Friday, July 03, 2015

When "Religious Freedom" Becomes Freedom From Laws

Republicans who seek to subvert the U.S. Constitution
I have consistently maintained that the Christofascist and GOP push for falsely named "religious freedom" laws is in reality an effort to gran special rights to far right Christians and basically exempt them from obeying laws that they claim are inconsistent with their warped, hate-filled beliefs.  These laws have nothing to do with protecting religious freedom as contemplated by the Founding Fathers and everything to do with granting religious extremist special exempt status under the laws that govern the rest of us.  First and foremost, far right Christians are self-centered and full of hatred towards others.  A piece in Salon looks at this reality and the ugly truth behind the effort to enact these laws.  Here are highlights:

When the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges came down and same-sex marriage was suddenly, finally legalized throughout the country, the response from social conservatives was loud and predictable: “What about our religious liberty?” We’ve seen versions of this fight play out time and again over the last few months and years as religious conservatives have sought to slow the rapid advance of gay rights by arguing that their constitutionally protected religious freedoms are threatened when the state makes it illegal to discriminate against gays. With the Obergefell ruling, the “religious liberty” crowd are facing their most challenging setback: If marriage equality for gays is now the law of the land, what can one do to protect one’s “religious freedom”?

Republicans like Ted Cruz and the Republican attorney general of Texas think they have the answer, and it gets to the ugly trajectory of the “religious freedom” push against gay rights: If the law won’t allow you your “religious freedom,” well, then, declare your freedom from the law.

Cruz said that government clerks should “absolutely” be able to refuse to issue marriage licenses if they have a religious objection. “Ours is a country that was built by men and women fleeing religious oppression.” Cruz’s opinion on the matter was joined by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton . . .

[T]wo high-ranking conservative public officials explicitly arguing that government employees may ignore the law if they can claim a religious objection. As the Atlantic’s David Graham writes, this is the very stuff of nullification theory: the idea that states are either not obligated to follow federal law or that states can pass laws that supersede federal law. Anyone who’s spent any time studying the Constitution – like Harvard Law graduate and former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz, for example – knows that nullification is flagrantly unconstitutional and undermines the very foundations of our system of government.

There’s an easy pattern to observe here: Social progress leaps forward as a result of federal action, conservative opponents assert individual liberty and states’ rights to defy the feds in a last-ditch effort to thwart change, and they lose because they lack moral and legal justification.

The important thing to understand with the current gay rights battle is that the proponents of the “religious freedom” argument aren’t actually talking about “protecting” religious freedom — they’re talking about expanding the definition of what can be considered an expression of religious faith.

That argument “is not justified in either well-established constitutional law or in statutes that prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion,” Columbia Law’s Katherine Franke wrote in response to Paxton’s memo. “Religious freedom,” according to Cruz et al., allows the faithful to deny other people their legal rights, and allows for government employees to impose their religious beliefs on others. That’s an insane perversion of the First Amendment.

Ted Cruz has to know how insane that is. But he very much doesn’t care. Cruz is talking up nullification for the modern age not because he thinks it’s a legitimate legal strategy, but because it portrays him as a warrior for Christian rights. His whole 2016 campaign is based explicitly on mobilizing Christian conservatives, and positioning himself as a lone stalwart standing against the tyrannical judiciary in defense of “traditional values” is part of that strategy. In doing so he’s advocating lawlessness and discrimination in defiance of the established constitutional order.
The Christofascists and their GOP political whores constitute a clear and present danger to our system of constitutional government.  They must be defeated and ultimately driven into social and political oblivion. 

1 comment:

EdA said...

First, a Glorious Fourth, Michael. Even if so many subsequent Virginians have been an embarrassment and a disgrace to the Commonwealth, Virginians should be proud that so many of its sons -- both famous and not-so-known -- played such vital roles in the actual birth and establishment of our Nation.

The attached opinion piece from the Washington Post could be of interest.

Americans are entitled to religious freedom, but there are limits

I'd like to call your attention (and the attention of readers) to the reference to Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, Inc., 390 US 400 - Supreme Court 1968 .

The Supreme Court held unanimously (8-0) that plaintiffs could collect attorneys' fees after successfully suing a restaurant chain for discrimination even though it claimed sincerely held religious belief that it should not serve blacks. In fact, the Supreme Court stated "Indeed, this is not even a borderline case, for the respondents interposed defenses so patently frivolous that a denial of counsel fees to the petitioners would be manifestly inequitable."

Now, I am not a lawyer, and this case is nearly 50 years old and the Supreme Court then was not infested with sociopaths. But if that was their perspective with respect to private enterprises, it's hard to see how even Clarence Thomas, who apparently rejects the legitimacy of his own marriage, could claim that public servants wouldn't be held to the same minimal standard of following the law.