Archive for the ‘religious freedom’ category

Religious Discrimination

July 12, 2020

The 1st Amendment got a work out this week as the high court came down on 1st Amendment cases is a mixed manner.  The Court ruled that North Dakota must grant tax relief to residents who pay tuition for religious schools just as ND would for tuition paid to other private schools. In the two other rulings, (1) the Supreme Court said religious based organizations can not be required to provide birth control means (as prescribed by the Affordable Care Act) and (2) religious organizations were free to hire and fire without constraint by anti-discrimination laws.  Hmmm.

So how can the Court read into the 1st Amendment that some can discriminate and others can not?

In the North Dakota situation, the State had committed “public school suicide” already.  Private schools are just that.  Private schools, as with home schooling, represent an alternative to tax funded public education.  When North Dakota decided to use tax payer money to underwrite private schools, it put the State on a slippery slope.  While there is a difference between religious and secular private schools, with respect to public schools there is no difference.  The Supreme Court probably got this one correct.

In two other decisions, however, the Supreme Court entered an entirely different world. 

  • Religious organizations operating in the “public square” such as hospitals, social services, or schools are no longer doing business in places of worship.  In these capacities, where presence is entirely voluntary and optional, the religious organization should be bound to whatever rules the secular government has enacted to guide public commerce.  Remember, running a hospital is in no way a tenant of religious beliefs.  And similarly in the case of “Hobby Lobby” type organizations (common everyday commercial business owned and operated by deeply religious individuals), there is no reason laws and regulations should differ for them as compared to “Home Depot” for example.  Providing the same services under the ACA seems only reasonable and withholding some services for whatever reasons is discriminatory at its basic roots.

Arguably, one could hold that birth control is a private issue and individual should provide for themselves.  Under such circumstances religious organizations or private business holding “deeply held religious” views would not be tested. 

  • But when the notion of hiring and firing fellow citizens simply based upon the whim of a church or zealous business owner would seem clearly over the line.

One has to ask why it would be acceptable for a church operating in the public square to fire a LGBTQ member (or while we are asking, a Black or woman or handicapped person) and a secular organization could not.  Of course, the Court could hold that wanton discrimination is acceptable for anyone.  In other words, America is a land of individual rights where limitations are discouraged.  Survival of the fittest.  Hmmm.

The Supreme Court (and regrettably much of America) is stuck in a crack where the tides of time are sweeping by.  Religions have been bedrock institutions and have offered idealized solace for movie makers, politicians, and everyday people.  America’s younger generation, however, cannot see why Blacks, LGBTQ’s, or women are less worthy than anyone else.  On the other hand, TV evangelism, priest child abuse in the Catholic Church, and Islamic extremism have displayed to everyone the foibles if not hollowness (or at least shortcomings) of organized religions.

The LGBTQ community is still an “awakening” in progress.  With more people “coming out”, the more probability that each of us has known (or at least now knows) a member of this community and has had perfectly normal interactions.  Again the more the subject is discussed, the more it becomes clear that LGBTQ members are born the way they are and have not learned their behavior.  LGBTQs exist because of nature not the results of nurturing.

So the question arises, should the 1st Amendment (religious freedom) pre-empt the 14th Amendment (Equal protection)?  Should there be laws which if viewed from a religious perspective, should be free to apply to some citizens and not necessarily others?   

One is left wondering when will the Supreme Court members become religious neutral despite their own personal beliefs? 

Deeply Held Religious Freedom

June 26, 2017

Hmmm. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear on appeal a case where a cake maker refused to serve a gay couple who wished to purchase a decorated cake for their wedding.

The baker claimed that his deeply held religious views would be compromised because the bible and his religion instructed him not to recognize homosexuality. The Supreme Court will now weigh in on whether religious rights can justify discrimination.

When I think about religion, the first thought that comes to mind is, ”love your neighbor as yourself”. So it seems to me incomprehensible how a serious religion can say, “hold on a minute, the Bible did not mean all neighbors”.

Regrettably, too many religions find it useful to divide and conquer the masses. By assigning “good” to some and “bad” to others, religious leaders can more easily influence the congregation’s direction, and not to be overlooked, the congregation’s gift giving (to the religious leaders). So one might be justified to suspect to any claim of “deeply held” religious views.

If a black person went into any store and when they requested a service, they were told that store does not serve black people, would there be a question that his behavior was illegal? And the same can be said about a Christian denying service to a Jew, or a Jew denying service to a Muslim. So what is it about homosexuals who want to celebrate their marriage?

Mormons were once upon a time excited about having multiple wives. Federal law prohibits that practice and did that Federal law not go against deeply held religious views?

Jehovah Witnesses do not believe in blood transfusions. Yet courts have ordered blood transfusions when medically necessary to save a life viewing the refusal of a blood transfer to be scientifically unfounded and tantamount to committing suicide.

Arguments before the Supreme Court will not take place until the Court’s new term in October. Between now and then, the public could boycott this religious baker and help this religious person reap the benefits of his deeply held views.

Blasphemy ?

May 10, 2017

Recently President Trump issued an executive order apparently in an attempt to give greater freedom to religious organizations allowing them to speak out in the public square and not lose their tax exempt status. Regaining The Center pointed out some of the risks associated with this bogus issue in a posting “Should I Worry About My Freedoms”. Now news of a blasphemy conviction of the former Jakarta Indonesia Governor brings greater focus on a place Americans should not go.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, was convicted of blasphemy over charges that Ahok had told some voters that the Koran does not instruct Muslims to only vote for other Muslims. Ahok is a Christian. Hmmm.

There is a reason the US founding fathers were careful to separate church and State. Their fears of State religion was well founded and Indonesia has just demonstrated this clearly.

Supreme Decision

February 1, 2017

With the nomination of Federal Appeals Court Judge, Neil Gorsuch, a difficult decision lies in front of Democrat Senators. Do they oppose his confirmation at all costs or do they object but in the end allow him to be confirmed? And more to the point, why in either case?

Judge Gorsuch claims to be someone who interprets the Constitution as the framers intended and reads laws in the context of how they were created, not how they would impact the future. Judge Gorsuch as been described as “Scalia-esq” without the bombastic-ness Antonin Scalia employed. So does Judge Gorsuch deserve a hearing?

It should be very understandable if Democrats chose a “tit for tat” response reflecting Mitch McConnell’s decision to not even give hearings to Merritt Garland. On this basis alone, a logical refusal to confirm could be based.

Over time, however, political sentiment shifts back and forth from conservative to progressive and back. It should therefore not be overlooked that in the future as the recent past, progressives have been nominated. (Judge Garland’s treatment, unfortunately, hurts this argument).  Never the less, a complete stonewall of Gorsuch would only serve to dignify McConnell’s dysfunctional behavior.

Assuming there is a hearing, what questions should be asked? And what type of answers will indicate Judge Gorsuch is not “out of the mainstream”?

Judge Gorsuch calls himself an “originalist” in the Antonin Scalia mold.  Questions around social issues and religious rights represent places where (IMO) “originalists” are the furtherest out on the limb and may be seen as out of the mainstream.

For example, supporting the Little Sisters of the Poor’s or Hobby’s decision not to provide all of Obamacare’s benefits to women for religious reasons runs dead smack into the 14th Amendment (equal protection). The Affordable Care Act required no one to use any birth control method, ACA simply made it available to any woman who so chose. Does Judge Gorsuch believe exercising religious liberty can over ride the 14th Amendment?

Another social issue involves individual gay rights such as employment discrimination and same sex marriage. Does freedom of religion allow someone with “deeply held religious beliefs” to fire or refuse to hire someone, or to withhold services to a customer on the basis of sexual orientation?

And of course, does any government have the right to interfere with a women’s choices on her reproductive health, and by extension, does a person with deeply held religious views or any religious institution have standing in denying any women such rights?

Judge Gorsuch’s beliefs in other areas such as tort, tax, and corporate law, while important, are less relevant since the Judge’s opinions are well known to be the conservative side.

It is instead the social issues which are dividing the country and are not to be found in thoughts of our founding fathers.

A simple principle might be, “believe what you want, live personally your beliefs, do not require others to follow your beliefs”.

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.

Should Anyone Be Surprised?

March 13, 2016

GOP pundits, political operatives, and big money donors are all aghast about Donald Trumps potential to steal the Republican Presidential nomination. These authorities claim Americans are angry and say Trump is just feeding voters someone or someplace to target their fears. Mexico, Muslims, or anyone who is not us allow Trump supporters to accept Trump’s promise to fix it.


Listening to the GOP “establishment” Trump must be some type of low life to conduct his campaign by appealing to voters’ fears. So, what does the establishment think voters want to hear? How about defunding Planned Parenthood, repealing Obamacare, and tax code reform featuring lower marginal rates. The GOP is also keen on increasing defense spending while reducing entitlements (Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid). Rounding out the GOP’s list includes applying religious freedom interpretations to discriminate against gays and same sex couples. Are any of the GOP’s “must do” list designed to deal with Trump supporters’ fears?

Consider, in addition, what if many voters are victims of income inequality? What if many believe the American Dream either no longer exists or at least is not within their grasp? What if globalization just hasn’t worked well for many Americans and they haven’t figured out how overcome this global change? Does the mainstream Republican pitch deal in any way with this view of reality?

Here’s a bulletin. Neither the GOP establishment nor Donald Trump appears to have a clue. Income inequality is linked to globalization to be sure, but it is also connected to workers’ skill base and the ethical behavior of business leaders.

At this time, too many Americans lack the skills necessary for higher paying jobs, and too many corporations simply see their workers as throw away commodities. Corporate leaders are more concerned about stock price and personal bonuses.

As a consequence, corporate leaders have lost sight that their employees are also in some way their corporation’s customers. A customer with no money cannot buy the corporation’s products or services. Hmmm.

So which policies might lead to increased jobs, salaries, and wages?

Attempting to deal with globalization by imposing tariffs and duties, while often popular, only leads to equal and opposite trade restrictions from our trading partners. Some workers might get old jobs back while others employed in export related work lose theirs.

Retraining workers and developing more competitive skills with new workers are positive steps, but who will pay?

Simply paying workers more or sharing productivity gains with all workers would help but why would a capitalist pay more for labor than he must?

Here’s the conundrum. The GOP and Donald Trump have no policies which will deal with globalization or to unilaterally improve the wages of average people. GOP policies either do nothing or aggravate income inequality. Trump promises much, for example “to make America great again”, but how?

It should be clear that making globalization work better (more and better jobs) and reducing income inequality would be a worthwhile focus for both political parties.  But focusing upon Planned Parenthood or Obamacare has nothing to do with globalization/jobs or income inequality. If the mainstream GOP continues on its same path, the unproven case Trump is making sounds a better alternative.

Should anyone be surprised?

Playing With Dynamite – The Religious Exemption

October 17, 2015

The Sisters of the Poor and number of public servants like Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis claim their religious beliefs are protected by the Constitution and consequently they should be able to ignore any laws they feel violate their religious beliefs.  Hmmm.

The “good” Sisters don’t want to provide birth control measures, as required by the Affordable Care Act, to employees regardless of the employees’ religious affiliation or desires. Kim Davis refuses to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples despite knowing when she ran for office that it would be her duty to do so if elected.

The Sisters and Davis feel their strongly held religious beliefs trump a secular government’s laws. Hmmm.

The death of a young man in New Hartford, New York again brings this claim forward. A deeply religious family took part in an “intervention” at their local church. The intervention’s object were two sons of a church member and physical action seemed necessary. Unfortunately, things went terribly wrong.

Church members pummeled both boys and one suffered fatal injuries. The “spiritual counseling” apparently had gone wrong.

No one can question that these were highly religious people but should there be any question that religious beliefs allow beatings at all and certainly not those which result in death.

You would think it should be clear that religious freedom means one is free to hold a set of beliefs, but the beliefs are clearly limited to each individual and do not apply to others. If ones beliefs do not include birth control practices, then these believers do not need to use birth control, nor similarly should they be forced to marry others of the same sex if that is their belief.

And for sure in the age of modernity, a person’s love of their god and her perceived commandments, should not feel authorized to take another’s life in the name of these beliefs.