Last week the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, an independent, bipartisan U.S. agency, released its 306-page report in which a majority of its members reached the alarming conclusion: “religious exemptions to the protection of civil rights based upon classifications such as race, color, national origin, sex, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity, when they are permissible, significantly infringes upon their civil rights.” 

The report goes on to claim that the terms “religious freedom” and “religious liberty” are essentially just “code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any other form of intolerance.” 

Apparently, according to the commission, religion and its practices in this country must yield to whatever “civil rights” that may exist now or may be “discovered” in the future. Compromise and respect for the rights of others is no longer possible and religious freedom must yield and give way to the politically correct concept of civil rights. 

This should be a wake-up call to the 80 percent of Americans who believe in God. This change, supported by the secular progressives now controlling our government’s social and political policy, has already reared its ugly head. Just ask the Little Sisters of the Poor about how the arrogant administrators of Obamacare, in the name of and motivated by the sexual revolution, are attempting to require these devoted nuns to financially support in their work the use of contraceptives and abortifacients, or face millions of dollars in fines and penalties — dollars that could otherwise be used to feed, house and warm the people for whom they care. This litigation is now pending decision at the U.S. Supreme Court. 

As we look to the future, it is appropriate and important that we consider and evaluate the two major presidential candidates’ views on the issue of religious freedom. 

Donald Trump, not having held previous public office, is devoid of a public record in this area. However, he does pledge that he would appoint persons to the judiciary, including the Supreme Court, who will protect and respect religious freedom as it is provided for and protected in the U.S. Constitution. 

On the other side, Hillary Clinton has an extensive record on the question of religious freedom and civil rights. Here is just a sampling of her public assertions and statements: 

• While delivering the keynote address to the Women of the World summit in 2015, she stated, “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.”

• She has regularly opposed all state versions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that protects religious freedom while guarding traditional civil rights.

• She supports laws that mandate people to provide business services to others despite that person’s good faith position that to do so would violate sincerely held religious beliefs.

• She supported the government’s failed attempt to require employers to pay for and provide contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient insurance coverage for their employees, despite religious objections to doing so.

• She continues to strongly support late-term or partial birth abortion and has stated that “unborn people don’t have Constitutional rights.” This is a position contrary to that of 90 percent of Americans who oppose this sort of merciless taking of human life, and is repugnant to almost every organized religion in America. 

Our next president will make at least one, and possibly several appointments to the Supreme Court, as well as to the Civil Rights Commission and to many critical federal agencies. The direction our country will take regarding our fundamental right to meaningful freedom of religion now hangs in the balance. Our next president will determine whether we exercise and enjoy our religious freedom or we could surely lose it. 

We should all give this issue careful thought and reflection as we vote to elect our next president. Whether we preserve “One Nation Under God” really does matter.

James T. Grady lives in Rochester.