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Conscience Creep: How “Religious Freedom” Spiraled Out of Control...

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posted on Oct, 15 2015 @ 07:25 PM
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...and became religious privilege.

Having lived on both sides of this issue. I know full well it is a sore spot for the religious and non-religious alike. Although this threads focus is mostly on Christianity, because I live in the U.S. It applies to, and encompasses all religion. I think it’s time we address this issue, not only because it is long-standing, but because it one of those issues that has been a point of contention in the U.S. since the beginning, and it is an issue that will likely determine the future of equal rights for all citizens under the Constitution.

What is Conscience Creep?
In short:

a slow but systematic effort to use religious conscience claims to sidestep laws that should apply to everyone.

Link

A slightly more in depth definition addressing conscience clauses as well:

…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…
Link

The point being, Conscience creep, often stemming from “Conscience clauses” in legislation creates a class of privileged citizens, whose rights are "more equal” than others. Thomas Paine addressed a more extreme result of Conscience Creep when he said: “Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law.” No doubt with the memory of the Puritan persecution of the Quakers in mind. The very thing the Puritans were escaping when leaving England, persecution. Speaking of history, and how we came to this point regarding conscience creep, and religious privilege.


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.

Link

In my opinion, the bolded part is the most important statement in the quote. Conscience clauses create conscience creep, which in turn creates more conscience clauses, which creates religious privilege, which puts the whole of society at the whim of the religious dictates of the day. It creates a group which are not bound by the same laws other groups are bound to. It creates an entitled class. In my opinion, that’s what this country, and indeed, the whole of Western civilization is in the midst of reckoning today. Our culture is changing, and more than ever, we need a secular government that adheres to the universal and basic human rights laid out in our constitution. Not one subject to the whims of religion, nor the political correctness of the day.

The 90’s and 2000 saw major legislation of “conscience clauses”…

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.

Some examples of circumstances John Paul Stevens was referring to follow.

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.

More here.

Continued...
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posted on Oct, 15 2015 @ 07:26 PM
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a reply to: Klassified

“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.

Link
The Church Amendment:
Link to legislation

The church amendment has been applied more and more by individuals and groups since 1973, when it was legislated.
Churches, Synagogues, Mosques
Prisons
Adoption agencies
Corporations
Military
Hospitals
Colleges
And the list goes on.
More here.


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 cost is allowing these institutions to trump the rights of individuals at every turn. Deciding which laws they feel like following, and which ones they don’t. But the same thing applies in reverse. Allowing the individual to trump company policy and legislation at the cost of everyone else’s rights who still have to follow the law, because they aren’t part of the privileged class created by conscience clauses in the legislative process.

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.

Not that it has done much good, or been adopted widely. Nevertheless, the concept is an important one.
Link to declaration

As it stands right now, less than half of the states in the U.S. have laws protecting LGBT from legal discrimination. 7 states still have laws on the books preventing atheists from holding any public office. Though those laws have been challenged, and found unconstitutional, they nevertheless remain in the written code of said states. Numerous other examples exist, including proselytizing on the public dime, paid public missionaries, disaster funding to rebuild churches, next to no government oversight of monies, lands, and laws that most of us take for granted everyone is subject to.
In closing, I would submit that everyone, whether religious or non-religious, should have the freedom to follow the dictates of their conscience and convictions, but NOT at the cost of the conscience, convictions, and Constitutional RIGHTS of others. And NOT at the cost of legislating a privileged and entitled religious class that is exempt from the same laws that we all must follow, as exists right now. The amount of legislation allowing religious exemption from laws spanning one end of the spectrum to the other is staggering. See this article as an example: As Exemptions Grow, Religion Outweighs Regulation

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…


After all, haven’t conscience clause’s, and religious exemption given us enough “isolated” cases like these? Cases that make even Christians cringe?
Brothers beaten in church to make them confess


Faith-healing parents jailed after second childs death

I highly suggest reading, or at least skimming the articles/links given in the OP for a MUCH better understanding of the issues discussed in the OP. There is so much more than what I can nutshell here.
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posted on Oct, 15 2015 @ 07:46 PM
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No establishment of religion...
No law prohibiting freedom to practice...


Quite an oxymoron without some sort of clarification.



Eg
A Christian paramedic refuses to treat an injured Satanist...


Now as it's written, the 1st should be construed as the paramedic has the right to refuse.


No particular religion is being established by government as a whole... Not a 1st violation.
And any law brought about would be a restriction on practice... A 1st violation.

Maybe?

We can get into the whole moralistic debate, and of course morally the Satanist should be treated by the Christian...
But forcefully I'm not so sure.


Of course here in the UK this would be done simply, discrimination laws etc...

But with the U.S. it's a little different...
It's coming, sooner or later...

You'll just have to trust the SCOTUS to do its job, not the right thing...

Right? (Not you personally Klassified, just generally postulating).


S&F, very well written OP.



posted on Oct, 15 2015 @ 07:52 PM
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a reply to: CharlieSpeirs


A Christian paramedic refuses to treat an injured Satanist...

Or... How about this...

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...

Link



posted on Oct, 15 2015 @ 07:52 PM
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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....



posted on Oct, 15 2015 @ 07:55 PM
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I would call it collectivism creep.

People are no longer allowed to be themselves in society. The lines have so blurred that my life and my faith are no longer just my own but apparently must impact everyone around me even if I only live my principles. I must adhere to the preferred public orthodoxy at all times or I am somehow a threat to everyone else.

Stop making me a part of your collective and the problem is solved.



posted on Oct, 15 2015 @ 07:55 PM
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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.



posted on Oct, 15 2015 @ 08:02 PM
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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.

Agreed. I can't even imagine a JW getting themselves in that position, anyway.



posted on Oct, 15 2015 @ 08:03 PM
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a reply to: CharlieSpeirs

If we're talking again about the whole marriage thing, we are talking about not forcing someone to take part in the ceremony itself which is held to be sacrilege, not about barring the two getting married from having their ceremony.

As the JWs, they may not get a transfusion, but generally accept that what a person chooses is up to them in that regard and so a JW doctor will give one.

What of the doctor who feels abortion is murder? Society has long held that the right of conscience should be upheld in those cases.



posted on Oct, 15 2015 @ 08:05 PM
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People who limit the duties of their public office because of matters they claim "violate their religious beliefs" should not be state of federally funded if they put their religious moral claims first and foremost in the discretionary application of their civic and/or public duties.

They should, instead, have to rely on a tip/ "tithe" jar for their salaries.
Like those in the secular retail establishment who claim their hipster piercings and tattoos are "part of their religion".

Just because your Holy Book is on the bestseller list with a host of fan club trinkets makes no exception.

I know this is somewhat of a crass and simplified position after that wonderfully written OP, but if these whacked out fundies want to play the oneupmanship game of utter ridiculousness whereby a personally interpreted godhead takes precedence over standard procedure, then by all means....let them earn their pennies from Heaven.

edit on 10/15/15 by GENERAL EYES because: grammar edit



posted on Oct, 15 2015 @ 08:06 PM
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a reply to: ketsuko

Personally I'd say find another doctor...

No one should be forced to do something against their moral fibre.


& im inclined to feel that way about marriage too...
But that's in the bag anyways churches don't have to marry anyone for any reason they choose...


If we creep into Kim Davies, she was wrong and should quit.

I know no one has mentioned it, but I get the feeling the thought has crossed a few of our minds.

That's my opinion on that matter.



posted on Oct, 15 2015 @ 08:07 PM
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Stop making me a part of your collective and the problem is solved


Then don't work anywhere that serves the public, and don't take any government money of any kind. The problem is religious people want to work in non-religious places and claim they don't have to do the work, or take government money but not meet the requirements for it. Religious people are wrong in almost every case.



posted on Oct, 15 2015 @ 08:10 PM
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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....


Agreed. But this thread isn't about the myriad of problems our world faces. It's about this topic, because it has been prevalent this year, and as of late. Your point, however, is well taken.



posted on Oct, 15 2015 @ 08:20 PM
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a reply to: Klassified

I can't argue your point.

I merely attempt to take an 'overview' and place you OP in a more objective light. Certainly not trying to tackle the world's problems.

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.



posted on Oct, 15 2015 @ 08:47 PM
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a reply to: nwtrucker


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.

Just as the failings of anti-religion and anti-theism lie in the same human activity. Any religious person could make the case, that with enough momentum, the aforementioned groups could potentially become a danger to the existence of religion in the U.S. Heretofore, that hasn't happened, and isn't likely to any time in the near future, but the potential is there in the long-term, if we go to extremes in the opposite direction. Which, in my opinion, would spell doom for freedom of anything in this country. The idea is for religious and non-religious to both have the same accountability to the constitution, and equal human rights. Doing away with religion altogether will not fix the human element or condition.



posted on Oct, 15 2015 @ 09:07 PM
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a reply to: ketsuko


Stop making me a part of your collective and the problem is solved.

Like it or not. You are a part of the "collective", in the sense that you are a citizen, and subject to the same laws the rest of us are. You are more than welcome, and have the right, to live your life and faith until it DOES impact someone else's life to the extent that you have violated their rights, or vice versa. Which is what the OP is discussing.


I must adhere to the preferred public orthodoxy at all times or I am somehow a threat to everyone else.

On the contrary. It is the rest of us who have had to "adhere" to religious dictates for centuries. The tide is only now gradually turning, and yet it is seen as persecution, though no religious rights have been taken. Only privileges that shouldn't have existed to begin with.



posted on Oct, 15 2015 @ 09:12 PM
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a reply to: Klassified

Agreed.



posted on Oct, 15 2015 @ 09:24 PM
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a reply to: Klassified

It's so ridiculous that this is even a thing still.

Think about it. A clerk who is required to file marriage licences refuses to file some of them because of discrimination. People who share her discriminating ideology defend her decision to do so. They defend her because the people she is discriminating against are a minority that is still popular to hate in several circles.

That same ideology refused to marry interracial couples as well and the same people who shared that ideology defended those decisions. Why? Because it was still popular to hate racial minorities at the time and use their religious texts to justify it.

If they tried to refuse marriage rights to interracial couples today, there would be no major groups defending the decision to discriminate against racial minorities. Why? Because it's no longer popular to hate racial minorities.

The obvious conclusion is that western religious fundamentalism will hate and discriminate against whoever they can get away with hating for the time they live in. This whole issue with justifying it with "religious freedom" is never going to work again. That way of thinking is dying and will be dead very soon. As will hateful fundamentalist thinking.

Awesome thread.



posted on Oct, 15 2015 @ 09:35 PM
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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.



posted on Oct, 15 2015 @ 10:18 PM
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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.



The problem is that neutrality and a true separation of church and state is viewed by fundamentalists as the pendulum swinging the other way when, in reality, the pendulum is still on the way to the middle. This is why they feel it is perfectly acceptable to claim they are being persecuted for requiring them to treat everybody equally. It's like some bizarro backwards logic that we're just so used to seeing, we don't even question it sometimes.

In their churches, let them be as evil and hateful as they like. But, in the world where we all have to get along, they need to follow the rules. It's super simple. Honestly, I fully support a church's right to discriminate with marriage or whatever else but that pastor better not open a restaurant and expect to keep out "undesirables".

A pendulum swinging the other way would be forcing churches to perform duties they don't want to do. I don't think many people actually want that to happen, certainly not enough to make a difference.




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