Who Supports RFA? And Where Is It Going?
Most of the backing for RFA is coming from religious conservatives.
Organizations which have signed on to support the Religious Freedom Amendment
include Christian Coalition, Catholic Alliance, American Family Association,
Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, Free Congress Foundation,
American Conference of Jews and Blacks, American Muslim Council, Jewish Union,
National Baptist Convention USA, Southern Baptist Convention, Traditional
Values Coalition, Salvation Army, Christian Voice, Concerned Women for
America, General Council of the Assemblies of God, Wall Builders, Youth for
Christ, U.S. Family Network, and International Pentecostal Church of Christ.
This segment of the American religious community represents specific
religious groups which see an important "big brother" role for government in
permitting (and even subsidizing) them to advance a religious agenda. Some
feel that they require this as part of another "Great Awakening" to prepare
America, and the rest of the world, for the Second Coming of Christ. Others
are more pragmatic; they wish to subordinate public, secular institutions --
especially public schools -- to a "religion friendly" social and cultural
The Religious Freedom Amendment, like its predecessors, has never cleared
the House Judiciary Committee for a full vote on the floor of the U.S. House
of Representatives. It faces a rough road if it is to become law. As an
amendment to the Constitution, it must be approved by a two-thirds margin in
each house of the Congress. Legislatures of three-fourths of the states (38)
must then ratify the proposed Amendment. At the state level, only a majority
is required. RFA supporters realize that in the present political climate,
chances are slim that this measure will pass muster on Capitol Hill, let alone
be approved by lawmakers in over three-dozen states. So, what role does RFA
The Religious Freedom Amendment may be sent from the House Judiciary
Committee on to the floor of Congress as early as March, 1998 -- next month.
Groups like the Christian Coalition are anxious to get lawmakers on the record
by forcing a vote. That way, the "yea" or "nay" of each representative or
senator can be included in disingenuous "voters guides" as a vote in favor of
(or against) "religious liberty" or "allowing our children to pray in school."
Critics have charged that the Coalition guides over-simplyify issues, don't
present the various aspects of an issue, and frequently are distributed
immediately before elections, thus preventing those candidates who receive a
political black eye from being able to respond.
Along with proposals to ban or restrict abortion and "culture war"
legislation such as the gratuitous Defense of Marriage Act (against
recognition of same sex union), the Religious Freedom Amendment remains a
centerpiece in the religious right social agenda for America. It is not the
only threat to our civil liberties, though, or the separation of state and
church. Mainstream and religious liberal groups have their own proposals to
bully government into being more "religion friendly," an effort which,
strangely, has resulted in a sort of faith-based popular front with their more
conservative counterparts. What is it that brings such diverse groups as the
National Council of Churches, Christian Legal Society, Roman Catholic Church,
humanists, Scietnologists, Muslims, new agers and the Traditional Values
Coalition together in common cause? We next examine the convoluted history of
the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a measure struck down by the
U.S. Supreme Court only to live on in various "stealth" proposals being
introduced in state legislatures throughout the country.
(We continue with our discussion of various legislative proposals which
provide religious believers and groups with "special rights." Our last
installment included a discussion of the Religious Freedom
Amendment. Part Two examines the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration
Act, and the various "mini-RFRAs" now being promoted by churches and advocacy
groups throughout the nation.)
American Atheists continues to be the only national organization actively
speaking out against the “special rights” agenda embodied in RFRA, and the
various state versions it is now being promoted under, such as “Religious
Freedom Protection Act.”|
While religious right organizations like Christian Coalition have supported
the Religious Freedom Amendment, more mainstream and even liberal churches
have undertaken their own efforts to achieve "special rights" and standing for
organized religion. Their main effort has consisted of support for the
Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a measure enacted in 1993 but overturned
last year by the U.S. Supreme Court in the BOERNE v. FLORES case. Since then,
using technicalities in the case, RFRA advocates have taken their battle from
Capitol Hill to the various states, where "mini-RFRAs" are now winding their
way through legislatures. The array of different religious interest groups
backing RFRA and its offspring is astonishing; it represents a wide segment of
the American religious community, and even some groups which have identified
themselves closely in the past with the cause of civil liberties and state-church
separation. RFRA ignited a debate in the ranks of separationist,
however, and many groups which have been stalwart defenders of the
Establishment Clause appear to have jumped ship on this important measure.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is a cause which has united Christian
Coalition, the National Council of Churches, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Humanist
and new age advocacy groups, and even the ACLU and Americans United for the
Separation of Church and State.
American Atheists continues to be the only national organization actively
speaking out against the "special rights" agenda embodied in RFRA, and the
various state versions it is now being promoted under, such as "Religious
Freedom Protection Act."
While the religious right supports RFRA, mainstream churches and other
groups have not displayed comparable enthusiasm for the Religious Freedom
Amendment. Both RFRA (and its state-level incarnations) and RFA both advance
religious belief and favor religion; but when RFRA was struck down in BOERNE,
the Coalition which had supported the law failed to translate that enthusiasm
into any sort of alliance for RFA and the Christian Coalition. Understanding
why this did not happen requires examining some history, and how different
parts of the American religious establishment perceive their relationship with
"Social Gospel" vs. Fundamentalism, Evangelicalism
In terms of composition, most religious Americans are Roman Catholic, or
use a label such as "fundamentalist" or "evangelical" to describe their
Protestant affiliation. 10% of Americans describe themselves as atheists,
nonbelievers, agnostics or skeptics of some kind in respect to religion.
Other categories include beliefs such as Mormonism, new age, Buddhist, Hindu,
or Muslim (this being one of the fastest growing segments in the religious
marketplace). Most Americans, though, fall into the category of being
"unchurched," a pejorative label to describe those who do not regularly head
for church, mosque or temple, or -- when they do so on holidays -- may attend
for social or family reasons. Indeed, there has never been a time in American
history when the majority of the population have been regular and devoted
church service attendees.
In terms of relationship with government, modern attitudes embraced by the
religious right and mainstream have their antecedents in American history.
Many religious groups fought the "disestablishment" process which began with
the American Revolution; prior to the uprising, many colonies had an
"established' or official religious sect often supported through taxation.
Membership in this church was often a requirement for the exercise of certain
rights, and the process of disestablishment prompted howls of protest.
American culture underwent periodic frenzies of religiosity such as the
Great Awakening, but by the end of the 19th century, technology and the
findings of science were rapidly chipping away at the authority and
infallibility of religious doctrines. Fundamentalism came to describe the
conservative reaction among Protestants in the U.S.; and it emphasized many
of the tenets considered essential to Christianity such as the inerrancy of
Biblical accounts, physical resurrection of Christ, Rapture and the Second
Coming. Fundamentalists continued to embrace the Bible as the infallible and
revealed word of god, and in the early twentieth century the movement was
articulated in a twelve volume published series, aptly titled "The
Fundamentals." Bible institutes were established in order to transmit
Fundamentalist doctrines, and as a result, this religious ideology prospered
in rural areas throughout the 1920's. The so-called "Monkey Trial" in 1925
contrasted the Fundamentalist doctrine, including Biblical inerrancy and
belief in Creation, with the latest findings in evolutionary science.
Another related religious tendency was Evangelicalism. Like
fundamentalists, evangelicals embrace a strict orthodoxy regarding the
doctrines and authority of the Bible. The differences between the two,
however, continue to be debated; but it seems that Evangelicalism emphasizes
the "experience" of religious conversion, something evidence in the historical
roots of the movement in groups such as the Hussites, Waldenses and
Reformation sects. Evangelicalism also claims antecedents in the 1725 Great
Awakening and religious revivalist movements.
Evangelicals generally ignored political entanglement throughout the early
to mid-1900s as an official policy. There were exceptions, of course, but
most evangelical (and even fundamentalist) groups saw politics as "of this
world," sinful and part of secular society. Evangelicals emphasized "saving
souls" over precinct organizing.
Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism, however, both share a common spiritual
and sectarian foe -- religious modernism and specifically the Social Gospel.
Modernism describes the current in early twentieth century religious belief
that rejected the more traditional and orthodox aspects of the Bible, and
searched for a different meaning in its texts. Closely related to modern was
the liberal Social Gospel movement which sought to apply certain Christian
teachings to a variety of social problems related to industrialization.
Founders of this tendency were Washington Gladden (1836-1918), an American
Congregationalist minister, and theologian Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918).
The Social Gospel called for activism and involvement in social and political
affairs; but fundamentalists and evangelicals, distrustful of those more
worldly entanglements, emphasized religious conversion as the way of creating
a "New Jerusalem" in anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ, or Parousia.
Evangelicals and Fundamentalists became politically energized beginning in
the 1960s and into the 1970s by the "first wave" of religious right activism
-- groups like the Third Century movement and the Moral Majority. This marked
a major reorientation for many evangelicals, many of whom still remained
uncomfortable with the more authoritarian and draconian political program of
leaders such as Jerry Falwell. With the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980,
however, fundamentalists and evangelicals had already flexed their political
muscle, and by the 1990s, new groups like Christian Coalition -- the "second
wave" of religious right activism -- were declaring that their ideologies and
churches had finally "arrived" in the power center of American social
From a macro-perspective, then, religious conservatives have come to
emphasize a distinct social and political program: using government to ban
abortion, censor "immoral" materials, allow certain religious activities in
schools and other public institutions, and create a "family friendly" (i.e.
heterosexual) economic environment. It is important to remember that there
exist splits and fault-lines even within the segment we identify as "religious
right," however. While various churches and interest groups may agree on a
common stance in respect to gay rights or abortion, the can disagree on more
arcane issues such as free trade or certain rights for others.
Evangelicals and Fundamentalists have often avoided the Protestant
"mainstream," although they seem to have greater numbers than many of the
established, mainline religious sects. The latter is best represented by the
National Council of Churches. Liberal denominations are somewhat skeptical of
the Biblical inerrancy claims of their fundamentalist counterparts, and they
share a certain caution about the more blatant attempts to commingle
government and religious. For instance, the religious liberals are generally
wary of the Religious Freedom Amendment.
It should be noted in that in some quarters of the American fundamentalist
and evangelical community, there is similar hesitance regarding efforts to
breech the "wall of separation" between government and religion. Baptist
groups, for instance, have a record of speaking out against some prayer-in-
government proposals. Historically, this dates back to a fear that other
religious groups -- specifically, the Roman Catholic Church -- would violate
the First Amendment for their own, sectarian ends. The "Bible Riots" in 19th
century America were rooted in this mutual hostility and suspicion which
divided Protestants and Roman Catholics. In fact, one of the leading state-
church separation groups in existence today was originally known as
"Protestants and Other Americans United for the Separation of Church and
State." Fear of Roman Catholic hegemony in the political sphere has served as
the basis for some efforts made by specific Protestant groups to defend
Jefferson's "wall of separation" between government and organized religion.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act
RFRA was legislation that attracted support from across the religious
spectrum. Its origins date to a 1990 U.S. Supreme Court decision, OREGON
EMPLOYMENT DIVISION v. SMITH. The issue involved the right of a Native
American church to use an hallucinogenic plant, peyote, in its religious
ritual. The State of Oregon had claimed that the ban on peyote and similar
substances was a generally applicable rule which applied to everyone.
Religious groups argued that if government passed any law that placed
"substantial burden" on religious practice, it had to demonstrate a compelling
reason, and had to achieve that end by the least restrictive means.
The high court ruled, however, that not even religious belief could
constitute an exemption from a neutral law that applied to everyone, and may
have had the result of placing a restriction on a religious practice. A group
known as the Coalition for the Free Exercise of Religion was promptly formed,
and set to work crafting legislation that would circumvent the decision in
SMITH. The effort paid off in 1993 when Congress overwhelmingly passed the
Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). President Clinton quickly signed
RFRA was significant for a number of reasons, not the least of which was
the range of support it managed to attract. Religious and civic groups
flocked to the cause of RFRA -- Baptists, Roman Catholics, Jews, Hindus,
Humanists, Ethical Culturalists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Muslims,
Presbyterians, new age sects, Scientologists, Unitarians and religious right
groups such as the Traditional Values Coalition. Also signing on to the RFRA
agenda were the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for the
Separation of Church and State, and People for the American Way.
The act required that government demonstrate the same compelling interest
in any action which placed a substantial "burden" on religious groups or
practice -- a condition said to exist prior to the decision in SMITH. But the
underpinnings in RFRA were to be tested when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to
hear an appeal from the Roman Catholic Church in the case of BOERNE v. FLORES.
The case involved an effort by to demolish most of a 76-year-old church
structure in BOERNE, Texas in order to build a larger facility. The City
refused to grant a permit, saying that the church building fell under the
purview of historical ordinances; the Archdiocese then filed suit, arguing
that these restrictions violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and
constituted excessive burden on a religious organization.
The Justices disagreed in a controversial 6-3 decision handed down in June,
1997 which found RFRA to be unconstitutional. Most of the opinion centered on
whether or not Congress had the authority to enact such legislation, and may
have exceeded its authority in interpreting the constitution. Justice John
Paul Stevens, however, was more direct, and enunciated his opinion that RFRA
was clearly discriminatory, favored religious groups and belief, and was a
violation of state-church separation. He wrote:
"If the historic landmark on a hill in BOERNE, Texas happened to be a
museum or an art gallery owned by an atheist, it would not be eligible for an
exemption from the city ordinance that forbid an enlargement of the structure.
Because the landmark is owned by the Catholic Church, it is claimed that RFRA
gives its owner a federal statutory entitlement to an exemption from a
generally applicable, neutral civil law. Whether the Church would actually
prevail under the statute or not, the statute has provided the Church with a
legal weapon that no atheist or agnostic can obtain. The government
preference for religion, as opposed to irreligion, is forbidden by the First
"One, Two, Many RFRAs..."
Stung by the decision in BOERNE which struck down the Religious Freedom
Restoration Act, the Coalition behind RFRA began to examine its options. One
included a full constitutional amendment -- a lengthy procedure considered to
be a "last resort."
Groups such as the Christian Coalition which had been promoting the
Religious Freedom Amendment hoped that they could woo the liberal and
mainstream churches to their cause. The latter considered RFA to be
unnecessary, or too extreme; and some questioned the political viability of
working with the Christian Coalition, already tainted with the scandal of
partisan political involvement. Instead, the Coalition for the Free Exercise
of Religion decided to take advantage of a possible loophole in BOERNE, and
begin promoting RFRA-like laws at the state level. These laws may also be
unconstitutional, but litigating them in the court systems of individual
states will prove to be a daunting task.
Several "mini-RFRAs" have been enacted or introduced in state legislatures.
In late January, 1998, the California Assembly passed the Religious Freedom
Protection Act which is an RFRA clone. Like RFRA, it requires that government
"should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling
justification." A study by the Legislative Counsel defends the new measure,
suggesting in one document that the State of California has the power and
should "protect the free exercise of religion" by actions which are "more
expansive than the First Amendment to the Constitution."
RFRA and the "mini-RFRAs" pose a substantial threat to state-church
separation, although they are more subtle than the blatant power grab
demonstrated in the Christian Coalition's Religious Freedom Amendment. RFRA
essentially fosters a system of "dual justice," and exempts religious groups
and practices from the civil laws which apply to everyone else -- private
individuals, businesses and even civic institutions. It encourages "special
rights" for believers, and in the process of doing so, discriminates against
millions of Americans who profess no religious beliefs.
Religious groups are employing a number of strategies to achieve "special
rights" for churches and believers. While proposals such as the Religious
Freedom Restoration Act and the Religious Freedom Amendment deal with the
social agenda at home, these groups also want American foreign policy to
reflect a "religion friendly" direction.
One of the most controversial measures being promoted by religious
organizations in America today is FFRPA, or the Freedom From Religious
Persecution Act. Unlike other proposals such as the Religious Freedom
Amendment, FFRPA is not aimed at Americans, but instead is designed to
influence the conduct of U.S. foreign policy in hopes of coercing other
governments into allowing more religious tolerance and activity in their
respective nations. Under this act, an Office of Religious Persecution
Monitoring would be established to "provide for the imposition of sanctions
against countries engaged in a pattern of religious persecution, and for other
The FFRPA was introduced as House Resolution 2431 into the 105 Congress.
Many supporters are identified with Christian Coalition and allied groups, and
have endorsed other religion-in-government proposals including the Religious
Freedom Amendment. Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma is one of the sponsors of the
bill; he is a frequent speaker at Coalition events such as its annual "Road to
Victory Conference" held in Washington, D.C. Another supporter, Rep.
Aderholt, was behind a non-binding resolution that passed unanimously in
Congress advocating that Americans should display and follow the Ten
Commandments; that gesture was seen as support for Alabama Judge Roy Moore,
who has sparked national controversy for his policy of displaying the
Decalogue in his Etowah County courtroom, and beginning sessions of his court
with a Baptist invocation.
"Religious Freedom" -- Not Civil Liberties
Supporters of FFRPA declare that they are concerned about the
"persecution" of Christians (and, in some cases other religious minorities)
throughout the world. In section (B)(3) of the Act, it is argued that
"Persecution of religious believers, particularly Roman Catholics and
evangelical Protestant Christians, in Communist countries such as Cuba, Laos,
the People's Republic of China, North Korea, and Vietnam, persists and in some
cases is increasing."
The following section cites "many Islamic countries and regions thereof,
(where) governments persecute non-Muslims and religious converts from Islam
using means such as 'blasphemy' and 'apostasy' laws, and militant movements to
seek to corrupt a historically tolerant Islamic faith and culture through the
persecution of Baha'is, Christians and other religious minorities." Other
sections of FFRPA cite the Government of the Sudan, and the People's Republic
of China for its policies concerning Tibet and the Dalai Lama.
In the Senate, comparable legislation -- S.722 -- has been introduced by
Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania (March 21, 2020).
Critics make a number of arguments regarding the Freedom From Religious
- "Religious persecution" is part of a wider problem in many countries,
many of which are often willing supporters of U.S. foreign policy and
beneficiaries of American largesse -- namely, lack of basic human rights.
Many of the societies which are mentioned in the FFRPA lack secular liberties,
not just religious rights for certain groups. The organizations and
individuals behind FFRPA have a questionable, even shoddy record in speaking
out against these governments when nonreligious liberties such as basic
freedom of press or political disagreement occurs. Using "religious freedom"
as a litmus test for American foreign policy does not address the wider
problem of promoting and advancing human rights for all people and
institutions -- not just clerical groups and believers.
- FFRPA fails to take into account basic cultural realities, whatever their
faults. To what extent (if any) should the United States, through its foreign
policy, be not just the world's policeman, but its nanny and disciplinarian as
well? Officials in the U.S. Department of State remain opposed to the Freedom
From Religious Persecution Act, which threatens to complicate American
responses in a constantly changing geopolitical environment.
This does not make the policies in these respective countries "right" or
moral by western and Enlightenment standards. But the act could create far
more problems than it addresses. For instance, the economic embargo against
Cuba -- a decades-old policy -- has had mixed results, and similar tactics
elsewhere (as in Iraq) might be questioned as well. Could FFRPA and its
"Office of Religious Persecution Monitoring" prompt similar sanctions against
other countries -- all based on their attitudes about religion?
- FFRPA is based on a faulty constitutional assumption. In Section 2,
"Findings," the framers of this proposed legislation declare under "The
Congress makes the following findings:" that:
"1) Governments have a primary responsibility to promote, encourage and
protect respect for the fundamental and internally recognized right to freedom
Nowhere does our Constitution say this. Article 1 of our Bill of Rights
declares the wider right of free expression and free exercise of religion; but
the second portion of this Article likewise says that the government shall not
make any law respecting an "establishment" of religion.
This portion, the "Establishment Clause," has been interpreted by courts in
numerous decisions to mean that government must adopt a position of benign
neutrality in respect to the affairs of religion and religious groups. It is
not the mission of the United States to promote religion, either at home or
abroad. Many of the Founders of the Republican were deists whose notion of a
"god" differed from that of the Judeo-Christian religion; and they were
skeptical of "establishing" any one religious group as the state religion. In
addition, many were likewise skeptical of "foreign entanglements." The wisdom
of this policy in our contemporary world is certainly debatable, but tampering
in the internal affairs of other nations is never a matter to be taken
lightly, or legitimized by hasty, even provocative legislation.
- Many of the offending countries lack civil institutions based on the
Western Enlightenment model, including separation of church and state. It is
disturbing to note that many (thought not all) of the supporters of the
Freedom From Religious Persecution Act are wary of state-church separation
when practiced in America, or believe that it is not, or should not be, a
- The Act is highly selective in quoting international documents and
covenants in support of its thesis concerning "religious rights." Instruments
such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for instance, address a
wide variety of secular liberties, including rights for women and minorities.
Indeed, one might argue that religious persecution is part of a larger problem
-- authoritarian behavior by governments, some of which are based on religious
- The most effective remedy for ending "religious persecution" may be
something which many supporters of FFRPA despise, namely, vigorous secular
movements and institutions which may question and even reject religious
values. In some Islamic nations, for instance, the gradual erosion of Moslem
fundamentalism and authoritarianism is the result of numerous factors
including communications technology, a "youth rebellion," cultural contact
with the west, and a movements advocating more rights for women or
political/social minorities. Do we really want to see Muslim patriarchy
replaced with, say, the Promise Keepers vision of how society ought to be run?
- The Freedom From religious Persecution Act does not address the question
of civil rights and freedoms for atheists and other nonbelievers. Will this
proposed "monitoring" office investigate the fact that in some European
nations, religious groups receive direct and indirect government subsidies
which everyone is required to contribute to? Who would monitor the
"persecution" when it is done in the name of religious belief?
Part of the momentum for enacting laws such as Freedom From Religious
Persecution Act stems from a wider agenda -- to have the state give religious
groups and individuals special rights or consideration. That is why FFRPA
focuses on only a very narrow activity, namely, religious exercise. It says
nothing about countries which deny basic human rights in other areas, or to
whole groups such as women. In fact, dictatorial regimes would pass muster
with FFRPA boosters, so long as they permitted free and open exercise for all
But there is a more subtle reason for why at least some organizations --
many on the religious right -- support this type of legislation. This has to
do with something known as the "10-40 Window," a phrase used to describe that
geographical part of the world which represents most of the predominantly
non-Christian cultures -- Buddhist, Hindu, Shinto, animist, and particularly
Originally, many of these nations were thrown open to Christian
proselytizing during the era of classical economic imperialism (an
often-misunderstood and misused term) when European nations established colonies and
outposts in these societies. The British empire remains a classic example of
this process. In some cases like the Middle East, incursions from Europe go
back centuries, as with the Crusades.
The end of World War I saw these European empires begin to crumble, a
process that accelerated with the end of World War II and the mass movement
toward independence. Western religious groups, mostly Christian, no longer
enjoyed the easy access in many nations which they formerly did. Years of
resentment against the west often led to the expulsion of missionary
organizations, a phenomenon identified with indigenous independence movements.
These movements did not always institute civic values which Americans and
Europeans often want for themselves. Social strife often resulted from a
collision of ethnic and religious interests, as when India gained independence
from the British. Moslems and Hindus rioted, each faction wanting its own
social order; that problem has never been fully resolved. In other cases,
such as Arab nations, independence brought some of the trappings of Western
technology and wealth, but resulted in religious xenophobia. Even in the
former Soviet Union, the new Russian government is reverting to a pre-
revolution historical paradigm -- the alliance with the Orthodox Church.
There, the government is "establishing" Orthodoxy as the official religion,
and is taking steps to limit foreign missionary activity by Christians,
Scientologists, new age sects and other groups, all of which it perceives as
culturally and politically corrosive.
Many evangelical and fundamentalist religious groups see these societies
(most of which are in the 10/40 Window) as "unconquered territory for Christ,"
a task made all the more urgent by the arrival of the upcoming millennium and,
say some, the Second Coming. As arcane and foolish as this seems to many of
us, it is something which is taken quite seriously by hundreds of thousands,
even millions of motivated evangelicals in groups such as United Prayer Track,
March for Jesus, King's Kids, Christ for the City, Spiritual Warfare Network,
International Fellowship of Intercessors, Prayer Thrust, Muslim Prayer Focus
and others. For this religious subculture, even those who embrace other
religions and deities (Muslims, Hindus) need to be "converted." Enlisting the
U.S. government to facilitate this effort on behalf of "world evangelism"
motivates some of the supporters of Freedom From Religious Persecution Act.
FFRPA -- A Bad Answer For Only Part Of The Problem?
Some mainstream religious groups and civil libertarians also endorse FFRPA,
thought for vastly different reasons. The persecution of anyone, anywhere for
their beliefs is wrong, even if those beliefs happen to be in error. But is
FFRPA the answer? Does it deal with the wider aspects of social intolerance?
And does it address the rampant problem of Christian intolerances, especially
in the United States where groups promoting FFRPA are busy trying to curtail
or abolish other civil liberties -- freedom of expression, abortion rights,
freedom from religion?
Persecution of those who happen to believe in a certain religious creed is
only a portion of a wider problem. Full civil liberties for everyone -- not
just churches, missionaries, or religious believers and proselytizers -- is
the best way to achieve human rights, in the full sense of that term. Doing
this often requires separating church and state, limiting the powers of both
authoritarian government and meddlesome clerical institutions be they
Christian, Moslem, Hindu, or identified with some other sect. FFRPA does
none of this.
© 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 by American Atheists.