Latest News

Understanding Religious Liberty in East Asia: A Matter of Definitions and Legacies

By Helen Faulk

The idea of religious liberty as a universal human right is a complex and nuanced subject accepted by one’s culture and world outlook. This is especially true for East Asian countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, Japan etc. where the idea of religious liberty as a universal human right is increasingly discussed, however in practice is not applied to a country’s laws a or social fabric due to several issues including the variations of religious liberty’s definition, cultural ideals, and historical legacies.                                                                                             

First, there is no definitive term for what exactly religious freedom is or entails. There are common definitions when discussing religious liberty.  The “non-interference standard” focuses with no bias discrimination, support, or regulation for any religion (C 36).  The “neutrality standard” bans religious discrimination with the exception of government regulation if done so equally to all religious entities(C 36). The final “minimalist standard” only on prohibits religious discrimination while still being able to support any religious entity (C 36).  The ability to evaluate an idea such as religious liberty as a universal right thus becomes more difficult without a set definition to guide its application to a society. As cultural influences also shape the perception of what religious liberty is, religious freedom as a universal human right’s application in East Asian culture is, thus to a degree trapped by definition ambiguity creating variance on the interpretation on how religious liberty is and should be carried out occur.

East Asian cultural being generally collectivist greatly influences how universal the right of religious freedom is. A collectivist culture values the peace, safety, and order of the group (family or company) as the basic unit of the of society over the needs of the individual. The values of the base unit of the group in such societies are maintained by individuals knowing their place and usually adhering to a strict moral code that enforces the order. The strict adherence to a moral code for the safety of the group often comes into conflict with the idea of religious freedom as a universal human right. Religions often hold their moral codes in at least some aspects above civil laws, which can threaten the security of a group or a nation in such a culture. If individuals are not abiding by the same moral code, then confusion on an individual’s place in the society and treatment by the civil law arises. Such dynamics often cause division among different sub-groups of East Asian societies, which threatens the primary goals of peace, and order for the group of a collectivist culture. While the above progression of events is somewhat simplified, the overall threat that religious freedom poses in East Asian cultures is still the central idea. Overall, collectivist cultures often view human rights within the lens of how risking an individual’s rights are to the safety of the group before implementing a proposed right into their societies.               

The religious nationalism is another issue in East Asian culture concerning religious freedom. Religious nationalism can be defined as: “a social movement that claims to speak in the name of the nation, and which defines the nation in terms of religion” (Neo 6). Religious nationalism often causes tensions between major religions and political parties in East Asia countries.  Religious nationalism is also often associated with new religions being viewed as intruders to the nation, which can upset of the status quo of the religious climate of a county. Such a dynamic can involve an “us versus them mentality” producing violent reactions in some cases.  Religious nationalism, because it relies on a moral code to enforce a political viewpoint, could threaten the group safety of a country with warring political and moral parties vying for power.  The dynamics of religious nationalism, thus often discourages the universal right of religious liberty in East Asian countries as it is associated with being a cause of social distress. A several centuries historical legacy also threatens religious liberty’s ability to be considered a universal right in East Asian culture. First, many East Asian countries were occupied by European powers during the age of Imperialism in the late 19th and early 20th century.  During the age of Imperialism, the traditions and ideals of Western European culture were often forced upon East Asian countries, especially, the push to adopt Christianity. Christian missionaries were often viewed as meddlesome and at points abusive relating to their often lack of wanting to try to understand and respect the rights of East Asian people’s native religious beliefs. Such sentiments derived from Imperialism make the current push for religious liberty seem historically hypocritical coming often from a western perspective which only a few centuries early who at times tried to eradicate native East Asian religious cultures.  Religious freedom, especially when coming from Western influences, thus is often not viewed as an idea of equal treatment of the beliefs for all individuals.                  

Within the last hundred-fifty years, many East Asian countries either were communist for some period of time or are currently communist.  The main issues with communism in regards to religious liberty are it is either nationalized or suppressed altogether for the sake of a nation’s identity. Such principles in communism naturally suppress the idea of religious liberty as a universal human right.  Combining the unequal treatment of religious freedom during imperialism and the suppression of often religion in general with communism in recent centuries religious liberty, unfortunately, is often met with resistant or not considered an important matter.               

While the idea of religious liberty as a universal human right is increasingly seen as a need in East Asian countries, several terminological, cultural, and historical factors prevent its universal application as a human right from coming to fruition in East Asian countries. Several delicate and overlaying factors must be considered when promoting the ideal religious freedom as a universal human right with cultural and historical legacies often posing as the greatest obstacles to changing the law and hearts of men towards to be more accepting towards religious liberty.  


C, Jonathan. “Freedom of Religion in Southeast Asia: An Empirical Analysis.” Review of Faith & International Affairs, vol. 14, no. 4, Routledge, Dec. 2016, pp. 28–40,

Neo, Jaclyn L. “Religious Freedom and the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration: Prospects and Challenges.” Review of Faith & International Affairs, vol. 14, no. 4, Routledge, Dec. 2016, pp. 1–15,

Helen Faulk is a Psychology major with a writing minor at Southern Adventist University. She is pursuing a career pathway towards becoming a librarian in a public or collegiate setting who is also interested in teaching. Her other goals include publishing a book of poems or a novel. She enjoys reading a variety of subjects being particularly interested in the folktales and fairy tales of other cultures, which have helped her understand the conceptual historical legacy of the principles of East Asian culture that she used to draft my article.

Why Religious Liberty Matters

By Jared Butler

“Is religious liberty a universal human right? Discuss the meaning of this term as it is understood in a culture, country, or intellectual tradition different from your own.”

I believe that everyone should have a right to religious liberty.  It is a human right. Religious liberty is the freedom to practice religion. The reason why we have the right to have religious beliefs is because of the first amendment. Religious liberty was made the official part of the US foreign policy by the International Religious Freedom Act, which was created in 1998. The International Religious Freedom Act promotes stability in a relatable society. Religious liberty is a human right because it contributes positive quality to a human life and this is not just a benefit to the individual but to society as a whole.  

Religious liberty is first of all human rights, for it requires the dignity and holiness of human conscience. It also includes the right to worship, observation, practice, expression, and teaching. If we didn’t have religious liberty we wouldn’t have the right to worship or practice religion. Practicing religion benefits us because it’s the solution to connect with God and gives us a feeling of hope.

Religious liberty is also important for societies to give humans an opportunity to relate to each other. Learning the importance of religion will lead to meaningful positive lives. For example on a personal level, my family and I socialize with people at church; we socialize by having conversations and participating in events such as attending church fairs with the Pathfinder Club, picnic at the park. The other activities that they organize for social interactions between church members include the beach, picnics, and potluck. The church social events gives people the opportunity to relate to each other.  Overtime, casual social interactions can lead to meaningful interpersonal relationships that improve the quality of people’s lives.

Religious freedom encourages respect, decreases corruption, inspires peace, and gains trust to the people around us. If we didn’t have the freedom of religion we would only live as political or economic individuals. Also without it we would start losing our civil liberties as well because religious liberty is considered important to civil liberties. We need religious freedom because it leads us to wisdom and the result of laws that lead us to liberty. To make religious freedom an official right and prevent it from being taken.  James Madison implied that George Mason should rewrite The Virginia Declaration of Rights that says, all men are entitled to the full and free exercise of religion. He also helped write the first amendment.  The opening statement he wrote was Congress shall make no law respecting a creation of religion or forbidding the right to exercise religion.

Give people the opportunity to worship that they believe in, and in the way they want to.  Since religious freedom applies to institutions, it gives people the freedom to exercise their beliefs. Religious institutions put people together with God.  A relationship with God gives people hope. Hope inspires people to have a positive outlook on life and they contribute in a positive manner to their families and communities.

Religious liberty impacts our ability to flourish and we are able to build a strong vibrant environment. It also impacts the freedom we have to live out our belief at work, religious freedom also created the space for making positive contributions in our society. Since religious freedom impacts the income level on each person there will be less poverty and more success in our lives.  

Religious liberty gives us an opportunity for good health. As a Seventh Day Adventist, the way we eat is influenced by our religious beliefs. One of the foundations of the Seventh Day Adventist church is the health message. The health message of the Seventh Day Adventist church encourages a balanced and healthy eating lifestyle that makes us healthy physically, mentally and spiritually.  Also, we keep the Sabbath holy. This gives us an opportunity to give our body rest from all of our activities during the week that make us tired and weary. We get to take one day out of the week to relax and reset to put us in the frame of mind for all of our work in the up coming week. This form of religion also gives humans an opportunity to maintain good health and good quality of life.

To conclude, take away a person’s religious freedom, you also take away a human’s right to life, liberty and their pursuit of happiness, which under the Constitution of the United State, every one has a right to. Religious freedom is a fundamental human right.  

Jared Butler is in 10th grade at Oakton High School in Vienna, Virginia. His goals are to be a veterinarian and to be certified as a lifeguard. He was born in Huntsville, AL and moved to Virginia in 2011 where he attends Solid Rock Seventh-day Adventist church. He enjoys video games, math, science, history, and swimming. He is active in his local Pathfinder Club. 

Founders’ First Freedom Announces Essay Contest Winners

We are pleased to announce the Founders’ First Freedom High School and College Essay Contest winners and would like to thank all those who submitted entries.

The winning college essay, submitted by Helen Faulk, is entitled, “Understanding Religious Liberty in East Asia: A Matter of Definitions and Legacies.”

Helen Faulk

Ms. Faulk is a Psychology major with a writing minor at Southern Adventist University. She is pursuing a career pathway towards becoming a librarian in a public or collegiate setting who is also interested in teaching. Her other goals include publishing a book of poems or a novel. She enjoys reading a variety of subjects being particularly interested in the folktales and fairy tales of other cultures, which have helped her understand the conceptual historical legacy of the principles of East Asian culture that she used to draft my article.

Jared Butler

Jared Butler submitted the winning high school essay, entitled, “Why Religious Freedom Matters.”

Mr. Butler is in 10th grade at Oakton High School in Vienna, Virginia. His goals are to be a veterinarian and to be certified as a lifeguard. He was born in Huntsville, AL and moved to Virginia in 2011 where he attends Solid Rock Seventh-day Adventist church. He enjoys video games, math, science, history, and swimming. He is active in his local Pathfinder Club.

Both essays will be posted at the Founders’ First Freedom website.

Founders’ First Freedom Files Amicus Brief in Darrell Patterson v. Walgreen Co.


LOS ANGELES, CA – Today, Founders’ First Freedom, Inc., filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in Darrell Patterson v. Walgreen Co.Docket No. 18-349, in support of Darrell Patterson’s petition for writ of certiorari before the United States Supreme Court.

The case involves the accommodation of the religious beliefs of an employee who refrained from working on a Saturday as doing so would violate his faith and was terminated as a result after refusing an “accommodation” consisting of a demotion with no guarantee for future religious accommodation. While some Circuit Courts of Appeal have permitted similar cases to go forward to trial where juries can decide whether a proposed accommodation is reasonable or would impose an undue hardship on the employer, the trial court dismissed this case on summary judgment without allowing it to go to trial.

According to Michael Peabody, a Los Angeles attorney and president of Founders’ First Freedom, “Despite Congress’ incorporation of the EEOC Guidelines via the passage of a 1972 amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was intended to bolster the right to accommodation of religious beliefs, the circuit courts are presently divided on what this means.  The circuit courts are divided on what the ‘reasonably accommodate’ and ‘undue hardship’ mean for employers and employees. The uncertainty surrounding the meanings of these terms has resulted in litigation that would be avoided if clarity was provided by the Court. Patterson provides this Court with the ideal vehicle to address both of these terms.”

“In this case, the Court has the opportunity to provide clarity that will help reduce the amount of litigation by creating reasonable expectations before issues arise. While current interpretations of employer and employee obligations vary between the circuits and the EEOC, this case presents the Supreme Court with the opportunity to promote consistency and predictability in a manner that is respectful of both religious beliefs and diverse business situations.”

Attorney Walter E. Carson, vice president of Founders’ First Freedom, is no stranger to religious accommodation cases having successfully obtained an 8-1 decision in Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Comm’n of Florida, 480 US 136 (1987), on behalf of a Seventh-day Adventist who had been denied unemployment compensation by the state of Florida when her employer objected to paying benefits claiming that she did not qualify as she had been terminated for refusing to work on her Sabbath.  The opinion, drafted by Justice William J. Brennan Jr., found that a state cannot deny unemployment benefits to an employee dismissed for having religious conflicts with the employer. This Court found that the state had violated the Free Exercise Clause by pressuring religious adherents to modify their religious views in order to retain work or benefits.

Founders’ First Freedom, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization incorporated in 2005 that exists to uphold liberty of conscience and to pursue a cooperative approach to resolving disputes between parties in cases affecting religious freedom. Founders’ First Freedom is the successor organization to the Council on Religious Freedom, a non-partisan, non-profit national advocacy group formed in 1986 that appeared frequently in court on issues involving the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses and associated legislation.



Link to Amicus Brief: 18-349 Amicus (Founders’ First Freedom)

Link to Supreme Court case materials in Darrell Patterson v. Walgreen Co. (Docket No. 18-349)

Liberty Magazine and Founders’ First Freedom High School and College Writing Contest

Introducing the “Founders’ First Freedom” high school and college writing contest!

Contest description:  Short essay, less than 1,200 words on the question:

“Is religious liberty a universal human right? Discuss the meaning of this term as it is understood in a culture, country, or intellectual tradition different from your own.”


First place winner in each category (College and High School) receives $750. Second place winner in each category receives $500.


Winners and finalist essays may be published in Liberty or on the Liberty Magazine and/or Founders’ First Freedom websites.




E-mailed or postmarked by September 1, 2018


You may enter using e-mail to essaycontest@foundersfirstfreedom.org or mail to:

Founders’ First Freedom
PO Box 571302
Tarzana, CA 91357

Include:  Name, e-mail address, high school or college, year in school, and word count.

Winners will be announced in the January / February 2019 issue of Liberty.

All entries must be unpublished and 1,200 words or less. Works must be submitted in English. The work must be your original work and you must own the rights to the essay (cannot have previously sold it or use copyrighted material without permission).

The author (you) will retain all rights to the essay, and will grant the contest sponsor the right to publish in print, on the contest web page, Facebook, and/or in other essay collections.

Only one entry per person is allowed.

The decisions of the judges are final.

Every effort will be made to make the contest fair and unbiased. Immediate family members (children and siblings) of the finalist judges are not permitted to be winners.

Further information will be available at FoundersFirstFreedom.org


Founders’ First Freedom is an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to educating the public about issues involving liberty of conscience.



Founders First Freedom welcomes ReligiousLiberty.TV to online portfolio

Los Angeles, California – On September 19, 2017, the board of directors of Founders First Freedom, a non-profit organization that promotes religious liberty, voted to merge with ReligiousLiberty.TV, a website dedicated to celebrating liberty of conscience.

Founders First Freedom was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) organization in 2005 to carry forward the desire of John and Cecil Hedrick and the Hedrick Family Trust to educate the public about religious liberty. In 1981, the Hedricks approached John Stevens, Sr. and told them about their interest in religious freedom and religious ministry. They decided to create an organization to advance the cause. In 1985, they formed the Council for Religious Freedom which eventually turned into Founders First Freedom.  In 1986, John Hedrick passed away followed by Cecil Hedrick in 1991.  John Stevens, Sr., continued to guide the organization until his death in 2015.

Today, the organization is led by Michael Peabody, who serves as president, vice-president Walter Carson, Glenn Fuller, Kent Hansen, Alice Farley, Karen Scott, and Hedrick family attorney Dave Larkin. John Hedrick’s cousin, Betsy Phillips, now in her 100th year, serves as an advisor to the board.

Launched in 2008, ReligiousLiberty.TV is a website featuring breaking news and analysis in the field of religious liberty. The website will continue with its current board of advisors and editorial staff.

Our Purpose

Incorporated in 2005, Founders First Freedom is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that exists to foster, uphold, educate and promote the principles of religious liberty in any one or a combination of the following ways:

  1. By upholding the freedom of personal choice to adopt, not to adopt, or to change a religious belief.
  2. By upholding the individual’s right to speak in the determination of personal belief and in the advocacy of ideas.
  3. By upholding and educating individuals in the United States regarding the principle of separation of church and state and the freedom of the press as defined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
  4. By arousing public opinion concerning the importance of religious liberty as the fundamental human right through education and evangelistic dissemination.
  5. By educating the public and government representatives through all appropriate means and instrumentalities, including but not limited to publications, radio, television, internet, audio-visual presentations, lectures and seminars regarding the principles of religious liberty and its vulnerability within the United States of America.

News – SCOTUS schedules Trinity Lutheran, 7th Circuit Rules on Title VII, and more

Religious Liberty Newsbriefs

The U.S. Supreme Court will finally be hearing oral arguments inTrinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley on April 19, 2017. The Court granted certiorari in January 2016 just before the death of Justice Scalia, and the case has been delayed more than a year. It’s anticipated but uncertain whether Trump nominee Neil Gorsuch will have replaced Scalia by that date on the bench. This case matters because a church is suing the state of Missouri for the ability to participate in a playground replacement program available to other non-profits but not churches under the state constitution. If the Court finds for the church, it could strike a blow to “Blaine Amendments” present in many cases that prohibit state funding of religion.

Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley is also the subject of Founders First Freedoms’ first law student writing competition where law students are being asked to write a model Supreme Court majority opinion in the case. First prize is $1500 and second prize is $750. The entry deadline is 5:00 p.m. on June 23 with judging to be completed in August.  More info is available online at http://foundersfirstfreedom.org/

United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced plans to combat religious hate crimes. In a Memo(https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/955476/download) released April 5,  Sessions states, “We will not tolerate threats or acts of violence targeting any person or community in this country on the basis of their religious beliefs or background.  Accordingly, the Hate Crimes Subcommittee will develop a plan to appropriately address hate crimes to better protect the rights of all Americans.  As with many other areas of the Task Force’s work, we are already making significant progress toward our goal of a safer America.  Recently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, working with law enforcement partners in Israel and elsewhere, helped secure the arrest of a man believed to be responsible for the recent surge in threats of violence against Jewish community centers and synagogues.  I commend their outstanding efforts.”

The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a landmark en banc decision holding 8-3 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination by sexual orientation as it is a form of prohibited sex discrimination. The primary issue is whether the courts can apply current interpretation to existing statutes. Previous courts had ruled that Title VII did not apply to sexual orientation as it was not specifically identified as a protected class. Judge Posner, in a concurring opinion, wrote that although Congress had not passed legislation to expand Title VII to include sexual orientation, “statutory and constitutional provisions frequently are interpreted on the basis of present need and understanding rather than original meaning.” Dissenting justices wrote that “[t]he majority deploys a judge-empowering, common-law decision method that leaves a great deal of room for judicial discretion…. The result is a statutory amendment courtesy of unelected judges,” and called the decision “the circumvention of the legislative process by which the people govern themselves.”   Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana

On March 27, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in three cases brought by employees against religiously-affiliated hospitals. The employees had sued claiming that the hospitals had underfunded their pensions in violation of the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The hospitals argued that they had in fact properly funded the pensions, and even if they had not, that they were actually the same as “churches” and therefore eligible for the exception, regardless of whether they primarily engage in religious activity and regardless of “necessary” involvement with the state in terms of funding and health and safety regulations. Others argued that exempting the large religiously affiliated hospitals and health systems from federal pension protections would violate church-state separation by providing them a financial advantage over secular competitors. l rather than a “religious” issue. A decision is expected later this year. (Advocate Health Care Network v. Stapleton)

On April 3, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on whether a 2016 injunction should be lifted on a Mississippi law, HB 1523, that allows state employees to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and businesses to deny certain wedding-related services to LGBT individuals. Critics of the law state that it is the most discriminatory legislation against the LGBT community in the nation. A decision is expected shortly. During oral arguments, the attorney for the state argued that the 12 plaintiffs who had filed suit against the law lacked standing because they could not establish ‘an injury in fact.” The judges did not seem to buy this argument, and a decision on the merits is expected shortly.  (Bryan v. Barber – you can hear the arguments here)

Scroll to top