How to Determine If Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions by Rev. Emily C. Heath

How to Determine If Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions by Rev. Emily C. Heath February 26, 2014

Thank you Rev. Emily for allowing me to share this kick-ass post originally shared on The Huffington Post!

It seems like this election season “religious liberty” is a hot topic. Rumors of its demise are all around, as are politicians who want to make sure that you know they will never do anything to intrude upon it.

I’m a religious person with a lifelong passion for civil rights, so this is of great interest to me. So much so, that I believe we all need to determine whether our religious liberties are indeed at risk. So, as a public service, I’ve come up with this little quiz. I call it “How to Determine if Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions.” Just pick “A” or “B” for each question.

1. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to go to a religious service of my own choosing.
B) Others are allowed to go to religious services of their own choosing.

2. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to marry the person I love legally, even though my religious community blesses my marriage.
B) Some states refuse to enforce my own particular religious beliefs on marriage on those two guys in line down at the courthouse.

3. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am being forced to use birth control.
B) I am unable to force others to not use birth control.

4. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to pray privately.
B) I am not allowed to force others to pray the prayers of my faith publicly.

5. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) Being a member of my faith means that I can be bullied without legal recourse.
B) I am no longer allowed to use my faith to bully gay kids with impunity.

6. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to purchase, read or possess religious books or material.
B) Others are allowed to have access books, movies and websites that I do not like.

7. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) My religious group is not allowed equal protection under the establishment clause.
B) My religious group is not allowed to use public funds, buildings and resources as we would like, for whatever purposes we might like.

8. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) Another religious group has been declared the official faith of my country.
B) My own religious group is not given status as the official faith of my country.

9. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) My religious community is not allowed to build a house of worship in my community.
B) A religious community I do not like wants to build a house of worship in my community.

10. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to teach my children the creation stories of our faith at home.
B) Public school science classes are teaching science.

Scoring key:

If you answered “A” to any question, then perhaps your religious liberty is indeed at stake. You and your faith group have every right to now advocate for equal protection under the law. But just remember this one little, constitutional, concept: this means you can fight for your equality — not your superiority.

If you answered “B” to any question, then not only is your religious liberty not at stake, but there is a strong chance that you are oppressing the religious liberties of others. This is the point where I would invite you to refer back to the tenets of your faith, especially the ones about your neighbors.

In closing, no matter what soundbites you hear this election year, remember this: Religious liberty is never secured by a campaign of religious superiority. The only way to ensure your own religious liberty remains strong is by advocating for the religious liberty of all, including those with whom you may passionately disagree. Because they deserve the same rights as you. Nothing more. Nothing less.

The Rev. Emily C. Heath is a United Church of Christ (UCC) minister serving as a pastor in southern Vermont. She also serves as the chaplain of a local fire department, and as a speaker and writer on Christian faith and social justice.

After growing up nominally Christian, and “spiritual but not religious”, she began to explore Christianity as a young adult. After earning degrees from Emory University and Columbia Theological Seminary she was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

In 2010, after eight years of hospital, hospice, and trauma chaplaincy, Rev. Heath transferred her ordination to the UCC in protest of the PCUSA’s continued exclusion of LGBTQ people. As a result, she believes a strong part of her pastoral call involves reaching out to the unchurched, and the de-churched, including those who have become disillusioned by religion.

A displaced Southerner, Rev. Heath lives in southern Vermont with her wife Heidi, a UCC seminarian.

Her personal website can be found here.

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1,229 responses to “How to Determine If Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions by Rev. Emily C. Heath”

  1. I am lost, what a weird questions, and also…only two answers? Religion should not be part of education, unless it’s a course in theology. Religion is a personal conviction that should be kept to oneself. My daughter was threatened once by other 1st graders (!), they were going to tell the teacher she didn’t believe in God…that’s sad and scary! She keeps asking me why people who can’t show any scientific evidence of the existence of God, are still convinced their truth is the only truth and should be a country’s truth. No religion in school or politics period. What you do at home is your own choice.

    • They’re not weird questions if you grasp the point–and only two answers is the point. What so many people are protesting to be “threats to religious freedom” are, in fact, virtually the opposite. So she’s setting it up with each “A” answer being a literal definition of an infringement on religious freedom, and each “B” answer being an example–sadly common in the news these days” of someone trying to assert that, if their religion isn’t in charge of what other people can do, that they’re being oppressed.

      Here is as obvious a contrast as I can think of to explain what her method is:
      “Someone is committing assault and battery if:
      A. They are hitting me in the face and breaking my teeth.
      B. I’m not allowed to hit them in the face and break their teeth.”
      In this case, “not being allowed” is what the person is claiming to be the wrong-doing—in the case of religious oppression, there are far too many people who seem to think that “Preventing someone else from having their freedom of religion” is an assault on their own freedom of religion.

  2. Actually “Fundamentist” is not the chosen name for 95% of Christians who are labeled with it; they would reject it. The name has a historical context at the beginning of the 20th century. But it has evolved in popular usage like negro/nigger. Both now are viewed as prejoratives despite the former having a historical context. “Fundamentalist” is now said with venom to label Christians. The ignorance on both sides of the LGBT discussion is astounding.

  3. These statements were shaped by the conclusions desired.
    How about:
    1) Is it okay for some people to be verbally/in writing called abusive names (aka. “fag” or “fundamentalist”)?
    2) Is it okay for some people’s sexual orientation/religious belief to be common source of ridicule in movies, TV shows, or comedy?
    3) Is it okay for some people to be treated as less smart/psychologically defective because of their sexual orientation/religious belief?
    4) Should any pro-LGBT, or anti-LGBT religious group be forced to hire employees who do not share the groups beliefs?
    5) Do you think that it would be alright to suspend some civil liberties, for some groups of people, that a majority find offensive/hateful.
    If you answered “yes” to any of the above then other people’s human rights/religious rights are in danger.

    • Reply

      Of course they were configured to make a very precise point honey. This was not a scientific survey. It was written to drive an important post home.

      • Wiki on “religious pejoratives: Fundamentalism.” 95% of Christians labeled so would reject that label and understand it as an insult. Tolerance allows groups to choose their own identity (African American, NOT, “Negro”; or “gay” are examples of self chosen names.
        Fundamentalism as a movement and self-identification has a historic context at the beginning of the 20th century. It never included the majority of Christians and even fewer today would embrace the “package” of what it meant to be a Fundamentalist (as defined as when I was a child in the 60’s as an example).
        However, many other religious pejoratives are bandied around such as “Bible thumper,” “holy roller,” “Jesus freak,” to name a few. Feel free to substitute one of these.

      • I am answering this question as an ANSWER, not as an opinion. So please listen with that in mind–as if you’re reading a dictionary.

        “Fundamentalist” can also be used in the same context as “extremist.” Extremist Muslims, fundamentalist Muslims, etc. It’s an association thing. People on the “inside” of the religious conversation may well see that word and think, “People whose religion has declared that it’s going back to fundamentals.” People on the outside may have experience with those in religious groups which advocate for violence claiming that their violence is justified by the more violent, ancient texts of their religion, such as the Old Testament–the “fundamental” basis for three different world-religions, Christianty, Islam, and Judaism.

        • Fundamentalist is used in the same context as extremist because most fundamentalists are extremists. Strict, “literalist” interpretation is explicit within the definition of fundamentalism, and that sort of thing never leads to anything BUT extremism.

    • Paul Stevenson seems to be under the impression that freedom of speech is a threat to people’s human rights/religious rights. Sorry, Paul, but the freedom to call people abusive names and ridicule them isn’t a threat to your religious rights or human rights. It’s just free speech. So yes, 1 and 2 ARE okay.

  4. Emily also shared with me her post reflecting on why she wrote this piece…

    “So here we were, sitting in our living room, watching politicians say that the marriage of a minister and a seminarian would destroy religious liberty in America. And it’s so offensive, so painful, and just so, so false. This is the stuff that used to make me want to drink. Now it just makes me want to fight harder for my rights, and the rights of my partner, and the rights of all of us…because, gay or straight, this is about all of us.”

    You can read the rest of her reflection here –>