Religious Freedom

I’m on a roll! 😄

Here’s an article suggesting an action that I think many of my readers will endorse. 

It’s Time To Fix An Important Religious Freedom Law

(As far as I can tell, the article is not behind a paywall.)

The writer is referencing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that was signed into law by President Clinton in 1993, and points out that …

The law was never meant to confer second-class status on anyone or allow religion to be used as a license to discriminate.

However, over time the law has gone far off course and been interpreted (and acted upon) in ways that many of the original backers would never have supported.

To counteract this, the Do No Harm bill is now pending in Congress and is intended to “preserve protections for religious freedom while making it clear that RFRA can’t be used to trump laws that protect us.”

Although I know many of my readers are atheists/non-believers, laws that address religious matters (unfortunately) do affect all of us. Perhaps someday in the far-off future, laws and matters pertaining to “religion” will be relics of the past. Regrettably, most of us won’t be around to enjoy their passing.

Here We Go Again

Religious Freedom seems to be the topic of the day in many circles (after the impeachment, of course). Especially since our esteemed President signed the recent Executive Order which he said was aimed at “reducing discrimination against people and groups of faith.”

(Ironically, Trump ended his above comment with … “There’s nothing more important than that.” I can’t help but ask … more important that impending impeachment?)

One writer in an article about the EO seemed giddy with excitement:

President Trump acted in the best interests of the American people Thursday when he signed an executive order to bolster and protect the rights of students to pray and discuss God in their schools. The order champions and reinforces the freedom of religion guaranteed to us in the Constitution as one of our most important rights.

He went on to say (undoubtedly without prejudice) …

We’re not looking to coerce or force anyone to accept our beliefs – we simply want government to respect our constitutionally derived right to freely express our own deeply held faith.

Of course the question then arises … WHOSE “deeply held faith” are you referring to, sir? The deeply held faith of the Muslim? The deeply held faith of the Mormon? The deeply held faith of the Sikh? The deeply held faith of the Jew?

Oh wait! His next remark seems to make it quite clear:

My own organization has been encouraging students to exercise their religious freedom by bringing their Bibles to school on the first Thursday of every October. (emphasis added)

Maybe I’m off-base, but aren’t Bibles the textbook for Christians?

He goes on to mention how terribly some (Christian) students are treated because they were …

… prohibited from praying during non-instructional time, denied participation in faith-based student clubs on campus, and chastised for expressing biblical points of view in class assignments.

IMO, his first two complaints have some validity, but that last one? Borderline if you ask me. I mean, isn’t “expressing biblical points in class assignments” an example of crossing that line?

In another article on the same subject, the Rev. Johnnie Moore, a member of Trump’s informal evangelical advisory board contended that …

the “White House isn’t saying whether one should pray or to whom or what they should pray to” with the announced changes but that “they are simply making it clear that in the United States students have First Amendment rights also, and our ‘separation of church and state’ wasn’t intended to suppress a vibrant religious life in America but to facilitate it.”

Sounds good, but if this guy is on the evangelical advisory board, there’s little doubt the entity “to whom” he’s referencing.

It never ends. Instead of allowing people to be who and/or what they want to be, certain groups insist upon molding everyone to their way of thinking/believing.

Doesn’t anyone ever wonder why “God” (who is supposed to the All-Wise One) didn’t design his creations to all think the same way? It sure would have saved us humans a lot of grief!

Religious Liberty

I recently came across an article entitled, “The Continued Threat to Religious Liberty is Undeniable.”

It was difficult for me to read because the writer seemed to overlook the fact that “religious liberty” is not limited to a particular faith. In fact, as I was reading the article, I was reminded of the slogan on the Gadsden Flag — “Don’t Tread On Me.”

Let me explain.

The phrase was originally on a Revolutionary War flag and was intended as an historic expression of American patriotism. Over time, however, the words became associated with a more general expression of personal freedom and individualism. Unfortunately, in the 2000s, the phrase became associated with a variety of libertarian, conservative, gun-rights, and far-right political groups as a way to express their beliefs.

Nonetheless, for me, the phrase clearly means … Don’t trample on my personal freedoms and I won’t trample on yours.

Back to the article — it’s apparent the writer supports his version of “religious liberty” because he cited the couple who was asked to bake a custom wedding cake and refused because it violated their faith. He also mentioned the instance of a coach who was fired for kneeling in silent prayer at midfield after a high school football game. Further, he praised certain judges who were willing to reconsider the Free Exercise Clause* (which he indicated has been dormant for decades).

He was also quite excited that Justices Bret Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch were confirmed, along with the confirmations of several (Trump-appointed) federal judges to the District and Circuit Courts of Appeal since, in his opinion, this indicated a “renewed respect for the text and original intent of the Constitution” and promised more protection of “religious liberty.”

There’s little doubt that one person’s definition of religious liberty is not always the same as another. For example, an individual left this comment (which I agree with) related to the article:

Religious liberty is the freedom to believe in anything you like, or to believe in nothing at all. But it certainly does not carry with it the right to force others to live by those beliefs.

Even so, we continue to see those on the religious front trying to hijack the phrase “religious freedom” and assign to it a meaning that supports their viewpoint.

Sidenote: While searching for a picture to accompany this story, I typed in the word “religion.” The extensive choice of images confirmed that the word is not confined to one particular faith. And, IMO, this is something that many who advocate”religious liberty” often overlook.


*The FreeExerciseClause of the US Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees the right to hold religious beliefs and engage in religious practices that are part of a person’s religious beliefs. (See LawShelf.com for a more detailed discussion.)

Attack on Religious Freedom — Really??

constitutionI just came across this article: “Christianity under attack: US must do more to promote religious freedom.” It was written by Arizona Senator John McCain and Tony Perkins (president of the Family Research Council) and published/promoted by (surprise!) FoxNews.com.

As I was reading along, I got to thinking about the core meaning of “religious freedom” and turned to Google to do a little research. One of the things I found interesting was that many websites used the terminology “freedom of religion” rather than religious freedom. I wondered … is there a difference? I tend to think there is. To the point that many believe “religious freedom” actually means “Christian Religious Freedom.”

Then I came across this article: “American’s True History of Religious Tolerance: The idea that the United States has always been a bastion of religious freedom is reassuring — and utterly at odds with the historical record.” Although it was written in 2010, the information is timeless … and should be read and re-read by those who believe their “religious freedom” is being attacked.

I particularly resonated with this from the article:

Madison wanted Jefferson’s view to become the law of the land when he went to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. And as framed in Philadelphia that year, the U.S. Constitution clearly stated in Article VI that federal elective and appointed officials “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution, but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

This passage—along with the facts that the Constitution does not mention God or a deity (except for a pro forma “year of our Lord” date) and that its very first amendment forbids Congress from making laws that would infringe of the free exercise of religion—attests to the founders’ resolve that America be a secular republic. (emphasis mine)

In another part of the article, it quotes George Washington:

In closing, he [George Washington] wrote specifically to the Jews a phrase that applies to Muslims as well: “May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants, while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

There are a couple of things that came to my mind as I read these two sections. If no religious test shall be required, why the continued outcry from certain segments of the political society related to Obama’s Muslim background? Based on this section of the Constitution, it would seem a Muslim, a Hindu, a Taoist, etc. could hold “any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Or am I missing something?

I also wondered where the good will that Washington put forth is today? From everything I’ve seen and read, anyone outside of the Christian faith is suspect and more often than not is treated with disrespect and contempt.

Another portion that stood out to me:

Late in his life, James Madison wrote a letter summarizing his views: “And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.” (emphasis mine)

Can I hear an “Amen!”?