Archive for the ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Act’ category

Pandering To “Deeply” Held Religious Views

April 16, 2016

The Constitution’s first amendment guarantees that Government will not restrict expression of religion. But what is included in this presumed freedom? Can mothers prevent their children from being vaccinated to guard against a communicable disease if their brand of religion believes god will safe guard their child? Or, what if ones religion rules out blood transfusions? Could an individual refuse a transfusion? Could that individual refuse a life saving transfusion for his spouse or child? Hmmm.

Many religion are associated with certain wearing apparel. In America, there is fairly wide acceptance or probably better daid, an indifference) to religious dress such as Jewish Kippah, Muslim Hijab, or Amish traditional dress. And underlying this acceptance (or indifference) is that no one else is forced to wear these items.

The operating principle over the years has been religious freedom means that an individual can believe what they want providing their beliefs do not hurt others.

The secular world is another place altogether. Here is where the economy and daily living takes place. One would nowadays never expect to see a door at Walmart which said “Christians Entrance”, or another which said “Blacks Only”. Over the years, secular laws have evolved to provide a commercial world open to all.

The rub arises when religious worlds cross paths with the secular world. Christians normally have religious services on Sunday while Jews hold services Friday evening. In the recent past, there existed a set of laws restricting commercial activity on Sundays. These so-called “blue laws” attempted to discourage most commercial activity on Sundays.

Today there are no laws requiring a commercial establishment to operate on Sunday but more importantantly there are no laws preventing them from being open. Commercial businesses, even those associated with specific religious groups have a choice. No one is required to shop on Sunday and no business is required to be open.

Now a new conflict has arisen testing freedom of religion.

Over the past few years as the Country’s social conscience has evolved to where a majority of Americans accept the LBGT community and recognize same sex marriage.Unfortunately many religious organizations have brought forward objections under the headline, homosexuality, changing gender identity, and same sex marriage violate “deeply held religious views”.

While the law of the land might be that same sex marriage is legal in all 50 States, certain individuals holding “deeply held religious views” believe they possess a right (from the first amendment) to withhold service (during their work) from those who are in some way in violation of their “deeply held religious views”.

There is a cartoon circulating which shows a number of grocery store check-out lanes. In the first lane, the employee tells the customer that due to his “deeply held catholic beliefs” the condoms the customers wishes to purchase must be taken to another lane. In the next lane, a Muslim tells the customer that due to his “deeply held religious beliefs” he can not ring up the bacon and that the customer must take the product to another lane. Sound ridiculous?

Consider then the recent move by some Republican majority States to pass laws nibble away at rulings by the Supreme Court.  These individual instances are not isolated but reflect a broader effort by evangelical and fundamentalist religious groups to have it both ways. They want freedom of religion and they want the right to take certain freedoms from others. Hmmm.

These religious groups want the right to deny service to others whose life style they deem an offense to their “deeply held religious beliefs”. As private organizations, one might understand rules excluding others who can not meet religious tests but when members of these religious organizations are working in the public sector, this seems way over the line. What ever happened to “love thy neighbor as thy self”?

As disappointing as these religious groups behavior, even more disappointing, yet not that surprising, are the political leaders who are pandering to these evangelicals and fundamentalists.

So it should be no surprise that States like Indiana, North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama have all proposed or implemented State laws which in some way attempt to “guarantee” religious freedom and protect individuals who discriminate from civil suits…  anyone, that is, who withholds services due to “deeply held religious views”.

For these religious groups, it takes very small people to think and act in a mean and discriminatory way.

For these political officials, the bar is even lower. Politicians only seek enough votes to remain in power while feeding off the public trough.  Votes are just votes.  Et tu Ted Cruz.

Indiana Opens A Moral Cesspool

March 29, 2015

Governor Mike Pense signed an unnecessary piece of legislation and in the process opened a moral cesspool. Indiana adopted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a law found in various similar forms in 19 other States and patterned after the Federal Law enacted in 1993. With these existing precedents, what can be so wrong with Indian’s law?

So consider this. A restaurant owner decides that he will not serve patrons who are left handed. If a guest enters and is believed to be left handed, the guest is told to leave because the restaurant won’t serve him or her. Public accommodation laws have established that this type of discrimination is illegal if the establishment is open to the public (in private settings, it is perfectly legal to refuse service to left handed people).

The anti-left handers association might have thought about this predicament and sought to find a more fundamental reason to deny service. Voila. What if ones religion justified discrimination against left handedness? Perfect.

A corner stone of America founding was “religious freedom”. Compared to Europe in the 16 and 17 hundreds, the right of an individual to practice their religion without fear of prosecution was a highly valued freedom. The American Constitution specifically says the government shall establish no State religion.

Every American has a right to choose and practice any religion he or she prefers providing the free exercise does not interfere with another person including those who follow no religion. RFRA nibbles away at that clear and sensible boundaries of religious freedom and in essence says if I claim my religion justifies some behavior, you can suit me and I’ll see you in court.

RFRA supporters claim the objection to Indiana’s RFRA is over blown. No court, supporters claim, would support a return to Jim Crow type of discrimination. Therefore there is no need to be concerned. Hmmm.

The opposition to Indian’s law has been the belief this is a thinly veiled “get out of jail” card for businesses that do not wished to serve homosexuals. What anyone thinks about homosexuality is a personal issue. What ought not be up for debate is whether or not a public business can define service for some customers differently from others.   Religion should play no part in public accommodation choice. By definition, a public business is just that, it is open to the public.

If one wants to see the absurdity of this type of law, think about the many ways one might construe their religious beliefs. What could believers do with just the seven deadly sins?

  • Lust – Two customers holding hands or acting romantically
  • Gluttony – Someone overweight or ordering extra portions
  • Greed – Someone wearing excessive jewelry or simply know to be wealthy
  • Sloth – Someone who is known as a non-believer
  • Wrath – A Jewish customer in a Muslim store or vice versa
  • Envy – Anyone deemed more beautiful, richer, funnier, etc
  • Pride – Anyone deemed not “good enough” in any quality or characteristic compared to the owner

RFRA legislation falls in a class of absolutely unnecessary pandering laws whose sole purpose are to mollify (reward) religious voters who are offended that their moral views are being trespassed by someone else. In a Country where there is separation of Church and State, there is no place for this back door approach to eliminating “freedom from religion”.