TAG | religious accommodation law
The fact that the current clutch of campaigners for ‘religious freedom’ (brought together by their opposition to Obamacare’s contraception mandate) has adopted Thomas More, a less than admirable proto-Dzerzhinsky, as a symbol of freedom of conscience, a principle for which More showed not the slightest sympathy, should tell you all you know about their protest. It is based, not on the idea of religious freedom, but of religious privilege, an idea that is not only unlikable in its own right, but also (in an increasingly multicultural nation) can only help reinforce the drift to the Balkanization that is a very real menace to a shared American future.
Writing in the (leftish) National Catholic Reporter, David DeCosse takes a critical look at what the Cardinal Dolan crowd is now arguing:
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia articulated the problematic logic behind the bishops’ religious liberty campaign. “The purpose of religious liberty is to create the context for true freedom,” he said in his 2012 homily at a “Fortnight of Freedom” Mass organized in support of the campaign. “Religious liberty is a foundational right. It’s necessary for a good society. But it can never be sufficient for human happiness. It’s not an end in itself. In the end, we defend religious liberty in order to live the deeper freedom that is discipleship in Jesus Christ.”
Here we can see a subtle but significant shift from the logic of the Declaration on Religious Freedom. In the conciliar document, the respect for human dignity that is the basis of the right is an end in itself. The right so understood belongs to all people — Catholic, lapsed Catholic, Muslim, Jew, atheist and more. But, in Chaput’s homily, the right is not an end in itself; he says so explicitly. Instead, the right is instrumental: Its real value lies not so much in the freedom to believe but in the “deeper freedom that is discipleship in Jesus Christ.”
Here Chaput has introduced a tiered, imbalanced justification of religious liberty in civil society. The devoutly religious are more entitled to it than anyone else.
Quite: It’s about privilege, not freedom.
Two teenage Muslim pupils have been put into ‘isolation’ and banned from lessons after refusing to shave off their beards for religious reasons.
Mount Carmel Roman Catholic High School, in Accrington, Lancashire, has said the two 14-year-olds are in breach of the dress code, which bans beards as well as false nails, fake tan, make-up, dyed hair and inappropriate jewellery.
But the boys’ families have said they are suffering discrimination because beards are a symbol of faith and their religion forbids them to shave…
Washington (CNN) – House Republicans have added a measure aimed at limiting contraceptive coverage to the spending bill coming up for a vote Saturday night, a spokesman for Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, told CNN.
A senior House leadership aide confirmed that development.
The so-called “conscience clause” would allow employers and insurers to opt out of preventative care for women which they find objectionable on moral or religious grounds. That prominently includes birth control, which most insurers are required to provide for free under current Obamacare rules.
With this move, House Republican leaders would give any employer or group health plan the ability to opt out of contraception coverage for the next year. That time frame syncs up with the larger measure in which this is included: a one-year delay of Obamacare provisions not yet in effect.
“This is a big deal for the congressman,” Huelskamp’s spokesman, Paul Nelson, told CNN. “He has been pushing for (the conscience clause) since he entered Congress.”
Democrats say the measure is unnecessary because the administration has granted exemptions to contraceptive coverage to religious nonprofit institutions. But advocates, such as Huelskamp, insist that all institutions should be able to opt out of any preventative coverage for women that they find objectionable.
The addition of the “conscience clause” ties a heated social issue to the already sharp shutdown debate.
A Pennsylvania mining company sued by the federal government on behalf of a worker who refused a biometric handscan because he believes in the Bible’s mark of the beast prophecy, said on Thursday that it supports religious freedom.
The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission filed a lawsuit against Consul Energy Inc, stating that Beverly Butcher Jr. had worked at the company’s coal mine in Mannington, West Virginia, for more than 35 years, until he was required to use a biometric hand scanner to track his hours.
Consul, with headquarters in Western Pennsylvania, was accused of discriminating against Butcher, who repeatedly told mining officials that using the scanner violated his Evangelical Christian beliefs, given his view of the relationship between hand-scanning technology and the mark of the beast in the New Testament’s Book of Revelation, the lawsuit said.
According to the Christian Bible, the mark is implanted on the forehead or right hand and symbolizes allegiance to the antichrist.
Well, of course…
The EEOC notes:
The mining [company] refused to consider alternate means of tracking Butcher’s time and attendance, such as allowing him to submit manual time records as he had done previously or reporting to his supervisor, even though the mining company had made similar exceptions to the hand scanning for two employees with missing fingers.
The EEOC is arguing that Butcher was forced to retire because his employer refused to accomodate his religious beliefs. The test is whether “the employer can provide an accommodation without incurring an undue hardship”.
We don’t, it should be stressed, know all the background to this case, but from the facts as presented here, it does seem odd that Consul was not prepared to be just a little more accommodating of someone who had been with them for a very long time.
Whether the company should be compelled to do so is an entirely different question.
- Pareidolia is “that phenomenon wherein people see things that aren’t there because human brains are wired for pattern recognition”. Children see animals in the clouds or letters in a pile of sticks; adults are likely to see images fraught with special meaning, especially (though not only) religious images such as the Virgin Mary, the cross or the face of Jesus. Via Orac comes an irresistible six-minute video of the highlights of Christian pareidolia stories for 2008.
Orac hazards the view — though I’m not sure what the evidence is in either direction — that in societies with a different religious foundation or none at all, people would see something else in grilled cheese sandwiches, tree bark, cinnamon bun residues, dirty windows, and other objects presenting random visual patterns. (Compare the 2005 story in which Burger King redesigned the swirl on an ice cream lid after a Muslim man objected that it was too reminiscent of the Arabic inscription for Allah).
- From the same blog, but on an entirely different subject, a study of medicine and religion finds that (to quote the blog, not the study) “Faith in a higher power can often lead to more aggressive treatment than is medically warranted”. In cases of incurable cancer, strong religious conviction on the part of patients is apparently more likely to correlate with the use of ventilators, death while in intensive care, and other heroic/invasive measures, as opposed to hospice. Orac (who is a medical doctor specializing in cancer) has an extended and interesting discussion.
- Finally, a Missouri library has agreed to settle “Deborah Smith’s claim that she lost her job as a librarian assistant in Poplar Bluff, Mo., because she refused to attend a ‘Harry Potter Night’ promoting the publication of ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ in July 2007.” Smith believed the Potter books dabble in the occult and was not mollified at the library director’s offer to let her participate behind the scenes where her fellow church members would not have to realize she was involved.
- Ann Althouse on Bill O’Reilly and the Washington atheist sign:
Another December, another battle in the “War on Christmas.” I think the sensible people don’t want to fight about religion, but there are always extremists — pro-religion and anti-religion — who seek glory in the fighting. Tolerance and peace is the better path. Please take it.
- Current laws in most states protect the Roman Catholic Church’s right to turn away abortion-seekers even as it accepts public funds to provide other ob/gyn services at its vast network of hospitals. Now the church hierarchy vows to behave like an Ayn Rand hero (hey, I meant that as a compliment) and close down (not sell) the hospitals, no matter how grave the consequences for patients, if the pending, Obama-endorsed Freedom of Choice Act winds up knocking out such laws. As one much interested in the law of religious accommodation, I’ll say that I’m strongly inclined to defend the current laws that excuse the Catholic hospitals from having to perform abortions. At the same time, I’m equally strongly opposed to newer Religious-Right-backed proposals for the law to create opt-out rights within organizations, thus enabling devout employees of secular clinics and hospitals to announce to their startled supervisors that they will no longer perform their job duties when that means facilitating abortions (or sterilization, contraception, in vitro fertilization for unmarried women, or whatever). It seems to me a relevant factor that nearly everywhere in the country the publicly funded patient can choose from among an ample variety of secular health care options, while likewise the committed opponent of contraception has a great many possible job options other than working behind a Walgreen’s pharmacy counter. But I suspect that many commenters will favor policies that are more absolutist in one direction or the other.
- Aside to some of the usual suspects: I know you dearly love to feel that churches are being persecuted and driven into the catacombs over their social-conservative political activism, but when even big-league separationist Barry Lynn says the Mormon and Roman Catholic churches are in no danger of losing their tax exemption over their promotion of Prop 8, maybe it’s time to just admit that they’re in no danger of losing it. Kthxbai.