A negative aspect of religious freedom
The transition from:
freedom of belief to the freedom
to control, discriminate against, and/or oppress others.
While monitoring the U.S. debate over federal
hate crimes legislation in 2009, the continuing attempts to legalize
same-sex marriage from the mid 1990's to now on a state-by-state basis, attempts to end the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy by the U.S. military in 2010, etc. we noticed a radical shift
in the definition of "religious freedom" and its near-synonym "religious liberty."
- FROM the historical meaning of freedom of religious belief, practice, assembly and proselytizing as experienced by believers. Such attacks typically victimize faith groups or individuals, while the perpetrators have been governments or other larger faith groups.
- TO the freedom demanded by faith groups or believers to oppress or denigrate
others, to discriminate against them, and/or to mount political campaigns to deny
them equal rights. Typically, the victims are either women or members of sexual minorities while the perpetrators are individual believers, faith groups, or parachurch organizations.
Religious freedom once referred mostly to the believers to express ideas and to engage in their religious
practices. Now it is becoming mostly
about the freedom for individuals and religious groups to take actions that limit other people's rights and freedoms without incurring negative consequences themselves.
Some attempts are being made to legalize and protect religiously motivated discrimination by faith groups, faith-based agencies, individuals, and other groups. They are sometimes called "conscience clauses."
The conflict between the new meaning of "religious freedom" and the "Golden Rule:"
Couriously, people don't seem to notice that this new trend towards using religious belief to discriminate against others is in direct contradiction to the Ethic of Reciprocity. In Judaism and Christianity, this is commonly called the "Golden Rule:" The latter simply states that we are to treat other people as we would wish to be treated ourselves. Almost all organized religions have such an ethic at the core of its teaching.
The Golden Rule was created for the individual believer to apply to the entire human race. Unfortunately, it is too often applied only to fellow believers. In this case, the Golden Rule is actually inverted to "treat other people as we would never wish to be treated ourselves."
Activity by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU):
The ACLU recognized this trend and launched a emailed monthly newsletter circa 2012-AUG. You can request a copy from: LibertyNewsletter@aclu.org
Their website also contains a section titled "Using Religion to Discriminate."
Not a sponsored link
"With increasing frequency, we are seeing individuals and institutions claiming a right to discriminate – by refusing to provide services to women and LGBT people – based on religious objections. The discrimination takes many forms, including:
- Religiously affiliated schools firing women because they became pregnant while not married;
- Business owners refusing to provide insurance coverage for contraception for their employees;
- Graduate students, training to be social workers, refusing to counsel gay people;
- Pharmacies turning away women seeking to fill birth control prescriptions;
- Bridal salons, photo studios, and reception halls closing their doors to same-sex couples planning their weddings.
While the situations may differ, one thing remains the same: religion is being used as an excuse to discriminate against and harm others." 1
A few examples of religiously motivated discrimination and denigration:
- The first three examples below were featured in an anti-same sex marriage ad prepared by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) in 2009. Its ominous title is "A Gathering Storm." NOM is the main national group that opposes marriage equality. In the ad, NOM suggests that fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians are the real victims of the drive towards marriage equality. They see the GLBT community as posing a massive threat to Christians' religious rights.
Three such rights are mentioned in the TV ad:
- The religious rights of physicians, psychologists, and other therapists who refuse to help lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered persons and transsexuals (LGBT), even though the clinics at which they are employed have a policy of treating the general public.
- The right of a church group to continue to discriminate against LGBTs's in the provision of services even after the group had entered into a financial contract with the state government that stipulated they had to provide services to the general population.
- The religious right of parents in Massachusetts to require their local public school board to keep information secret from their students that same-sex couples could marry in the state.
- Pharmacists who refuse for personal religious reasons to dispense prescribed medication of which they don't approve. This almost always involves birth control pills or emergency contraception.
- Religiously motivated crisis pregnancy centers who don't want to reveal to clients the exact range of services they provide and that their sole reason for existing is to reduce the number of women who have abortions.
- More examples
Topics covered in this section:
The following information source was used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.
- "Using Religion to Discriminate," ACLU, at: https://www.aclu.org/using-religion-discriminate
Copyright © 2009 t0 2013 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written: 2009-DEC-08
Latest update: 2013-AUG-23
Author: B.A. Robinson