“Are Christians Losing Rights in America?” Part 2

As promised, Warrioress has provided a list of examples of Christian rights being eroded in the United States at Erosion of Religious Rights in America. Starting with a long list of cases that the ACLU has presented in court on behalf a Christian plaintiff. That list can be found here: ACLU Defense of Religious Practice and Expression.

The warrioress surprised me a bit here, because most conservative Christians I talk to totally despise the ACLU, which is a secularist organization and strong upholder of the separation between church and state. Several of the higher profile cases they take on are actually to defend non-Christians against Christians. For this reason they make a huge point on their website to prove they are not anti-religion, by posting such lists as the one I posted above. The ACLU, which I usually agree with and to which I give a monthly donation, has shown a track record of defending the rights of US citizens of every religion.

In light of all this, I can only see this long list of Christian lawsuits upheld by the ACLU as legitimate Christian (and other religious) rights upheld in the secular court of law, not eroded. So the bulk of her own examples belies the point she was trying to make.

The next example is of a Campus Crusade for Christ group that had difficulty getting approval to organize a group on their campus.

They denied Campus Crusade status as a student group, citing concerns about the group’s leadership, their views on homosexuality and the negative connotations of the word “Crusade.” As a result, student government said that Mark and others with Campus Crusade couldn’t advertise, seek membership, have an office or hold meetings on campus.

source: http://www.ccci.org/ministries-and-locations/ministries/campus-ministry/religious-freedom-attacked.htm

For all I know, this may very well be a legitimate case of discrimination, though a couple of red flags pop out at me. Later in the article it reads:

Across the country, there has been increased pressure on college campuses to quiet Christians about their beliefs. The challenges come on many fronts — restrictions on evangelism, “speech codes” (rules about what to say about sensitive topics like religion or sexual orientation), and about the teaching of evolution as the only acceptable view in science classes.

Which makes me wonder…were they really being blocked from creating an organization because they were harassing fellow students (“restrictions on evangelism”?), and discriminating against homosexuals for membership (which is easily against school policies)? Like I said, it’s possible that this could be religious discrimination, but I’d need to see the school official’s side of the story before making any judgement.

The other college example clearly had the group violating the anti-discrimination policy towards homosexuals. Apparently many colleges don’t consider discrimination based on sexual orientation to be a religious right.
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/is-vanderbilt-university-denying-religious-freedom-to-christian-groups-on-campus/

And even if these are examples legitimate discrimination, would it really be a sign of a larger erosion of Christian rights? After all, just about every college campus in the country has Christian and other religious student groups. But there has also been an amazing surge of atheist and freethought student groups in the past few years, both in high school and in college, yet many of them face severe obstacles in getting the official recognition of their schools for no apparent reason other than their being atheists. The Secular Student Alliance does a great work in getting atheist campus groups started, and helping them when they face the typical obstacles. Many of these stories are not posted online in order to protect the privacy of the students involved, but this summary of the purpose of the SSA states exactly why we need secular clubs to assure that non-theistic students have their rights protected just the same as the religious students.

Here is a specific example I found from earlier this year in a very quick Google search. Southern Illinois University Rejects Atheist Student Group… Then Quickly Backtracks. And there are plenty more where that came from.

Christian rights are not being undermined in this country. They have been losing their accustomed privileges, such as the ability to discriminate against others based on sexual orientation without consequence, as shown above. And when their rights really are being stepped on, they will be defended in the court of law even by a secular organization like the ACLU.

(There was also one other example given, of the guy who was denied a post at the University of Kentucky in part because of his creationist views, but not because he is a Christian. There is a lot to that one, and that was a case I followed as it was unfolding, and it will take up a whole post of it’s own. And I need a break after writing this one, so I will address it later if needed. )

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12 thoughts on ““Are Christians Losing Rights in America?” Part 2

  1. Pingback: Are Christians Losing Rights in America? « The Skeptical Seeker

  2. I think I was making the point that if our religious rights were not in jeapordy and there were not an issue, we wouldn’t have needed the ACLU in so many cases, would we? You apparently feel that erosion isn’t occurring because the ACLU is a secular watchdog to be sure that this doesn’t happen and my point is that just the fact that they had to get involved assures us that there’s a problem. Then there are all the other cases where they didn’t get involved.

    There were other writings and examples offered by the Catholic Archbishop and some of the other writers who discussed general issues, so yes, there IS indeed a problem with our religious rights eroding away, but we don’t need to argue this to the death; I don’t expect us to agree more than we disagree, after all ;)

    One more thing, Mikel…

    I’m not a conservative Christian.. I’m independent. If I had to be put into one of the groups, I’m probably just a moderate because there is a lot of the liberal mixed in with some of my more conservative points of view. I’m glad I was able to surprise you though and keep you on your toes ;)

    Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays/Reasons Greetings ;P

    • Do you think, based on some comments you made on your previous blog, that atheists are really trying to take away people’s rights? Or that religious freedom only applies to people who believe in a religion? I may have misread you, but you come across in your blog as saying the evil atheists are trying to squelch our rights! Feel free to explain yourself further if you think I misunderstood. But I sure don’t see it that way. We are looking for equal footing in society, social contact with like-minded people, and the freedom to speak our minds too. Just like everyone else.

      Also, regarding the list of cases, I have a strong feeling that a lot of them come from school officials respecting, though not totally understanding, the application of the separation of church and state to their unique situation. Some of these items, like prohibiting students from wearing religious jewelry or posting the 10 Commandments in their own lockers, I agree were inappropriate. What I do not see here, however, is a *systematic* squelching of anyone’s rights. In all my years that I have been in the atheist movement (about 10 years) I have scarcely encountered anyone who would not agree that the school officials were wrong in these cases. Many of the cases were conflicts between expected norms or workplace policies that conflicted with religious practice of the plaintiffs. The correct legal action in those cases had not yet been established. And, like I have pointed out, the ACLU is one of the organizations most blamed for the secularization of America and the “squelching” of religious rights, and this organizations support in these cases is a tell-tell sign to me that the violations were not a result of secularists trying to remove the rights of Christians or any other religious people. In fact, each one of these cases won in the name of religious freedom results in the strengthening of religious rights.

      The sort of case I find most troubling are ones like the Smalkowski’s, who were nearly ran out of her town due to conflict with her public high-school, because she refused to say The Lord’s Prayer with her basketball team before games. Would you agree that her religious rights as an atheist were violated? And that there should not have been such a religious recital at the school in the first place? Maybe not systematic squelching of atheist rights, but clear signs of a serious prejudice.

      See: http://atheism.about.com/b/2006/06/30/atheist-acquitted-on-assault-charges-after-being-harassed-by-local-christians.htm

      I strongly object to what seem to be your allegations that atheists care for nothing but protesting against religion, and that we do not also have dearly held rights to fight for. Of course, if I have misunderstood you, please feel free to correct.

    • Regarding “conservative Christian”…conservative and liberal are relative terms. When I talk to some people it seems like they think “conservative” regarding religion means more old-fashioned/strict/legalistic than their own views. I usually try to use some sort of modifier when discussing Christians, because I have observed that Christians can vary widely in specific beliefs, practices, and social attitudes.

      I’m not talking about politics at all of course, even if the GOP candidates have been trying really hard to woo the religious right votes lately. Like that last Rick Perry ad “You know there is something wrong with American when gays can serve opening in the military but kid’s can’t celebrate Christmas openly in schools?” Or something like that. The more inclusive the society gets of things like minority religious holidays and inclusion of gays, the more *certain types* of Christians scream about their rights being eroded. I was afraid that this was the sort of idea you were promoting on your blog, though I am sorry if I misread you. Those who are claiming discrimination whenever they are prevented from discriminating against gays, those of other religions, or those of no religion give a bad name to those who really are concerned about the possible loss of legitimate religious rights.

  3. Pingback: Religious Rights vs. Civil Rights « The Skeptical Seeker

  4. Do you think, based on some comments you made on your previous blog, that atheists are really trying to take away people’s rights? Or that religious freedom only applies to people who believe in a religion? I may have misread you, but you come across in your blog as saying the evil atheists are trying to squelch our rights! Feel free to explain yourself further if you think I misunderstood. But I sure don’t see it that way. We are looking for equal footing in society, social contact with like-minded people, and the freedom to speak our minds too. Just like everyone else.

    I think that atheists who are ANTI-THEIST are attempting to take away the rights of free expression of religious beliefs and are highly focused upon Christianity in doing so. I think it’s almost a game to some of them and they enjoy being a spur under the saddle of most Christians. I think religious freedom applies to ALL.

    Also, regarding the list of cases, I have a strong feeling that a lot of them come from school officials respecting, though not totally understanding, the application of the separation of church and state to their unique situation. Some of these items, like prohibiting students from wearing religious jewelry or posting the 10 Commandments in their own lockers, I agree were inappropriate. What I do not see here, however, is a *systematic* squelching of anyone’s rights. In all my years that I have been in the atheist movement (about 10 years) I have scarcely encountered anyone who would not agree that the school officials were wrong in these cases. Many of the cases were conflicts between expected norms or workplace policies that conflicted with religious practice of the plaintiffs. The correct legal action in those cases had not yet been established. And, like I have pointed out, the ACLU is one of the organizations most blamed for the secularization of America and the “squelching” of religious rights, and this organizations support in these cases is a tell-tell sign to me that the violations were not a result of secularists trying to remove the rights of Christians or any other religious people. In fact, each one of these cases won in the name of religious freedom results in the strengthening of religious rights.

    It would appear that the ACLU is assisting in some of these cases and is helping Christians who legitimately have a complaint, but I don’t believe that they are assisting in every case. I definitely think there are times that they have not gotten involved, for whatever the reason. I think there are most definitely problems where religious rights are being eroded in this nation and that it is politically up to Christians themselves to see that this doesn’t happen.

    The sort of case I find most troubling are ones like the Smalkowski’s, who were nearly ran out of her town due to conflict with her public high-school, because she refused to say The Lord’s Prayer with her basketball team before games. Would you agree that her religious rights as an atheist were violated?

    Yes, I would say that her religious rights were violated.

    And that there should not have been such a religious recital at the school in the first place? Maybe not systematic squelching of atheist rights, but clear signs of a serious prejudice.

    Disagree here. I don’t see a problem with a religious recital at all. I see a problem with forcing her to participate though.

    See: http://atheism.about.com/b/2006/06/30/atheist-acquitted-on-assault-charges-after-being-harassed-by-local-christians.htm
    I strongly object to what seem to be your allegations that atheists care for nothing but protesting against religion, and that we do not also have dearly held rights to fight for. Of course, if I have misunderstood you, please feel free to correct.
    Comment by Mikel— December 23, 2011 #

    My opinion is that atheists take their protest to the extreme and make a mountain out of a molehill or go over the top in order to attempt to set a precedent. They are exhibiting overkill and they are being responded to in a similar manner by theists.

    Regarding “conservative Christian”…conservative and liberal are relative terms. When I talk to some people it seems like they think “conservative” regarding religion means more old-fashioned/strict/legalistic than their own views. I usually try to use some sort of modifier when discussing Christians, because I have observed that Christians can vary widely in specific beliefs, practices, and social attitudes.
    I’m not talking about politics at all of course, even if the GOP candidates have been trying really hard to woo the religious right votes lately. Like that last Rick Perry ad “You know there is something wrong with American when gays can serve opening in the military but kid’s can’t celebrate Christmas openly in schools?” Or something like that. The more inclusive the society gets of things like minority religious holidays and inclusion of gays, the more *certain types* of Christians scream about their rights being eroded. I was afraid that this was the sort of idea you were promoting on your blog, though I am sorry if I misread you. Those who are claiming discrimination whenever they are prevented from discriminating against gays, those of other religions, or those of no religion give a bad name to those who really are concerned about the possible loss of legitimate religious rights.

  5. (sheesh, I hope you can fix that, Mikel. It appears your comments and mine are all blended together. Not sure what happened as that isn’t how I wrote it.)

    You said:

    Those who are claiming discrimination whenever they are prevented from discriminating against gays, those of other religions, or those of no religion give a bad name to those who really are concerned about the possible loss of legitimate religious rights.

    I say:

    I’m not going to agree that discrimination against gays or those of no religion trumps religious rights. We don’t agree that religious rights must cowtow to discrimination against gays etc.

    I don’t think gays have the right to demand that someone opposed marry them. That’s where their so-called “civil rights” end, where my religious rights begin. They can go to a gay minister, who believes gay marriage. Personally, I believe that gay marriage leads to a most definite slippery slope that opens the door for poly couples, incestuous couples, Pete and his blow up doll, and gosh knows what all else that wants to marry. So no… you may have understood my take on this matter quite well, but I am not “conservative” or “liberal.” I’m a moderate that feels very strongly about religious rights, with definite, strong opinion on issues like gay marriage and abortion.

  6. I think that atheists who are ANTI-THEIST are attempting to take away the rights of free expression of religious beliefs and are highly focused upon Christianity in doing so.

    I know not of these strawmen atheists of which you speak. I know plenty who consider themselves anti-theists (I even have my moments) but even they do not advocate taking away religious freedom. There may be some out there, but they are not the leaders of the secular movement. We atheists, “religious” minority that we are, benefit from these same freedoms. You have mentioned Dawkins, Hitchens, and others, but you have not demonstrated convincingly that they actually advocate removing anyone’s rights. They want people to abandon religion because it is irrational and doesn’t fit well with a modern view of the world, not because they are not allowed to practice it openly. As we should all know by now, real persecution and suppression of religious freedom actually strengthens religious belief and leads to extreme levels of zealotry. This is not what any reasonable person wants…

  7. Oh, and if you think it is ok to have a religious recital at public schools, you should watch these videos regarding the Smalkowski case. I cannot help but see it as the height of religious privilege, indeed Christian privilege, to think that it is ok to have a bit of religious ritual in a public school when it divides up the students in this way. There is prejudice against atheists in a lot of places, and it is not nice to be outed as the only atheist in school in a small conservative town.

    Kicked out of school for refusing to join prayer circle:

    The Price of Atheism (ABC 20/20 Interview with Nicole Smalkowski)
    Pay attention around 3:14 and especially at 7:20 on.

    Let me know what you think of this.

  8. Just saw those videos. It’s a little tough for the kid in the first video, I guess, but she seems to be handling it all right. I couldn’t see the second video as it’s marked private.

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