Attacking Religion at Easter

Attacking Religion at Easter April 4, 2015

It isn't actually an attack on religion. But that is surely how it will be depicted by some, and misconstrued deliberately by others, when the ad below appears in the New York Times tomorrow, sponsored by an organization whose name says it is seeking freedom from religion.


The cause of keeping religion and state separate is a religious one historically advocated by Baptists. I wonder whether an ad like this placed by Baptists, rather than atheists and agnostics, might be received differently.

What do you think? How will the name of the organization that placed the ad affect its reception when people see it in tomorrow's newspaper?

Via Hemant Mehta.


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Bethany

    But… the entire point of RFRAs is to *maintain* the separation of church and state. Given that RFRAs have apparently never been successfully used in discrimination cases, the primary effect of getting rid of them would be to throw Native Americans in jail for using peyote, tearing down people’s sukkot for zoning violations, and so forth.

    Which may very well be the point — I mean, it seems to be implicit in the whole “Freedom from Religion Foundation” thing — but would in fact actually constitute an attack on religion in my book.

    I mean, I’m no happier about the Hobby Lobby decision than the next person, but let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    • Michael Wilson

      Thanks Bethany for writing this. Since Hobby Lobby and Indiana people have forgotten that RFRA was created by liberals to protect unpopular religious minorities, like practitioners of traditional Native American religions. While freedom from religion might not care about Amerindian faith either, I don’t think we should be willing to oppress them just so Hobby Lobby employees can have work funded IUDs or gays force fundamentalist cater their wedding.

      • Bethany

        Honestly in my opinion (as a non-legal expert) the thing I found most problematic about the Hobby Lobby case is the idea that a corporation — closely held or not — can have religious beliefs or is entitled to religious freedom. (This is an issue with the Illinois RFRA as well.)

        I also object to the idea that an employer should have any more say in what an employee purchases with her insurance than in what she buys with her salary. (Both are part of an employee’s compensation package, after all.)

        And I think that given how insurance is set up in the US (and given that the Supreme Court turned around and scrapped the “less restrictive alternative” days later) that the interest of American women and the US government is compelling and should override the religious objection, if corporations could have religious beliefs, which they can’t.

        Also the entire basis of the Hobby Lobby suit was the idea that emergency contraceptives and IUDs under normal (as opposed to emergency) use prevent fertilized eggs from implanting. This is not correct. Believing that human life (in the immoral-to-kill sense) begins at conception is a religious belief. Believing that Plan B prevents implantation is, IMO, *not* a religious belief. As the saying goes, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, they are not entitled to their own facts.

        But if in some bizarre hypothetical universe the US passed a law that required everyone to go down to the pharmacy, buy a pack of birth control pills, and give them to someone else, I think making an objection that birth control violates ones’ religious beliefs would be a perfectly legitimate move. But that, IMO, isn’t at all what happened in the Hobby Lobby case.

  • I don’t have a problem with the RFRA as enacted in 1993. But I do have a problem with the RFRA as interpreted by the court in the Hobby Lobby case.

    Repeal does seem the appropriate solution, though I doubt that this congress will vote for such a repeal.

  • Andrew Dowling

    This is stupid. The problem is the SC’s determination that corporations are people re: Citizen’s United; not the original RFRA of 1993. We had over a decade of none of this foolishness happening until the Roberts court and its wacky interpreting came along.

  • melayton

    This is much more divisive than it needs to be, IMO, and that name’s not helping. The RFRA serves a purpose and the problem isn’t the law itself but subsequent *interpretations.*

    It may not be popular, but people do have a right to practice their religion, just as other people have a right not to be burdened by that religion. If I was from an unpopular minority that didn’t want the majority’s religious practices imposed on me, I’d take another look at what Employment Division v. Smith was fighting for, and have an alternate framework ready to keep the majority from imposing their will through strength of numbers. Reform and keep the RFRA from being abused by the majority like it is, absolutely. But this push seems based on a very peculiar understanding of religious liberty (specifically: the freedom from religion, not the freedom to be religious as you see fit), and while I think the ad itself pushes that interpretation, the name does drive home that impression for me.

  • Pausanias

    There’s too much information and detail in it to be an effective ad.

  • histrogeek

    One key point that is often lost is the overall legal environment. There were some early opinion pieces that Obama voted for an RFRA here in Illinois when he was a state senator, which is true.

    However, aside from the RFRA in the golden age (cough) of the 1990s wasn’t billed as a way to deny employees contraceptives or allow bakers to lose customers, LGBT (as they were called those days) people are a protected legal class, so discrimination against them in public institutions is almost impossible to justify even with an RFRA, just a racial or gender discrimination are.