Wednesday, September 14, 2016

US Civil Rights Commission Issues Report On Religious Liberty vs. Civil Rights

Last week (Sept. 7), the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released a 306-page briefing report titled Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties.  Here is a portion of the Commission's Findings:
The Commission endorses the briefing panelists’ statements as summarized at page 21 of the Report in support of these Findings.
(1) schools must be allowed to insist on inclusive values; 2) throughout history, religious doctrines accepted at one time later become viewed as discriminatory, with religions changing accordingly; 3) without exemptions, groups would not use the pretext of religious doctrines to discriminate; 4) a doctrine that distinguishes between beliefs (which should be protected) and conduct (which should conform to the law) is fairer and easier to apply; 5) third parties, such as employees, should not be forced to live under the religious doctrines of their employers [unless the employer is allowed to impose such constraints by virtue of the ministerial exception]; 6) a basic [civil] right as important as the freedom to marry should not be subject to religious beliefs; and 7) even a widely accepted doctrine such as the ministerial exemption should be subject to review as to whether church employees have religious duties.
Further, specifically with regard to number (2) above, religious doctrines that were widely accepted at one time came to be deemed highly discriminatory, such as slavery, homosexuality bans, and unequal treatment of women, and that what is considered within the purview of religious autonomy at one time would likely change.
Yesterday, the U.S. Catholic Bishop's Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty released a statement (full text) highly critical of the statement in the Report by Commission Chairman Martin Castro.  The Bishops said in part:
For the current Chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, religious liberty is reduced to "nothing except hypocrisy," and religion is being used as a "weapon… by those seeking to deny others equality." He makes the shocking suggestion that Catholic, evangelical, orthodox Jewish, Mormon, and Muslim communities are comparable to fringe segregationists from the civil rights era. These statements painting those who support religious freedom with the broad brush of bigotry are reckless and reveal a profound disregard for the religious foundations of his own work.
[Thanks to Jeff Ziegler for the lead.]