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Religious Tolerance logo

An essay donated by Susan Humphreys

Religious rights, persecution and discrimination

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Religious rights, persecution and discrimination:

Societies have always had problems balancing the rights of one individual when they conflict with the rights of other individuals and especially when they conflict with the needs of (what is best for) the collective, the group as a whole.

Recently some Christians in this area have been crying that their rights are being violated over the Chic-fil-A incident. Any condemnation of what the CEO said or his beliefs, any calls for boycotts -- or as in our local case calls for the University to refuse to renew a contract with the company, -- is called by some a violation of religious freedom and free speech, it is seen as an all out attack on Christianity and invokes self-righteous moral outrage.

The right of freedom of speech and freedom of religion means (in some folks mind) that they (or folks they support):

  1. Can say anything they want and no one has the right to contradict them, or present a different point of view.

  2. Have the right to point to Biblical passages to support their opinions and beliefs but others do not have the right to point to Biblical passages that contradict their opinions, or point out the errors, contradictions, and mistranslations in the Bible that show why someone thinks their opinions are wrong. If you are going to use the Bible to support your opinions you have no choice but to accept that others (non-Christians and Christians) have the right to use the Bible to support a different point of view.

  3. Have the right to practice their religion and that includes telling others what they can and can not do (including passing laws that force compliance with their beliefs) but others do not have the right to practice their religion (live their values, or pass laws that support their beliefs) if those values and beliefs are different.

Many are tired of the double standards and hypocrisy that imply a group/person has the right to make choices based on their values but others don't have the right to make choices based on their values, or what might be in the best interest of the collective, the group as a whole, when those values are different from their own. One example: many support the rights of Roman Catholic organizations to overrule their Christian and non-Christian employees' wish to have access to birth control as part of their insurance package. But they object to groups refusing to renew a contract with an organization where the CEO supports hate groups.

Many folks are tired of Christians crying wolf, crying that ALL of Christianity and God himself is being attacked when people voice their disagreement and disapproval of any Christian belief or policy. Yet many Christians support the rights of the folks that made the recent anti-Islamic video and the rights of the one pastor that has burned the Koran to voice their hate.

Freedom of religion and speech in this country means you won’t be imprisoned or condemned to death for speaking  (or writing) your mind, or for practicing your religion, or  for living your own life in compliance with your beliefs, or for attending the church/synagogue/mosque of your choice OR for  not attending any church.

Freedom of Religion never implies that your religious freedom takes precedence over the rights and freedoms, religious or otherwise of other people.

Freedom of Speech never implies that people won’t have to face the consequences of their publicly stated opinions or ill chosen words or immoral actions. Having the right to say something doesn’t mean that it is the right thing to say. Nor does it mean that you aren’t a fool for saying it!

In the Bible we read “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:” 1 I take this to mean that there are times and a place to speak up and voice your opinions and times to keep your mouth shut and keep your opinions to yourself! Perhaps the Chick-fil-A owner (and a few others) should spend a little time contemplating the wisdom of Ecclesiastes.

If  the owner of Chic-fil-A  hadn’t voiced his opinion in a public forum it is possible that the majority of folks would never have found out that he uses his money to support anti gay/lesbian groups and would never have called for sanctions against his company!

Economic sanctions (not renewing a contract, boycotts) have long been approved (non-violent) methods of Capitalistic systems (free markets) to bring companies/governments in line with corporate/public values, policies and goals.

Ostracism, shunning, public condemnation have also been approved as methods in civilized societies of showing disapproval and disagreement.

I personally think that it is a moral obligation of civilized people to speak up and voice their disapproval of those that persecute/bully others, or deny others their rights through laws and public policies or discriminatory practices, even if that means voicing objections to something some consider their religious right. Religious Freedom doesn’t grant someone the right to persecute others because their religious/moral opinions, values or actions are different from your own. BUT it does give you the right to speak up and object when others rights are being violated. Silence is complicity.

One of the hardest thing for some folks to accept is the reality that the rights and privileges they demand as their due must also be granted to others as their due.  Finding the balance between the rights of one when they conflict with the rights of others and determining what is best for the collective, the group as a whole is never easy.

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  1. Ecclesiastes 3:1: To every [thing there is] a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:  (King James Version)

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Originally posted: 2012-SEP-28
Author: Susan Humphreys

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