Monday, October 09, 2006

Freedom of Religion?

This post was cooked up last week, but finished today, so it reflects two different articles from the past couple of weeks.

Growing up in Jonesboro, Arkansas, my form of teenage rebellion (amongst others, but none that are relevant to this topic) was to somehow question that the largest Baptist (Southern, of course) Church in town. At our graduation, we had two prayers. These prayers were not "moments of silent reflection," or "non-denominational invocations of God," these were full-on, "Dear Lord Jesus Christ" prayers, listed in the program, and led by the Presidents of the Fellowship of Christian Students and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. (They were most definitely not to "Our Mother.")

"Take your hat off, faggot!" a harshly whispered Southern drawl from behind me. As my own show of silent protest, I refused to remove my hat when the prayer was led.

I was directed to this article by Erwin Chemerinsky (my Con Law book's author) discussing HR 2679, the "Public Expression of Religious Act." It prevents attorneys who successfully sue the government under the establishment clause from recovering attorney's fees.

"Public expression of religious act," that sounds great, doesn't it? I want people to be able to practice their religion. I don't think that the government, or any of should have a hand in telling people that they are right or wrong in their religious beliefs. However, with this amended statute, the State can (and from my experience, will) do that.

I am tired of hearing that "Christians are persecuted by the government." Or, as Katherine Harris put it, "Separation of Church and State is a lie."

The exemption referred to above merely confers yet another exemption to the laundry list already present. I saw This NYT Article [Registration Required] mentioned at Lawyers, Guns, and Money, discussing the laundry list of tax and labor exemptions that are granted to churches.

Yes, churches should be granted excceptions because of the useful things they do, such as running soup kitchens and homeless shelters. However, the secular organizations that do the same thing don't receive the same protection.

And now, combine the two, and voila! Nothing you can do about it! An attorney is going to have to bring suit for free, because they won't be able to recover. The intertwining is complete.

As the latter article states, if the Church outside of Boulder, CO having a zoning dispute wins, the County will have to pay for its own fees, and the Church's legal fees.

If they let the church expand in violation of the zoning laws, and someone sued, arguing that it was an unconstitutional establishment of religion, even if they won, they couldn't recover fees! Add that nugget to the long list of exemptions, and you see why the argument that religion is persecuted in America is preposterous.

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