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Tearing down the wrong wall


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https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-supreme-court-is-quietly-changing-the-status-of-religion-in-american-life

 

The Supreme Court Is Quietly Changing the Status of Religion in American Life

In recent years, conservatives have contrived ways to obtain government money for religious entities, and the Supreme Court has been more sympathetic to the lawyers representing them.

 

What the conservatives are doing, in effect, is reading the establishment clause out of the Constitution, and turning almost every issue into a free-exercise case. In this reading, any denial of government benefits to a church can be seen as discrimination which amounts to a denial of free exercise—and the conservatives are making the same move with respect to individuals. Conservatives now cite the free-exercise clause to allow religious people to exempt themselves from obligations that are binding on all other citizens.

I'll quote Thomas Jefferson's famous passage:

 

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, 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. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
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https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-supreme-court-is-quietly-changing-the-status-of-religion-in-american-life

 

The Supreme Court Is Quietly Changing the Status of Religion in American Life

In recent years, conservatives have contrived ways to obtain government money for religious entities, and the Supreme Court has been more sympathetic to the lawyers representing them.

 

What the conservatives are doing, in effect, is reading the establishment clause out of the Constitution, and turning almost every issue into a free-exercise case. In this reading, any denial of government benefits to a church can be seen as discrimination which amounts to a denial of free exercise—and the conservatives are making the same move with respect to individuals. Conservatives now cite the free-exercise clause to allow religious people to exempt themselves from obligations that are binding on all other citizens.

I'll quote Thomas Jefferson's famous passage:

 

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, 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. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

 

I'm sympathetic to your point of view, but I think the reason lawyers have been sucessful making this argument is because religion is getting more and more overlooked in modern society and they will become a minority group.  It's true though that some religious leaders do cling onto their past elevated status to extract favorable treatment for religious people, in response to this "marginalization."  So I think it's a balance with protecting minority rights, with societal obligations. 

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