Columbia Law School’s Law, Rights and Religion Project’s Whose Faith Matters? The Fight for Religious Liberty Beyond the Christian Right has been published and is a wonderfully informative document. From the executive summary:
Whose Faith Matters? The Fight for Religious Liberty Beyond the Christian Right seeks to correct two widespread misconceptions: that the political left has abandoned the fight for “religious liberty,” seeing religion as a threat to its values, and that Christian conservatives are resolutely dedicated to protecting religious liberty.
The United States of America has regularly discriminated against non-Conservative and/or non-Christian people in legal understandings, which is in violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. Furthermore, those Christian nationalists who seek to turn our secular republic into a theocracy continue to attempt to bamboozle the public into thinking that this country was founded as “a Christian nation”, meanwhile historians remind them that the Founding Fathers, products of the European Enlightenment, were mostly Deists, who are not, at all, Christians. (See: Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason, and more recently Andrew L. Seidel’s The Founding Myth, which is a book I hope to read by the end of the year.)
From the report a quote:
“It seemed to me one of the tragedies of history that Christians, since the age of Constantine, had rarely put their obedience to Christ ahead of their obedience to the state.”
~Jim Forest, member of the Milwaukee Fourteen
I found this quote profound, since we see many vocal Evangelical Christians who are, as one of many possible examples, advocating for the United States governments current policy of family separations at the border, which I personally find insane that any Christian would think that Jesus Christ would be for such a practice.
The second section of the report spends most of its time recounting many different court cases that tried to use the Clinton Administration’s horrible Religious Freedom Restoration Act (introduced by Chuck Schumer) to try and get religious exemptions from something that everyone else in a similar circumstance would be required to do.
The third section specifically identifies legislation that was attempted or passed under the guise of religious liberty that specifically benefits the Christian Right, and, at best, ignores everyone who doesn’t see that point of view, including mainline and leftist Christians, not just non-Christians. Fortunately the report does not ignore the Christian Nationalists’ Project Blitz.
The fourth section holds the reports recommendations for “Protecting Religious Liberty for Everyone”. Their recommendations, which strike me as levelheaded and well reasoned:
- Religious Liberty Must Be Neutral
- Religious Liberty Must Be Noncoercive
- Religious Liberty Must Be Nondiscriminatory
- Religious Liberty Cannot Be Absolute
- Religious Liberty Must Be Democratic
- Religious Liberty Must Be Pluralistic
Amy Littlefield for VICE: The People Reclaiming Religious Freedom from the Christian Right
Highlighting some of the organizations working to use religious beliefs to enjoy the same legal shields that conservative Christians have used for years:
Scott Warren with the group No More Deaths cited his religious beliefs to defend himself against felony charges after he was arrested last year for giving food and water to migrants in the Arizona desert. In Maine, a peer addiction recovery coach founded the Church of Safe Injection last year “to spread the gospel of harm reduction” by handing out overdose reversal medication and clean needles to people with addiction, even though it’s illegal in Maine to have more than 10 syringes without a certification. In Georgia the same year, a group of Catholics broke into a nuclear base and marked it with their own blood to protest the threat of nuclear war.
Of note, as of November 21, 2019, Scott Warren was found not guilty.
A particular passage that I found rang particularly true for me:
“A results analysis reveals pretty clearly that the tendency, and what will happen the most, is religion and the idea of religious freedom will be misused to maintain traditional power structures, not to advance social progress,” said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “We’ve seen religion used to justify slavery, religion used to fight civil rights, religion used to keep women down, and now religion used to turn back the clock on LGBTQ equality.” But using religious freedom as a legal strategy hasn’t worked out so well for people on the left.
And, of course, a recounting of one of my favorite victories against violation of church and state in recent memory:
Sometimes these efforts have helped to enforce the separation of church and state. After the state of Oklahoma erected a statue of the Ten Commandments outside the Oklahoma State House several years ago, the Satanic Temple famously announced it would erect an eight-foot monument to the goat-headed deity Baphomet on the same grounds. Before the Temple could unveil its statue—which featured two children gazing up at the deity in adoration—Oklahoma’s Supreme Court ruled that the Ten Commandments statue violated the state Constitution and would have to come down. That was the entire point, the Satanic Temple’s co-founder and spokesperson Lucien Greaves told VICE News at the time. “We won this round,” Greaves said.