Protection of religious freedom results in a range of secular benefits

Written by William C. Duncan

October 21, 2021

Elder Ronald A. Rasband, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recently published an important opinion piece about religious freedom. He pointed out: “Religious groups regularly fill the gaps between government and people, where many individuals fall through the cracks of social safety nets.”

When religion is given the freedom to flourish, believers everywhere perform simple, sometimes heroic acts of service. The answer to what ails economies and societies is not to be found in bigger government or bigger business but in “bigger” citizens and communities — especially communities in which all faiths can flourish and contribute.


Religion encourages human beings to reach out beyond themselves and serve, encourage, help and ennoble their fellow man. Governments can’t solve human ills; people solve human ills. One of the principal values of religion and religious beliefs is that both tend to result in more caring, more compassion and more desire to alleviate human suffering.

Sutherland has documented how protecting religious exercise has a vast array of secular benefits for individuals, communities and society as a whole:

Higher quality of life: Religious organizations have organized 78,000 mental health programs, 26,000 programs to help people with HIV/AIDS, and 25,000 programs that seek to reduce pollution and improve the environment.

Stronger safety net: Religious households typically donate $2,210 annually to charity, and that giving includes significantly more to non-religious charities than secular households give.

Successful prisoner outreach and rehabilitation: Religious groups provide critical support for inmates in prisons and jails, including direct ministry, reentry programs, and advocacy for reform.

Better child care: People of faith provide essential services to the foster care system through serving as foster parents or supporting others who do.

Less hunger: Churches and religious groups provide food to those who are hungry.

More gender equality: Religious participation is linked to greater average equality between men and women in the home.

Higher-quality education: Religious colleges and universities are an important part of the nation’s educational infrastructure and educate thousands of students.

Care for the homeless: In some major cities, religious charities provide more than half of the services offered to help the homeless.

Improved mental health: Attendance at worship services is associated with significant improvements in mental health.

Better physical health: Attendance is also associated with greater physical health benefits.

Healthier marriages: Religious involvement is associated with stronger and longer-lasting marriages.

Fewer harmful addictions: Religiosity protects individuals from engaging in drug abuse and supports recovery from addiction.

More welcoming communities: Religious beliefs and organizations motivate generous support and assistance to immigrants and refugees.

Expanded economic mobility: Churches provide significant support for those who are looking for work or upgrading skills for better employment.

Stronger families: Religious affiliation and religious practice seem to connect men to their families.

Given these realities, Elder Rasband’s message is apt: “Rather than banishing religious organizations from the public square or overlooking their potential influence, elected officials should create space for faith-based groups to thrive and contribute.”

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