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Religious Tolerance logo

Active religious intolerance

A brief overview of intolerance in North America

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Religious intolerance in North America:

The wall of separation between church and state does not prevent judges and legislators from attempting to eliminate the rights of faith groups that they do not like:

bulletIn 1986, Senator Jessie Helms (R, NC) introduced a bill in Congress to remove tax exempt status from existing Wiccan groups and prevent any new groups from being recognized. It never made it out of committee.

bulletFamily court judges in the U.S. and Canada occasionally discriminate in custody matters against the parent of minority, high demand faith groups, such as Jehovah's Witnesses.

bulletVarious attempts have been made to modify the constitution in order to permit prayer in the public schools. This would have students recite prayers of the dominant religion. Students who follow minority religions would be given the options of either violating their own beliefs or risk later harassment and violence from other students.

Significant progress has been made in the U.S. and Canada over the past few decades:

bulletWith the repeal of oppressive laws, Native Americans are now able to conduct their traditional ceremonies.

bulletThe exclusion of Jews from membership in golf clubs and similar organizations is much less common than in the past.

bulletA person no longer has to believe in the existence of a personal deity in order to be a conscientious objector to military service. (However, the Canadian government only extends charitable status to religious groups if they teach a belief in a God.)

bulletSome local ministerial organizations now include non-Christians.

bulletJ.F. Kennedy became the first Roman Catholic President of the US. The religious faith of the Prime Ministers of Canada seemed to be of little interest to anyone prior to 2006. The Evangelical Christian faith of the present Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is of considerably greater interest to the media.

bulletRitual consumption of peyote during some Native American rituals is permitted.

bulletNative Elders are now generally given the same rights as Christian and Jewish clergy during prison visits.

bulletRoman Catholic children are no longer taught that Protestants will go to eternal punishment in hell when they die; most Protestant children are no longer told that all Roman Catholics will automatically go to hell.

The constitutions of the US and Canada guarantee religious freedom to all citizens, yet many hurdles remain to be overcome:

bullet Atheists were denied certain fundamental rights by the constitutions of some States. They were restricted from holding office, or serving as a witness or juror at a trial. Fortunately, a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1961 made such bigoted restrictions null and void.

bullet No Atheist who is open about their beliefs can reasonably expect to be elected to any political office because of religious prejudice. Until 2011, Atheists were regarded as the least suitable candidates for election to public office. In 2011, Tea Party members displaced the Atheists.

bulletChildren are occasionally seized from homes because of some social workers' misunderstanding of their parents' religion.

bulletParents are denied access to their children because of some judges' beliefs about the parents' faith.

bullet Leaders of some faith groups (e.g. Neopagan) are not recognized as clergy during prison visitation.

bulletSome faith groups are not allowed to perform marriages. A common method of exclusion is for state or provincial governments to require the group to have been in existence for long periods before their clergy can marry people.

bullet The socialist premier of the province of British Columbia in Canada refused on religious grounds to authorize election papers for a candidate of a minority faith who was nominated for the Provincial Legislature. Threatened with a lawsuit that he could not possibly win, he apologized for his act of bigotry.

bulletFollowers of certain faiths are only able to celebrate their rituals safely in certain areas of North America. They fear persecution and attacks by Christians who misunderstand their benign, Earth-based faith. These include Wiccans, Druids, and other Neopagans. Much of this hatred is based upon a beliefs held over from the Middle Ages.

bullet Representative Barr and a coalition of about a dozen conservative Christian agencies promoted a boycott of the U.S. army in an effort to terminate the religious freedoms of Neopagans in the armed services.

Religious tolerance does not seem to be heavily promoted in North America. Although there are untold numbers of:

bulletanti-racism Web sites devoted to racial harmony and tolerance,

bulletanti-sexism Web sites devoted to equal rights for women,

bulletanti-homophobia Web sites devoted to equal rights for gays, lesbians and bisexuals,

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Some random examples of intolerance:

A few more detailed examples might be useful. The following are a few examples that we have stumbled across:

bulletRadio and Television: These are a major source of intolerance. Vision TV's "Mosaic" service in Canada features "paid time programs from a variety of faith groups and broadcast ministries". Because Vision broadcasts programs from all types of religions and faith groups, one can differentiate between those groups which are relatively free from hatred and misinformation from those which often exhibit intolerance. We have been given access to data collected by the Wiccan Information Network's Ontario Coordinator. He found that of approximately 35 episodes in the mid 1990's that included vicious religious intolerance:

bullet 3% originated from a non-Christian program. It was an Islamic program attacking secularists.

bullet0% originated from main-line or liberal Christian programs

bullet 97% originated from fundamentalist or other evangelical Christian groups. Targets were (in decreasing order of frequency) followers of non-Christian religions, homosexuals, followers of non-Evangelical Christian religions, political liberals, working mothers, etc.

Some of this intolerance is quite repulsive, and included:

bullet A call for the U.S. Federal Government to commit genocide by exterminating all followers of a specific faith group.

bullet A statement that the leaders of a certain religion were plotting to kill all of Christian leaders in America
bullet A statement that it is the goal of Islam to give all Americans two choices: to convert immediately to their religion or have your head chopped off

bullet That followers of a particular faith group routinely torture and kill babies, and commit other unspeakable crimes.

bullet That all non-Christian religions worship Satan

We find this result to be curious and self-defeating for conservative Christians. On one hand, they are committed to fulfilling the Great Commission which is to preach the Gospel to all the world. At the same time, they are broadcasting so much hatred and misinformation against other groups that many "non-believers" are becoming resistant to their message. 

A government regulatory body renewed Vision's license in the 1990s with the expectation that they would reduce the amount of religious bigotry on its network. They seem to have cleaned up their act since.


bulletRitual Abuse Seminars We attended a ritual abuse seminar in 1995-MAY and have analyzed the messages delivered at two others. Groups named by the seminar leaders as ritual abusers and murderers of children include:

bullet members of the Masonic Order, a leading men's spiritual organization;

bulletmembers of small Christian, Jewish, and Neopagan religious groups;

bullet persons who lead 12 step, mutual-support and self-help groups;

bulletcriminal gangs.

None of this was true. Ritual abuse of the type described during the seminar simply did not exist. By the mid 1990's public opinion began to reject these beliefs due to the complete absence of hard evidence by police investigators in spite of 15 years of thorough investigations.

Still, one form of ritual abuse, and even manslaughter, does exist in North America. It occasionally happens during Christian exorcisms and typically results in one death per year. However, all of the ritual abuse seminars that we tracked during the 1990s do not mention it; they only describe the non-existent varieties of ritual abuse.

These seminars became very rare by 2005.


bulletReligious Books: Again, we have consulted the records of the Wiccan Information Network's Ontario Coordinator. He found that:

bulletReligious dictionaries by main-line and liberal Christian authors contain some errors when referring to Neopagan religions. However, these appear to be honest mistakes and were caused by lack of familiarity with those faiths. 100% of the authors responded to letters sent to them which explained their errors.

bulletMany books by conservative Christian authors about Neopagan religions were heavily biased, and contained a great deal of misinformation. All of the reviewed books that described personal involvement by the authors with Satanic groups were clearly hoaxes. Presented as a documentary expose of real events, they were clearly works of fiction. 5% of these authors responded to letters sent to them.
bullet Desecration of cultural and religious heritage A photographer was traveling through the four corners region in the US where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona join. He came across a troop of Mormon Boy Scouts with hammers and chisels who were defacing centuries-old native petroglyphs (rock carvings) on a rock face. The horrified photographer asked the troop leader why they were destroying priceless native history. The leader replied that the Mormon church taught that the petroglyphs were Pagan symbols of Satanic origin. They felt that it was their religious duty to eliminate them for all time.

Note: This action was a violation of the behavioral rules of the Boy Scouts Association rules and of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The example is not meant to criticize either organization, but was intended to show how members of groups misinterpret the rules of their own groups.


bulletAttacks on Religious Leaders Singer Sinead O'Connor appeared on "Saturday Night Live" on 1992-OCT-3, and sang a protest song which implied that victims of racism, child abuse and other forms of victimization have a legitimate right to fight back by any means, including war. At the end of the song, she held up a photograph of Pope John II. She tore it into pieces, saying "Fight the real enemy."

Copyright 1997 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2011-OCT-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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