Ed Brayton writes:
But there is an inherent danger in having the government decide which religions deserve protection and which do not, which are “legitimate” and which are not, especially since all religions are ultimately illegitimate. On the other hand, it seems absolutely clear to me that Scientology was created for the sole purpose of being a swindle, a con, a way to make money. I don’t think that’s true of other religions, even if they all do have adherents who find a way to get rich from it. It’s a very tough issue for me.
He’s right, it’s a tough issue. I suggest making a distinction: a free society should protect religious belief and religious speech, but religious institutions should not receive any more protection than any other organization. In other words, it should not be legal to discriminate against individuals for having or promoting religious beliefs, but religious institutions should not receive any additional benefits not available to other institutions or organizations.
In particular, religious institutions should not be exempt from accountability with respect to their constituents. If they make promises to their adherents that involve being paid or otherwise compensated for things, then they should be just as accountable as any other institution for delivering what they promised. And in cases where it’s disputable whether or not they kept their end of the bargain, the consumer should have the benefit of the doubt. The religious institution received tangible benefit from the consumer, and should therefore be obligated to prove that it provided tangible benefit to the consumer, or face appropriate breach-of-contract penalties.
Yeah, I know, I should also wish for a pony while I’m at it. But the first step in fixing a broken system is determining what a working system would look like.