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Religious Freedom Isn't Limitless

Ellen Levitt

Posted on April 5, 2022 12:46

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Is religious freedom a shield or a sword? Ponder this.

For many years I taught high school social studies courses, and my favorite was (in NYC parlance) "H7, Participation in Government." Basically, civics. My high school seniors would learn about and grapple with the origins, development and impact of laws, governments and related issues. I enjoyed it (and I think most did too) but at times it could be uncomfortable. And that's okay.

We would delve into the First Amendment, among other topics. Religious freedom and its ramifications were among the most debated topics. We talked about minority religious rights (wearing a turban or yarmulke as part of your identity shouldn't cause you to be fired from your job; ability to take religious holidays off from work; etc.) among other topics.

Most of the time we discussed how religious freedom could expand our rights, and not necessarily shrink nor remove them. So, I wonder how my students from the 1990s through the 2010s are reacting to the current Supreme Court and recent rumblings from strident conservatives. How did they react to the case of Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk who wanted to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples? She wanted to "use a religious liberty argument to discriminate," as assessed by attorney and writer Roberta Kaplan. 

Or how about people who protest getting Covid vaccinations and mask wearing because it (somehow) interferes with their religious liberties? 

As with other liberties and rights, how do we determine when "Your rights end where my rights begin"?  This applies to religion, to speech and writing, and more. 

"Many liberals have accused conservatives of turning religious freedom from a “shield” into a “sword”: Whereas it had been meant to protect vulnerable people, it is now used to harm them." This quote from a New Republic essay (April 4) made me ruminate over this issue. 

Are there American conservatives who believe we should bring back child sacrifice or child marriage, because it's part of their "sincere" beliefs? Or are they twisting around theology for their own agendas? When conservatives rail against LGBTQ+ rights, abortion and birth control access, and their conception of Critical Race Theory, among other hot button issues, are they really looking after the general public-- or merely stomping their feet in a collective tantrum in order to stop other people from living their lives?

I guess you can tell which side I am on...

And before you brand me a non-believing liberal, do note that I attend synagogue regularly, participate frequently, and do believe in God. My religious beliefs and traditions are dear to me. But I don't believe that I nor you have to stomp all over other people's health, well-being and overall lives, and endanger people or show them deep disrespect, and claim that it is OUR religious belief to do so.

Perhaps my membership in a minority religion that has been persecuted throughout history, has shaped my views on religious liberty. Yep, it has.

 

Ellen Levitt

Posted on April 5, 2022 12:46

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Source: The Blaze
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