Christians insist they shouldn’t have to provide birth control or be punished for bullying LGBT students in schools, but a Muslim cemetery in Tennessee represents “creeping sharia.” So who demands ‘special rights?’ (More)

Who Are We, Part III: Women’s Health, Bullying, and Christian Privilege

This week Morning Feature revisits the question of who is included in “We the People.” Thursday we considered Coca-Cola’s “America the Beautiful” Super Bowl ad, and how the conservative response was fueled by white privilege. Yesterday we saw how Rep. Paul Ryan’s flip-flop on “job lock” after this week’s CBO report exemplifies wealth privilege. Today we conclude with how the ‘religious freedom’ movement manifests Christian privilege.

“Get another job!”

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon take up Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and related cases, the latest in a series of battles between Christian ‘religious freedom’ and women’s rights. The National Review’s Edward Whelan summarized the conservative position:

There they go again – “they” being the anti-religious zealots who are now dominating the Obama administration’s decision making.

[…] HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last week renewed her declared “war” against the Catholic church in America and against faithful Catholics (as well as against other religious organizations and believers who share the Catholic opposition to contraceptives and/or abortifacients). Specifically, she announced that HHS, in implementing Obamacare, would require most health-insurance plans to include in the preventive services they cover all FDA-approved forms of contraception (including contraceptives that sometimes operate as abortifacients).

Apparently Whelan’s “believers who share the Catholic opposition to contraceptives” includes the owners of Hobby Lobby, a privately-held retail corporation whose owners claim the ACA mandate would violate their religious beliefs. Many conservatives seem to agree:

I feel Hobby Lobby has the right to choose also!!! If you don’t like their insurance plan than work some where that you do. Hobby Lobby has rights too. Get another job!

“Pharmacists should not be forced to choose between their livelihoods and their religious beliefs

But that argument only works one way. In 2012, an Illinois court ruled that a state law requiring pharmacists to dispense birth control violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Christian pharmacists have been opposing such rules for years, and the Heritage Foundation’s Dominique Ludvigson called the Illinois decision a win for religious freedom:

The rule appeared targeted directly at religious objectors. For example, at the time the mandate was issued, the governor argued that pharmacy owners and pharmacists should “find another profession” if their religious and moral convictions would not allow them to comply with the mandate, threatening them with significant penalties ranging from prosecution to steep fines to loss of professional licenses.
The Illinois and Washington pharmacists’ experiences show not just a lack of regard for religious freedom, but outright intolerance by those exercising the levers of state power against individuals trying to live out their faith in their day-to-day lives. Pharmacists should not be forced to choose between their livelihoods and their religious beliefs. The cases illustrate the danger to religious freedom posed by the growth and reach of the regulatory state at every level.

It seems “get another job” is a sufficient remedy if you’re a Hobby Lobby employee who wants insurance to cover birth control, but that same remedy is “outright intolerance” if you’re a pharmacist who doesn’t want to fill that prescription.

“A code word, like family values”

It’s not just birth control. Conservatives in Michigan demanded a religious exemption to the state’s anti-bullying statute, although the Michigan legislature eventually passed the bill without the exemption. Some religious groups in Tennessee also want an exemption to the state’s anti-bullying law.

After all, if the Bible teaches that gays and lesbians are an abomination, shouldn’t a Christian student have the right to insult LGBT classmates? The Daily Beast’s Jay Michaelson explained the logic and history of the “religious liberty” movement:

Thirty-five years ago, having lost the moral battle for segregation, a small group of evangelicals met to rethink their attitude toward politics. Unlike Catholics and mainline Protestants, evangelicals had tended to stay out of secular politics, believing it to be irredeemable. But with the IRS’s decision to withdraw tax-exempt status from the evangelical Bob Jones University, which discriminated against African-Americans, the Christian right was born. Their mission, they said, was to defend “religious liberty.”

Today is a different age – but the players, and the rhetoric, are the same. Today a far-right coalition of conservative Catholics and evangelicals perceive that they have lost the moral battle against LGBT equality, particularly same-sex marriage. And so, as described in a lengthy report released Monday by the think tank Political Research Associates and chiefly authored by this writer, they are waging a multi-pronged battle against LGBT rights, not on substantive moral grounds but on the premise that equality for gays restricts the religious liberty of Christians to discriminate against them.
Religious liberty is a code word, like family values. Though Laycock and other academics may be sincere, the Family Research Council, Christian Legal Society, Ethics and Public Policy Institute, and the legion of other Christian right organizations are chasing the same bugaboos as ever – gay rights, abortion, prayer-free schools – and simply repurposing an old, racist rhetoric to fight the same social battles as always.

“Rules for Americans, and rules for Muslims living in America. Not the same.”

Of course, religious liberty has its limits. Last month the Rutherford County Board of Zoning Appeals approved a request for a cemetery at the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro:

“We have a cemetery,” ICM Imam Ossama Bahloul said after the 3-2 vote while many members of his congregation and supporters exchanged hugs.

“Now we can die,” ICM board Chairman and founder Essam Fathy quipped following the BZA debating the public hearing issue for more than two hours.

At issue was the Islamic law requiring natural burial, that the body be wrapped only in a shroud and placed without a casket. But some Tennesseans objected that a Muslim cemetery would pollute the ground water, and of course we all know that cemetery is really a terrorist plot:

Rules for Americans, and rules for Muslims living in America. Not the same.

The Muslim Brotherhood, CAIR and terror links of the the mosque have been well documented and can be found in the archives. As for Sbenaty, here she is pictured with the grandson of the Muslim Brotherhood’s founder, Tariq Ramadan (banned from the U.S. until Obama took office). ‘Nuff said?

Apparently “Muslims living in America” are different from “Americans” such as Jews, who also increasingly request natural burial.

So to review: if you’re a libidinous woman working Hobby Lobby, “get another job.” But if you’re a pharmacist who refuses to fill birth control prescriptions, “get another job” would force you to choose between your livelihood and your religious beliefs. Your kids have a right to hurl epithets at LGBT classmates because of your religious beliefs, but if Muslims want to be buried within their religious beliefs, that’s “creeping sharia.”

“Not the same,” indeed, and the difference is conservatives’ demand for Christian privilege.


Happy Saturday