Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Limits of "Religious Liberty"

As a number of posts on this blog have explored, there are real limits to the "religious liberty" granted under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  And those limits are increasingly being ignored by the Christofascists who are showing themselves more and more to be self-centered people who care nothing about the rights of others.  It is ALL about them and it is ALL about trying to force their hate and fear based religious beliefs on all of society, in part because they are terrified at the prospect of having to think for themselves and reevaluate childish beliefs that they were indoctrinated with.  A column in the New York Times looks at the ongoing phenomenon of false claims of threats to religious liberty.  It also looks at the parallels with Jim Crow era claims and also the possible long term damage done to religious freedom as contemplated by the Constitution as push back to the Christofascists grows.  Here are excerpts:

Following the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling, religious objections to serving gay couples are mounting in more states. Invoking religious liberty in this way presents ‘‘special concerns’’ by prolonging social conflict, according to a recent article by two law professors, Reva B. Siegel of Yale and Douglas NeJaime of the University of California, Irvine. They point to the aftermath of Roe v. Wade: After the Supreme Court ruling legalized abortion throughout the country, Congress and state legislatures ensured that a doctor, nurse or other health care professional could refuse to participate in providing an abortion as a matter of conscience. Over the decades, these ‘‘conscience clauses’’ expanded in some states to include counseling, referral and pharmaceutical services, allowing people who fill prescriptions, for example, to exert a form of social control in the name of their own religious freedom.

All of this is making longtime proponents of religious liberty nervous. Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Virginia, has helped write state religious freedom bills and supported the ones that foundered in Indiana and Arkansas. But in an article last year, he issued a warning to evangelical leaders. ‘‘It is a risky step to interfere with the most intimate details of other people’s lives while loudly claiming liberty for yourself,’’ Laycock wrote. ‘‘If you stand in the way of a revolution and lose, there will be consequences.’’

Refusing to serve customers has an ugly history. A half-century ago, the civil rights movement held lunch-counter sit-ins to protest Jim Crow. No one succeeded then in claiming a God-given right to refuse to serve black customers. Throughout the South, businesses open to the public became open to all. Today, in the name of religious liberty, there is robust Southern opposition to same-sex marriage. But supporters say the analogy to the exclusions of Jim Crow is inapt, because racial segregation was never central to Christian teaching the way traditional marriage has been. They also correctly point out that strong national laws protect against discrimination on the basis of race, but not against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In many states, in the South and elsewhere, a business or a landlord doesn’t need a special faith-based reason for turning away a gay client or tenant. They’re simply free to do so.
Given the speed with which public support for same-sex marriage is growing, gay people may win other rights against discrimination. But what about private religious schools and social-service organizations? ‘‘Hard questions’’ will arise, Chief Justice John Roberts predicted in his dissent from the same-sex marriage ruling, when, ‘‘for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex couples.’’

In the Senate and the House of Representatives, dozens of Republicans quickly signed on to a bill that would protect the tax-exempt status of a religious organization in such a situation and prevent any government action against a business that refused to serve a gay couple. On both sides of this fight, tolerance no longer seems to be the word of the day. ‘‘The religious resisters say, ‘It doesn’t matter if you can have the wedding you want, because you shouldn’t be getting married anyway,’ ’’ Laycock said over the phone last week.
Already Americans are leaving religion in droves.  As Christofascists increasingly become outliers - a trend I hope accelerates -  these selfish cretins may be unwittingly setting the stage for future further restrictions on their ability to mistreat and discriminate against others. 

1 comment:

Stephen said...

University of Virginia Law School professor Doug Laycock was involved in the SECOND Indiana "religious liberty" law after the uproar and boycotts engendered by the first (right to discriminate) one.