Freedom of Religion Also Means Freedom From Religion

I'll be thrilled to protect your religious liberty as long as you're willing to keep your beliefs to yourself!

Since you can’t swing a dead Randall Road cat without hittin’ one of ‘em, despite 1st Ward aldermanic candidate and occasional Patch contributor Mike Bruno’s previous blogs, it’s time for me to wade in, too.

Of course, we’re talking about those suddenly ubiquitous “Religious Liberty — Live it! Protect it!” bumper stickers depicting a solemn Statue of Liberty ironically hoisting a cross in place of her iconic torch.

And I say “ironic” because that torch is supposed to symbolize enlightenment. As Mike so accurately pointed out, given its meaning and the basis upon which this country was founded, no self-respecting national symbol would ever want to be seen endorsing one religion over another.

It’s unseemly — not to mention unconstitutional.

But while my esteemed blogging colleague tackled this touchy topic from the eminently logical First Amendment freedom of religion perspective, I’m going to take a somewhat more subtle approach. (Don’t laugh!)

Because despite what your history books tell you, the Puritans didn’t come here for freedom of religion, they came here for freedom FROM religion. Of course, as is par for the course, they proceeded to become as bad as their persecutors.

Some 225 odd years later, we seem to have forgotten that our Constitution utterly reeks of surefire means of foiling the tyranny of the majority. In fact, the founders were quite emphatic when they banned any state-sponsored religion. And the fact that most of us don’t get it doesn’t make that stipulation any less self-evident.

There’s a good reason that one tops the list!

Though I will defend St. Peter Church’s right to display those to my own death, the second the Catholic clergy calls for legislation overturning Roe v. Wade, we have a serious problem.

If they, or any other church, even consider an attempt to statutorily foist their beliefs upon me, not only should the IRS immediately reconsider their 501C3 status, but it completely flies in the face of the First Amendment.

Following that impeccable logic, if you choose to you work for a religious institution, that doesn’t mean you’re forced to follow their rules. And if a religious institution chooses to run a business — for profit or not — it means they must abide by the rules that govern every other business.

If the law of the land states that employee health insurance must cover contraceptives, then that’s exactly what you have to do! You don’t have to like it, but the fact that laws exist which violate my personal principles doesn’t make me an exception nor does it render them any less valid.

What if my religion demands the dismissal of red, eight-sided signs? It doesn’t matter that your staff can work elsewhere — our Constitution isn’t optional.

Now, before you accuse me of heresy (I was raised Catholic), please consider the big picture first, because that portrait contains a subtle irony that most folks choose to ignore.

What if, because they condemn alcohol consumption, a Muslim-owned business insisted on insurance riders that cut out any alcohol-related illnesses? The ensuing uproar would be so intense we’d probably forget about our current lack of Twinkies.

Or what if I came up with a wacky religion (the Scientologists did it!) that declares that blond women are the demon’s spawn and, thus, my business will pay them half of what every other employee makes.

After the EEOC and NOW were finished with me, there’d be nothing left. And don’t laugh, that’s exactly what Mormons said about African-Americans until they got religion!

But here’s the most massive irony (there’s that word again!) of ‘em all. While their legislature relentlessly tries to turn high school science class into a Bible study, in May, the state of Kansas passed a law forbidding any judge from considering Sharia law in their rulings!

Not only does that abject absurdity expose those legislators for the hypocrites they really are, but the First Amendment already covers it. Though religious canon and secular law often intersect, it’s merely coincidental.

I don’t need the Catholic Church to tell me murder ain’t a good thing.

By the very bedrock this country was founded upon, and within the bounds of non-persecution reason, the state will always trumps religion because that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be. If you choose to run a businesses — and a church is a business — then you have to abide by the Affordable Care Act and cover contraceptives.

End of story.

Because if you don’t, then I wouldn’t be crossing Third Street anytime I’m driving down it, because Wardism clearly maintains that traffic laws are the work of devil.

So when I see your Randall Road bumper sticker calling for the protection of religious liberty, not only will I proclaim your right to display it, but I will be more than happy to give you a hearty thumbs up. That self-evident truth means that, like those Puritans before me, I have been liberated from your religious beliefs without exception.


Ted Toburen December 07, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Sorry Jeff...it's freedom of religion...not freedom from religion.
Mike Bruno December 07, 2012 at 01:56 PM
@Colin: I have my theories... I need to preface my comments with recognition that the "Roman Catholic Church" is very different than "Catholics". If anything I have (or will) say seems offensive, I speak only of the institution and power structure of the RCC. Catholics (a tradition in which I was raised) are as disgusted by the abuse and primitive doctrines as anyone. Unfortunately, it seems that most lay-Catholics are unaware of the scope and collusion within the church power structure. Anyway... My theory is that religion, in general, still benefits greatly from the ancient assumption that the church...any church...is beyond criticism. If the Attorney General (at the state or national level) were to press charges there would be a massive popular outcry from the religious majority. I sense that we are on the cusp of a change with that though. A recent Pew survey showed that fully 20% of the population has no affiliation with organized religion...and that segment is growing far faster than any other religious segment. Within a generation, we may see that a majority can dispassionately turn a critical eye toward a church's role in society. Some would argue that that change would mean the collapse of society, but studies don't back that up...not even remotely. http://moses.creighton.edu/jrs/2005/2005-11.pdf
Jack February 09, 2013 at 06:16 AM
I don't think we need to worry quite so much about mistakes of the distant past, by any religion. The problems of today and tomorrow are enough. Waiting a few hundred more years to see if perchance Islam might eventually become more permissive, less horribly brutal to women and encouraging of democracy is not a rational answer.
Jack March 05, 2013 at 06:58 PM
Jeff, The 501C3 category, and other IRS flags under which non-profit exemptions sail, ought to be done away with. Policing non-profits, including churches, to insure they stay out of the political arena is a waste of resources. Let them participate fully and openly in the process. But also stop what is in essence making a gift to their supporters of a portion of our taxes. Those who wish to advance the Faith of their Fathers may support that cause with their whole being, but not with my tax money. Tax money should support those activities which are normally the government's alone -- like roads, sewers and murdering American citizens abroad without due process. We also evidence some confusion about the idea of Equality Before the Law when we tax differently two people who have received a government license for unification than we tax any two individuals without that license. Why should anyone need government approval for, or even government recognition of, a loving relationship -- let alone a financial boost supplied from the labor of the rest of us? This then tends in short order to lead down a very icy slope toward (unlimited) tax exemptions for procreation, a further drain on the resources of all other tax-payers. Struggling to do the clearly impossible task of paying for everything our "Progressive" legislatures want to buy is daunting enough.
Mike Bruno March 05, 2013 at 08:35 PM
@Jack in Geneva. There are social safety nets that are the responsibility of the government too. I imagine it is far cheaper to pay a volunteer organization to provide soup that a government run organization. I fully support subsidizing organizations that provide that social service. It breaks down because Lyndon Johnson gave them *blanket* exemptions on the promise they stay out of politics. That promise is broken and we now subsidize prosthelytizing with our tax dollars. I outlined some options here: http://geneva.patch.com/blog_posts/lets-end-the-religious-tax-exemption-as-we-know-it . There are HUGE dollars in play.


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