Religious Freedom

First They Came For Me, and I Did Not Speak Out

A Barna Group poll published Wednesday has found that conservatives fear that religious freedom is under attack—and think the solution is more Christianity:

The poll of 1,008 adults showed that 29 percent of respondents were “very” concerned that religious liberties are under threat, and 22 percent “somewhat” concerned. Evangelicals were the religious group most likely to be concerned, at 71 percent.

Asked for their opinion as to why religious freedom is threatened, 97 percent of evangelicals agreed that “some groups have actively tried to move society away from traditional Christian values.”

It never fails to baffle me that Christians worry constantly about being persecuted (or actually think they are currently being persecuted) but never see that the solution is to secure religious liberty for everyone.

New Reports Reveal Global Persecution of Nonbelievers

Almost half of the countries of the world have laws or policies that penalize blasphemy, apostasy, contempt of religion, or religious “hate speech,” according to the new analysis by Pew. Of the 198 countries studied, 32 (16%) have anti-blasphemy laws, 20 (10%) have laws against apostasy, and 87 (44%) have laws against the defamation of religion, including hate speech against religious groups.

The linked article focuses on non-religious people, but many of these laws affect adherents of a non-dominant religion as well. This is why Christians need to fight violations of civil liberties wherever we find them: the people we save could be ourselves.

The Reality of Anti-Blasphemy Laws

Hussein Ibish, writing for The Daily Beast, gets it exactly right:

This is what anti-blasphemy laws inevitably lead to: the arrest and persecution of religious minorities, including children, in order to “protect sensibilities” of religious majorities. What it shows is that anti-blasphemy laws have nothing to do with “respect” or “sensitivity” to religious sentiments but are all about authority, control and social domination.

Freedom for one religion must mean freedom for all religions.

Vatican Seeks U.N. Anti-Blasphemy Resolution

The Pope is attacking free speech in the name of maintaining harmony between Christians and Muslims. And make no mistake: this is an attack on free speech. Excusing censorship by citing religion, as the Rev. Bryan Lobo, scholar at the Pontifical Gregorian University, does, only compounds it with religious oppression:

“Hatred for another religion which leads to the defamation of that religion’s texts, figures or values,” the Jesuit scholar said, is “totally contrary to the command of Jesus to ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

If that’s the rule, can we pass a U.N. resolution against hypocrisy? Because I think I read something about that in the teachings of Jesus.

Illinois Pharmacists May Refuse to Sell "Morning After" Pills for Religious Reasons

Since some of the plaintiffs are corporations, in addition to individual pharmacists, the appeals court that sided with them is implicitly acknowledging that corporations may exercise religious freedom.

Bangladesh: Discriminatory Family Laws Fuel Female Poverty

The problem:

The separate personal laws for Bangladesh’s Muslims, Hindus, and Christians discriminate in overlapping but distinctive ways. Each erects barriers to divorce and economic equality during marriage and after, and none of the laws provides for women’s equal right to marital property.

And just in case you’re in favor of religious beliefs governing things like marriage and divorce, consider a case like this:

Namrata N., a Hindu, worked in a hospital and gave her life savings to her husband to start a business. He misused the money and turned violent when she demanded he return the funds. Eventually he tricked her into drinking acid, and absconded. With a burned food pipe and stomach, Namrata is dependent on a feeding tube connected to her intestine. She has not eaten in over two years and the smell of food depresses her. Namrata wants to divorce her husband, but cannot under Hindu law in Bangladesh.


"It Would Be Hypocritical to Pretend Civility"

Rick Warren has canceled his planned repeat of 2008’s moderated forum between the two front-running presidential candidates, despite favorable circumstances:

“The forum was praised for its unique format and fairness,” Warren said Wednesday while announcing a decision not to hold the forum. “Also, the TV networks were eager to cover it again since it garnered one of the largest viewing audiences of that election. I talked with both campaigns about the possibility of doing it again, and they were both favorable to participating.”

Warren cites a pattern of incivility that has marked the campaigns of both Romney and Obama. Props to Warren for turning down what I assume would have been significant revenue from the TV rights, but I’m not sure I like his alternate plan:

“The constitution doesn’t just guarantee your freedom to worship; it guarantees you freedom from government intervention in you daily living out what you believe. That’s why we’ve chosen to host a civil forum on religious freedom in September instead of the presidential forum. It’s a fight for the constitution, not a personality.”

On the one hand, I’m a big fan of religious freedom, and Warren does plan to invite representatives from all three Abrahamic religions, but I don’t know that I buy into his belief in “widespread attempts to redefine the First Amendment”.