The last published report by the Pew Hispanic Center on the subject found that only 8 percent of Latinos identify as atheist or agnostic. In the overall population of the country the Pew Center found that despite a changing social panorama, most individuals still report some sort of religious preference.
Securing the right to worship freely was one of the founding principles of the nation. The pursuit of happiness for the majority of individuals includes the freedom to express religious devotion, the right to frame a home and lifestyle according to specific tenets; and, hopefully, as the demographics of the nation change, to claim without negative repercussions, a lack of religious faith.
The First Amendment to the Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The government is not to promote the ideology of one tradition over any other, since such an endorsement could codify the religion thus making it the dominant belief system and relegating other traditions to “outsider” status. Clearly, this would not secure freedom of religion for the growing and changing population that deserves the same freedoms as the dominant culture.
When the cry arises that the U.S. is a Christian nation, I cannot help but think of the First Amendment and of how it is trampled with such a justification; for this is usually not a declaration of faith as much as it is a justification for one group of people to enshrine their religious beliefs into laws and social policy. The declaration is exclusionary and burdensome to those who follow a different religious path, or for those free thinkers who do not base their world view on religious dogma. It is dangerous, destabilizing, and potentially repressive in the same way that it is in any society that seeks to enforce a religious code against its people. Consider the theocratic tendencies of countries in the Middle East, for example.
Imagine a country where, guided by religious principles, a legislator proposes a law that could potentially punish, with death, a woman who suffers a miscarriage. Georgia State Representative Bobby Franklin proposed such a law, following a pattern of similar legislative attempts that appear to have had a basis in his religious beliefs. The blatant disregard of separation of (Christian) church and state has its modern day roots in the rise of the “religious right” but it continues with election of candidates who make public their espousal of “Christian principles” and their intent to govern within that context.
Any “minority” segment of a population should have a vested interest in limiting the power of a “dominant” religious philosophy to enshrine laws governing a diverse nation. Without such guardianship, we run the risk of fertilizing a society for the growth of oppressive measures that might eventually curtail our own pursuit of happiness.