Thursday, November 12, 2015

If You Think Your Religious Liberties Are Being Violated, Think Again

by Nomad

Freedom of religion is a fundamental principle of the United States. However, there seems to be a lot of intentional and unintentional confusion about what is a violation of religious liberties. Here's a helpful guide. 

(this guide wa produced by The Rev. Emily C. Heath is a United Church of Christ (UCC) minister.) 

There's a few more I can add off the top of my head:
  • If the constitution prohibits you from establishing a theocracy, no, your religious liberties are not being violated.
  • If you are not allowed to run for president because of your Muslim or Jewish religion or even your atheism, then yes, your liberties are being violated. 
  • If you swear to carry out official duties, and then refuse to do so because of your religious beliefs, no, your liberties are not being violated.
  • If your religious organization ignores the terms of the IRS tax exemption on campaigning and it is investigated, your religious liberties have not been violated. 
  • If you are no longer allowed to promote your religion on government property, your religious liberties have not been violated.
  • And, lastly, secularism, the principle of the separation of government institutions from religious institutions, is not a violation to anybody's religious liberties. It is actually a safeguard against religious extremism.
Admittedly there can be more difficult questions or perplexing scenarios to consider but this checklist is a good start. 

Christian Cultural Hegemony
Although Sarah Palin and Bill O'Reilly and other may disagree, the loss of Christian privilege doesn't really equate to a loss of religious liberties. Saying so might be good for ratings or give a small political advantage or get a little attention on Facebook, but it's nonsense.
Nonetheless, this very basic idea is really difficult for a lot of people to comprehend. 

Take the seasonal harumph! about the mythic War on Christmas. One article I noticed yesterday captured the problem in a nutshell. The writer points out that Christians have long had a privilege in this country, that amounted to a cultural hegemony. 
What's that?
Cultural hegemony is defined as "the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class, who manipulate the culture of that society so that their ruling-class worldview becomes the worldview that is imposed and accepted as the cultural norm."
For most of this country's history, Christianity was so dominant in American life that no one else's culture needed to be considered in anything but an occasional way. If there were prayers in school, then, of course, they would be Christian prayers. If there were signs out for the holidays, of course, they'd acknowledge only the Christian holiday.
If you wanted to be a real American and you were not Christian, you had to accept constantly being on the outside of the majority. You had to content with being judged according to a different standard.
And if you didn't like living under those conditions, well, move to the godless Soviet Union. (Today majority rule at the expense of the minority is Putin's gift to Russia.That's really ironic too since the whole concept of cultural hegemony was developed in Marxist philosophy.)

Gradually over time, a growing number of Americans realized there was an important difference between being tolerated and being equal. Being equal means you don't have to accept being on the outside, and being granted rights - or denied rights- based on the prevailing mood of the dominant majority, whether that means being Christian, or being white, or male or straight.  
But as the country grew more diverse in all kinds of ways, ignoring the growing minority of non-Christians no longer seemed like the neighborly thing to do.
This sense of fairness and neighborliness still doesn't sit well with a lot of people. As every 2-year-old toddler knows, being given a pretty sparkling thing and then having it taken out of your hands (especially when it has to be share with people that are so different than you) is sometimes very difficult to put up with. 

Still, mature adults should be able to cope with this.