Taking Religious “Liberty” Too Far …

There is a recent push for a thing called “religious liberty”.  We already have constitutionally-mandated freedom of religion in the United States.  As long as your religion does not involve human sacrifices or some such atrocity, you are free to believe as you will, attend the church of your choice – or not – and live your life in a manner consistent with your beliefs.  What you do not have, however, is the right to force your beliefs on others.  This is, in a nutshell, what the “religious liberty” movement seeks to do.

In October 2017, Ryan Coleman took a job as a painter at a construction company, Dahled Up Construction, in Albany, Oregon, about an hour south of Portland.  After being hired, Coleman was told that it was a job requirement to attend Christian bible study classes.  Mr. Coleman is half-Native American (Cherokee and Blackfoot) does not follow the Christian faith and had no desire to attend the classes, but the company’s owner, Joe Dahl, insisted that it was a requirement, not a request.

Coleman has children to feed, and unwilling to risk losing his job, attended the classes for a few months, but eventually became too uncomfortable with the ‘teachings’ to continue.  He decided to stop attending, and he informed Mr. Dahl that he had tried, but the classes went against his own personal beliefs.  Mr. Dahl’s response was, “Well, I’m going to have to replace you. You’re not going to tell me how to run my own company.”

Coleman responded with, “I’m not trying to tell you how to run your own company, but you’re not going to tell me what god to pray to.”  Coleman was fired in April 2018 for refusing to follow the company mandate to attend religious classes.

Mr. Coleman has filed a lawsuit, the details of which I won’t get into here, but Mr. Dahl’s lawyers’ response is interesting, for they claim the requirement is perfectly legal since the employees are on company time and therefore are being paid to attend.  That, in my book, is akin to saying that whatever an employee is asked to do while ‘on the clock’, is legal.  Hmmmm … it seems to me this has the potential to open some cans of worms.  So, if I order an employee to commit murder, as long as I’m paying him, it’s okay?  I think not.religious demographicsThe above chart by Pew Research Center shows global religious demographics.  Note that, while Christianity has the largest following worldwide, it is far from a majority.  Other religions, Islam, Hindu, Judaism, Buddhism and hundreds of lesser-known religions have equal legitimacy. Note, also, that a fairly substantial portion, 16.3%, choose to follow no religion.

The United States has laws against workplace discrimination.  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.  What part of this, I wonder, did Mr. Dahl not understand?

I am all for freedom of religion – for all, not just one sect or another.  I support a person’s right to run his or her business in a manner that is profitable.  These two, however, need not be mutually exclusive.  Why on earth anybody would think it’s acceptable to dictate the religion of his employees is beyond my comprehension!  Not only that, but it is beyond the rule of law.

According to guidance by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):

“An employee cannot be forced to participate (or not participate) in a religious activity as a condition of employment.”

This seems fairly cut and dried, and one might be tempted to be complacent in the belief that the court will rule in Mr. Coleman’s favour.  But wait … this is the year 2018 … the year in which the Supreme Court decided (Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission) that a baker in Colorado, Jack Phillips, had the right to refuse to serve a gay couple based on his religious beliefs.  Although in that case, the court ruling warned that there were extenuating circumstances and this decision should not be interpreted as giving other businesses carte blanche to do what Jack Phillips did, some in the Christian community seem to have disregarded that warning.

In May, Donald Trump signed an executive order, “Establishment of a White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative”, that he said would “vigorously protect religious freedom”.  Taken at face value, that would indicate that Mr. Coleman’s freedom to refuse being forced to attend the Christian-based bible study courses would be protected and Mr. Dahl broke the law by terminating his employment. However, thus far it appears that Trump’s order has been interpreted to mean protecting only the Christian religions rather than all religious beliefs.

This will be an interesting case to follow. Will it end up on the docket of the Supreme Court?  It’s anybody’s guess at this early stage, and one would hope that the lower courts have the good sense to see that Mr. Dahl crossed a line.  But, this is the Era of Trump, the day of ‘alternative facts’, where up is down, red is green, and wrong is sometimes right. Hang on to your hats, folks.

97 thoughts on “Taking Religious “Liberty” Too Far …

  1. That order Trump signed is a scary, scary thing. Religion and politics are like oil and water. I’m not saying a person shouldn’t vote their conscience in elections, etc., but that is FAR from declaring a state religion. Haven’t we learned anything from WWII? The outcome of this case could sure have long-lasting implications that might be hard to undo. Living as a minority religion in Utah has given us a little taste of this. This just makes me angry.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, as for the ‘evangelicals’, I agree, but I also believe there is a larger portion of Christians who are content to practice their religion without shoving it down our throats. Problem is, just like in the current political climate, they are the ‘silent majority’.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hope you are right. I’m beginning to feel, perhaps unjustifiable, that anyone Christian is a far right evangelical or fundamentalist. I find them very uncomfortable to be around.

        Liked by 1 person

        • See … that is the danger … and we are all guilty of it. We label people … an entire group … based on the actions of a few. It is rather like Trump labeling Muslims as terrorists, because a handful of terrorists were Muslim. Or labeling Hispanics as ‘rapists and murderers’ because a few were. But to your point … I do understand and have done much the same myself, but then I try to step back and remember that just as not all republicans are radical, far-right Trump supporters, neither are all Christians of the sort whose arrogance makes them believe that their way is the one and only “right” way. We just have to stop, sometimes, and look inside ourselves, I think. Like you, I find it difficult to be in the company of a radical Christian, one who is convinced that they are right and the rest of the world is wrong. In fact, I don’t go around people like that.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. OK, it would be pointless to try an argue with anyone with that mindset on true Christian grounds because they’d start to play the ‘persecution’ and ‘ministry of Christ’ cards. But as far as the USA constitution goes ‘that is a load man’!
    That’s the problem with ‘The Handmaiden’s Tale’ it gives some folk the wrong idea.
    (Wait ’til the UK followers of the Holy Book of Dawkins get hold of this, they will be beside themselves with gleeful outrage that all Christians are like that)

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Separation of Church and State is essential to protect the freedoms of everyone…believers and nonbelievers of whatever as decided by the individual person. Liberty for all is the missing element in “Religious Liberty” and it is detrimental to Thomas Jefferson’s principle of separation. This will most likely not end well for most of us. Thank-you!

    Liked by 3 people

    • It’s hard to say how this will progress … I suspect that much depends on partisan politics more than any “will of the people”. Sigh. I only know that I am not going to live in a nation where policy and law are dictated by a specific religion. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. So glad you touched on this topic. I’ve about had it with the fundamentalists trying to hang on to their ‘christian’ version of America. Do we have any doubt that once Kavanaugh is confirmed … and he will be unfortunately … the SCOTUS will move even further down this road? The righties will have the court for years into the future … it’s high time Dems start realizing you can’t shape things by looking at the short-term. These guys are in it for the long-term.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Unfortunately, I must agree with you. An even worse scenario is if Ginsburg or Breyer or both, at their ages of 85 and 80, either retire or die before 2020…two more appointments could possibly fall into Trump’s hands. This could lead to a SCOTUS conservative majority of 7:2, not a great prospect for liberals.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Would that not be a disaster in the making if that scenario plays out? They know their ideas are being rejected by most Americans. One of the last things they can do is have the Judiciary clearly in their corner. We’ve been played. And badly. The Merrick Garland fiasco proves how far they will go to keep power. It’s why the gloves have been off for quite some time with the R’s. It’s time the Dems finally take them off as well. Now isn’t the time for Chuck Schumer’s Mr. Nice Guy techniques. Too bad it has to come to that but it is what it is…….

        Liked by 1 person

    • True. While I’ve always understood and supported judges being appointed for life, this is the first time that I really wish it weren’t so. In our lifetime, we will not likely see another moderate Supreme Court, and the best we can hope is that they are all fair and just. I have reservations, but since there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it, I will have to settle for hoping for the best. Sigh.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yep. I’ve about watched enough of the charade going on at the confirmation hearings. I know the Dems have to at least look like they have a pulse on this. But, it’s to no avail. The guy is going to be confirmed. Time to move on. Time to concentrate on November and beyond.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. ‘ Go he into all the world and preach the Gospel ‘ and for centuries that is what western civilization did , later others took up this activity such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses with all sorts of protestant groups. There was great debate about just what was meant by the Gospel and that still rages today.
    These days a look at utube will show anyone multiple Gospels and not just religious ones , so we must be careful if we deny the right to preach by those who are convinced by what they say. Public education in some subjects involves a sort of Gospel , I was continuously told what a great nation I had the privilege to be born into. History and Geography are danger points mathematics is fairly safe, our children are in our hands , Mr Dawkins thinks fairy stories are dangerous stuff and of course he puts Christmas in that category.
    Politicians preach their Gospel from extreme left to extreme right and even extreme lunacy occasionally shows itself.
    I think we must take care not to formulate a law which gives everyone the right to believe what they like but no right to talk about it.
    There is a place in Hyde Park called Speakers Corner where men and women are free to rant — let’s keep it there .

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hmmm … you give me food for thought. And I would agree that we should not stifle one’s right to talk about their religion, but … that is a slippery slope of sorts, for I have a right not to listen, and that is what I see as being in danger. I have a right to NOT have church ladies knocking on my door trying to preach their brand of religion. I have a right to walk into a grocery store and NOT have somebody shoving a flyer in my face advertising one church function or another. So, it’s like all other rights … it should not rob somebody else of theirs.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Slippery slope ha ha what height are you on there is no slippery slope all there is a human disagreement and sometimes those who are caught up in unsound beliefs free themselves and are all the better for it. As children nearly all our beliefs are unsound but we grow up hopefully enriched by the magic of childhood memories.
        The wonderful thing about animals is they don’t judge , they look for love and acceptance — full stop. I seen a few rough sleepers with their dogs beside them on the pavement , the bond is there. Others , sometimes even our own , criticize our lives and the way we spend our time and money ; they have that right just as we have the right to be ourselves.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’ve long said that animals are far superior to humans. They do not judge, they do not kill except for food or if they are threatened, and as you say, they love without conditions. I think humans were a failed experiment. Give a person opposable thumbs and they think they own the world! 😉

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    • @ kersten , I think you use the word gospel way to loosely.

      gos·pel
      ˈɡäspəl/Submit
      noun
      1.
      the teaching or revelation of Christ.
      “it is the Church’s mission to preach the gospel”
      synonyms: Christian teaching, Christian doctrine, Christ’s teaching; More
      2.
      the record of Jesus’ life and teaching in the first four books of the New Testament /blockquote>

      So you see the many groups you mention do not qualify.

      As for Mr Dawkins, his point was telling kids it was the birth of a deity that was being celebrated when that was clearly false, even per the religious scholars, was something that was wrong, and I agree with him. Teach the history and meanings of the holiday if you like, but don’t claim the “reason for the season is Jesus Christ”. Every Christmas season I get in to it with old white Christians in our retirement park who put up signs saying “put Christ back in Christmas” and I have to explain how Christmas was a pagan holiday that the christian church took and bent to make it about their god. I even include where the many of the traditions come from, and yet they argue it was started only for the birth of their imaginary god. So yes These things must be pushed back on as if not they become part of the culture and then the law. Hugs

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      • Come come Scottie birth of a deity where have you been living ? for most is a chance of a good booze up and general over indulgence for a small minority it has some spiritual significance and in my observance of that small minority I see them enjoying a holiday like the rest of us.
        Your taking things far too seriously , relax people are not so much different the world over.
        My extension of the word Gospel is exactly what has happened just as the word Christian no longer has a ridged meaning . Remember any good deed is regarded as a Christian act , so there is a chance for you and me yet eh?
        The rigidity and conflict we now have is due to the inflexible ideas we have about others. I have the Witnesses at my door occasionally and I make a point of chatting to them about anything other than religion , they have families , worries , concerns about living just like we all do.
        The best way of getting them out of obsessive behaviour is diversion NOT confrontation. The problem with the Dawkins method is it is confrontational , of course he cannot help it he is very angry.
        The lesson is the same with the Trump supporters confrontation and even abuse leads nowhere and ultimately to warfare.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Where I live a lot of older white people push the Christ in Christmas thing hard. They also watched a lot of Bill O’Reilly and are constant fox news watchers, and think there is a horrible war on Christmas. In fact Pres Obama was stomping Christmas out until their grand leader tRump came and fought hard for Christians and Christmas. I do engage the pushy “live as we demand” Christians and I push back on them hard. I have to as they are fighting to take my civil rights away. I also do not use the term christian as loosely as you do. By your standard of the word it becomes meaningless. You describe someone who is more properly called spiritual. I think Dawkins is correct that to indoctrinate kids into a lie that they will then have to keep up for the entire time they are part of the religion is silly. They can celebrate Christmas and make it as holy and religious as they want, but they have no rights to try to force the rest of us to. The point is they should know what they are talking about if they want to push it on others. In this case it is almost universally accepted by scholars that Jesus was not born on Dec. 25th. So if they want to celebrate their deity on that day, great more power to them, just don’t make the rest of us celebrate a fake birthday. I love my secular and sometimes very pagan Christmases so please don’t think I am anti the holiday. What I am against is people who think they have a duty to push their deity like a hawker at a carnival. I do not accord them the right to insist I have a part of their faith, a duty to their god. I worry deeply about the attempt by Dominion Christians to establish a theocratic nation under their version of religion and install their own christian sharia law. Hugs

          Liked by 1 person

          • Oh, there’s a big war on Christmas, Scottie. I’m selling tanks, planes, and bombs to atheists as I write this in order to have the biggest, most violent war on Christmas yet this year. Last year, we atheistic war-mongers blew up California, New York, and North Dakota in our blood-lust to end Christmas and Christianity. If you’ve not heard of that happening, then obviously, you’ve not been watching the “real” news. So, send me your order form, and I’ll ship you some nukes to use on every manger scene you see displayed this year. Yep, the war on Christmas is real, important, and is the first and only thing I think about every day of my life. Don’t you?

            Liked by 2 people

          • My apologies Scottie I can sense you’ve been wounded and it could well be I have escaped , or maybe things are more intense in parts of America. My reply to the statement about putting Christ back in Christmas would be let’s put Christ back into Christian behaviour . It’s very difficult for them to know what they are talking about since the Bible is inconsistent and many of the traditions are not Biblical , but error is a common human failing even present among the most learned. I think you will find the ambitions , lifestyles and way of life of nearly all evangelicals are very little different from the general mass of humanity. I make the same argument with many Muslims on this site the delusion they live under is that they are different . Some are changing we have women pastors and gay Bishops. When I asked two witnesses if they enjoyed door knocking they told me they did not but they were obliged to do it ; now how silly is that ?

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            • Kresten I am in agreement with you on much of this issue. I just think the problem of religions ( I do mean all of the religions that feel everyone needs to worship as they do ) moving as deeply into the secular life and government especially in this country. Studies show the more secular the population the better off a country is. I feel the treat is large and present. I do not support giving the Islamic religion a pass as some on the far left do, but Islam is not as much a threat to me int he US as Christianity is. Again I think you have to separate out people with a personal faith system , a code of conduct, from those who are part of an organised religion. In my view organised religions are simply businesses designed to take money from the base to funnel to the upper echelon of leaders. Personal faith in something is just that, a personal code of ideals and behavior believed in and practiced by a person. It need not be religious in nature , and most who have such a system normally do not talk of it unless asked. They let their lives and how they act / treat others show who they are. Hugs

              Liked by 1 person

  6. As a practising atheist, I’ve never felt comfortable with the role religion plays in the US. But…this, this is heading towards Christian fundamentalism to rival Sharia law. Not a pleasant thought. 😦

    Liked by 4 people

    • I had too much religion shoved down my throat at an early age, being half-Jew, half-Catholic, and by the time I reached the age of about 20, I decided none of it was for me. Religion is, as Marx put it, the “opiate of the masses” and the world would be so much nicer if people just tried being kind and forget the rules, rites and rituals imposed by religions. But alas, what do I know, right? 😉 I do fear that if the courts uphold Mr. Dahl’s argument, it will be the first step toward … something I don’t even want to think about. Hugs, my friend … haven’t seen you around much.

      Liked by 1 person

      • -hugs back- Edits, edits and more edits. 🙂

        The odd thing is, much the same thing happened to me. I was brought up Catholic because my Mum was Catholic, at least in name. My Dad, on the other hand was supposed to be Protestant. Yet he was the one who always took me to church on Sundays [he’d wait outside].
        Anyway, it wasn’t until I ‘fessed up to not believing in all this god stuff that I discovered he’d been an atheist all along too.
        Being a good, honest man, he never tried to influence me. Oh, and the reason I bring up this blast from the past is that Dad said exactly the same thing to me – Religion is the opiate of the masses.
        His point was that most people /needed/ organised religions to tell them how to live their lives.
        At the time, I disagreed, vehemently. I thought that if people were forced to really think about their values instead of swallowing them whole in a church, those values would mean more to them. No more church on Sunday, arsehole for the rest of the week behaviour.
        Now? I suspect that most people just use religion as a security blanket and don’t want to ask any of the hard questions in case they have to change their comfortable lives in any way. 😦

        Liked by 2 people

        • I absolutely love the story about your dad!!! I like him … and his daughter is pretty cool, too!

          I’ll tell you my thoughts on religion. Although yes, I know there are some highly educated people who are very religious and believe in it all, I think they have to be the exception. The goal of a college education is to teach people to think … to think for themselves. In order to do that, once must question virtually everything. And when one begins asking questions and seeking answers, the stories in the religious tomes, whether the bible, quran or torah, eimply don’t add up. I am a pragmatist. Show me. Prove it. And none of it can be proven. One has to take religion on blind faith, and the more one is taught to question, the more one comes to realize that … it simply doesn’t make sense. Not to say that one cannot believe there is some higher power. But the whole religion thing, with its man-made stories, rules, rites & rituals … it cannot stand up under questioning.

          I had a friend once … well, more of an acquaintance really. She was going through some pretty serious legal/financial troubles, and one day I asked her how she was coping with it all. Her response? “I’ve turned it all over to the lord, and he will take care of it.” Next I heard, she was serving a prison sentence. Hmmmmm …

          Liked by 1 person

          • Questions. YES! You’ve put your finger on it. Right smack in the middle. I did the whole questioning thing when I gave up religion and god[s] etc, but precisely because I did question, I came out the other end believing in goodness and the need to strive /for/ goodness in everything I do in life. Actions speak louder than words, and I’ll bet that if there is a god, she’d far rather talk to an honest unbeliever than a hyprocritical churchgoer.
            -grin- strangely, I believe that the man Jesus must have felt the same way when he threw all those self-seeking bastards out of the temple. 🙂

            Liked by 2 people

  7. Trump is a very fine Captain for this ship of fools. He will make changes to allow the Fundamentalist Christians to force their narrow spectrum religion down your throats then will have to start doing the same for Judaism when they make representations then maybe the Moslems and the Hindu’s will feel legislated against. Eventually we’ll have what we have now but a lot louder as they shout about who is right.
    Cwtch

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hello David, I don’t think Christianity which has held such a privileged position in the US would ever let any other religion get the privileges that Christianity demands and receives. That would causes an open holy war int eh the states. Hugs

      Liked by 4 people

    • If he gives the Christians even a small portion of the power they seek, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and all the rest will become persona non-grata. The bulk of the Christian churches in this nation are as anti-Semitic, Islamaphobic as they come! Governance and religion do not mix, yet I fear Trump is fool enough to allow them to try it. I doubt it will be possible to ignore, so the rest of us will either leave for greener pastures or jump off a cliff. Let us hope to get rid of Trump before that happens, although I’m not sure that Pence will be better in this area, for he is a religious freak also. Sigh.
      Cwtch

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  8. I am afraid that dominionism is getting a huge boost in the tRump era. The same people who shriek in outrage at Islamic countries sharia laws and second class treatment of females are doing their best to create the same thing here only based on their christian religion. They demand all others tolerate and accommodate their wishes and wants, while denying the same to any others. They think being denied the right to oppress others is persecution of them. At one time I thought I wouldn’t have to fight religion for my civil rights in the USA, and today LGBTQ people like myself are fighting to hold on to the few civil rights we have, because some people think their invisible imaginary sky wizard wants them to make those like me go away. Have you ever noticed that the god of these fundamentalist hates the very same people and things these people do? Hugs

    Liked by 4 people

    • I have thought the same many times. Christians don’t understand Sharia law, and yet they are afraid of it coming to this country, which is so unlikely that I’m more likely to get struck by lightening right this minute. But yet, they have no qualms about turning our secular government into one of their own making, where their rules must be followed by all. Double standard? Worse. Hugs!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. The root cause of many, if not all, of today’s conflicts are the closed minded elements of religious ideologies… the closed minded of different Christian ideologies cannot even agree among themselves and have been known to be hostile towards each other.. one should be able to believe however one wishes to, not have ones life determined and dictated to by someone else’s beliefs…

    I am greatful every day that I am not into, or affiliated, with religion… 🙂

    “I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.
    All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
    I do not mean by this declaration to condemn those who believe otherwise; they have the same right to their belief as I have to mine. But it is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.”

    – Thomas Paine
    Founding Father, United States of America

    Liked by 4 people

    • Precisely! Religions are devised by mankind, the rules, rites & rituals determined by men, for the convenience of said men. I also think that governments, as a rule, are all too willing to use religion to keep the peace, to keep people believing that no matter what, some divine being is in charge and it will all come out okay in the long run. I am in agreement with Karl Marx’ “religion is the opiate of the masses”.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. There are far fewer things that make me angrier than when someone tries to “push” their religious beliefs on me. And to try and force them as a requirement of employment?!??! Wrong! So very, very wrong!

    If the courts decide in favor of Mr. Dahl, I fear we’re in for a VERY bump ride!

    Liked by 6 people

  11. As we know, this is not about religious liberty, but about specific kinds of “Christians” imposing their beliefs and viewpoints on everyone else. And using “religious liberty” to push their own political agenda with a government that is all too willing to go along so they can stay in power.

    Liked by 6 people

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