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Religious Oppression by Governments,
Universities, Schools & Religious groups:

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Note:

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, lists brief descriptions of events considered by some to be examples of religious discrimination by governmental, social, and educational policies.

The ReligiousTolerance.org web site does not normally publish extensive passages from other web sites. However, the following is a slightly edited wide-ranging list of events that may be deleted from the Wikipedia web site at any time. Wikipedia's policy is that "Lists of miscellaneous information should be avoided" and relocated elsewhere.

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Excerpt from Wikipedia:

  • The federal Eagle Feather Law, which governs the possession and religious use of eagle feathers, was officially written to protect then dwindling eagle populations while still protecting traditional Native American spiritual and religious customs, of which the use of eagles are central. The Eagle Feather Law later met charges of promoting racial and religious discrimination due to the law’s provision authorizing the possession of eagle feathers to members of only one ethnic group, Native Americans, and forbidding Native Americans from including non-Native Americans in indigenous customs involving eagle feathers"a common modern practice dating back to the early 1500s.

  • Charges of religious and racial discrimination have also been found in the education system. The dormitory policies at Boston University and The University of South Dakota were once charged with racial and religious discrimination when they forbade a university dormitory resident from smudging while praying. The policy at The University of South Dakota was later changed to permit students to pray while living in the university dorms.

  • Religious organizations such as the Seventh-day Adventist Church make it clear in their university catalog that they have the right to discriminate on the basis of religion. They discriminate against non-Adventists in hiring practices, disciplinary action, and promotions. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has made many anti-Catholic statements stating that the Bible identifies the Pope as the Anti-Christ. Today, the church has softened these statements, explaining that they interpret the biblical passages as referring to the papal institution and not to a specific person. Recently, they have also taken measures against church members who have publicly attacked the pope, especially those who claim that it is in the name of the church.

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  • During 1995-1998, the province of Newfoundland in Canada had only Christian schools systems. There were four of them, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, and inter-denominational (Anglican, Salvation Army and United Church). The right to organize publicly supported religious schools was only given to these specific Christian denominations. Thus tax money used to support a selected group of Christian denominations. The denominational schools could also refuse admission of a student or the hiring of a qualified teacher on purely religious grounds.

  •  Quebec once had two school systems, one Protestant and the other Roman Catholic. In 1998, this system was replaced with two secular school systems: one French and the other English.

  • In Greece since the independence from the Muslim Ottomans rule in the 1800s, the Greek Orthodox church has been given privileged status. Only the Greek Orthodox church, Roman Catholic, some Protestant churches, Judaism and Islam are recognized religions in that cuntry. The Muslim minority has alleged that Greece persistently and systematically discriminates against Muslims.

  • According to a Human Rights Practices report by the U.S. State Department on Mexico:

    "... some local officials infringe on religious freedom, especially in the south".

    There is conflict between Catholic/Mayan syncretists and Protestant evangelicals in the Chiapas region.

  • In some U.S. jurisdictions legal restrictions exist which require a religious test as a qualification for holding public office, for instance in Texas an official may be:

    "... excluded from holding office" if he/she does not "acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being."

    That is, one must believe in God in order to hold public office. Thus Atheists, Agnostics, [Humanists], Buddhists, most Satanists, some Unitarian Universalists, Wiccans, other Neopagans, and New Age followers, who do not believe in a conventional supreme being would be excluded from public office. Such laws have been annulled by federal Constitution; however, their existence is seen as oppressive by many religious minorities.

  • In 2004, a case involving five Ohio prison inmates (two followers of Asatru, a minister of the Church of Jesus Christ Christian, a Wiccan witch and a Satanist). They protested the prison's denial of access to ceremonial items and opportunities for group worship. The case was brought before the Supreme Court in the case Cutter v. Wilkinson. The Boston Globe reported on the high court's 2005 decision in favor of the claimants. Among the denied objects was instructions for runic writing requested by an Asatruer.

  • Inmates of the "Intensive Management Unit" at Washington State Penitentiary who are adherents of Asatru in 2001 were deprived of their Thor's Hammer medallions. In 2007, a federal judge confirmed that Asatru adherents in US prisons have the right to possess such a pendant. An inmate sued the Virginia Department of Corrections after he was denied it while members of other religions were allowed their medallions.

  • Religious discrimination has also been documented in employment, such as an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) law suit alleging discrimination against an Iranian-Muslim employee by the Merrill Lynch company in US.

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2017-MAY: Augusta, ME: An example of government restriction on religious freedom:

Public School administrators instructed teachers who are praying for their fellow teachers to not reveal it to others. This prohibition extended even to private conversations between teachers.

A male teacher at the school was having personal problems. Tony Richardson, a fellow teacher who went to the same church as he did, informed him that she would be praying for him. Months later, a complaint was lodged against Tony. The school sent her a "coaching memorandum" which said that:

"... [s]tating 'I will pray for you,' and 'you were in my prayers' is not acceptable -- even if that other person attends the same church as you."

The memorandum said that by making such a statement, she:

"... may have imposed some strong religious/spiritual belief system."

on the other teacher.

The Family Research Council (FRC) article stated:

"The root of such problems lies in the flawed understanding of religious belief revealed later in the 'coaching memorandum,' which stated, 'it is imperative you do not use phrases that integrate public and private belief systems when in the public schools.'

Whatever we are supposed to think of as a 'public' belief system (it's not clear), such thinking illustrates the silliness of the impossible public/private dichotomy when it comes to religion. In the minds of people thinking this way -- which includes not just the Augusta schools but multitudes of academics, government workers, and secular 'elites' -- religion is fine as long as it is not in the public square. They entirely miss the fact that we all choose beliefs -- some choose religious beliefs and others do not -- and we all bring our beliefs into all aspects of our lives, to some degree. To only exclude religious beliefs from public life is discriminatory -- against religion. 2

Extending the prohibition to private conversations between or among teachers appears to be a direct violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which guarantees the freedom of religious thought and speech.

The FRC article was titled: "School to Teacher: Don't Pray for your Colleagues." This is not particularly accurate. The school places no restriction on private prayer. They only restrict one employee from telling another that they are praying on their behalf.

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2019-JUL-15: Protests against, and in support of, a planned giant telescope on Hawaii's highest mountain:

An international consortium is planning to build a telescope that is 30 meters (98 feet) in diameter. It would be almost three times larger than the current largest telescope which is the 10 meter (33 feet) Gran Telescopio Canarias in Spain's Canary Islands. The new Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) would be located on the top of Mauna Kea mountain, the highest peak on the "Big Island" in Hawaii. It is expected to cost 1.4 billion dollars. If constructed, it will be the 14th telescope to be located on that mountain peak. The location has the best viewing conditions of any location in the Northern Hemisphere. Three hundred union jobs would be created during its construction. When operational, it is expected to require 140 employees, many in high-paying jobs. The director of the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy, Bob McLaren, said that Hawaii would lose its status as a world leader in astronomy if the telescope is not built. He said:

"People need to think really hard about exactly why they would want to pass that up. What is it that makes it worth passing that up?."

The executive director of the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce, Miles Yoshioka, said:

"We’re hoping it continues to be a big part of this island. We cannot rely on tourism alone."

Protesters started a blockade of a road to the mountain top on JUL-15, preventing access to the site. Their protest was still active on JUL-26 and is expected to continue. The regard themselves as "protectors" of the mountain which they believe is sacred ground, where the Hawaiian people first landed, and where their ancestors are buried. One of the leaders of the protest group, Kaho'okahi Kanuha, said:

"It is without a doubt one of our most sacred places in all of Hawaii. ... We are taking a stand not only to protect our mauna and aina, our land, who we have a genealogical connection to. We are fighting to protect it because we know if we cannot stop this, there is not very much we can fight for or protect. This is our last stand."

He believes that the mountain top was home to sacred waters and native Hawaiian deities.

Scott Ishikawa, spokesperson for the TMT project, said:

"... people on both sides of the issue are hurting. ... We recognize that people have expressed strong emotions about that, and we regret that. We've been part of the Hawaii Island community for over 10 years, and we have tried to do the right thing, with consideration for the environment, the culture, the economy and the future of Hawaii Island. But we know that TMT has become a symbol for larger issues within the native Hawaiian community. While we haven't been privy to the State's security or enforcement plans, like everyone else in Hawaii, we want to find a way forward that is safe for everybody."

Supporters of the telescope rallied around the State Capitol building in Honolulu on JUL-25.

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References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Religious discrimination," Wikipedia, as of 2008-JUL-09, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  2. Tony Perkins, "School to Teacher: Don't Pray for your Colleagues," Washington Update, Family Research Council, 2017-MAY-19, at: http://www.frc.org/

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Parts of this article are licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article cited above.
Originally posted: 2008-SEP-04
Latest update: 2019-JUL-27
Posted by: B.A. Robinson

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