Nel's New Day

March 9, 2014

Are You Persecuted for Your Religious Beliefs?

Religious persecution has been up front and center in the news in the past few weeks because of the bills in over a dozen states, including the one that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed, to protect religious groups from the menace of LGBT rights. Arizona hasn’t stopped its anti-LGBT action, however. The state has another bill allowing judges and other public officials to opt out of marrying same-sex couples. These are the people who are paid by taxes from same-sex couples.

At the same time, my own state, Oregon, could have a ballot measure saying that businesses don’t have to provide services or goods for same-sex weddings. And my own small-town newspaper published an editorial saying that this ballot measure is okay because a little bit of discrimination in the name of religion is okay.

Later this month and almost exactly one year after the oral arguments on marriage equality, the U.S. Supreme Court will deliberate the case brought by private business regarding the Affordable Care Act that requires them to have insurance providing free contraception to women. If SCOTUS decides that these businesses can opt out of providing birth control, then businesses might be able to claim those same religious beliefs to opt out of services for LGBT people. It could be that same-sex couples can be married but at the same time be turned down for anything to do with the wedding ceremony.

When the Founding Fathers wrote and passed a constitution for all people in the United States, they protected religion for everyone in the First Amendment:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …” In the past two centuries, religious people have complained about the way that the government tramples on their personal right to practice their faith:

The Right to Persecute Witches: At the end of the 17th century, people were hanged, killed by heavy stones pressed on them, and imprisoned because others believed that they were practicing witchcraft. The U. S. Constitution denied the right of people to further persecute people for the possibility that they are witches, and courts actually protect witches. People can’t even legally shoot them unless they claim that they are acting in self-defense.

The Right to Own Slaves: The Bible promotes slavery, but U.S. law prevents people from owning other people. The book of Christian belief also states that God wants darker people to be in servitude to the lighter people, according to the religious beliefs of many people. The Mormon Church didn’t rule that blacks are not inferior and that dark skin is not a “curse” sent by God until December 2013.

The Right to Take More Than One Wife: Government took away the religious rights of Mormons to have multiple wives and is still persecuting people for this practice. It also persecuted Mormon men by preventing them from marrying girls 13 and younger.

The Right to Deny Children Health Care: Much to their dismay, Christians now face imprisonment if their children die because of the refusal of medical care for their children.

The Right to Kill People Who Work in Clinics Where Abortions Are Performed: Some Christians believe that they should kill anyone who performs an abortion and anyone who works in one of the clinics where abortions might be performed. The killers believe that it is their Christian right to do this.

Almost three years ago, the Rev. Emily C. Heath, an ordained minister, published the following quiz so that people could determine if they are being persecuted for their religious beliefs:

1. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to go to a religious service of my own choosing.
B) Others are allowed to go to religious services of their own choosing.

2. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to marry the person I love legally, even though my religious community blesses my marriage.
B) Some states refuse to enforce my own particular religious beliefs on marriage on those two guys in line down at the courthouse.

3. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am being forced to use birth control.
B) I am unable to force others to not use birth control.

4. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to pray privately.
B) I am not allowed to force others to pray the prayers of my faith publicly.

5. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) Being a member of my faith means that I can be bullied without legal recourse.
B) I am no longer allowed to use my faith to bully gay kids with impunity.

6. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to purchase, read or possess religious books or material.
B) Others are allowed to have access books, movies and websites that I do not like.

7. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) My religious group is not allowed equal protection under the establishment clause.
B) My religious group is not allowed to use public funds, buildings and resources as we would like, for whatever purposes we might like.

8. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) Another religious group has been declared the official faith of my country.
B) My own religious group is not given status as the official faith of my country.

9. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) My religious community is not allowed to build a house of worship in my community.
B) A religious community I do not like wants to build a house of worship in my community.

10. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to teach my children the creation stories of our faith at home.
B) Public school science classes are teaching science.

Scoring key: If you answered “A” to any question, then perhaps your religious liberty is indeed at stake..

If you answered “B” to any question, then you might actually be persecuting someone else rather than being persecuted.

Heath wrote:

“Religious liberty is never secured by a campaign of religious superiority. The only way to ensure your own religious liberty remains strong is by advocating for the religious liberty of all, including those with whom you may passionately disagree. Because they deserve the same rights as you. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

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