TAG | Religious Freedom
While there is something more than a little unattractive about the relish with which the jailing of Kim Davis, the errant county clerk (a Democrat, as it happens) unwilling to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, has been celebrated by some, she has both abused her position and provided a useful reminder of the fact that many of those now calling for ‘religious freedom’ (a good thing) really want religious privilege (not so much). So far as Ms. Davis is concerned God’s law (as she understands it) not only trumps the law of the land, but is something that she is prepared to impose on others. But Thomas More is, mercifully, long dead. That sort of thinking is more commonly associated these days with the realm of Shariah than the West.
And those in the US pushing for an expansive definition of what they call religious freedom should pay more attention to stories that illustrate the direction in which things are going, stories like this:
CNN: A Muslim flight attendant says she was suspended by ExpressJet for refusing to serve alcohol in accordance with her Islamic faith. In a bid to get her job back, Charee Stanley filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Tuesday for the revocation of a reasonable religious accommodation.
She wants to do her job without serving alcohol in accordance with her Islamic faith — just as she was doing before her suspension, her lawyer said.
“What this case comes down to is no one should have to choose between their career and religion and it’s incumbent upon employers to provide a safe environment where employees can feel they can practice their religion freely,” said Lena Masri, an attorney with Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Stanley, 40, started working for ExpressJet nearly three years ago. About two years ago she converted to Islam. This year she learned her faith prohibits her from not only consuming alcohol but serving it, too, Masri said.
“Noone should have to choose between their career and religion?”
Masri and Davis are pointing the way to a sectarian, Balkanized America, a path that will not end well.
Davis should resign. And so should Stanley.
A Saskatoon man who is blind and uses a service animal has launched a complaint to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, alleging a local taxi company is not providing service because of his guide dog. Mike Simmonds claims he’s been denied taxi service more than once because of his dog.
“I think it is common,” Simmonds told CBC News Friday. “If you don’t have the dog you’re not going to hear much about it. Someone like me, I feel strongly about my rights. I feel strongly about my dog helping me out. I want to speak out.”
Simmonds said he has been told that some cab drivers have refused to pick him up with his dog because of their religious beliefs.
Michael Coren, noting that the always PC CBC had oddly omitted to mention what those ‘religious beliefs” might be, tweets, “those Christians!”
Now there needs to be some caution about this story (“Simmonds said he has been told that”), but I suspect that this ABC report from 2007 is not entirely irrelevant:
Commissioners at one of the country’s biggest airports are considering punishing Muslim cab drivers who refuse service to passengers possessing alcohol or guide dogs. The cabbies claim transporting those items violates Islamic law.
“It is against our faith and the airport is discriminating against Muslim drivers,” says a cab driver who would only give his first name, Hashim.
Three-quarters of the 900 cabbies licensed to operate at [Minneapolis-St. Paul’s] airport are Muslim, most from Somalia. It is unclear how many are adhering to this letter of Islamic law which considers the purchase, drinking and transport of alcoholic beverages a sin. Islam also regards the saliva from dogs to be unclean. Nearly 40 million people travel through Minneapolis-St Paul airport annually. Over the past 5 years, airport officials say 5,400 passengers have been turned away. Some had guide dogs or pets, others were carrying cases of wine from California, or liquor from duty-free shops.
“There are times where cab after cab will refuse service, and passengers can be waiting for 20 minutes,” says Patrick Hogan, spokesman for the Metropolitan Airports Commission. “We’ve had complaints of people being asked if they had any alcoholic beverages in their luggage.”
To be sure, the airport commissioners were reported as going to take action as, apparently are city officials in Saskatoon. Nevertheless these two stories— one from Canada, one from the US—are a useful reminder to those in the United States currently pushing for a very wide definition of the religious rights protected by the First Amendment that, in an increasingly multicultural nation, they may find some of the consequences far less congenial than they imagine.
It ought to go without saying that religious freedom is part of the bedrock of American liberty, but so too is the notion of equality before the law.
There has to be unum, so to speak, as well as pluribus.
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.
Here’s Melvyn Bragg writing in the Daily Telegraph on the topic of William Tyndale (and Thomas More):
After almost 500 years, Tyndale continues to command our language and when we reach for the clinching phrase, we still reach out for him.
Tyndale was burned alive in a small town in Belgium in 1536. His crime was to have translated the Bible into English. He was effectively martyred after fighting against cruel and eventually overwhelming forces, which tried for more than a dozen years to prevent him from putting the Word of God into his native language. He succeeded but he was murdered before he could complete his self-set task of translating the whole of the Old Testament as he had translated the whole of the New Testament.
More than any other man he laid the foundation of our modern language which became by degrees a world language. “He was very frugal and spare of body”, according to a messenger of Thomas Cromwell, but with an unbreakable will. Tyndale, one of the greatest scholars of his age, had a gift for mastering languages, ancient and modern, and a genius for translation. His legacy matches that other pillar of our language – Shakespeare, whose genius was in imagination….
[Tyndale’s] story embraces an alliance with Anne Boleyn, an argument covering three quarters of a million words with Thomas More, who was so vile and excrementally vivid that it is difficult to read him even today. Tyndale was widely regarded as a man of great piety and equal courage and above all dedicated to, even obsessed with, the idea that the Bible, which for more than 1,000 years had reigned in Latin, should be accessible to the eyes and ears of his fellow countrymen in their own tongue. English was his holy grail….
And, almost as an accidental by-product, he loaded our speech with more everyday phrases than any other writer before or since. We still use them, or varieties of them, every day, 500 years on. …
As a young man he was told by a cleric that it would be better “to be without God’s laws than the Pope’s”.
Tyndale, outraged, replied that he defied the Pope and all his laws and added “If God spares me… I will cause the boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Bible than thou doest”.
The image of the ploughboy was brilliant – because the ploughboy was illiterate. Tyndale deliberately set out to write a Bible which would be accessible to everyone. To make this completely clear, he used monosyllables, frequently, and in such a dynamic way that they became the drumbeat of English prose. “The Word was with God and the Word was God”….
And when his English-language New Testament came out….
The Bishop of London bought up an entire edition of 6,000 copies and burned them on the steps of the old St Paul’s Cathedral. More went after Tyndale’s old friends and tortured them. Richard Byfield, a monk accused of reading Tyndale, was one who died a graphically horrible death as described in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. More stamped on his ashes and cursed him. And among others there was John Firth, a friend of Tyndale, who was burned so slowly that he was more roasted.
Fast forward half a millennium to a report in the New York Times lat year:
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan on Friday helped kick off a national campaign opposing President Obama’s health care mandates and other government policies that Roman Catholic leaders say threaten their religious freedom…. The bishops timed the two-week campaign of prayer, fasting and letter-writing to begin on a feast day commemorating two 16th-century Catholic saints executed for their religious beliefs — SS. John Fisher and Thomas More. The campaign will conclude on the Fourth of July.
The problem, however (as I discussed here last August) is that More died not in the name of “religious freedom”, but in defense of the supremacy of his religious faith over those of others.
We should be careful before we judge a man of the sixteenth century by the standards of the twenty-first (or even the twentieth). More was no Dzerzhinsky, but he was a clear step down the road that led to men like that.
That ought to be food for more thought than is currently the case.
Cardinal Dolan, absurd:
“The threats to our “first and most cherished freedom” are abundant, but let me list just two. One comes from those called secularists, who will tolerate religion as long as it’s just considered some eccentric private hobby for superstitious, unenlightened folks, limited to an hour on the Sabbath, with no claim to any voice in the public square.”
Notwithstanding the efforts of fanatics like that sad bunch of atheists opposed to the 9/11 cross, this is nonsense. America’s “public square” is filled with religious voices. That’s fine. That’s good. And to claim that it is under threat is ludicrous.
The rest of Dolan’s speech is worth a serious look. This passage caught my attention:
“Government has no business interfering in the internal life of the soul, conscience, or church.”
Putting to one side the fact that the Roman Catholic Church has been active in trying to persuade government to adopt positions that give profound offense to the beliefs of quite a few (restrictions on assisted suicide might be one example, the church’s support for the ‘right’ to universal healthcare another), the idea that the church is somehow immune from laws that applies to everyone else can, if taken beyond a reasonable understanding of the First Amendment, be a proposition somewhat difficult to reconcile with e pluribus unum,
There is a fine line between defending religious freedom and supporting the creation of religious privilege. I wonder if Cardinal Dolan recognizes that it exists.
Via The New York Post:
Two children are dead, more are injured — yet a group of ultra-Orthodox rabbis say they plan to defy a health order in the name of religious freedom.
Less than a year after a Brooklyn tot died following an ancient circumcision ritual, the rabbis say they will ignore a proposed law that would mandate parental-consent forms before performing the dangerous procedure.
Over the past decade, at least one other newborn died after contracting herpes from the rite, in which the rabbi draws blood from the penis with his mouth.
But ultra-Orthodox leaders are lashing out at the city’s “evil plans” ahead of the Board of Health’s vote next week.
About 200 rabbis signed a proclamation claiming the Health Department “printed and spread lies . . . in order to justify their evil decree.”
“It is clear to us, that there is not even an iota of blame or danger in this ancient and holy custom,” the letter states.
Most modern mohels — men trained to perform religious circumcisions, who are usually rabbis or doctors — remove blood from the baby’s wound using a sterile pipette.
But some Orthodox Jewish parents insist on an ancient “suction by mouth” ritual called metzitzah b’peh.
The city’s law would require mohels to distribute consent waivers, detailing the herpes risk, before the ritual.
Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of the United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg, said no one will comply with the law, even if it’s passed.
“For the government to force a rabbi who’s practicing a religious act to tell his congregants it’s dangerous is totally unacceptable,” Niederman told The Post…
Writing in the (British) Catholic Herald, Francis Phillips claims that she “feels a shiver when I see the parallels between our world and that of St John Fisher”.
The context, inevitably, is of officialdom’s supposed attack on religious freedom in the UK. Fisher (1469-1535) is allegedly relevant because this English cardinal was eventually executed for refusing to go along with Henry VIII’s attempt to ensure that England should determine its own laws.
To Phillips, Fisher is a example to be praised, martyred because he would not go against his conscience. Oddly, she doesn’t mention another aspect of this sinister fanatic’s career, his role in the trial and execution of Thomas Hitton, the man often described as England’s first protestant martyr.
Thanks to Wikipedia (in this case, why not), we learn that George Joye (1495-1553) was not so reticent:
“And [Thomas] More amonge his other blasphemies in his Dialoge sayth that none of vs dare abyde by our fayth vnto deeth: but shortlye therafter/ god to proue More/ that he hath euer bene/ euen a false lyare/ gaue strength vnto his servaunte syr Thomas Hitton/ to confesse and that vnto the deeth the fayth of his holie sonne Iesus/ whiche Tomas the bishopes of Caunterburye & Rochester [Fisher]/ after they had dieted and tormented him secretlye murthered at Maydstone most cruellye.
Fisher was no defender of freedom of conscience. What he was defender of his conscience. And, indeed, enforcer of it on others. As for his fate, well, biter bit.
As I noted the other day, Fisher, and another of those responsible for Hitton’s execution, Thomas More, were recently drafted by New York’s Cardinal Dolan into the fight against the Obamacare contraception mandate in the name of religious freedom.
They were not, perhaps, the best of choices.