Life Without The First Amendment 

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My, I and my family would be one of many who would be hugely impacted if our 1st amendment freedom of religion was taken away. We are one of Jehovah's Witnesses and there are currently 13,036 congregations (or places of worship) around the country. In us alone, there are 1,234,877 Jehovah's Witnesses. That's 1 Jehovah's Witness in every 265 people. We as a whole have worked so hard that on June 17, 2002, the US Supreme court reestablish the decision handed down in the 1940s that granted constitutional protection in the public ministry (Watchtower Bible and tract society of New York INC. VS village of Stratton).

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Hence, the right to freedom of religion is a fundamental human right for the United States according to Article 18. In some lands, this exercise of this basic freedom by Jehovah's Witnesses results in imprisonment and even cruel mistreatment. This happens because some refuse to do military service and others simply practicing their faith. In fact, recently Russian authorities are intensifying their attack on Jehovah's witnesses. As of January 21, 2019 police had placed 22 witnesses in pretrial detention, 26 under house arrest, and 40 are not allowed to leave the area they live in, on top of the many who were put in prison for their faith.

In addition, since February 2018, law enforcement officers that are heavily armed have forcibly entered Jehovah's witnesses' homes pointing guns at homeowners, older ones, and children. For example, Dennis Christensen was arrested unjustly after police officers disrupted a peaceful weekly religious service in Oryol, Russia. His trial began in February 2018 and there were 50 more after that. In one of these trials on April 23, 2018, according to The watchtower and tract society, “ The prosecutor, Mr. Fomin, charged Mr. Christensen with ‘organizing the activity of an extremist organization,” Hence, the Local Religious Organization (LRO) of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Oryol, which was shut down in June 2016 under unjust charges of extremism. Mr. Christensen’s attorneys objected to the charges because the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Oryol is not a legal entity, but a group of peaceful worshippers who meet together to study the Bible. His attorneys emphasized that Russian authorities, by their own admission, did not ban the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses and that Russia’s constitution guarantees the right to claim one’s religious beliefs. In upholding the decision to ban the LRO of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Oryol, the Supreme Court stated: “The right of such members to profess their chosen religion will not be violated, since they are not deprived of the possibility of independently conducting worship services not associated with the distribution of religious literature of extremist content.”

Sadly, in foreign countries (mainly Russia) there has been an increase in persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses. In Russia, they did not simply just shut down the legal entities of the witnesses but also try to deny them the right to practice their religion. Attorneys for these innocent witnesses have so far been unsuccessful in trying to end all the unjust imprisonments. Now they have submitted complaints to the UN Human Rights Committee and Field Application with the European Court of human rights. Jehovah's Witnesses all over the world hope that these international courts will soon take some action to stop the unjust attacks on their religious freedom. We are simply trying to spread good news and peace to everyone we possibly can. We do not and will not cause harm to anyone we come across.

I don't have to imagine what my life would be like without the first amendment. There is living proof today what happens to people who don't have this right. I gave just one example of a country that doesn't have this amendment but there are many more like it. Many are falsely put into prison, under house arrest, face cruel mistreatment, and much more. No matter who you are or where you come from, everyone should have this right.  

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