How much religious freedom do we want? The United States Constitution guarantees religious freedom to all citizens. However, since the establishment of this freedom, there have been continuous debates and modifications. Despite this independence, there have been times when the government felt it necessary to infringe upon religious freedom for various reasons. The question is, at which point it is okay for the government to become involved in religious affairs for the sake of safety and protection?
The Heaven’s Gate religious group is one group in particular that has aroused much controversy in terms of the extent of religious freedom. In 1997, members of this group partook in an infamous mass suicide, claiming thirty-nine lives. There has been an extensive debate as to whether or not the government should have intervened in this group’s practice due to the violence and danger that it obviously posed to its members. However, through the acknowledgment of personal prejudices, an evaluation of coercion, the breadth of violence, legalities, and ethics revolving around this group’s violence, it can be concluded that government involvement in the religious practice of Heaven’s Gate would have been an inappropriate limitation of religious freedom. It would have been legally and morally unjust for the government to prevent the believers of Heaven’s Gate from making independent decisions.
The Heaven’s Gate religious group was started by Marshall H. Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles in the United States in 1972. These two individuals met each other and believed that they were the two witnesses mentioned in the Bible who preceded the end of time. ...
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...norms, many did not understand them and quickly wrote off their beliefs and practices as “crazy” and “dangerous”, causing many to encourage the government’s intervention. Nevertheless, when dealing with such important issues, a decision cannot be made based on personal prejudices alone. After evaluating the willingness of the members to participate, their personal desires to end their lives, the containment of violence, legalities, as well as ethics, the conclusion can be drawn that while many did not agree with the practices of Heaven’s Gate and the initial reaction of many would be to save the thirty-nine lives that were lost, the government should not have stopped their mass suicide in 1997 and should have allowed the members the freedom to make their own decisions regarding religion in order to honor the guarantee of religious freedom and to avoid moral harm.
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