Nel's New Day

September 19, 2015

‘Persecution’ of Christians

“I don’t think there is any question that the Supreme Court’s decision goes against the natural law. That’s not the way nature functions. So as a result of that, I think Kim Davis and everybody else has the obligation to oppose it.” That’s GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s take on how his perception of “nature” supersedes constitutional rights for U.S. citizens.

The Rowan County (KY) clerk is now out of prison because she’s reluctantly allowing deputy clerks to issue licenses to same-gender couples. Now her lawyers can’t follow the law. The 6th Circuit Court rejected her appeal to overturn a judge’s order to issue marriage license because the lawyers did not go through U.S. District Judge David Bunning, who had ordered Davis to be detained. Lawyers maintained that they skipped that legal step because of the judge’s “extraordinary doggedness.”

Another court may be hearing another case that uses the excuse of religious belief to disobey the law. In defiance of the Supreme Court legalization of marriage equality, Washington County (AL) Probate Judge Nick Williams filed a petition to protect him and anyone else who refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples. Williams said about the Supreme Court’s ruling, “I’m quite sure they broke several constitutional amendments in that ruling.”

Before Justice Antonin Scalia decreed that the corporation Hobby Lobby is a person with religious rights in denying its women employees their lawful contraception, the ultra-conservative Scalia wrote about religious exemptions in Employment Division v. Smith (1990) that rejected a petitioner’s request to use peyote in a sacrament:

“The rule respondents favor would open the prospect of constitutionally required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind—ranging from compulsory military service, to the payment of taxes, to health and safety regulation such as manslaughter and child neglect laws, compulsory vaccination laws, drug laws, and traffic laws; to social welfare legislation such as minimum wage laws, child labor laws, animal cruelty laws, environmental protection laws, and laws providing for equality of opportunity for the races.”

Smith was not about Christianity, which may be why Scalia supported the state of Oregon and not religious rights. The ruling also led to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 which “ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected” and opened up all the religious protesting of the past few years. Even so, Scalia suggested that no country would allow religious exemptions on such a grand scale.

Scalia said that he would retire before being forced to rule against his Catholic beliefs. Kim Davis is not as ethical. She refused to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples, went to jail for a few days because she refused to follow a judge’s order to do so, and now hides in her office allowing deputies to issue licenses but claiming that they are all invalid because they lack her signature.

Twenty-five years ago, Scalia recognized the current problem, that there is no logical stopping place to “religious exemptions.” People claim the religious right not to dispense birth control, photograph same-gender weddings, bake celebratory cakes, etc.  As Jeffrey Toobin wrote in The New Yorker:

“The principle [of religious exemption is] a troubling one—that religious belief carries with it a shopping-cart approach to citizenship. You can choose some obligations but not others, while the legislators and judges figure out which ones are really mandatory. It’s a recipe for further division in an already polarized society—and the prospects, in Kentucky and elsewhere, are for more conflict, not less.”

GOP Mike Huckabee claims that God returned to Earth in the form of Kim Davis. Her compulsion to follow her bible may require her to post a list of couples (or more than couples) who can and cannot get licenses from her county:

  • No – A  license for a man with a consenting woman who doesn’t have her father’s permission – Numbers 30:1-16.
  • Yes – A license for a man and a nonconsenting woman if her father gives her in marriage or sells her to a slave master – Exodus 20:17, Exodus 21:7.
  • Yes – A license for a married man and three other women – 1 Timothy 3:2.
  • No – A license for childless widow and her husband’s reluctant brother because a man has the responsibility to seed children for his deceased brother – Matthew 22:24-28.
  • No – A license for a Christian and a Hindu because they are, according to Paul, “unequally yoked” – 2 Corinthians 6:14.
  • Yes – A license for a soldier and a virgin prisoner of war but only with written instructions on the purification ritual required before bedding her. Also if she fails to “delight,” he must set her free rather than selling her – Deuteronomy 21:10-14.
  • Yes – A license for a rapist and his victim with the father present who has been paid 50 shekels ($580) for the damage done to the father. Also no divorce – Deuteronomy 22:28-29.
  • Yes – A license for a man and his wife’s indentured/undocumented servant but only if the man is reminded that marriage is not required for sex because of community property laws apply and any offspring is owned by the man’s original wife, not the indentured woman – Genesis 30:1-22.
  • Probably not – A license for a man and his mother, sister, half-sister, mother-in-law, grandchild, or uncle’s wife although the decision changes throughout the Bible—siblings okay in Genesis but not later in the text – e.g. Lev. 18:7-8; Lev. 18:10; Lev. 20:11; Deut. 22:30; Deut. 27:20; Deut. 27:23.
  • Absolutely no – A license for a black woman and a white man, or vice versa – Gen. 28:6; Exod. 34:15-16; Num. 25:6-11; Deut. 7:1-3; Josh. 23:12-13; Judges 3:5-8; 1 Kings 11:1-2; Ezra 9:1-2, 12; Ezra 10:2-3, 10-11; Neh. 10:30; Neh. 13:25-27).
  • Also no – A license for a gentile and a Jew – Deuteronomy 7:3-4.
  • Yes – A license for a man and a sex-trafficked teen he bought from a gangster if Kentucky legalizes sex trafficking although Kentucky may not have to pass a law because, according to Davis and others, —but God is higher than the law, according to people like Davis. – Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13-17.

Most of these directions are in the Old Testament, but so are the Ten Commandments, commonly posted inside and in front of public buildings when Christians have their way.

A billboard posted in Davis’ town also tries to be helpful in explaining marriage and the Bible.

billboard

Religion in health care also causes a serious problem for women after the Catholic Church has taken over large numbers of hospitals in the U.S. Just one example is 33-year-old Jessica Mann, who is pregnant with her third child and needs a Caesarean for the birth. She also needs a tubal ligation to prevent further pregnancies because she has pilocytic astrocytomas, a brain tumor which can cause blindness and paralysis. At least 30 percent of women choose this procedure, but Genesys Hospital in Grand Blanc Township (MI) refuses to do the contraceptive procedure, calling it “intrinsically evil.” Of the nation’s 25 largest healthcare systems, ten of them are funded by Catholics and receive public dollars while denying some reproductive healthcare. More than 50 percent of obstetrician-gynecologists who work in Catholic Hospitals say that hospital religious policies have directly conflicted with their ability to provide patient care.

Many Christians, primarily those who are fundamentalists, bitterly complain about the persecution that they suffer. The law forces them to serve LGBT people, same-gender couples can legally get married across the United States (if they can get served!), and people want to keep religion out of government. Persecuted Christians can check the following questions to see how severe their persecution is, how much liberty they have lost. Anyone who answers “no” to one of these questions should go the ACLU for help. Otherwise ….

  1. Can you choose to go to any religious service?
  2. Are you allowed to pray in the privacy of your own home? Without worrying about being arrested?
  3. Can you read, buy, and/or own religious books or materials with no threat of imprisonment or death?
  4. Can your religious group build a house of worship in your community? Without protests or denial of building permits based on religion?
  5. Can you teach your children about your faith at home?
  6. Is your religious group allowed equal protection under the establishment clause without giving another religion preferential treatment?
  7. Do you suffer violence or injury or death because of your beliefs?

Christians in the United States can answer “no” to the above questions, but many people of other faiths cannot, both in other countries and within the United States. More and more, political candidates are leading people in the belief that the Christian god is higher than the law of the land. Freedom of religion should be freedom for all, not just for “freedom” to have Christianity rule every person’s life.

My Favorite Religious Story of the Week: Giovanna Sforza shipped 20 pagan books from Arizona to North Carolina. When she opened the box, the pagan books had been replaced by a Baptist hymnal—presumably in a post office.

June 11, 2012

North Dakota Religious Freedom Amendment – Marriage Equality?

“Government may not burden a person’s or religious organization’s religious liberty. The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief may not be burdened unless the government proves it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest. A burden includes indirect burdens such as withholding benefits, assessing penalties, or an exclusion from programs or access to facilities.” 

This is the measure that North Dakota voters decide on tomorrow. If passed, this measure would change the state constitution. Supporters maintain that they want to reinstate protections lost in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1990 decision in Employment Division v. Smith, a ruling that the First Amendment doesn’t let people break laws in the name of religion.

If passed, Measure 3 would let a pharmacist refuse HIV medication to LGBT patients because of a religious belief that homosexuality is wrong. Or let a nurse at a publicly funded hospital refuse to provide prenatal care to an unmarried pregnant women because of religious beliefs that premarital sex is wrong. On the other side, religious groups could use taxpayer funds for religious reasons while discriminating against some groups.

According to Robert Doody, executive director of the ACLU of the Dakotas, “this proposed amendment could lead people to refuse to follow virtually any law. It could allow people to argue that they have a right to abuse their children, refuse to hire people of different faiths, or deny emergency health care.

Alex J. Luchenister, Associate Legal Director for American’s United for Separation of State and Church wrote, “Measure 3 could force the state government to provide taxpayers funds to religious groups. It would also cause religious groups to be favored over non-religious groups. As a result of Measure 3 religious groups and persons could claim exemptions from laws intended to protect people’s rights, such as laws requiring the provision of reproductive health services or prohibiting the infusion of religion into public education.

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci J. Hamilton added that the North Dakota Religious Freedom Amendment is “an opportunity to unilaterally adjust public policy to fit each religious individual’s and organization’s world view.” 

Right now, government is burdening LGBT people’s religious liberty by stopping marriage equality. Does North Dakota intend that this measure will allow same-sex marriage? LGBT people who cannot get legally married face over 1,000 burdensome laws, many of which withhold benefits and assess penalties.

If North Dakota voters pass Measure 3, they had better be prepared for a multitude of court battles.

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