The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

PC No-Nos: Religious Liberty and Relgious Freedom

The United States Commission on Civil Rights in its latest report castigates those who dare to use such expressions as "religious liberty" or "religious freedom." Indeed, according to the report these phrases, in themselves, are discriminatory. The report, entitled Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties is a remarkable document that seems completely unaware of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United State.

Martin Castro, the chairman of the commission and presumably no relation to the Cuban dictator, stated: 

"The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.” 
Ah, yes, we must suppress the speech of those who use those evil "code words." My questions to Mr. Castro are many: What words may I use to describe the persecution of Christians simply because they are Christians? Since Islam, like orthodox Christianity, also considers homosexual activity to be sinful, are Muslims guilty of homophobia? And if so, if one accuses Muslims of being homophobic, is he then Islamophobic? It's all very confusing, Mr. Castro, but I'm sure an intelligent man like yourself can clear it up for us intolerant Christian supremacists.

Interestingly, the commission's report, while accusing Christians of discrimination because they don't accept as good the behavior of everyone and anyone (excect, of course other Christians), goes on to do to Christians exactly what they accuse Christians of doing. Yes, indeed, it's all extremely confusing. For example, in the report's executive summary, the commission stated:
“The appropriate balance between religious liberty and nondiscrimination principles in some conflicts arises as a concern when religious institutions and organizations claim the freedom under constitutional and statutory law to choose leaders, members or employees according to the tenets of their faith, even if the choice would violate employment, disability, or other laws. It arises also when individuals claim the freedom to adhere to religious principles regardless of otherwise applicable law governing their conduct.”
Wow! Can you imagine? Let's punish those pesky Christians. After all, they expect their leadership and membership to accept the "tenets of their faith." It's simply outrageous that all those bishops and priests in the Catholic Church have to be Catholic. Does this mean that laws in direct conflict with the rights explicitly enumerated in the Constitution supersede those rights? According to the commission, it would seem so.

The commissioners went on to question religious exemptions -- you know, those rights  that stem from the First Amendment -- as infringing on a person's civil rights. They endorse the protection of one's religious beliefs, but not religious conduct, the ability to act on those beliefs or, in Constitutional language, to freely exercise those beliefs. And to make sure we understand what this means they listed several conclusions (see the Report, p. 20-21):

  • schools must be allowed to insist on inclusive values,
  • throughout history, religious doctrines accepted at one time later become viewed as discriminatory, with religions changing accordingly, 
  • without exemptions, groups would not use the pretext of religious doctrines to discriminate, 
  • a doctrine that distinguishes between beliefs (which should be protected) and conduct (which should conform to the law) is fairer and easier to apply, 
  • third parties, such as employees, should not be forced to live under the religious doctrines of their employers, 
  • a basic right as important as the freedom to marry should not be subject to religious beliefs, and 
  • even a widely accepted doctrine such as the ministerial exemption should be subject to review as to whether church employees have religious duties.
When one reads the entire report it becomes clear that the commission believes federal and state governments should interpret the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993) as narrowly as possible. In other words, religious freedom may be claimed only by individuals and churches, and even then only in the most limited sense. According to the commission, other religious-based or sponsored organizations should not be allowed to exercise their religious beliefs freely. This, the commission believes, will ensure those intolerant religious folks can't discriminate against those who don't accept the tenets of their faith.

It's all very Orwellian, and I can assume it will only get worse. 

By the way, just a point of interest: when one searches the commission's extensive website for the word, "sharia", there are no results.

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