Monday, March 9, 2015

Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)

Facebook asked "What's on your mind?"
This came out... 

In the Beating-a-dead-horse Department the Georgia Legislature is adding our state to the list of others passing a version of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). It was declared unconstitutional soon after being signed into law by President Clinton, but continues to live on in some form or other thanks to the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment.

There are good reasons to have such legislation enacted. One reason for its original passage was to allow Native Americans to use peyote, an hallucinogenic controlled substance, in religious ceremonies. As a conscientious objector I was obliged to cite "religious training and belief" to justify my status. And I'm sure there are other compelling reasons as well. The Wikipedia article is full of links and a Web search yields over eight hundred thousand hits.

But I have a hunch that the current revival of interest has less to do with those arcane reasons and more to do with opposition to a string of politically-charged subjects -- namely opposition to marriage equality and other LBGTI rights, vaccinations, Common Core standards, immigrants, Muslims, contraceptives and abortion.  Discussions of science that stray into evolution or climate change can have a religious angle viewed through some religious kaleidoscopes, as well as any suggestion that America may not be a Christian nation. The very title of these bills -- Religious Freedom RESTORATION Act -- implies that somehow religious freedom has been abridged or restricted and therefor needs a legal remedy to have it "restored," despite the examples mentioned above and the widespread presence of every kind of religious group imaginable.

Mennonites, Rastifarians, snake handlers (not far from where I live), Colleges and Universities founded by religious communities, global TV networks with rivers of UNTAXED revenue funding lifestyles that rival those of the rich and famous in sports and entertainment -- all are testimony to the fact that religious freedom in America is as safe and widespread as firearms, baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.

And still we have righteous indignation memes wanting to mandate public displays of the Ten Commandments and huge crosses on otherwise natural landscapes. Every year cities and towns all over the country display elaborate Christmas decorations -- often including a Christmas tree in the middle of town (as well as Rockefeller Center) -- but we still have to hear about the War on Christmas and War on Religion. Say Happy Holidays to some of these people and prepare for a sideways glance and "Merry Christmas" through pursed lips.

That's what's on my mind this morning, Facebook friends and followers. Thanks for reading. I feel better now having put my gripes into words.

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