Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Is Religion Above the Law?

Is Religion Above the Law? - NY Times 10/17/11

Fascinating look into the vexing issues facing the supreme court justices on how to balance the freedom to practice one's religion against the ministerial exception rules that exclude religious institutions from complying with general laws of conduct for all citizens. The author describes a case of a woman who was fired from her church job because she sued claiming disability discrimination. The ability to sue the church is apparently against Lutheran church doctrine (seems a convenient way to protect itself from any criticism in my opinion) and thus the dilemma presents itself. This is a relatively mild case, but there are lots of instances where these ministerial exceptions pose a problem to the foundational principles of this country where some special groups are exempt or above the law.

The first instance is taxation, obviously. There should be no special treatment for anyone on this front. Income should be taxed as such. The second major one is this rash of child rape and abuse by ministers that seem to be protected from the law by the clergy so they don't have to come forth with information or evidence that crimes have been committed. This is a serious breach of that trust allocated with these ministerial exemptions that assumes these practicing religions will do the right thing. This is an erroneous judgement to make as we see time and again people of the cloth behaving rather badly, touching our children and taking hard-earned money supposedly donated for good causes to gain wealth personally. This is not right and although these judges seem to have a hard time balancing the two ideals, there really is only one clear-cut answer for a pluralistic secular society. No special treatment can be given to these institutions for anything. They have shown repeatedly that they cannot be trusted with these perks of society, not to mention the fact that for some reason we deem irrationality and belief in supernatural fairy tales to be so special and so warranting of this elite status in our society.

It is high time we come to our senses and realize that these people are peddling nonsense and brainwashing our children with stories of hate, self-deprecation, bigotry and fear of others, providing unnecessary friction against the advances of science and our understanding of the universe we actually live in as they try desperately to impose the one in which they wished we lived in, not to mention causing all sorts of socio-political issues that arise from differences in creed, dogma and gods worshipped. This is not healthy for a society that needs to advance from the dark ages to something that could be really special. These types of special treatments continue the thought that these institutions should demand any sort of respect or reverence from us. The same reason that ho-hum religious followers give credence to the fanatic religious by not denying or speaking out against its absurdity. It's time that we call it for what it is... absurd. It's time we offer them no special treatment over other citizens. Treat everyone the same, how hard is that?

What about religions that refuse to recognize, and even consider impious, the distinction between the private and the public spheres? Can the state step in and say, “No, you’re wrong; that practice you’re worried about isn’t really essential to your faith; give it up so that a system of laws put in place for everyone isn’t destroyed by exceptions.” Doesn’t society, Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked at oral argument, “have a right at some point to say certain conduct is unacceptable, even if religious?”

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