singh posted this comment on X (then Twitter) in May 2016 in reaction to news that a public military college would not allow a Muslim student to wear the head covering required by her faith. A different school approved her request.

13. “The right of religious freedom, while self-evident, is not self-executing. It takes hard work.” — Eric Treene, 2022 Free Expression Award honoree

As special counsel for religious discrimination under four U.S. presidents, Treene led efforts by the Department of Justice to protect religious liberty for all, particularly people of minority religions.

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