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The Freedom to Coerce Religion

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, November 19, 2012 9:34 EDT
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One of the most upsetting and disturbing developments in the past few years of wingnut propaganda is the attempt to define “religious freedom” as expanding the powers of the already-powerful over others, specifically with an eye towards coercing others to live by your religious rules. Even though the courts correctly (usually) see religious freedom being best protected by eliminating coercive prayer in schools, for instance, your average wingnut believes these rulings attack their religious freedom. After all, what’s the point of religion if you can’t impose it on others? Thus, the only way they can see to protect religious freedom is to give, say, schoolteachers the right to lead their class in prayer (as long as it’s the correct Christian prayer, of course).

Same story with hollering “religious freedom” to justify giving your boss the right to impose his religious beliefs on your medical decision-making. Your insurance benefits you earn through work are yours, and no more belong to your boss than your paycheck does. Giving your boss a right to veto coverage of your contraception because he thinks vaginas are only for baby-making is a direct imposition on your religious freedom, a clear-cut example of your boss declaring he has a right to impose his religious values on you, even in a realm as private as your medical and sexual decision-making. (And since cost considerations exert a great deal of influence on how many women—say, someone making $10 an hour working the counter at Hobby Lobby—choose contraception, this boss’s veto of coverage will actually change her choices.) But conservatives don’t see employees as rights-bearing people. Just as with the “states rights” blather, the only rights they recognize are the “right” to exert power over those down the hierarchy from you.

PZ Myers points to a rather comical example of how conservatives view religious freedom only as the freedom to impose your faith on others. The American Humanist Association started a website for kids and teens called Kids Without God. The site could definitely be helpful for young people who have cottoned onto how this “god” thing is just a myth made up by others who want to control you, but feel very alone in a sea of believers. (Obviously, it’s also helpful for kids who aren’t raised with a religion and find religious people around them baffling, too, but I think those kids are less likely to need to find help online.)  Many atheists, including myself, basically saw the major problems with religion at an early age, and could find assurance that they’re not crazy by seeing stuff like this.

Of course, for conservatives, this is seen as an unholy attack on their supposed right to exert complete control over their children’s bodies and minds. (Only Christians have this right, by the way. They’re fully allowed to try to convert other people’s kids! Religious freedom seems super complex, but really, it’s just a matter of privileged people trumping those who aren’t as privileged.) Which is why The Blaze is all up in arms about this this website, which they describe as “shocking”. The commenters make it clear what is so shocking about it: They define “religious freedom” as the right to take away their child’s religious freedom.

Where are all those people who rave about the rights of Muslim and Native American religions now? It appears that Christians are not deserving of “progressive” protection.

I like how this is a two-fer: Not only is he expressing the belief that he has an absolute right to stifle his child’s questions and curiosity, but he also thinks this is a Christian-only right.

The entire thread is a bunch of boo-hooing from Christians who think they’re oppressed by having to live near people who see through their crap, but this bit of boo-hooing was my favorite:

We need to force the atheists into being declared a religion. They have met all the requirements to be declared one now right down to worshipping a non-entity called the holy spirit of self-worship.

And:

Actually, the federal courts have ruled that atheism is a religion (Kaufman v. McCaughtry). Here’s what’s I want to know… Since atheism is a religion and since Evolution is a doctrine of atheism (i.e., according to the first plank of the Humanist Manifesto), why haven’t any Christians filed lawsuits to stop the State from favoring the atheist doctrine of Evolution over the Christian doctrine of Creation in our public schools? If I had children in public schools, I would have filed a lawsuit a long time ago.

If we just declare a bunch of non-religions religion, then we can stifle them in the same way we think we’re stifled! It’s absolutely fascinating how even dumb motherfuckers like these have gotten so good at doublespeak after being thoroughly trained by right wing media. But obviously, all this is about is trying to exert complete control over your child through censoring any information that would cause them to ask questions. They know in their hearts that their myths just aren’t competitive with science when the person looking at the question applies basic rationality, and so censorship is all they have. Same story with your employer taking away your health care options because he disagrees with them.  Women have been exposed, repeatedly, to dogma about our bodies and we reject it. Thus the turn to force. But unfortunately, the constant repetition of the phrase “religious freedom” to mean “the right to restrict the freedom of conscience of those you already have power over” has, I think, confused the issue for a lot of people. Liberals need to get more aggressive at taking the phrase back to what it really means, which is freedom of individuals to decide for themselves without being coerced by schools, parents, bosses, or government.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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