There is a lot going on under the label of “religious freedom” currently, including what could be some landmark Supreme Court cases. But it seems to me that a great many people are trying to drag all kinds of things not really aspects of religious freedom under its banner so as to strengthen their cases. This is wrong and I hope it gets squelched.
The idea of religious freedom in this country is the ability to practice your religion without the interference of the government or, really, other religions. This is extended to include practicing no religion at all. When this country was founded, you will note that religious freedom was not in the Constitution. In fact, religion wasn’t really mentioned. It took an amendment to the Constitution to forbid the federal government from endorsing any religion by giving it special favors, etc. Also forbidden was inhibition of any religion. Originally this meant only the federal government and quite a few states had their own sponsored denominations. Over time the wisdom of this was challenged and people finally came to the point that any state-sponsorship of religion was a bad idea and all of the states complied with this idea of government non-interference and non-support. (The argument the religious bought was “sure it would be nice to have the state collect a tithe for you, but what happens if another religion becomes dominant and takes over that state sponsorship? You are then out in the cold.” Today consider about what would happen if a very small state were to have a large influx of Muslims. Would people be happy having a Muslim state? Would that mean Sharia law could be imposed? Sorry, just trolling for Fox (sic) News viewers.)
Here’s the deal. If the government(s) have a law that effects religions, they must exercise it without prejudice. So, it is entirely appropriate for the federal government to impose a tax upon religious groups. There is no basis for not taxing them that makes any sense. But they cannot tax any such religious group any differently that the others. This is what religious freedom means under the law.
Note that Utah was told it’s petition for statehood would not be accepted by the Congress unless they outlawed polygamy, something promoted by the dominant religion of the state. This was acceptable in that Utah was not yet a state in the “United States” and did not receive full consideration or application of all of the federal laws.
Clergy who commit crimes are not immune to prosecution under the banner of “religious freedom.” They do not have the equivalent of diplomatic immunity to local prosecutions.
But, because there is a culture of “hands off” with regard to religions, various people interpret that in various ways.
A current case before the Supreme Court involves whether or not an employer can be required to provide health insurance that includes contraceptive coverage if that conflicts with the religious convictions of the owners. Churches, per se, are exempted from the requirements of this law, for no good reason other than political expediency, but to exempt everyone who has a “religious conviction” will open up a legal can of worms, a very large can of worms. There is no protection for these people under current “religious freedom” legal doctrine. We’ll have to wait to see if the Supreme Court decides to invent something whacko like its “corporations are people” doctrine.
For those of you who disagree with that last statement, consider this: employers provide their employees with a voucher that enables them to purchase contraceptives, pay for abortions, solicit prostitutes, buy illegal drugs, or drink one’s self into oblivion or with any other manner of vice the employees wish. It is called a paycheck. Once the employer transfers that voucher to the employee, they lose control over what the employee does with the funds it is worth. So, a business that employs even only good Catholics can be required to provide insurance that includes hospitalization, out-patient care, and contraceptive services and not have to worry because no good Catholic would avail themselves of the contraceptive services. Because no person can impose their religious beliefs upon another and neither can the government. That’s the law.