I have written about how significant I believe the religious rights, liberties and freedoms enshrined in the US Bill of Rights, the Constitution and other documents are to the practice of Buddha Dharma in the USA.
It seems that there are political appointees who wish to limit these religious freedoms in the service of their political agendas. This is also an instance of un-elected/appointed regulators and bureaucrats asserting their power and beliefs rather than protecting the people, the theme of posts regarding "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes - Who guards the people from the "guardian" governmental officials?"
Martin Castro, the Chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights appointed by President Obama, speaking for the Democrat majority of this Commission, has written and seems to believe that
"First Amendment Free Exercise Clause rights (are) only for individuals
and religious institutions and only to the extent that they do not
unduly burden civil liberties and civil rights protections against
status-based discrimination"... ( and only) "protect religious beliefs rather than conduct."
His explanation or excuse for limiting religious freedom based on his political beliefs are that “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for
nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for
discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia,
Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.” (I wonder if he wants to simply say those who he finds are part of the population who are "the basket of deplorables"?)
Of course, this proscription is based on his political beliefs and agenda, deciding which religious liberty and religious freedom is acceptable to him. The Bill of Rights is intended to protect against exactly this sort of political governmental intrusion, the political agendas of those in power.
Even regarding antisemitism and anti-Buddhism, which I have personally experienced in many ways in the US, (and which I notice are not included in Mr. Castro's list, maybe because they are not part of the "politically correct") I would not want to limit the religious liberty and freedoms of others, even if they included espousing these views, as long as they do not also espouse violence and worse. (In fact, a number of religious traditions in the US, and political movements/agendas of some Democrats and Republicans, as well as third party groups, do espouse aspects of what seems to me to be antisemitism and anti-Buddhism even now.)
Castro's anti-religious liberty statement and political agenda has aroused articles and editorials. Below are links to a few critical articles:
As "Roger Severino, director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil
Society at the conservative Heritage Foundation, a particularly
troubling aspect of the report is what he called “the attempt to
discredit sincere religious believers as being motivated by hate instead
of faith and the implied recommendation that religious groups should
change their beliefs on sexual morality to conform with liberal norms
for the good of the country. I would expect to see such a slanted and
anti-religious report come out of China or France perhaps, but am
disappointed to see it come from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.”
Another commentator sums up the Commission's report and Castro's statement as,
“Civil rights protections ensuring nondiscrimination, as embodied in
the Constitution, laws, and policies, are of pre-eminent importance in
American jurisprudence.” Translation: Nuisances including the
First Amendment’s “free exercise” of religion guarantee take a back seat
to the rapidly multiplying non-discrimination causes.
He then states, in discussing a dissent to the report by a Commission member,
"In her own submission to the report, the commission’s Gail Heriot
pinpoints the flaw in the finding. A University of San Diego law
professor, Ms. Heriot says she could easily imagine a case for Mr.
Castro’s position. But instead of an argument, she says, the commission
offers a decree.
“By starting with an assertion that
antidiscrimination laws are ‘pre-eminent,’ she writes, “the Commission’s
analysis essentially begins with its conclusion. Why should anyone
accept it? The Commission said so.”
The reasonableness of Ms.
Heriot’s contribution almost makes this awful report worth its price.
Here is a civil rights commissioner who takes the clash between
nondiscrimination and religion seriously, who appreciates that these
clashes are the result of government going places it never went
before—and who recognizes that the questions raised are more complicated
than Mr. Castro’s good guys versus bad guys caricature.
Ms. Heriot also recognizes the public-service aspect of
publishing the chairman’s prejudice: Though she first thought of asking
Chairman Castro to remove his statement, she writes, on further
reflection she concluded that it “might be better for Christians, people
of faith generally and advocates of limited government to know and
understand where they stand with him.”
Indeed we are better off.
The solitary virtue of Mr. Castro’s presentation is that he makes not
the least effort to hide the ugly bits. These lead to a nation where the
mediating institutions that stand between the citizen and government
(churches, schools, private associations) are stripped of influence, and
the political system no longer decides divisive issues through its
In Mr. Castro’s world, those who dissent from the prevailing pieties are deemed unfit for the public square."
Another article sums up Mr. Casto's report,
“Religious liberty was never intended to give one religion dominion
over other religions, or a veto power over the civil rights and civil
liberties of others,” he said in the 307-page document.
At the heart of the “Peaceful Coexistence” report is a USCCR
assertion that granting religious exemptions to nondiscrimination laws
“significantly infringe” on the civil rights of those claiming civil
rights protections on the basis of “race, color, national origin, sex,
disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”
the document’s recommendations is the assertion that the 1993 federal
Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, “protects only religious
practitioners’ First Amendment free exercise rights, and it does not
limit others’ freedom from government-imposed religious limitations
under the Establishment Clause.”