Friday, March 22, 2013

Report Claims Religious Liberty Arguments Are Being Used To Stifle Civil Rights

Political Research Associates, an organization devoted to challenging the right and advancing social justice, this week issued a report written by Jay Michaelson titled Redefining Religious Liberty-- The Covert Campaign Against Civil Rights. The Report's Executive Summary reads in part:
A highly-active, well-funded network of conservative Roman Catholic intellectuals and evangelicals are waging a vigorous challenge to LGBTQ and reproductive rights by charging that both threaten their right-wing definition of “religious liberty.” The Christian Right campaign to redefine “religious liberty” has been limiting women’s reproductive rights for more than a decade and has recently resulted in significant religious exemptions from antidiscrimination laws, same-sex marriage laws, policies regarding contraception and abortion, and educational policies. Religious conservatives have succeeded in reframing the debate, inverting the victim-oppressor dynamic, and broadening support for their agenda.
While the religious liberty debate is a growing front in the ongoing culture wars, it is actually an old argument repurposed for a new context. In the postwar era, the Christian Right defended racial segregation, school prayer, public religious displays, and other religious practices that infringed on the liberties of others by claiming that restrictions on such public acts infringed upon their religious liberty. Then as now, the Christian Right turned antidiscrimination arguments on  their heads: instead of African Americans being discriminated against by segregated Christian universities, the universities were being discriminated against by not being allowed to exclude them; instead of public prayers oppressing religious minorities, Christians are being oppressed by not being able to offer them.