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a slow but systematic effort to use religious conscience claims to sidestep laws that should apply to everyone.
…a group of Columbia University law professors argue in a recent memo that these kinds of exemptions create “conscience creep,” in which government employees can refuse to provide more and more services that violate their beliefs. And what happens when no one wants to provide the service? “The exemption proposals would make the efficacy of same-sex couples’ constitutional right to marry contingent upon their being able to find a public official who has no objection to their having such a right,” they write…
Since religious individuals and groups have long been excused from some regulations and public duties, as culture and law evolve believers sometimes seek religious exemptions from the changing demands of civil society. This is true even when those demands are rooted in universal spiritual values like compassion and justice. Dogma may dictate a set of social priorities or it may provide a righteous excuse, but either way, religious doctrines and conscience claims often find their way into the debate about social change.
For example, in the lead-up to the Civil War, as pressure mounted to end the slave trade, American Christians found themselves deeply divided on the issue. Some argued for emancipation. Others argued for slavery. The arguments against slavery seem obvious to us now, but more surprising are the sincere Christian arguments FOR slavery. Here are a few, drawn from a longer list at Christianity Today.
Abraham, the “father of faith,” and all the patriarchs held slaves without God’s disapproval (Gen. 21:9–10).
The Ten Commandments mention slavery twice, showing God’s implicit acceptance of it (Ex. 20:10, 17).
Slavery was widespread throughout the Roman world, and yet Jesus never spoke against it. The apostle Paul specifically commanded slaves to obey their masters (Eph. 6:5–8).
Paul returned a runaway slave, Philemon, to his master (Philem. 12).
Just as women are called to play a subordinate role (Eph. 5:22; 1 Tim. 2:11–15), so slaves are stationed by God in their place.
Those who support abolition are, in James H. Thornwell’s words, “atheists, socialists, communists [and] red republicans.”
In the minds of people who made these arguments, it wasn’t just that slave holding was morally permissible. Many saw it as a pro-active Christian virtue. Slavery rescued people from cultures in which they practiced devil worship and witchcraft. It brought them to a place where they were taught the gospel and the trappings of civilization. Such arguments may be wildly offensive to us now, but in the end, the secular authority of the American government had to decide whether universal human rights or these deeply held religious beliefs would take precedence.
Two landmark pieces of federal legislation expanded religious exemption and entitlement claims. The 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) broadly restricted government entities from limiting religious freedom even when a law applied uniformly to all people and the intent was not discriminatory. The 2000 Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) limited the right of government to constrain religious land use through zoning, historic preservation laws, and so forth. RFRA ultimately was declared unconstitutional because of the impact on state’s rights. Also Justice John Paul Stevens argued that it created a privileged status for religion over irreligion. Nevertheless, it has spawned an array of similar laws in the states.
A religious pharmacist refuses to fill offending prescriptions.
A Christian prison guard denies Plan B to a raped prisoner, claiming that to give the prescribed medication violates her own religion.
Christian-owned but publically subsidized adoption agencies win the right to shun gay prospective parents.
Christian groups lobby for voucher programs that divert public funds into parochial education.
Religious advocates in the U.S. Senate propose FEMA disaster funding to rebuild houses of worship, even though religious institutions do not pay into the insurance fund.
“Recalibrating who can express a right of conscience (i.e do corporations have a conscience?) and what the limits of that conscience might be, may well be the next front in the religious liberty wars being waged in courts around the country.”
So what does that really mean to all of us. We know there are always provisions written into our US laws, specifically the 1973 Church Amendment, that makes exceptions for considering one's religious beliefs in how and to what extent laws affect them.
Recently and with more frequency religious and moral convictions became a catchphrase and explanation for law violations. It can be understandable when used legitimately. But therein lies the rub. Lately right wing organizations, under the guise of religious beliefs, have called upon this clause to stop just about anything that they don't like. The justification is the gray area.
Professor Elizabeth Sepper talks about the stunning asymmetry of modern conscience protections and the ways they privilege the consciences of some over others. She notes that individual doctors seeking to exercise their right to treat patients as they see fit have their own conscience rights subsumed by the conscience rights of the hospitals and universities by whom they are employed.
She contends that endowing health care and other institutions with conscience rights has privileged those institutions’ rights to refuse to provide certain treatments over the rights of individual providers to give care they feel obligated by conscience to deliver. In short, she argues, there is a cost to extending conscience rights to big institutions and entities.
The concept of universal human rights has emerged in direct contradiction of traditional Christian teachings that give women, children, and non-believers second class status. The question of who is fully a person with equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, has expanded from white male landowners to include the indentured poor, slaves, Indians, women, children, foreigners, and gays.
In the links throughout the article, the author references The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948.
At any moment, state inspectors can step uninvited into one of the three child care centers that Ethel White runs in Auburn, Ala., to make sure they meet state requirements intended to ensure that the children are safe.
The Rev. Ray Fuson of the Harvest Temple Church of God in Montgomery, Ala., does not have to worry about unannounced state inspections at the day care center his church runs. Alabama exempts church day care programs from state licensing requirements…
A Christian paramedic refuses to treat an injured Satanist...
If you can claim religious rights of conscience, then so can a Jehovah’s Witness: which means, some nurse in the Operating Room could refuse to perform a blood transfusion because it is against his religion. He would have the right to put you at risk just to appease his conscience...
originally posted by: CharlieSpeirs
a reply to: Klassified
Excellent example, personally I'd say no one is forcing the JW Surgeon to have a transfusion, just to aid someone with theirs...
But I go with morals and logic...
Would/Did the SC feel differently?
The fundamentalists will surely have a field day with that one.
Stop making me a part of your collective and the problem is solved
originally posted by: nwtrucker
a reply to: Klassified
What hasn't spiraled 'out of control'? Capitalism? Socialism? Name something that has remained small and innocuous?
If you can, you've named the next group/s that faces extinction....
I did coin the phrase 'theophile' largely to point out all the failings of religion also lie, without exception, in all aspects of human activity. I, therefore, see marginalizing Religion, without mentioning this fact, as unfair.
Stop making me a part of your collective and the problem is solved.
I must adhere to the preferred public orthodoxy at all times or I am somehow a threat to everyone else.
originally posted by: Klassified
a reply to: Abysha
Thanks, and agreed. Though I would caution that if the pendulum swings too far in the opposite direction. We will lose every bit of ground we gained to that point.