Friday, June 18, 2021

Religious Rights - A Unanimous Decision

Liberal Supreme Court Justice, Stephen Breyer (Wiki)
Just when I thought American values might be headed directly towards hell in a hand-basket, the Supreme Court has saved the day. At least for now. 

There has been a lot of handwringing about how the religious values upon which this country was built are increasingly being abandoned. There is very little doubt that secular values have been raised far above religious ones these days. 

I am actually troubled by that too. Even though this country was founded as a secular democracy, freedom of religion was one of the principles of its founding document, the Constitution. It is part of its very first amendment - which in pertinent part reads: 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

The problem occurs when there is a conflict between civil rights and religious rights. And lately civil rights have become far more respectable than religious rights. Which seems to have given it an edge in legal rulings.

There is a reason for that. About half the country sees much of what the bible says as irrelevant or worse -  counter to more modern sensibilities of right and wrong. The most obvious example of that is the attitude about same sex couples. Not only are they looked upon as equal to heterosexual couples, they are celebrated almost as though a gay relationship is more moral than a straight relationship. 

For example, one can hardly watch a TV show these days that doesn’t have a gay couple in it. They are usually primary characters in the storyline. And almost always – they are portrayed as having values that are far superior to those of heterosexual couples. They are portrayed as wiser, more loving, honest, ethical, committed, and faithful to their partner than heterosexual couples. 

The media too glorifies gay couples. They were almost giddy when the Supreme Court declared gay marriage a constitutional  right – equal to straight marriage. The biblical concept that holds marriage is meant only between a man and a woman has been completely abandoned. Which apparently how about half the country - which is strongly influenced by those two industries - feels. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if by now it is a majority that feels that way. Religious values seem to be becoming abandoned with a vengeance. 

Part of the reason for that is that from the perspective of pure logic, it makes eminent sense to equate same sex relationships with heterosexual relationships. That is what secular humanism is all about. If one leaves religious values out of it - what difference is there? Why should it matter who or how one loves? As long as a relationship is consensual and doesn’t hurt anyone else, why favor one over the other? 

This is where America seems to be going, With the Supreme Court’s blessing indicated by a number of  recent rulings that seemed to favor civil rights over the religious rights. Until yesterday:

The US Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Thursday in favor of a Catholic child welfare organization, saying the charity has a right to decline to place foster children with same-sex couples. 

Catholic Social Services sued the City of Philadelphia after it informed private agencies that provided foster care services that it would not refer children to the agencies unless they agreed to nondiscrimination requirements.

Catholic Social Services argued that it had the right to opt-out of the nondiscrimination requirement, citing the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that Philadelphia cannot force the charity to certify same-sex couples as foster parents, saying the rule violated their First Amendment rights. 

What makes this win for religious freedom particularly sweet is that it wasn’t a split decision with the liberal justices dissenting. It was shockingly unanimous! 

I am more than thrilled to hear this. It restores my confidence in the US as the shining beacon of religious freedom upon which it was founded. The thought of religious freedom being nibbled away by an ethic that values secular humanistic values over religious ones was a troubling one. Which religious leaders of all faiths were lamenting. Thank God the slide away from the principles upon which this country was built has stopped. 

The LGBTQ community called this ruling ‘troubling’. The mainstream media isn’t too happy about it either. Here is the headline in Reuters

U.S. Supreme Court backs Catholic group that shunned gay foster parents

‘Shunned’. Interesting choice of words. The not so subtle message is that the Supreme Court also shuns gay foster parents. 

Of course this doesn’t end the fear that religious freedom will be eroded in some other way in future Supreme Court rulings. But for now, it’s a win. A very gratifying one for religious people. 

One more thing. I want to make absolutely clear that my feelings about this decision should in no way be taken as means to mistreat anyone from the LGBTQ community. We have a moral obligation to treat all human beings with the dignity demanded by God about the creations He made in His own image. That includes every human being on the face of the earth regardless of their sexual orientation. The only thing that matters is their character. Any such mistreatment is a serious violation of Halacha and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms.