Some defenders of religion argue that religious belief is a harmless personal exercise. "What's the problem with people believing whatever they want? How does this hurt anyone?"
Well, read Nebraska Senate Nominee Says Religious Beliefs Can Justify Breaking Any Law. This article presents excellent reasons why elevating unsubstantiated, nonfactual religious beliefs over other sorts of unsubstantiated, nonfactual personal beliefs is dangerous.
Sasse, however, apparently believes that this law does not go far enough, even if the Court gives Hobby Lobby everything it is asking for. His proposed rule — that government cannot require someone to act counter to their religious beliefs “under any circumstances” — would mean that literally any law could be ignored by someone who held a religious belief counter to that law.
According to National Geographic, for example, “[h]undreds, if not thousands, of women are murdered by their families each year in the name of family ‘honor,’” and while this practice “goes across cultures and across religions,” some of the perpetrators of honor killings are motivated by their religious faith. Under Sasse’s formulation of religious liberty, a person who killed his own sister because he believed he was under a religious obligation to do so would be immune from prosecution for murder.
Similarly, religious beliefs have been used to justify discrimination against racial minorities, women, and LGBT Americans at different points in American history. In an opinion upholding Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage, a state judge wrote that “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
Former Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett offered a similar view in 1960, claiming that “the good Lord was the original segregationist.” The conservative Bob Jones University drew a similar connection between religion and racism to justify excluding African Americans entirely until the early 1970s, and then to justify a ban on interracial dating and marriage among its students.
Many other examples of unlawful and unethical religious beliefs are cited in the ThinkProgress piece.
Should people get a free pass to break whatever laws they want under the banner of religion? What prevents someone from forming the Church of Drunk Driving whose holy sacrament is tossing down a six-pack and then jumping in a car?
As already noted, "Religion" is just a name for a collection of unsubstantiated, nonfactual personal beliefs that are held by enough people to give them some sort of social acceptance.
If you hear an outside voice in your head telling you to do something, you'll be considered crazy. Unless you say that the voice is God --then you'll be revered as a religious devotee.
I don't see why religious beliefs should be treated any differently under the law as any other subjective individual belief. If we start allowing people to ignore laws they don't believe in, there will be no end to the law-breaking.
This is a theme I've addressed in previous posts.
Contraception coverage dispute shows absurdity of religious belief
Beliefs are not equal under the law. At least, not in the United States. Religious beliefs have an edge over non-religious beliefs, even when the believer holds the same belief.
Which is absurd. By their nature, beliefs are a matter of opinion. Otherwise we'd call them "facts." Gravity is a fact. God is a belief.
Favoring insurance coverage for contraceptives (birth control pills and other means of preventing pregnancy) is a belief. It can be founded on facts as well as ethical principles. But in the end, it is a belief.
Scalia says religious groups have to follow the law
Amazing. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia agrees with President Obama and other progressives about something: that religious organizations which enter into commercial activity have to follow the same laws everybody else does.
Contraception should be covered by religious organizations
A "religious conscience exemption" argument usually is a load of crap. Religious believers shouldn't be able to avoid laws just because they have a strongly held personal belief. Hey! We all have strongly held personal beliefs.
I haven't had a single bite of meat or fish since I became a vegetarian in 1970, forty-one years ago. I strongly believe in both the morality of not killing animals for food, and in the health benefits of vegetarianism.
But if a bunch of other vegetarians and me started a college which espoused our dietary beliefs, yet enrolled meat-eaters also, would it be fair if we required that anyone who got a student loan from the federal government couldn't buy a hamburger -- or any other animal flesh -- while they were associated with our college?
Most people would think that'd be ridiculous. But it's no more ridiculous than a Catholic hospital saying "We shouldn't have to provide our employees with birth control coverage under their health insurance plan."
Letting children die isn't a valid religious belief
Phil, interesting legal theory you set forth -- which, thankfully, isn't accepted in cases of child abuse, spouse abuse, and such. My wife was a psychotherapist in private practice for many years.
She encountered quite a few men, usually Christian, who believed that it was fine to beat their wife or children because, gosh, God has decreed that the man is the head of the family, and whatever he feels Jesus/God wants him to do, that's the best for everyone.
So I assume that if someone is a meth addict, and believes it is OK to not take their child to the doctor when seriously ill, because there's just no point and doctors don't know shit anyway, you feel this is a reason to absolve them of legal guilt?
What's the difference, as an Oregonian columnist pointed out, between someone high on deluded religious beliefs and someone high on a pharmaceutical?