Religious Freedom, Weapon of Choice

My latest piece for a general audience is now up at The Revealer.

In “Religious Freedom, Weapon of Choice,” I suggest that periodic and obligatory retrospectives on the founding myth of the United States (religious minorities crossing the Atlantic in pursuit of religious freedom) obscure the more sordid history of religious freedom as a tool of American empire. Here’s an excerpt:

This transatlantic story of religious freedom makes America a star in the global drama of religious freedom. It suggests reassuring progress from Anglican religious oppression to American religious freedom. It also implicitly privileges whiteness. Recapitulating this story year after year places the origins of the United States in Europe rather than in the vast and diverse civilizations that predated Europeans’ arrival on the American continent. It also erases the abhorrent transoceanic passage of enslaved human beings like my African ancestors, who crossed the Atlantic as cargo in the holds of ships rather than as pilgrims in pursuit of freedom.
— "Religious Freedom, Weapon of Choice"

After unsuccessfully trying to place a version of this piece at a major American newspaper on “Religious Freedom Day” (January 16), I’m glad to finally have it out in time for the rollout of the annual report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, which happens a little later today (April 29th). Thanks to Kali Handelman at The Revealer for offering the platform!