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5 Big Lies About the Phony 'War on Religion'

Right-wingers claim Obama and Democrats across the country are waging a war on religion -- and of course, conservatives are the civilian casualties.

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Sorry, Tony, Franklin, James. If you want to stand up for religious freedom, you have to stand up for everyone's religious freedom. That means even those scary Muslims.

4. Justice Department defends a teacher who claims religious discrimination after being fired from a Lutheran school.

In a case before the Supreme Court, the Obama justice department took the side of a teacher who did double duty at a Lutheran school in Michigan, teaching secular subjects and also leading students in prayer and teaching religious courses. Cheryl Perich took a medical leave for an illness, and when she was better, the school declined to take her back. She sued, claiming discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The  Chicago Tribuneexplained what happened next:

“A federal district court rejected the claim. It said that because of her religious duties, she was covered by the long-recognized 'ministerial exception' — which says the government may not interfere in the relationship between churches and their clergy. An appeals court agreed on the exception, but said Perich wasn't covered because she wasn't a minister.”

The Supreme Court heard the case, with the Justice Department arguing that Perich should be treated like any other employee—but the whole court ruled against them, saying that protecting Perich's job was tantamount to telling the church who was qualified to be a minister.

Once again, a position that religious folks are calling anti-religious is actually a pro-worker position. Perich wasn't claiming that she had a right to teach Lutheran children the tenets of Judaism; she claimed that she was fired from a teaching job because she had been ill. Yet (Catholic) Justice Alito compared the school being required to give her job back to forcing Catholics to allow women to become priests, saying, “under the administration's logic...there would be no obvious reason to prevent women from suing the Catholic church for sex discrimination because it bars them from the priesthood.”

While of course the government shouldn't tell religious organizations who they can choose as ministers, the Justice Department hardly made that case (and indeed, has been willing, as shown above, to accommodate all sorts of religious organizations). Instead, it argued that a church, no less than Wal-Mart, doesn't get to discriminate against a worker because of a disability or illness. Wrapping attacks on workers' rights in religious clothing doesn't make them OK, and it certainly doesn't make Obama guilty of disrespecting religion.

5. Obama administration refuses to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.

No list of lies about religious faith and the Obama administration would be complete without the histrionics about marriage.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan (see a pattern here?), president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops, claimed in September that Obama's opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act, that Clinton-era compromise which, like most Clinton-era compromises, pleased and helped no one, would “precipitate a national conflict between church and state of enormous proportions and to the detriment of both institutions.”

Who's creating conflict here again?

The Defense of Marriage Act is a federal law that prevents states from having to recognize same-gender marriages granted in other states. It has very little to do with religion in the first place—because no law can force an institution of religion to carry out a marriage ceremony for any reason. Instead, the law applies to the legal institution of marriage, and means that a married couple in one state can lose all the rights and benefits of that marriage by crossing a state line.

Obama's Justice Department declared last spring that they would no longer defend DOMA in court; over the summer, the department released a brief arguing that the law should be rejected as it is a kind of “sexual-orientation discrimination.”

 
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