Some Recent Cries of Religious Persecution

Outcries of religious persecution are issuing from Israel and the U.S. In Israel, the ultraorthodox are screaming after the courts rejected their exemption from the military draft (here). (They are not pacifists. They just don't want to go in the army.) In the U.S., the religious right are better propagandists. They set up seemingly independent think tanks and lobbying groups to disseminated their message. Thus Christian Post declares, “'Attacks on Religious Liberty' in US Increased 133 Percent in Last 5 Years: Report.

This looks very dramatic. But the article says very little about these persecutions. They merely quote lobbies for the religious right. The source of the headline statistic: “First Liberty Institute, a conservative legal group dedicated to defending people and organizations whose First Amendment rights have been violated, released its annual report, ‘Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America,’ on Tuesday.” (Wiki contains some more detail about First Liberty.)

The 420 page report from First Liberty is weak on evidence, and strong on conclusions: “ ‘To deny that religious freedom is in crisis in America is to deny the obvious. And yet there are deniers. Ironically, they include those who launch the very attacks that have caused the crisis itself.” (Those Democrats and godless liberals, if you haven’t guessed.)

Christian Post published one of these cases:

Alexia Palma [is] a First Liberty client who was fired from her job as a health clinic worker in inner city Houston in 2016. As part of her job, Palma taught several classes, including one called ‘Becoming a Mom.’ Although the clinic asked Palma to teach a class on birth control, she had always been allowed to opt out of doing so by showing a film instead because she felt doing so would have violated her Catholic faith.

 

But after she came under new management, she was told that she wasn't allowed to show the video and that she must teach the class about birth control herself. But thanks to a complaint filed to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by First Liberty, Palma later agreed to a favorable legal settlement with her former employer.

 

"For a year-and-a-half, I just showed the video, there wasn't any complaints and the patients received their information. Then, I came under new management. The next thing you know, I was getting called into a meeting where they told me that I needed to put my religious beliefs aside if I wanted to continue being a health educator," Palma, an immigrant from Guatemala, said during the conference call.”

In other words, she was hired to teach several classes. When it came to teaching birth control, she chose to use a video instead of teaching. She felt her Catholic faith prohibited her from teaching anyone about contraception. (This is nonsense. The Church holds that it is a mortal sin for Catholics to use contraception, but not to talk about it.) Her original boss let her get away with this, but a new supervisor required her to teach the class. In her mind and that of First Liberty, this constitutes religious persecution. She was not being forced to practice birth control, which would clearly violate her religious [and other] rights. She was not even forced to recommend it, though presenting facts about effectiveness, etc. would certainly be appropriate. She was only told to teach how it works, and that does not constitute religious persecution, any more than teaching evolution does.

Summary

This is like a Jewish waitress screaming persecution if she is forced to serve pork to a customer. This is like the clerk in a marriage license bureau who screamed religious persecution when she was told to obey the law and issue marriage licenses to gay couples as well as straight couples. These zealots scream religious persecution when they are told to obey the same law as everyone else and aren’t given a special exemption. This is the same issue the ultraorthodox in Israel face regarding the draft law. But the religious right in the U.S. is far more skillful in framing the situation and disguising the facts. And the media generally supports them.

 

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