The Battle for Religious Freedom: The Next Step
America, we have had 222 years of the First Amendment…but we have
not yet arrived at religious freedom. We’re still working on it.
First Amendment – passed by the US congress in 1789,
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
is religious freedom? Does the First Amendment alone ensure it?
me, there are four things you must have in order to have
First, you must have the liberty to believe
whatever you want to about the Divine, and to do so openly. This is
the pluralism concept.
the flip side to the first point, you must have the liberty to
disbelieve the concept of divinity and the subsequent coercion of
religious practices of those that do; and to do so openly. This is
the agnosticism/atheism concept.
you must have the liberty to evangelize - express your belief or
disbelief. This clarifies the concept – that it isn’t merely
contained to private thoughts (you can inhale & exhale).
I reveal the next step, the fourth aspect of religious freedom,
this American Constitution and Bill of Rights lover marvels at the
foresight contained within the First Amendment. Our First Amendment
works! Let’s not tinker with something that isn’t broken.
far, in principle, most believers and non-believers are in agreement
with these three aspects. By no means are we agreed upon how we
interpret the many questions that arise with the First Amendment’s
presence. Rick Warren (whom I respect), I heard him speak several
weeks ago at Georgetown University saying that we should be able to
believe whatever we want to about the divine and that we must be
able to convert. Essentially, we have said the same thing…we just
express it differently.
I’ll call the next step, the fourth aspect of
religious freedom, is to NOT be retaliated against for what
you believe! This freedom from retaliation is
especially necessary for the protection of those in a
minority/subordinate status. Both religious and secular sides are
subject to and have been guilty of retaliation! Some of the
underlying motives are hard to detect but are nevertheless
pernicious while others are easily detected and oh so hard to prove.
nature of retaliation is to punish, sabotage, damage, defame or
destroy someone or something that is disliked or perceived to have
Retaliation goes both ways, it’s a two way street. First I’ll
cover Christian against secular retaliation in the workplace.
Afterwards, I want to break new ground upon secular retaliation
seeking to destroy religion and it’s employment of blasphemy.
first 3 points alone aren’t enough if you cannot make a living due
to your belief. Most people cannot survive without employment. Do
you really have religious freedom if a prospective boss or employer
won’t hire you due to your belief? Do you really have religious
freedom if your boss fires you for your beliefs? Allowing an
individual to inhale religion is one thing, to retaliate against
them for exhaling exposes the fact that we don’t really have
know of a case where an employer gave a deserving employee a raise
and had never expressed verbally or in writing that they were ever
unhappy with their work. That employee had by far the best financial
numbers regionally, never called in sick; they had no customer
service complaints…only compliments and had a perfect record with
no miscues on orders. What if your boss discovers your beliefs,
dislikes them, and now wants to find a reason to fire you? That
raise just expressed satisfaction, and to that bigoted boss’
dismay there is nothing except prejudice based reasons to dismiss
that employee. What if the owner of the company so disliked that
outstanding employee beliefs that they went out of their way to
avoid that employee before firing them because the “at will”
laws will allow them to fire said employee without having to give
that employee a reason? The “at will” laws are religious freedom
if the workplace tradition to buy lunch and a cake for a fellow
worker’s birthday gets hi-jacked by a “Christian” boss who
instead instructs everyone to give that money to the foul mouthed,
cheating, chain smoking, boss’ church instead? Should an employee
be coerced in the workplace to give to a religious institution? What
if someone objects and finds himself retaliated against?
freedom is not to be taken lightly; it’s one of the foremost
freedoms of liberty. As
with anything worthy of retention, a little scrutiny and maintenance
is in order to preserve religious freedom. If we are agreed upon the
first three points, then why do we have so much religious friction?
Is the friction inevitable or can we do something about it?
you believe that religion is or can be a good thing, as I do, then
we must identify where much of the friction is generated. While
there is no magic potion for human dilemmas, we can isolate and
pinpoint specific aspects that are fixable.
have their right to disbelieve (point 2) and to openly question the
same (point 3) even to the extent of converting their own
disciples…but should they be granted the right/freedom to
retaliate against those that don’t convert? Should they also be
granted the right/freedom to retaliate against the religion itself?
Should anyone be granted the right/freedom to retaliate against
another for his or her beliefs?
is the retaliation that upsets us; it shocks us, especially since we
assume we have religious freedom liberty. The friction is largely
due to the element of retaliation as punishment for not
accepting/accommodating another’s belief. The method of
retaliation manifests itself in a variety of ways.
the search for solutions, great scrutiny should be brought upon the
“evangelism” of religious subject matter themes. I’m not
suggesting we restrict evangelism, just that we need to clearly
define it's boundaries. Particularly, what is rightfully to be
considered evangelism and what to do when the boundary lines are
opportunity to evangelize should be viewed as a freedom as well as a
Evangelism’s realm is one of persuasion…not retaliation.
Persuasion is a highly desirable tool. Some users have great skills
and are successful while others don’t have persuasion skills and
often get frustrated by their inability to convert mankind.
boundaries of “evangelism” haven’t been clearly drawn for
many. For others the lines are so blurred that they see no
distinction between evangelism and retaliation for failed
conversions. In effect, they think that since you' re not going to
accept the God I’m pitching…I’m going to disrespect and try to
take your God out of the equation.
should have the right to evangelize; they don’t have the right to
is a major misperception about blasphemy that should be pointed out.
The most common blasphemy is interfaith blasphemy between rival
religious factions. Few people recognize the pervasiveness of
interfaith blasphemy and tend to only pay attention to non-faith
blasphemy dished out by secularists. If it is wrong for secularists
to blaspheme…it is just as wrong for people of faith to blaspheme
their rivals God.
have “one up” on everyone else when it comes to blasphemy. With
atheism there isn’t a God to blaspheme. That is probably why some
atheists aren’t sensitive to the issue. They haven’t felt the
sting of what it feels like for another to take disrespectful, mean
spirited shots against an entity that to theists is very real and to
be esteemed above all mortals. Question is should they be able to
do so with impunity?
We should view attempts to "debunk" religious belief as agnostic evangelism. Secularism must have that right as long as evangelism is a viable tenant of religious freedom. Blasphemy crosses the boundary lines of evangelism though. It's one thing to be conversationally clumsy, however, one's choice of inflammatory words usually show the intent of the heart. It seems to me that there must be some animosity or malice within the heart to blaspheme. I’d have to classify blasphemy as retaliation.
from retaliation is a major factor in the preservation of wholesome
religion. You’ve heard the saying; “Love makes the world go
round” haven’t you? It has been my observation that
“Retaliation makes the atheist movement go round”. It is human
nature for someone that has been wronged to want justice. If they
cannot get it, or afford it, the weapon of retaliation is usually
a secular skeptic point of view, many don’t esteem religion. Many
of the cherished beliefs that people of religion hold dear are met
with skepticism. Fair to say, some think that these beliefs are
fiction, myths, legend and folklore. If we were to compare skeptical
reaction to other societal forms of fictions such as comics, TV
drama or Hollywood have you noticed any atheist newsmakers causing a
commotion over these fictions? I haven’t.
battles over truth “dwarfs” or is “small potatoes” when
compared to retaliation. Retaliation,
whether its justifiable or not, is the root of destructive
I sift through the activities of the secular movement searching for
what they’re real motives are and why anyone would want to destroy
the Christian church are…they strongly point towards retaliation.
One must look at who or what groups have been done wrong by religion
and there you will find the populous of secularism that is diligently
working for the destruction of religion.
doubt that religious people have done people wrong. But in
proportion, religion has helped way more people than they have
harmed. This writer was once a clergyman, while a clergyman I
couldn’t help but notice how others put me up on a pedestal. In my
mind, I was always mindful of myself…an imperfect man serving a
perfect God. At some point mankind has to come to grips with mortals
leading the church and allow them to be human. Clergymen, lay
people, and parishioners will all make mistakes; such high
expectations are unrealistic.
tide needs to turn; the pendulum needs to swing back the other way
with religion. Look, this writer has his grievances as well. But
somewhere along the way religion crafts some disciplines that
prepare us for reality. One of those disciplines is forgiveness and
the need to move on towards constructive endeavors. Retaliation
becomes a vicious cycle without end. Retaliation breeds’
retaliation, ultimately it hurts society.
seem to think that religion is “too big to fail” or that it will
always somehow manage to survive. They’re wrong. This writer has
seen it fail in Eastern Europe and I see it in trouble now. The
retaliation movement…I mean the secular movement isn’t thinking
straight with their destructive course. Some people cannot help
themselves though. If spiritual disciplines were exercised further
action to deal with retaliation would be unnecessary. The absences
of these disciplines ultimately leave this problem at the feet of
those that govern.
something good (like marriage) goes bad (divorce), one institution
(courts) set boundaries to limit the repercussions and prevent
potential retaliation. I strongly believe that the institution of
religion needs similar protection. The next step we should take is
to assimilate protection from retaliation into our thinking when we
define freedom of religion.
Brian Worley Ex-Minister.org March 22, 2013 All rights reserved.