Preserve American Secularism
of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian
Treaty of Tripoli, 1797
It was disturbing, but not surprising, to learn that the Christian Attorney
General Jeff Sessions made a speech to the conservative “think tank”
Heritage Foundation essentially trying to insert Christianity and its values as
“a truth,” fundamentally part of our nation. Then he proposed that religious
beliefs can be used to subvert civil rights enacted to prevent discrimination
in places of public accommodation:
Department’s Office of the Solicitor General filed an amicus brief in support
of a Colorado baker who was sued for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex
wedding. But, as you all know well, the First Amendment protects the right to
the free exercise of religion for all Americans. Although
public-accommodations laws serve important purposes, they—like other
laws—cannot be interpreted to undermine the individual freedoms that the First
Amendment guarantees. That includes the freedom not to create expression
for ceremonies that violate one’s religious beliefs.”
Rights Act of 1964 states that “All persons shall be entitled
to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, and privileges,
advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined
in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race,
color, religion, or national origin.” It goes on to define places of public
accommodation, and it is quite clear that the intent of the law is for
businesses serving the general populace not to discriminate in any way against
their potential customers.
the Department of Justice has filed an amicus brief in support of a
Christian-owned baking establishment that refused to create a cake for a same
sex couple seems to fly in the face of that 1964 act by using the faith of the
proprietors of the bakery—a public accommodation—to discriminate against two
members of the public who approached them for the services they supposedly
offer. Sessions plays a game wherein he feels that the freedom of being able to
select one’s religion then allows whatever beliefs such religion propounds to
subvert a later law guaranteeing that the public can be protected from
discrimination, regardless of its source. So faith trumps civil rights in the
mind of Sessions, who claims guidance in such matters from our current
consequences of such thinking should be obvious to anyone with even a modest imagination.
Here in the USA we used to have places of business that refused to service, or
segregated, non-white individuals. There were establishments that barred Jews
from partaking of them, well explored in the film GENTLEMAN’S AGREEMENT (1947).
One of the important aspects of the progressive nature of the USA is that it
moves forward to make or amend laws so that people can be treated ever more
equitably. There are legally established religious organizations which are
intended solely for adherents of their faiths, and those have not been
challenged—they do legally discriminate against non-believers for their
internal affairs. But American society has come to see that non-discriminatory
public accommodation should be the norm and the law of the land outside of the
private business of religious institutions.
said before, Christianity is one amongst many highly discriminatory religions.
Though its many denominations have essentially been domesticated into
presenting a façade of tolerance and ecumenicalism, their impulses—now barely
in check—would be to revive self-favoring bigotry given any chance to establish
a theocracy, as had been the norm in the past. When government is linked with a
particular religion—something specifically prevented by our Founding
fathers—then articles of faith are forced upon all, regardless of their own
ironic that Session states “Our Founders believed that reason is the
best means to truth and justice” yet then tries to supplant that with the importance
of faith, which is belief that actively disregards reason. The rest of his
presentation presents examples of his support of Christians as well as the
nebulous assertion that “Many Americans have felt that their freedom to
practice their faith has been under attack.” This is of course coded language
masquerading as freedom of religion—which has not been attacked or otherwise
abrogated—but instead advocates freedom to discriminate against those who do
not share the principles of a particular religion.
if one imagines living under the principles of certain documented historical
religions which have embraced human sacrifice, then one could easily see why
limiting the exercise of such “sincerely held beliefs” would be to the greater
good of the governed populace, particularly those who might be termed as proper
“food for the gods.” Yet when it comes to forms of subjugation such as
anti-Semitic or racially segregated institutions, that such were generally
accepted in recent times should not be forgotten as they have been held up to
scrutiny and deemed abhorrent.
all witnessed the rampant horrors wrought by Islamist extremists, from
terrorism to the institutional abuse of women, and they are not the only faith
guilty of female oppression. The Hindu practice of sati, wherein the wife of a
deceased husband is burned alive on his pyre, still takes place. We’ve seen the
cruelties of Sharia Law, and we can recall the vile deeds of the Christian
Inquisition, which tortured, mutilated, executed and looted from any deemed as
apostates and heretics. Americans despise such barbarities. But less-dramatic
current forms of persecution are insidious, hurtful and even more despicable
when they are promoted by a government against its citizens, particularly with
the Orwellian claim that such is meant as a means to preserve freedom.
think most present day Americans would consider it reasonable to support the
public accommodation laws over the faiths that promote bigotry. Today, we can
tell those with small minds “don’t set yourself up in a business meant to
accommodate the public if you are a bigot.” While living in a pluralist,
secular society, you might find many things that could be not to your taste,
but we haven’t enacted laws that guarantee freedom from being offended.
However, it appears that those old, rejected practices are reviving their
prejudices with the support of functionaries in the current administration. I
call upon our citizens to preserve American secularism and its equities—that is
the basis for our Constitution. Here, theocracy is not endorsed: “Congress shall make
no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
exercise thereof.” But neither does free exercise permit discrimination, as
subsequent legislation has eminently clarified.
other state-sanctioned religions, has a history of oppression that the framers
of our Constitution recognized and purposely worked to neutralize. Do not let
the wannabe theocrats in the current administration—who claim the support of
their actions as a “will of the people”—open the door to forms of intolerance
that we as a nation have rejected as uncivilized.
secularism, since it offers you the freedom to believe as you will, and
prevents others from imposing their beliefs upon you. But, you do have to get
along with them, which is a fundamental requirement of any diverse community.
The USA has always styled itself as a champion of liberty and that freedom
covers all who are its citizens. As a nation of immigrants, crafting laws that
support many differing perspectives yet prevents them from being imposed upon
those who think otherwise has been a challenge. Much progress has been made
since our founding, so let us not backslide into reviving injustices that we
who champion reason have soundly defeated.
—Magus Peter H.
Graphic designed by Reverend Adam P. Campbell