We Have a Religious Right to Be a Bigot

Apr 6, 2015

By Herb Silverman

In Indiana, Using Religion as a Cover for Bigotry,” an editorial in the March 31 New York Times, reminded me of a line by Captain Renault in the movie Casablanca as he accepted a bribe: “I’m shocked, shocked to learn that gambling is going on in here.” I’m also reminded of lyrics in “National Brotherhood Week,” Tom Lehrer’s satirical song: “The Protestants hate the Catholics, and the Catholics hate the Protestants, and the Hindus hate the Muslims, and everybody hates the Jews.” Conclusion: Religious bigotry is as old as religion, itself.

Although it might not ring as true as in previous generations, religious hate is protected by freedom of religion. We have the right to hate anyone, but not the right to commit crimes. It’s OK to hate gays, but not to kill them. Perhaps that’s why Bob Jones III, former president of Bob Jones University, a fundamentalist Christian institution in my home state of South Carolina, recently apologized for his 1980 remark that we should follow the biblical injunction of stoning gays to death.

Religious freedom gives us the right to worship as we choose — or not worship at all. Religious leaders are free to preach that I will suffer an eternity in hell because I’m an atheist. Religions may make rules about whether to sanction same sex or mixed race marriages, whether women are permitted to sit next to men in their houses of worship, who to shun for not appropriately following rituals or doctrine, who to admit as members, and who to excommunicate. Members who disagree with church doctrine are free to leave, as millions have done and continue to do.

What role should the government play regarding religious freedom? Government may not favor one religion over another or religion over non-religion. Religious freedom includes the right to be free from people imposing their religious views on the public through discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accommodations.


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26 comments on “We Have a Religious Right to Be a Bigot

  • Favouritism to Fruitcakes

    Constitutional freedom of religion gives special privilege to irrational religious people. There are all manner of laws that do not apply to members of particular religious sects, e.g. that you must have a photographic driver’s licence to drive, or that you may not carry a knife. Yet rational people must comply with them. This is unfair favouritism to the fruitcakes. The whole notion of religious exceptions to law is a sham since anyone can claim to believe any nonsense necessary to challenge a law they don’t want to obey. It should work this way. If a fruitcake religious person gets a special right, everyone gets it, even if they don’t care to use it.



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  • The whole notion of religious exceptions to law is a sham since anyone can claim to believe any nonsense necessary to challenge a law they don’t want to obey.

    Has that been tested? Has someone made up a nonsensical claim and had it accepted as a religious exception.



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  • Wearing a colander in a drivers license photo, for Religious Reasons (FSM) is a good place to start.

    I read someplace (sorry, reference is in hiding) about a newly minted church of marijuana or something like that, in Indiana, claiming marijuana laws are discriminatory against them, and challenging the drugs legislation. Something like Rastafarians, but without the background. The aim, really, I think, is to expose the absurdity of the “religious freedom” laws recently enacted, but if it also helps towards the end of the insane prohibition of the above mentioned recreational herb, so much the better IMHO.



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  • That’s probably Bill Levin’s First Church of Cannabis.

    I hope we all followed the 2nd of his of 12 (voluntary) principles today: The day starts with your smile every morning when you get up, wear it first.



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  • Tom Lehrer’s satirical song: “The Protestants hate the Catholics, and the Catholics hate the Protestants, and the Hindus hate the Muslims, and everybody hates the Jews.” Conclusion: Religious bigotry is as old as religion, itself.

    Hmm, I’m not sure about that conclusion. After all, the last phrase isn’t everybody religious hates the Jews.

    I would say that the conclusion of the song is that bigotry between humans is as old as humanity itself; except during National Brotherhood Week, of course…



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  • I still have not found the reason why societies would be better with religious beliefs. Not that I am looking, hahaha. What is religion for? So someone can kill, hate, manipulate or deceive unpunished? Why religious people need special treatment, why they are not willing to respect social laws? Some muslims, chatolics and other religious people cling to their religions because it allows them to hate, to manipulate, to kill or deceive, and they are unpunished because they are simply obeying “their laws”. In healthy societies there is no “my law” and “your law” there is one law for everyone – civilized one, created upon human practice and natural laws. Hitler, nazis, totalitarian states have invented their own laws, and their people killed others respecting the laws of their country ,even in Nurnberg German soldiers have defended themselves that all they did is that they respected laws of their county.

    There should be no laws within the law so to speak. Religious people can respect their irrational religious beliefs, and they can consider them laws, but only for them, no one else have to respect them, and if they tend to impose their laws to others, rational people have right to answer and criticize. And if any organised group of people tends to impose irrational laws on existing civilized norms and laws it should be called a coup.



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  • Ewan Apr 7, 2015 at 3:20 am

    The whole notion of religious exceptions to law is a sham since anyone can claim to believe any nonsense necessary to challenge a law they don’t want to obey.

    Has that been tested? Has someone made up a nonsensical claim and had it accepted as a religious exception.

    http://www.govyou.co.uk/remove-exemptions-for-sikhs-not-to-wear-motorcycle-helmets/
    “Exxactly what it says, currently every motorcyclist has to wear an approved helmet, apart from sikhs. This is clearly wrong and not equality.”



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  • I see no reason why freedom of religion deserves to be privileged over
    freedom of conscience, and I’d be happy to consider arguments for why
    it should. Your turn.

    All very well…but….try ruling almost any country in Asia or North Africa using these excellent liberal principles. I’ve said this before, we are nice and cosy in Europe and the US, but the rest of the world is not so tolerant. It’s not much good saying things should be different; they’re not.



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  • There should be no laws within the law so to speak.

    Surely that’s for the democratic process to decide? It’s fairly normal for the law to affect different people in different ways, isn’t it?



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  • But “saying things should be different” is a pretty good place to start.
    Next is to clearly demonstrate the basis for that “ought” statement.
    Education (primarily of the young) is obviously the key. (Not saying it’s easy, though.)



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  • I believe in freedom of religion the same way I believe in freedom of mental illness. Both make the same amount of sense to me. The right to hate must be an American thing that I don’t get at all. Sounds too Orwellian.



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  • The right to hate must be an American thing that I don’t get at all. Sounds too Orwellian.

    He was quintessentially English and he recognised that hate (for foreigners, for those of different classes, for opposing football supporters) lies at the heart of the English national psyche.



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  • that is fair to say. religion is like the modern internet. it lets/trains like/feeble minds find each other and eventually seek political power. the ultimate, indisputable result is the corruption that has always existed and is what we are watching to this day. I will not say that people get into it for the unified hate, though I am sure a minority do, but the apologetics that they have to perform totally baffles me. how can they not see it? certainly seems to absolve people the responsibility to think for themselves, and better yet, to cherish and celebrate it.



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  • I miss Tom Lehrer. He was very, very funny.

    He was being satirical with National Brotherhood Week but religion was just one of the targets. A bit of cherry-picking going on by Herb Silverman in his article.



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  • “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”



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  • Hacks like Bob Jones III, Pat Robertson, the Pope and his friends, again call negative attention to an entire population of people who hate only what sin has done to man. They do not hate man, men or women, LGBT or otherwise. You do not have to search very far to find a fundamentalist who will personally live up to the advice ” hate the sin and not the sinner”. Of course, it is also true you do not have to search very far, say Infowars, to find someone in a jiggle rage threatening some sort of revolution with their bible wrapped in an American Flag.



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  • hatch
    Apr 10, 2015 at 4:28 am

    Hacks like Bob Jones III, Pat Robertson, the Pope and his friends, again call negative attention to an entire population of people who hate only what sin has done to man. They do not hate man, men or women, LGBT or otherwise

    It looks like the bigots are keeping quiet and hoping no-one will notice their long prevarication:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-32254293
    Vatican silent over French gay ambassador

    The Vatican has declined to comment on reports that it has not accepted a new French ambassador because he is gay.

    The French government proposed the senior diplomat Laurent Stefanini for the post in January.

    It normally takes about a month for an appointment to be approved, but three months on the Vatican has kept a diplomatic silence.

    Media reports in France say the French government is refusing to back down over the appointment.

    In 2007, France proposed an openly gay diplomat to be its ambassador at the Vatican but was forced to choose another after months of silence.

    The French Catholic newspaper La Croix reports that the Vatican has indicated the posting is unacceptable.



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