Thursday, December 01, 2016
"Civil Rights" vs "Religious Liberty"
There's a serious issue today that revolves around the accommodation of both religious beliefs and civil rights, and it's not likely to be resolved any time soon. Here's an example ...
A full-page advertisement* appeared on page A7 of the Washington Post on Sunday, October 16th. It was titled "DECLARATION of DEPENDENCE UPON GOD and HIS HOLY BIBLE" (capitalization in the original), and began with these words,
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. Since our Creator gave us these rights, we declare that no government has the right to take them away. Among these rights is the right to exercise our Christian beliefs as put forth in God's Holy Bible."
It goes on to specifically oppose abortion**, "... same-sex marriage, polygamy, bestiality, and all other forms of sexual perversion prohibited by Holy Scripture," and closes with this ringing statement:
"Therefore we, the undersigned - not only as Christians but also believing we have the constitutional right as Americans to follow these time honored Christian beliefs - commit to conducting our churches ministries, businesses, and personal lives in accordance with our Christian faith and chose to obey God rather than man."
Translation: those who profess strong, specifically Christian, religious beliefs need not obey the law***.
Here's the dilemma ... citizens of the United States are guaranteed "freedom of religion." But how does unrestricted "freedom of religion" square with community life in a pluralistic society?
My problem with the major monotheistic religions is that they are by nature intolerant of other beliefs. For example, if you are a Christian, you believe absolutely in the literal truth of the Bible, and that unless a person accepts Jesus Christ as his/her lord and savior, that person cannot be saved and is denied entry into heaven. If you are a Muslim, you believe absolutely in the literal truth of the Quran, and that every other form of religious belief is wrong. Neither of these is an especially good recipe for loving your neighbor as yourself†.
I've been concerned about this for a long time, and a while back saw this superb article in the Atlantic Monthly: Even the Government’s Smartest Lawyers Can’t Figure Out Religious Liberty. It's not too long, and is well worth your time to read, particularly if you believe your constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of religion is threatened by laws intended to protect those of whom you disapprove on religious grounds.
In case you don't want to read the whole thing, the main point is this: it is all but impossible in our constitutional republic to both guarantee complete freedom of religious expression and protect the civil rights of minorities - particularly those who are frowned upon by one religion or another. The problem will never be resolved by law - only by the good will of men and women willing to pull their heads out of their rigidly religious backsides.
In case you were wondering why I have chosen not to follow any particular system of religious belief, now you know.
Have a good day. Practice the Golden Rule ... you may find you like it.
Come back tomorrow for the unveiling of our Right-Cheek Ass Clown for December. More thoughts then.
* Paid for by Andrew Wommack Ministries.
** "...unless it is a direct threat to the life of the mother."
*** I'm not sure how this squares with Jesus' admonition in Matthew 22:21 to "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's," commonly interpreted to remind believers that they also have an obligation to respect temporal authority. In any case, what the Constitution actually says about "freedom of religion" (in the first words of the First Amendment) is this: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Seems pretty clear to me.
† As Jesus is reported to have mentioned in Mark 12:31 and Matthew 22:39 as "the second great commandment."