Is Religious Expression Over? American Teen Shares What His Hindu Faith Means

Religious freedom has been a distinguishing feature of American culture since its early days. But an onslaught of negativity from the media and educational institutions seems to have taken a toll on religious freedom. With the increase of safe spaces and regulation on university campuses and throughout the public square, religion is being pushed to the sidelines of American society.

Such attacks on religious freedom are nothing new, but they may have reached a new level of intensity. A survey conducted by Amicus in 2015 found 58 percent of millennials agreed with the statement that religion “is personal and should not play a significant role in society.”

In other words, 58 percent of millennials believe you can be religious, just as long as no one knows. Glenn responded to these findings with a call to return to a Constitution-based foundation.

“We need to find ways to shore up the Constitution and start teaching the Constitution,” he said, adding that educating the next generation with these fundamental freedoms is essential. “They will not rise up to protect or defend something [when] they don’t even know what it is.”

So what does the Constitution have to say about religion?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Then what do young people have to say?

We interviewed Rajesh, a millennial from the Dallas-Fort Worth area (who asked us to change his name), to get his perspective on religious expression as a young, Hindu American. His responses were eye-opening.

Meet Rajesh

A frisbee throwing, trombone playing, 18-year-old, Rajesh was recently accepted at the University of Illinois where he plans to study computer science. It's his dream to enter the field of bio informatics or artificial intelligence.

Outside of sports, studies and musical pursuits, Rajesh can occasionally be found at the Dallas-Fort Worth Hindu temple.

Ornate architecture at the Dallas-Fort Worth Hindu Temple. Photo from DFW Hindu Temple Society Facebook page.

Born in New Jersey, Rajesh moved to Texas when he was a toddler. He said his religion makes up some of his earliest memories and was an important part of his life growing up. His parents, who were both born and raised in India, taught him many aspects of the Hindu faith, which he continues to practice today.

"Like many people know, there are a ton of deities and there a ton of different ceremonies and rituals," Rajesh said.

Although not highly devout, Rajesh said he enjoys participating in the rituals and traditions, because it allows him to unite with friends and family.

"I still go to the temple with my family, occasionally on Sunday," he said. "My mom still has me do puja in our puja room in our house occasionally. I go to some religious ceremonies."

Puja is most easily explained as a prayer session. Some of the ceremonies he described involve festivals with chariots, fireworks and color-throwing. He also described some of his religious dietary practices.

"One minor thing is that I don’t eat any meat. Mondays and Thursdays, in particular, are considered to be 'auspicious' days. So as it is we don’t eat pork, but on those days we don’t eat chicken, eggs or fish," Rajesh said.

Ceremonial items at the Dallas-Fort Worth Hindu Temple. Photo from DFW Hindu Temple Society Facebook page.

When asked how he feels about the importance of such festivals and practices, Rashesh said it's "not a huge deal."

"I think they’re important to the culture that’s associated with India and Hinduism itself," he said. "But I personally don’t really care if it stays or not. I think for my mom and my dad it’s pretty important to them, but for me and my brothers, it’s not a huge deal."

Rajesh said he, like many Hindu people, considers Mahatma Gandhi a role model who inspires him in many ways. Admitting he'd never experienced the type of opposition Gandhi did, Rajesh seemed fine with allowing people to exercise religion freely, so long is it does not interfere with the basic rights of others.

Regarding his future religious practice, he said, "I don’t care too much for the small everyday things, but I do like the things like Diwali, Holi and when we go to the temple, when you see all these families coming together. I do like that and probably will carry that on."

Conclusion

As the political divide deepens in America, it's important we allow ourselves to be exposed to new cultures, practices and traditions. Our nation needs healing. The more love, empathy and understanding we can show towards others, the less divided we will be.

It's time to return to the Constitution of our nation. No longer can we urge people to hold back on living their religion due to risks of offense and discrimination. Regulation and indifference are strangling the life out of our culture.

In a takeaway from the survey on religion among millennials, Emily Hardman, president of Amicus Communications, emphasized religion is more than an institution:

It is linked to the very core of their human dignity, that religious belief above any other right is what makes us human, that ability to seek truth, to embrace truth and to express that truth is score to what it means to be human.

Because faith is more than just a thought, the exercise of religion must be tolerated as it is what holds the fabric of this nation together.

What about you?

We believe many members of Glenn's audience have stories worth sharing with the potential to touch people's lives and influence the world for good. If you'd like to share your story and have it featured on GlennBeck.com, let us know in the comments section below.

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This was one of the first homesteads in the area in the 1880's and was just begging to be brought back to its original glory — with a touch of modern. When we first purchased the property, it was full of old stuff without any running water, central heat or AC, so needless to say, we had a huge project ahead of us. It took some vision and a whole lot of trust, but the mess we started with seven years ago is now a place we hope the original owners would be proud of.

To restore something like this is really does take a village. It doesn't take much money to make it cozy inside, if like me you are willing to take time and gather things here and there from thrift shops and little antique shops in the middle of nowhere.

But finding the right craftsman is a different story.

Matt Jensen and his assistant Rob did this entire job from sketches I made. Because he built this in his off hours it took just over a year, but so worth the wait. It wasn't easy as it was 18"out of square. He had to build around that as the entire thing we felt would collapse. Matt just reinforced the structure and we love its imperfections.

Here are a few pictures of the process and the transformation from where we started to where we are now:

​How it was

It doesn't look like much yet, but just you wait and see!

By request a photo tour of the restored cabin. I start doing the interior design in earnest tomorrow after the show, but all of the construction guys are now done. So I mopped the floors, washed the sheets, some friends helped by washing the windows. And now the unofficial / official tour.

The Property

The views are absolutely stunning and completely peaceful.

The Hong Kong protesters flocking to the streets in opposition to the Chinese government have a new symbol to display their defiance: the Stars and Stripes. Upset over the looming threat to their freedom, the American flag symbolizes everything they cherish and are fighting to preserve.

But it seems our president isn't returning the love.

Trump recently doubled down on the United States' indifference to the conflict, after initially commenting that whatever happens is between Hong Kong and China alone. But he's wrong — what happens is crucial in spreading the liberal values that America wants to accompany us on the world stage. After all, "America First" doesn't mean merely focusing on our own domestic problems. It means supporting liberal democracy everywhere.

The protests have been raging on the streets since April, when the government of Hong Kong proposed an extradition bill that would have allowed them to send accused criminals to be tried in mainland China. Of course, when dealing with a communist regime, that's a terrifying prospect — and one that threatens the judicial independence of the city. Thankfully, the protesters succeeded in getting Hong Kong's leaders to suspend the bill from consideration. But everyone knew that the bill was a blatant attempt by the Chinese government to encroach on Hong Kong's autonomy. And now Hong Kong's people are demanding full-on democratic reforms to halt any similar moves in the future.

After a generation under the "one country, two systems" policy, the people of Hong Kong are accustomed to much greater political and economic freedom relative to the rest of China. For the protesters, it's about more than a single bill. Resisting Xi Jinping and the Communist Party means the survival of a liberal democracy within distance of China's totalitarian grasp — a goal that should be shared by the United States. Instead, President Trump has retreated to his administration's flawed "America First" mindset.

This is an ideal opportunity for the United States to assert our strength by supporting democratic values abroad. In his inaugural address, Trump said he wanted "friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world" while "understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their interests first." But at what point is respecting sovereignty enabling dictatorships? American interests are shaped by the principles of our founding: political freedom, free markets, and human rights. Conversely, the interests of China's Communist Party are the exact opposite. When these values come into conflict, as they have in Hong Kong, it's our responsibility to take a stand for freedom — even if those who need it aren't within our country's borders.

Of course, that's not a call for military action. Putting pressure on Hong Kong is a matter of rhetoric and positioning — vital tenets of effective diplomacy. When it comes to heavy-handed world powers, it's an approach that can really work. When the Solidarity movement began organizing against communism in Poland, President Reagan openly condemned the Soviet military's imposition of martial law. His administration's support for the pro-democracy movement helped the Polish people gain liberal reforms from the Soviet regime. Similarly, President Trump doesn't need to be overly cautious about retribution from Xi Jinping and the Chinese government. Open, strong support for democracy in Hong Kong not only advances America's governing principles, but also weakens China's brand of authoritarianism.

After creating a commission to study the role of human rights in U.S. foreign policy, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote last month that the principles of our Constitution are central "not only to Americans," but to the rest of the world. He was right — putting "America First" means being the first advocate for freedom across the globe. Nothing shows the strength of our country more than when, in crucial moments of their own history, other nations find inspiration in our flag.

Let's join the people of Hong Kong in their defiance of tyranny.

Matt Liles is a writer and Young Voices contributor from Austin, Texas.

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