Chuck Norris has devoted his last two Worldnutdaily columns (1,2) to providing 36 examples of the alleged “religious liberty assault” going on in America. Predictably, most of them have nothing to do with religious liberty but are really about not allowing religious impositions or establishments. To wit:
A New York high-school science teacher, who teaches biology and anatomy and has been with the school district for seven years, was threatened with termination by school district officials if she didn’t take down posters with religious messages, notes with Bible quotes, and a “prayer request” box for the school’s Bible Study Club.
Which has nothing to do with religious liberty. And you know what? Chuck Norris would almost certainly agree with me if the teacher had posters with Muslim message, notes with quotes from the Quran or a prayer request box for the Quran Study Club. If that happened, Norris would be the first one engaging in what he calls a “religious liberty assault” when it involves Christians.
Another school board, this one in New Holland, Pa., decided to replace prayer with a moment of silence.
Yes, and? How does this violate anyone’s religious liberty. You have the right to practice your religion; that does not include the right to have a government body endorse it and give time only to the expression of your religious beliefs. And again, Norris would certainly agree with me if any school board decided to start its meetings with Muslim prayers.
The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that the state’s annual Day of Prayer proclamations violated the state constitution.
Again, nothing at all about religious liberty. You have the right to pray, of course, but that does not mean the government has to make proclamations urging you to do so. Since Norris pretends to love the founding fathers so much, let me quote Thomas Jefferson, who never issued such declarations and believed that he had no authority to do so, as he explained in a letter to the Rev. Samuel Miller when he was asked why he never did so:
Sir, — I have duly received your favor of the 18th and am thankful to you for having written it, because it is more agreeable to prevent than to refuse what I do not think myself authorized to comply with. I consider the government of the U S. as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises. This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment, or free exercise, of religion, but from that also which reserves to the states the powers not delegated to the U.S. Certainly no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the general government. It must then rest with the states, as far as it can be in any human authority. But it is only proposed that I should recommend, not prescribe a day of fasting & prayer. That is, that I should indirectly assume to the U.S. an authority over religious exercises which the Constitution has directly precluded them from. It must be meant too that this recommendation is to carry some authority, and to be sanctioned by some penalty on those who disregard it; not indeed of fine and imprisonment, but of some degree of proscription perhaps in public opinion. And does the change in the nature of the penalty make the recommendation the less a law of conduct for those to whom it is directed? I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct it’s exercises, it’s discipline, or it’s doctrines; nor of the religious societies that the general government should be invested with the power of effecting any uniformity of time or matter among them. Fasting & prayer are religious exercises. The enjoining them an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises, & the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets; and this right can never be safer than in their own hands, where the constitution has deposited it.
I am aware that the practice of my predecessors may be quoted. But I have ever believed that the example of state executives led to the assumption of that authority by the general government, without due examination, which would have discovered that what might be a right in a state government, was a violation of that right when assumed by another. Be this as it may, every one must act according to the dictates of his own reason, & mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the President of the U S. and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.
Officials in Buhler, Kan., are removing a cross from the city’s seal, which was placed on it four decades ago to represent the city’s founders, who were immigrants fleeing religious persecution.
And whose religious freedom does this even come close to violating? It goes on and on like this. There are a few of them that I think are genuine, like universities that refuse to recognize Christian student groups if they set limits on who can serve as officers (I believe they should be allowed to set the rules of their own membership, regardless of the university’s discrimination policy; a Christian club — or an atheist club, for that matter — should no more be forced to grant membership to those who disagree with their viewpoint than a Republican club should be forced to allow Democrats to join or vice versa). But those situations apply to all student groups, not just the Christian ones.
As usual, the religious right conflates two very different situations and believes that if it is not allowed to impose their religion or get exclusive endorsement from the government, it has lost its religious liberty.