Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Threats to religious freedom from politics and political agendas in the real weighing of the balance of conflicting rights and freedoms..

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 elected representatives.

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.”

Among 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.”