The GOP’s Wacky One-Way Religious Freedom (We Got it, You Don’t)

Republican ideas about religious freedom are just bizarre – how is insisting everyone live according to your particular religious beliefs, how is forcing everyone to allow you to lead prayers to your particular god at school board meetings and so forth, promote religious freedom?

If I am forced to live according to your religious tenets, where are my religious freedoms? If I am not allowed contraception because your religion is opposed to it, where are my religious freedoms?  What if as a woman you want an abortion and you are told, “no, that’s against my religion”? If I have to listen to you lead a prayer to your god while I am forced to sit in silence, where are my religious freedoms?

Rob Boston of Americans United noted this discrepancy as it relates to the Catholic Church:

But to the bishops, “religious liberty” has a very specific meaning. The church hierarchy tends to use the term when seeking to have church dogma written into law for all Americans to follow or when they’re demanding exemptions from general laws that apply to all groups.

Yeah…that’s not really religious liberty. It’s only religious liberty if we all have the same religious liberties. Otherwise its special rights.

Republicans don’t seem to see the irony. They simply keep insisting that their religious freedoms are being infringed because they can’t do whatever they want while we…sit on our hands.

Take Michigan Rep. Tim Walberg, a two-term Republican, who, says CBN, “believes prayer is a part of America’s DNA, pointing to the founding fathers who sought divine guidance as he does. In May 2012, he introduced H.Res.662 which expresses support for school board prayer. The measure quickly found 33 co-sponsors.

Rob Boston writes,

As a practical matter, resolutions like this have little meaning. Congress can pass a resolution stating that the Earth is flat, but that doesn’t make it so. But these legislative gestures are still annoying because increasingly they are vehicles to assail our fundamental freedoms and score political points.

This particular resolution, which drones on for four pages, cites a 1983 Supreme Court ruling dealing with prayers before state legislatures. It says this ruling, Marsh v. Chambers, permits ceremonial prayers before government meetings and calls them “a tolerable acknowledgement of beliefs widely held among the people of the Nation.”

That’s nice Walberg believes that his kind of prayer is part of America’s DNA. He is entitled to believe that. He is not, according to the First Amendment, allowed to legislate that. And he loves to legislate his beliefs. He is a cosponsor of H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. He is also a cosponsor of H.R. 358, the Protect Life Act.

In fact, he cares so much about his rights of conscience and so little for yours, that he co-sponsored the infamous “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011” (H.R. 1179).

Completely distorting the religious landscape of the Founding elite, Walberg claims, “It was like second nature that all of a sudden it was stopped and said, ‘Let’s go to prayer.'”

Except that they didn’t. They didn’t even go to prayer when it was suggested, while grinding out the U.S. Constitution on sweltering days when tempers were flaring.

Walberg is, unsurprisingly, a former pastor. He apparently thinks he is a pastor still and he is determined that the rest of us pray along with him, by God. As CBN reports,

One way he’s trying to do that is with a House resolution supporting school boards that start their meetings with prayer, a practice that’s brought lawsuits to some school boards and other local bodies in recent years. “If you want to pray at a town hall meeting or a school board meeting or in the halls of Congress, that ought to be acceptable in the United States.”

Unless, of course, you’re not Christian. Look what they’ve done to President Obama because his Christianity is not like their own. Look at the abuse being heaped on their own Republican candidate for president, Mitty Romney, for daring to be a Mormon who has some different ideas about Jesus. Look what they’ve done to Keith Ellison, who is not a Christian at all but a Muslim. Look at the outrage over inviting a Hindu priest to give a prayer at the opening of a House session.

Then you should not be allowed to pray at all. It’s amazing how rapidly arguments for religious freedom evaporate when another God is mentioned – or no god.

Rob Boston of Americans United points out that “It creates a precedent, or at least the appearance, that that particular religious perspective has a special relationship with the government, and the government really shouldn’t be taking a stand like that.” And they shouldn’t. The First Amendment says so. The First Amendment bans state-sponsored religion.

Imagine a Wiccan or a Muslim or some member of another religious minority standing up to lead a prayer at a town hall meeting or a school board meeting. Imagine the abuse that person would endure for daring to have beliefs that are at odds with Rep. Walberg’s.

Walberg claims that his resolution wouldn’t infringe on anyone’s religious freedom, that it only acknowledges “the role and power of prayer” but he, as a private citizen enjoying his First Amendment rights, can acknowledge the role and power of prayer any time he wants to – the government should not.

He claims “We’re not pushing on other people and saying you have to do this, but it’s promoted freedom in this country and the world, and we want to continue it.”

But he is insisting we have to do this or that. He is insisting that we sit through recitation of sectarian prayers, that we put his god’s official seal on the actions of whatever committee is about to meet, that his god and no other’s god is guiding the hands and hearts of those about to engage in a decision making process for all.

This is a clear and obvious violation of the Constitution’s Establishment Clause. There are tax-free places Walberg can go to pray if he wants. They are called churches.

Would Rep. Walberg be as happy if the group leading the prayer was of a denomination not his own? Christian history for its twenty centuries of existence has been a patchwork of warring denominations, often leading to violence and death between them and replete with denunciations of heresy (false belief). We continue to see it today. We witnessed a presidential candidate accuse mainline protestants of serving Satan because they did not share his particular belief set.

And how is the Muslim to feel, the Wiccan to feel, a Heathen to feel or any other member of a religious minority to feel, when forced to listen to a room full of religious bigots use the sanction of their offices to attack the beliefs of other religions? Infamously, Christians in the Pagan Roman Empire would disrupt Pagan worship by hissing. Wouldn’t that be fun to endure again if you dared express your own non-Christian religious beliefs? I know what kind of stares even wearing a Thor’s hammer instead of a cross can engender. Imagine saying it out loud.

Conservative Christians get very testy when they see you don’t agree with them. Your insistence on your right to your own beliefs is interpreted by them as an attack on theirs.

The one thing Republicans – conservative Catholics and Protestants both – aren’t lying about is that our religious freedom is under assault. They’re just wrong about whose religious freedom is under assault. Yours. As an individual.

One’s religious freedom is not less important than that of another’s, or of the many.

21 Replies to “The GOP’s Wacky One-Way Religious Freedom (We Got it, You Don’t)”

  1. Walberg should keep himself busy doing the people’s work…like stopping the demonization of teachers in this state. He and Snyder are all proud of themselves for ‘balancing the budget’ by making teachers pay 20% more of their retirements and 20% more for the health care, both benefits they were promised while accepting lower salaries to do what they love. But gee, it’s just those evil unions that set this up and the state can’t compete without giving money to those ‘job-creators,’ and the teachers who should be glad to be working at all, are just going to have to suck it up again. Meanwhile, Snyder has cut corporate tax rates again, and wants to allow drilling in Lake Michigan! Yeah, let’s foul the biggest fresh water source in the nation with natural gas fracking and spilled oil. Who cares that we have just had the 12 hottest months ever, and that we had almost no winter snows to replace the water? Just keep those ‘job-creators’ happy. Meanwhile, I guess we can always import water from China, huh, Walberg? Or will you just hold a public prayer meeting and pray for new fresh water sources? That worked so well for Perry in Texas, where it is still a drought.

  2. …”“If you want to pray at a town hall meeting or a school board meeting or in the halls of Congress, that ought to be acceptable in the United States…”

    I can easily make the argument that my “belief system” says it “ought to be acceptable in the United States” to “openly” wear a lime green thong and sing my church’s favorite song before a town hall meeting, too.

    What? What’s wrong with that?! It’s a free country and I’m just “tankin’ de’lard” for my liberating freedoms to express my beliefs…

    Oh, that’s right, I forgot; my “belief” would be considered an abomination, I/my “church” are full of prunes, shouldn’t be allowed to do as the founding fathers didn’t do, to the best of our knowledge…we don’t know if they did/did not pranced in panties at town meetings, now do we?

    That’s because David Barton has ALL the documents!

    Mean while, back at the ranch, Wesson oil is being “spread” all over some sidewalk somewhere by Ted Haggard to ward off evil spirits…and that’s good christian liberty!

  3. I would LOVE to open up a prayer to all father Odin or Thor just to see the look on these Hypocrites faces!! I mean, these dominionist/fundies are sooo fond of shoving tales (as well as trying to legislate policy) of Armageddon and the second coming down everyone’s throat…so why not give Ragnarok equal time?

  4. Wesson oil got spread on my wheelbarrow handles and a brick left in my driveway by somebody exercising *their* religious freedom. A month or two later, when they decided they hadn’t been free enough, they dumped this syntheshit where my driveway joined the road- a real-enough looking mess that was apparently made out of bran and water. In the first instance, I chucked the brick across the road and repainted the wheelbarrow with oil-based paint, something I do every couple of years anyway. In the second case, I turned on the hose so the mess was dispersed to the other side of the road. My life has been relatively uneventful since, except when somehow a heavy jardinier wound up in the path where I customarily go out with the dog at night and I partly dislocated my kneecap, but that healed nicely, thank you. I only hope they’re now exercising their religious freedoms somewhere else, if at all.

  5. You want to get their britches bunched, use a normal prayer, but just refer to the Almighty as She.

    (In fact, God is a Cat, and She is not happy with what we’ve done with Her planet at all.)

  6. A huge reason why religious freedom became the very first amendment when we declared our independence from Britain was because it not only was religious persecution still quite fresh in everyone’s memories of just how they and their families and friends were being abused for having a religion that didn’t follow all but it was still a reality in most culture–a reality that forced them to leave their homes for some place they knew nothing about.

  7. The best way I’ve heard this expressed, is:
    “The fact that Christians are not free to persecute others, does not equate to the persecution of Christians.”

    While I was working at an elementary public school two years ago, a group called “Kids for Christ” was INVITED by our principal to lead an assembly (at which attendance of EVERYONE was required.) They assembled all the kids, teachers, and staff for the last 15 minutes of the school day, handed out bags of candy, and gave each child a permission slip to take home and have signed by parents, which would allow their child to attend the group’s meetings (basically an hour’s worth of free after-school child care) every Wednesday for the entire school year. About 30 parents refused to sign the forms, and lodged a protest during a meeting of the PTA that week. One lady (who proudly stated her family was Buddhist) wanted to know if she could start a “Babies for Buddah” group on Thursdays. She was shouted down in the PTA meeting, and told to leave. This is the kind of ‘religious freedom’ Christians approve of.

    The religious (Christian) right seems to think “religious freedom” belongs only to them. It’s boolsheet of the first order, and MUST NOT BE TOLERATED by a free people.

  8. I know a recovering Assembly of Godder who used to go through gallons of the stuff, doing this regularly. It’s one thing to wave Bibles around the mutter imprecatory curses; it’s quite another to do something like this, with holy oil representing the Holy Spirit and functioning as something Wesson never intended

  9. ROFLMAO! This morning, I needed a laugh. Thanks!

    Know this issue well. We face it all the time… they think they have the right to force their religion on us, and resent it when people don’t go along. I’ve been getting rather protective of my pagan friends lately, because of some of the attitudes I encounter.

  10. Even the more tolerant (if such a thing exists among dominionists) try to be OK with using She and claim so, but you can see them bristle and start raging inside. It becomes quite evident, to me at least, that their “tolerance” is just another tool to try to proselytize.

  11. I’ve mentioned before, catching people sneaking onto our property with oily hands… obviously oily because you could see it glistening on their skin. One guy claimed that he was going to leave a tract on our vehicles, but I knew better. I wasn’t nice to him and was ready to commit violence unless he left (and I think he sensed it).

    I realized after we caught the first one that there had been oily handprints on our cars many times. Since I do my own mechanic work, I just thought that I had worked on the car and hadn’t noticed that I’d forgotten to clean it off. We’ve also found them on our house and other places.

    Since the sign went up, we’ve had only one or two attempts that we’ve caught… I got rather harsh with them (one time I suspect the guy pushed the signpost down before entering – he claimed he didn’t see it and it had been upright previous to the attempt).

    Funny, but I often wonder how much effect that their cursing has had… up until I started throwing those bastards off of our property and put up a “No Trespassing” sign, we used to have a long history of blown engines in our cars, even with the care I gave them. It was quite expensive and a real problem. (We used to get a lot of proselytizers, usually on Saturdays.) We also sometimes think we can detect when the local churches are pissed and praying harm for us, because of the strange and unpleasant things that happen, usually after a letter to the editor I’d written had been published (they HATE anything remotely liberal in point of view).

    They sure do like their “Christian Sorcery”, don’t they? I now regularly pray that whatever evil they send my way, gets returned 10 or 100 fold. It hasn’t seemed to have done much good, however.

  12. The problem with many Christians who identify with the so-called “religious right” is that they are long on self-righteousness and short on selflessness, long on callousness and short on compassion, long on intimidation and short on tolerance.

    The values and mores of ANY religion have absolutely no place in politics with respect establishing public policy or writing legislation. We need to focus on secular, societal ethical behavior and leave religious morality in the church and within every individual’s home. One religion’s virtue could be another religion’s sin.

    We were never a “Christian” nation. Neither are we a “Caucasian” nation or an “Anglo” nation. Although most of the Founding Fathers considered themselves to be religious (some were Christians, others were deists), they also realized the folly of the government attempting to impose a particular religion and its ideology onto the populace.

    Spirituality comes in many forms. Whether or not an individual regards themselves as a Christian says nothing about the person’s character or value as a human being, nor does it speak to their loyalty and patriotism toward our nation.

    The notion that one group of religions is more righteous or more American than any other is contrary to the tenets established by our founding fathers when they endorsed the “separation of church and state” as a fundamental concept in the US Constitution.

  13. When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in stars and stripes, and carrying a cross. I don’t usually go for a slippery-slope argument such as this, but honestly, what’s next? Say we set this precedent. Well, obviously we now identify ourselves as a Christian nation. Do you know why so many people don’t like the terrorist regimes of the Middle East? Because they use their faith as an excuse to degrade and harm those who are different from them. And when persecution of other religions is legalized, like many of these nutjobs seem to desire, we walk straight back down the path of the Nazis that the right wing so loves comparing everyone who doesn’t buy into their corporate-mouthpiece drivel.

  14. Tossing oil at passing cars, not just touching parked ones, is common too, and not a very good idea. They can wave Bibles and pray at me all they want because I know their prayers are powerless and I’m not subject to their Bronze Age desert god mumbo-jumbo, but throwing oil at my property is a big no-no.

    Maybe we non-Christians should start spraying whip cream around to stave off desert-god influences; after all, whip cream is cold :) And whip-creaming Fundie cars would be a good way to blow off steam after being harangued at your door, at the store and on the airwaves all day.

  15. I would love to be there when you do, but please, make sure you ask MacManan for rain when you do. and lots of it.

  16. Whipped Cream the fundie-mobiles? Ummm…white bread with cheap margarine with warm green jello on the wind shield would be a lot better to keep them busy and away from the rest of us…or, Wesson them back! Make them paranoid that “someone” doesn’t think they are christian enough.

    I also like the way the LBGT community handled that old queen Marcus Bachman; they all dressed like “heathens” and glittered his office while dancing in the street in front of his place.

    That sent a clear message…

  17. Aren’t these people behaving just like the Pharisees who were so threatened by Christ that they wanted him put to death?

  18. On second thought, Thor has the rain part covered too. I wouldn’t want to want him getting too pissed at MacManan. Although, methinks if Thor just handled the lightning that might be a good compromise. Hmmmm.

  19. Don’t waste real whip cream on them. These guys deserve KoolWhip. In their diets. Every day. And lots of Velveeta. In their diets. Every day.

    P. S. Why do they think Wesson has some kind of magical powers not possessed by Mazola, Soyoliva, Publix Store Brand, Crsco, etc?

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