Hey Look, a New Pledge


It seems to be the hot thing in politics these days to demand that candidates sign pledges to do or not do certain things. There’s a new one from a group called Open Doors USA that certainly sounds innocent enough:

I PLEDGE that I will protect religious freedom in full for all Americans, and will advance international religious freedom as part of American foreign policy.

As part of this PLEDGE, I hereby commit myself to the following positions:

FIRST, that religious liberty in full is the birthright of every American, as recognized by the First Amendment. It entails the right to believe, worship, and practice in accord with one’s faith, subject only to the limits imposed by the U.S. constitution and the Bill of Rights. The right of religious freedom must be applied equally to all religious communities in America, including Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and others. At the same time, religious freedom does not mandate belief, but protects the right not to believe.

Religious freedom includes the right to employ religious arguments, or religiously-informed moral arguments, when contending for or against laws and policies, such as laws designed to protect the unborn and traditional marriage, or to relieve poverty and increase economic opportunity for the disadvantaged.

Religious freedom includes the right of individuals and of religious communities to engage in religiously-motivated charitable works. It also includes the right of individuals and of religious communities not to be forced to participate in, or to forfeit their employment because of refusal to participate in, activities that deeply offend their religious conscience.

SECOND, that I will nominate to the U.S. federal bench judges who are committed to protecting for all Americans the religious liberty rights described above.

THIRD, that I will make religious freedom promotion a foreign policy priority of my administration. This will include ensuring the U.S. State Department performs its statutory duty of advancing international religious freedom; appointing an ambassador at large for international religious freedom who is a person of stature, experienced in matters of religious freedom and diplomacy; ensuring that the ambassador at large has sufficient authority and resources to succeed; ensuring that democracy assistance funding includes support for religious freedom; and ensuring that all of America’s diplomats are trained in the importance of advancing, and how to advance, international religious freedom.

Certainly sounds reasonable. Who could be opposed to this other than those who seek to impose their religious beliefs on others? As it turns out, the whole thing is a trojan horse. The author of the pledge explains why he thinks it’s important:

[Dr. Thomas] Farr, visiting associate professor of Religion and International Affairs at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, told The Christian Post Monday that it was vital to highlight issues of religious freedom in the U.S. because of efforts among those in positions of authority to “remove religious voices from American democracy.”

Farr, giving an example, pointed to “Judge Vaughn Walker’s reasoning in overturning California’s Prop 8 referendum included the assertion that religious and moral arguments against gay marriage are, in effect, irrational and therefore unconstitutional. If this reasoning were accepted, it would mean that religious arguments, and religiously-informed moral judgments, would be banned from our public debates, thereby ceding the field entirely to aggressively secular and anti-religious arguments. This would not be good for America’s citizens that are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, or adherents of any other religion, whose views of justice, freedom, equality, and the common good are influenced by their religious beliefs. Removing religious voices from our discourse would be unconstitutional and harmful for the country.”

Talk about a straw man argument. No one is arguing, least of all Judge Walker, that religious belief can’t influence one’s positions, much less that “religious voices” would be “banned from our public debates.” For crying out loud, almost every legislator at every level in the entire country is religious. But if the only warrant you can offer for a position is your religious beliefs, you haven’t said anything meaningful at all. If your policy positions can’t be justified on the grounds of evidence and reason instead of alleged revelation, then your positions are, in fact, irrational.

The fake nature of this pledge is revealed simply by the fact that Rick Santorum, who has explicitly argued that civil law must comport with “divine law,” was the first candidate to sign the pledge. The rest are still considering it.

Comments

  1. DaveL says

    “Everyone has the right to practice their religion or to have no religion at all, except the majority reserves the right to force minorities to adhere to its religious practices.”

    Thanks, but no thanks.

  2. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    It also includes the right of individuals and of religious communities not to be forced to participate in, or to forfeit their employment because of refusal to participate in, activities that deeply offend their religious conscience.

    Right there is where he lost me.

  3. eric says

    That last paragraph under FIRST is the real bad one. The rest is mere rhetorical flourishes – demands for rights we already have. As an example – you already CAN voice a religious argument before the court. Go ahead and do so. Like the right to represent yourself, its allowed, just not recommended as a winning strategy.

    But that last paragraph (under First) is basically the fundie right’s attempt to have religious preference trump secular employment law. Society can’t function that way; otherwise no business could ever fire anyone for anything.

  4. says

    For crying out loud, almost every legislator at every level in the entire country is religious.

    Or at least pretend to so the rubes will vote for them.

  5. divalent says

    “It also includes the right of individuals … not to forfeit their employment because of refusal to participate in, activities that deeply offend their religious conscience.”

    That’s not a trojan horse: it’s right there in black and white.

  6. sithrazer says

    “I pledge allegiance to Frank Zappa
    Of the United Mutations of America
    And to the Duke of Prunes and Grand Wazoo for which he stands
    One size fits all, excentrifugal
    With yellow sharks and hot rats for all.”

  7. d cwilson says

    “It also includes the right of individuals … not to forfeit their employment because of refusal to participate in, activities that deeply offend their religious conscience.”

    Here’s the problem with this statement: I used to work for a public health agency. We had a guy there who was hired as a public health educator. One of the programs he was expected to conducted was on STD prevention. He refused to do them citing his religious objections.

    In any other circumstance, if you hired someone to do a specific job and they sad, “I don’t want to do it”, you’d be perfectly justified in firing them. But we’re supposed to let people keep their jobs if they refuse to perform a basic function because their magic book told them not to it?

    If the core functions of a job conflict with your religious beliefs, maybe this isn’t the job for you. Would you expect a Jehovah’s witness to apply for a job as a phlebotemist or a Muslim to work in a pork processing plant?

  8. The Lorax says

    “Religious freedom includes the right to employ religious arguments, or religiously-informed moral arguments, when contending for or against laws and policies, such as laws designed to protect the unborn and traditional marriage, or to relieve poverty and increase economic opportunity for the disadvantaged.”

    Um.

    … NO. Bad Christian. *smacks with newspaper* No treat. Bad.

    Yes, clearly it is a Trojan Horse; by making this pledge, you are agreeing that religious beliefs are suitable arguments for or against secular law. I mean, how much more bullshitty can you get? This pledge basically boils down to, “I agree with religious freedom of the law; religious people should be free from the law.”

    … *smacks with newspaper* Bad Christian. Bad.

  9. says

    I get brought up short right here:

    Religious freedom includes the right to employ religious arguments, or religiously-informed moral arguments, when contending for or against laws and policies,

    You can certainly state such arguments. But only the theocratically-minded will consider them relevant. The rest if us will reject them a priori. And of course the big reveal is in the very next phrase:

    such as laws designed to protect the unborn and traditional marriage, or to relieve poverty and increase economic opportunity for the disadvantaged.

  10. eric says

    But we’re supposed to let people keep their jobs if they refuse to perform a basic function because their magic book told them not to it?

    If something like this ever becomes law, I imagine corporate america will have all prospective employees sign statements like “I affirm that none of the job functions described by [employer] conflict with my religious beliefs” before hiring. Then the corporation can fire these types of folks for lying on a contract instead of firing them for not doing some job duty.

    That, however, is an inferior, imperfect, and legally overly-complex solution to something that should never become a problem in the first place.

  11. justawriter says

    Religious freedom shall also include my right to call your ludicrous religious arguments ludicrous to your face and accepting the fact that my rights are not subservient to yours just because you spend Sunday morning in a big fancy building getting your arguments from men in dresses.

  12. cptdoom says

    It also includes the right of individuals and of religious communities not to be forced to participate in, or to forfeit their employment because of refusal to participate in, activities that deeply offend their religious conscience.

    Wow, they’ve provided a justification for “restricted” hotels, as well as other public accommodations. After all, if as a good “Christian” I believe the Jews killed Christ, I cannot be expected to check them into a hotel, even if it’s my job, right? So much for the Civil Rights acts of 1964 and 1965.

  13. RickR says

    Ah, another conservative pledge. The sheer number of these things that have been tossed around to wannabe Rethuglican candidates…it’s all an attempt at preemptive spellcasting by these superstitious nutters.

    This piece of Satanic voodoo-

    “I hereby solemnly swear to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America….”

    That’s the “spell” that really burns their asses.

  14. D. C. Sessions says

    I imagine corporate america will have all prospective employees sign statements like “I affirm that none of the job functions described by [employer] conflict with my religious beliefs” before hiring.

    It won’t work. I sign on the line, and then next week Brother Billybob Abdulla helps me see The Light: that electricity is the very Blood of Satan and my very soul depends on staying at least a half-mile from any electrical devices, equipment, or power conduits.

    But I still want to keep my job, thanks.

  15. says

    Religious freedom includes the right to employ religious arguments, or religiously-informed moral arguments, when contending for or against laws and policies,

    And then the other side presents its own religious arguments, leaving the legal system and the government to decide among those competing religious arguments. Making any decision would then fall under the “respecting the establishment of religion” clause.
    It gives religion the first turn in a game of tic-tac-toe. Plant that “X” right smack in the middle square, and you can’t lose.

  16. gshelley says

    It also includes the right of individuals and of religious communities not to be forced to participate in, or to forfeit their employment because of refusal to participate in, activities that deeply offend their religious conscience

    I don’t think it even looks reasonable on the surface

  17. Chiroptera says

    It also includes the right of individuals and of religious communities not to be forced to participate in, or to forfeit their employment because of refusal to participate in, activities that deeply offend their religious conscience.

    I can see where Ed thought this looked reasonable. When I first read it, I, too, thought it was talking about being forced to attend church or to work for your employer’s favorite religiously based charity.

    But now I agree with the commenters; it’s clearly intended to allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense contraceptives, even when their employer mandates their employees actually do their jobs, or to allow NY town clerks to refuse to accept marriage applications from gay couples. It’s intent is to allow good Christians from performing the ordinary duties of their occupations without having to suffer the consequences like, say, unemployment.

  18. Pinky says

    I hear the subtext as:

    I PLEDGE that if all political candidates for local, state or national government do not sign the religulous diarrhea I have written in this, one of many meaningless pledges, I will try to make that candidate’s life a living hell.

  19. Pinky says

    RE: My last post.

    It makes more sense if the first line said “I PLEDGE that all political candidates for local, state or national government who do not sign the…”

    There is nothing wrong with the internet, please do not adjust your computers.

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