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The dueling myth postulate examined: religious persecution

Let’s take a few examples that are not hypothetical, and see if we can apply the framework to statements and arguments made in the real world. Our first such example is one that is likely intimately familiar to most of us, Christian faux-persecution:

A report by two U.S.-based religious freedom groups says anti-Christian persecution is on the rise in America. The joint report by Texas-based Liberty Institute and Washington-based Family Research Council says groups like the American Civil Liberties Union aren’t the only culprits. The report says government agencies around the U.S. are trying to push Christian expression out the door.

(snip)

“One of the most strident examples: the misuse of the Establishment Clause to attempt to ban any mention of God from historical markers, monuments or even museum exhibits,” French says. “This represents an effort to whitewash God from American history and change our national identity.”

WND reported in February that the city of New York was attempting to cancel the leases of all church and religious groups renting city facilities. “Our view is that public school buildings, which are funded by taxpayers’ dollars, should not be used as houses of worship,” said Marge Feinberg, spokeswoman for New York City’s Department of Education. “Public school space cannot and should not be used for worship services, especially because school space is not equally available to all faiths.”

(Two things to note here: 1 is that the Family Research Council is not a “religious freedom group”, it’s a hate group. The second is that while it is usually my custom to provide links to the original quotation, this particular example comes from WorldNet Daily, and I just went ahead and assumed that people would rather not click through)

So let’s see if we can break down Mr. French’s argument within a competing myth framework. I would identify it as springing from a f-myth belief, and will analyze it thus:

The world is fundamentally fair when it comes to the place of religion in public life (or at least has been up until recently). Overt displays of religiosity are protected free speech under the Constitution. The use of religious invocations, symbols, and practices are part of American history – a tradition that stretches back for generations.

Because the world is fundamentally fair, the attempts to change such a system are morally reprehensible. Conversely, it is morally laudable to resist the changes that threaten to remove religion from public life. Religious people should not have their rights taken from them in order to appease the growing chorus of anti-religious voices.

By opposing these changes to tradition and to American identity, the FRC’s actions/positions are morally laudable. By fighting to change a fundamentally fair system by abridging religious freedom, the actions of the ACLU and the U.S. government are morally reprehensible. By opposing the core of the American identity and long-standing tradition, the beliefs of the ACLU and the U.S. government are morally reprehensible.

For fun, we can also parse Ms. Feinberg’s argument in a u-myth framework:

The world is fundamentally unfair when it comes to the place of religion in public life. Overt displays of religiosity on behalf of state actors is specifically precluded by the Constitution. The use of religious symbols, while popular, is a reflection of an unfair system of religious hegemony and preference – a tradition that stretches back for generations.

Because the world is fundamentally unfair, the state has a duty to intervene and increase the amount of fairness. Fairness, in this context, looks like no religious preference for any group. Public schools are state entities, and as a result they must not be used for religious promotion. Any history of such promotion does not abrogate the duty of the state to ensure that it lives up to its obligation to be fair to all groups.

By acting to ensure that the Constitution is upheld, the actions of the NYCDE are morally laudable. By attempting to uphold or restore a fundamentally unfair system of religious privilege, the actions of the FRC are morally reprehensible. By asserting a right to preferential treatment that would propagate an unfair system, the beliefs of the FRC are morally reprehensible.

So we can see from the above analysis of the example that the specific statements of ‘both sides’ of the argument can be expressed as a function of an underlying myth about the fairness of the system in which the dispute is happening. The NYCDE believe that the fair thing to do is ensure that all religions receive equal treatment, which necessitates a change in how they handle church services on public property. On the other hand, the sweaty pig-fuckers at the FRC believe that such changes are unfair, because they mean a loss of ‘rights’ on the part of religious people.

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