Is Freedom of Religion Endangered in the United States?
Published on: June 27, 2012
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  • Jim.

    I propose an alternative test for religious freedom —

    In how many cases would a Christian or Christian institution that followed the dictates of Scripture and conscience be guilty of civil disobedience?

    The more cases where this is true, the less free the country.

    Canada is a particularly repugnant example of political correctness gone wild.

  • silia

    Religion is coercive in America. The MLK cult is the defacto state religion of America, and if you blaspheme against him, you will be hounded and blacklisted.

  • Wayne Lusvardi

    Contemporaneous with Dr. Berger’s column above is the report from China of a husband having to go into hiding from state-sponsored harassers after his wife was forced to have an abortion by the state for exceeding the one child limit. The state sponsored protestors carried signs and followed the woman and her family after the abortion.

    The woman violated the limit of one child per family and failed to pay a fine for having done so. So she was ordered to undergo a forced abortion.

    How far is the U.S. from this? Obamacare, if ever enacted, will surely not help these kind of situations.

  • LarryReiser

    Thomas More whatever his prior actions accepted death for his belief.The mandate to provide contraceptives also included sterilization and abortifacients.

  • Nancy D.

    The Catholic Church’s teaching on sexual ethics is grounded in authentic Love that serves to respect the inherent Dignity of all persons who have been created in The Image of God, equal in Dignity, while being complementary as male and female.

    Love is not possessive, nor is it coercive, nor does it serve to manipulate for the sake of self-gratification. For this reason, The Catholic Church will not condone the contraception mentality that promotes promiscuity and the sexual objectification of the human person in direct violation of God’s Commandment regarding lust and the sin of adultery, nor will they condone abortifacients, which serve to destroy the life of a human being, after that human individual has been created at their conception.

    Only The True God can endow us with our inherent Right to Religious Freedom, to begin with.

  • bcamarda

    I guess I expected a stronger case. In a nation of 300+ million, three examples of “religious persecution”: an institution incorrectly fires someone over his statement in a classroom, and then comes to its senses and reverses the decision; someone files a lawsuit that hasn’t been thrown out; and a bunch of events take place in another country that could theoretically be harbingers of a slippery slope towards similar events someday in the US. If that’s the worst of it, The Fortnight for Freedom is even more transparently about conservative politics than I had imagined.

  • Brendan Doran

    “Perhaps one should mention that no Catholic doctor has been jailed for refusing to prescribe contraception, neither has any Catholic priest for refusing to conduct same-sex weddings.”

    Not yet. And there are many sanctions before jail.

    By the Manhattan Charter the Bishops and other religions signatories are sworn to go to jail if necessary.

    No we’re not a totalitarian state…but that does not rule out all tyranny or abuse.

  • Nancy D.

    And even though in a secular world not everyone recognizes The True God to be the ordered, complementary, communion of Perfect Love that Is The Blessed Trinity, or some may deny that God exists, one cannot deny that Love exists, and every act, including sexual act, that does not respect the inherent Dignity of the human person, is not an act of Love. Only The Truth of Love can set us free.

  • Bebe

    Are we considering religious freedom or freedom of speech in this article? Clearly the U.S. Roman Catholic Church has both freedoms, as do all of its adherents, in the States. Also clearly the U.S. Bishops wish to influence U.S. laws to their liking, q.v., abortion, same-sex marriage, sexual orientation, etc. Freedom for all American citizens is a good for the American nation, and such freedom may on occasion contradict Roman Catholic religious teachings. Contrary to comments from Cardinal Timothy Dolan of NYC and Bill Donohue of The Catholic League, the U.S. is not a theocracy. Our laws may be informed by individual conscience (and religious views), but they are not based upon any particular religious worldview. Such is the American experience embodied in the opening line of the Declaration of Independence- we create ultimately our culture based upon what is right and just for all, not merely for a few. If Roman Catholic colleges, hospitals, charities et al. wish to adhere to their Church’s tenets, they have that right through freedom of religion as well as of speech. When those institutions employ those who are not Roman Catholics, they cannot expect the same adherence from those employees. And, if those institutions wish to discriminate based upon religion, they can be sued. Successful businesses realize they must employ the best persons regardless of idiosyncratic human characteristics. Enlightened employees choose not to work for businesses which discriminate against those employees’ interests. The legal cases cited both in the States and Canada are absurd reductions because they involved the two freedoms noted above, to wit, the practice of religion in one’s own temple of worship, and freedom of speech within the classroom. The New Mexico case is an unreasonable extension of that particular law in New Mexico. In the Saskatchewan case, when one is employed by the government, and chooses not to discharge its laws, then one rightfully can be terminated. I would add that it is exceedingly doubtful that the tax-exempt status of any U.S. religious body would EVER be revoked simply because Mammon will always trump God in this matter. Nonetheless, U.S. Roman Catholic bishops need to remember that they are American citizens first and employees of the Roman Catholic Church second…WHEN they wish to advocate U.S. laws which conform to Roman Catholic teaching.

  • RN

    Man created God and Religion and not vice versa

  • KoryO

    Ok, so they hire some non-Catholics who like to use birth control. And apparently… spite of the fact that the Church teaches that using the pill is wrong, and an abortion is, too, they need to provide their employees both. Preferably paid for out of “company” funds.

    Got it.

    So…..I guess you would also be fully supportive of a gentile employee of a orthodox Jewish charity/agency demanding that pork and shellfish be served in the company cafeteria? After all, it’s a legal product, has certain health benefits, and….come on…..we all know Jews who don’t keep kosher and indulge in both from time to time.

    We could do this all day. How about a Mexican employee of an ashram demanding hamburgers at the company dinner?

  • Nancy D.

    Bebe, we are a Nation that professes to be One Nation, under God…, because we recognize that God Has endowed us with our unalienable Rights and thus the purpose of our unalienable Rights is what God intended.
    There is nothing that precludes Catholics from being Good United States citizens, thus one can be Catholic and a Good citizen, simultaneously.

    The United States of America is a Republic that was founded on Christian principles, which is why The Treaty of Paris, the treaty that ended The Revolutionary War, was declared to be, ” In the name of the most Holy and undivided Trinity”. Although it is true that our Founding Fathers believed we need not all be, for example, Anglicans, they would not have recognized our inherent Right to live out our Faith in public and in private, if they did not believe that Religious Liberty would enhance
    and thus serve to improve the value of The State.

    The fact that Catholics recognize the self-evident Truth, that all persons, from the moment they have been created and brought into being at their conception, have been created equal in Dignity, while being complementary as male and female, and thus abortion is a violation of our fundamental, unalienable, Right to Life upon which our Right to Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness depends, only a man and woman can exist in relationship as husband and wife, and that we must respect the inherent Dignity of all persons, is evidence that our Catholic Faith, is, in fact, consistent with the founding principles of this Nation.

  • TradCathPhilProf

    This is really besides the point of your article, but I’m afraid your analogy with regards to contraception is completely inept. There is no comparison between preseving the natural finality of the conjugal act, and the reparative activity of medical practice (which is conceptual dependent on the normativity of health). If you actually want to understand the Church’s moral argument against contraception on the grounds of natural reason alone I can recommend Elizabeth Anscombe’s discussion in “Contraception and Chastity”:

  • Bebe

    @11 KoryO, You have given the best example of the problem with American politics today: reductio ad absurdam. Did you overlook my affirmation of business/employee interests, business being an American Religion, that successful businesses hire the best employees, and the best employees do not work for businesses that would discriminate against them. A wise business and a wise employee would both decide that their respective self-interests matter more, and not ask/require for what cannot be granted in the best interest of both parties. Of course, tort lawyers would never agree with me, and that part of our legal system is perhaps the most culpable in my eyes.

  • KoryO

    Bebe, you mean that long-winded post that could have used a few paragraph breaks? No, I did not overlook it. I find your assertion that “American Business” is a religion…..interesting. I guess that explains why churches are taxed at the same rate as retail shops, right?

    It doesn’t matter what or who you find absurd (apparently anyone who disagrees with you, and/or doesn’t want to pay for stuff that you want). The fact of the matter is, court cases DO deal with fine little gradations like what I presented. It’s been that way throughout our lifetimes, and it will not change simply because you don’t like it.

    Whether you agree with Catholicism is not the point. The fact is, they see their mission to minister to all of humanity. They don’t ask what religion someone is who asks for assistance or a job, not only because it is generally illegal to do so under the law, but also because they feel called to serve everyone regardless of the person’s beliefs (if any). Just because you think they should confine their services “to their own kind”, that doesn’t mean they are going to change centuries of practice and ignore current US law to placate you.

    And the same goes for other Christian sects, and a few Jewish agencies that I am personally acquainted with. (I am not Jewish. They didn’t care. I sort of thought it would be ridiculous for them to pay for my favorite lunch….pulled pork BBQ sandwiches. But I guess they should have so they could keep one of their “best” employees, right? Here I was, being discriminated against…..and I just didn’t realize it.)

    Now, as far as “discrimination”… one case where Catholics canned someone like a tuna for using birth control. You can’t. They haven’t fired an employee for using it, even if the employee is Catholic. They simply don’t want to pay for it out of church funds. Why is that so difficult for you to understand? Are you that blinded by your “I want this and therefore you must pay for it” ideology?

  • Gitai

    I’m in full agreement with punishing civil servants for failing to conduct civil marriages. It’s a secular duty. If your religion prevents you from doing a job, get another job. I once applied for a job without knowing it had mandatory Saturday hours. As an observant Jew, I cannot work on Saturday. I promptly withdrew my application. In a different job, I took more Sunday shifts, allowing others to take fewer Sunday shifts (something they rather appreciated) and it worked out well, but either way, when there was no reasonable accommodation that could be made, the onus was on me to shift, something that wasn’t necessarily pleasant, but was honorable to both my employers, my religion, and my religious freedom.

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  • Glenn Juday

    Peter Berger’s argument is based, in its essence, on the contention that since HIS fundamental beliefs or preferences in theological opinion are not at risk, the whole claim of the Catholic Church to be facing coercive repression for government-mandated explicit violations of ITS consistent beliefs and teachings is overblown. Thus: freedom is nice for people who think correctly (the more reasonable types compared to those stodgy old teachers of repulsive beliefs) but freedom will just have to amount to tough beans for the unenlightened. If he believes that is a basis for genuine freedom, especially when he eventually finds himself on the unpopular side of the public divide, I am afraid he is mistaken. This is the real tragedy in this issue – we all have a vital (think about that word for a minute) stake in preventing the state from arrogating to itself such powers as were meant to be denied it under the First Amendment. Do you really,honestly, believe that once this breach of the First Amendment, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution itself is successful that factions who may gain control of the government will hesitate to pursue others?

  • gracepmc

    The question is Is the First Amendment, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution under attack by the Obama Administration.

  • I agree that the Catholic Church is over doing it. Like the secularists having the vapors over Mitt and his magic Underwear, they are confusing the mote with the beam. I knew a Catholic Bishop who confessed he never thought of pedophile priests in terms of them violating criminal law, only Canon law. Ah, we’ll show ’em. We’ll make them dispense rubbers in their hospitals! Idiots.

  • Steve Schneck

    It’s more complicated than Peter Berger admits. I agree that there is not the religious persecution in the United States that is evident around the world–and have said so publicly in opposition to some of the extreme rhetoric that some Fortnight for Freedom supports have used. But there are instances of infringement on religious liberty in America that deserve concern. The most worrisome example is the anti-Sharia law movement, which is aimed at denying to Muslims the use of their own religious laws. However, the HHS contraception mandate that would force religious organizations to act against their religious tenets should also be of concern. Among court cases, Employment Division v. Smith also sets a dangerous precedent for future religious liberty adjudication. So, while I agree that some of my Catholic brethren are over-the-top in their apocalyptic hysteria, it is important for the country to become more vigilant about religious liberty generally and to address and remedy some of the particular oversteps that have occurred and are occurring.

  • TQ White II

    It is incomprehensible to me that (except for Gitai) that you so thoroughly conflate the economic sphere with the religious one.

    Catholic charities, if you engage in the economic practice of hiring people, you have to obey the labor laws. No one is forcing you to hire people. If you want to provide your employees with insurance, it has to be the insurance that is legally allowed. If you don’t like that kind, don’t offer it.

    Being licensed as a pharmacist is a privilege granted by society so that we can rely on a certain quality of service. It is not an infringement on your religion to have to choose a different occupation. The argument for insisting that pharmacists provide all legal medicines is not anti-religious nor is it arbitrary. If the definition of pharmacist, or doctor, of employer is contrary to your religious belief, don’t do it.

    What am I missing?

  • Jacko

    “I find the Catholic teaching on contraception very implausible indeed. An analogy would be a teaching that one must not seek medical help upon falling ill, because one should be open to the possibility that the suffering may be an occasion for spiritual growth.”

    PB’s analogy is laughable. There are positives and negatives with suffering, but there is no real upside to artifical contraception.

    What are the fruits of the Pill and the sexual revolution? Widespread promiscuity, a surge in STDs, widespread divorce, widespread single motherhood, feminization of poverty, sub-replacement fertility and concomitant economic decline. Gee, I wonder why the Church would want to take a hard line on this issue.

  • Doc Fox

    KoryO likens mandatory insurance regarding (for example) contraception, to a Jewish cafeteria being obliged to carry pork dishes.

    Pork dishes: Jewish folks must purchase, cook,display, and directly hand to customers.

    Insurance: church does not pay for contraceptives, does not store on premises, does not display, does not hand to employees.

    Facts: govt or insurance company pays for at no charge to Church. Church does not even know that the policy has been so used, and in fact the policy may not be so used, depending on attitude of insured employee who may or may not have already been making use of such contraceptives out of his or her wages or salary more directly furnished by church than is the insurance benefit.

  • Doc Fox

    If I may speak further, I am puzzled why it is so shocking, when what is going on is that a Catholic parish, let us say, by purchasing health insurance for its employees, knows that as a result someone else is going to provide insurance covering contraceptives, which the employee may or may not ever use, and which the employee may or may not already be buying and using out of directly paid wages and salary …

  • doc feelgood

    Homophobic catholic church.

    Can anyone tell why there are no traces of divine doom of homosexual practice in the various sacred texts of humanity, outside that tale happening in a tiny water-poor area of the Middle East?

    Is this ethnocentrically based nonsensical argument valid as “Universal Law” ?

    This is what the three major abrahamic sects always rely on for the sake of their own will to hegemonic superiority.

  • Nancy D.

    This self-evident truth is simple, yet profound, for once we remove God from the equation, our unalienable Rights are no longer unalienable, and that changes everything.

  • Nancy D.

    TQ WHITE II, the fact that this administration has mandated that every Insurance Company must be a contraception provider means we will no longer be able to choose a healthcare plan that is consistent with our Catholic Faith, and, as Father John Jenkins has stated, we will be forced to violate our conscience, or go without health Insurance.

    There is no compelling reason for this administration to
    mandate that every Insurance company be a contraception provider because contraception is not Life-affirming or Life-sustaining, to begin with.

  • Mr. Berger reminds me of the “Mr. Know it all” skit about “getting your money back”: All is okay in America regarding Religious liberty because HE is completely satisfied with it…

  • Bebe

    The U.S. Bishops use of “fortnight” had me in stitches when I first espied the title. I had a beatific vision of Bertie Wooster in a surplice and alb importuning Jeeves for just another cup of that wonderful Christian Brothers vino, old boy. Really, unless he or she is trying to sound anachronistic, I’ve yet to hear any American use such a word. Do we even know that it means “fourteen nights,” much less “two weeks?” Perhaps this usage reflects outmoded thoughts, even if one grants that the consonantal alliteration is fortuitously euphonious. Or is there an ironic intent on the part of the Bishops to draw closer to the Anglican Union, and therefore they must perforce jettison all those polysyllabic, Latinate (thus Roman) words? I doubt they can beat the Brits at their own written word games.

    Comments from posters like Nancy D. remind me how grateful I am that I was taught by the fine Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in grammar school. The Sisters encouraged not mere playback of Roman Catholic teaching, but discriminating study in all ways of knowledge. Vatican II much moved the American Church, but the ensuing years have seen harder lines drawn by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI about what constitutes a Roman Catholic (hint: more Rome, less catholic). Their move against Vatican II is not surprising given that one grew up amidst Communists and the other amidst Fascists. There is a saying, “Roma locuta, causa finita,” i.e., Rome has spoken, the matter is finished. Just as current U.S. politics have devolved into ideological battles rather than pragmatic leadership, so the American Bishops have chosen to become part of U.S. victimization politics. Making common cause with Christian Evangelicals and Mormons (be careful whom you befriend) to defeat such issues of civil government as abortion, same-sex marriage, sex education, and contraception (how we hate sex unless with altar boys), the Bishops have strayed from pastoral care towards legalistic and pharisaical interpretations of their faith. When I attend Mass in Mexico, I remember the promise of Christ better than back across the border in California.

  • Jeremy

    @Nancy, you seem to be evincing a staggering lack of historical understanding here. When the Founding Fathers invoked Christian symbolism it is not at all clear that they interpreted it as you do. In fact, being that they were mostly Deists and Anglicans, it’s likely that they indeed did not.

    To go further, you cite the Treaty of Paris as evidence that we are, at our foundation, a Christian nation. This is more ahistorical falderal. Given that the Treaty of Paris was executed in Europe in the late eighteenth century, a time when it was simply de rigeur to invoke Christianity in all such transactions, the explanatory value of your citation withers away. The culture was perforce Christian – there was effectively no other religion around. Does this mean we are to ossify and not adapt to the changing climate of personal convictions in this country?

    What is more, you claim that our unalienable rights derive from God, whatever that words means. In fact, our rights derive from nature, or from nothing. They are rights because they are negative, that is, they cost nothing and are, if you are an Englightenment thinker, universal. God has nothing to do alienation, people do.

    And in the interests of putting paid as best one can in a comments section to your asinine assertion that no one can deny that love exists, I will myself deny that love exists. In fact, no emotions exist. All that exists are chemical interactions in the brain, and by golly, neurological phenomena don’t give a hoot about sanctity of love. In fact, they don’t give a hoot about anything, because they can’t.

    On a final note, where in your conception of our society do people who do not believe in your religion, indeed in any religion fit in? Are they to be shunted to the side in the interests of your personal convictions? Invoking religion in questions of civil constitution is, if not dangerous, surely inaccurate. Laws are based on generally-held values, and extrapolating from Catholic dogma surely does not land one in a place of the generally held.

  • Nancy D.

    Bebe, the purpose of Vatican ll was to reflect The Truth of The Perfect Communion of Love, The Blessed Trinity. It was never the intention that Vatican ll would compromise The Truth thus leading to the worship of false idols by creating a god in our own image.

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