Chuck Norris’ Warped Idea of Religious Liberty


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.

And another:

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.

Comments

  1. matty1 says

    I heard a brilliant statement about Steven Segall the other day that I believe also applies to Norris.

    “He has that special kind of manliness that comes from excess preposterone”

  2. Sastra says

    Norris and others like him understand religious liberty in small, familiar terms:”the right to do what you want in your own house.” And on that level he’s right. If you want to pray and read the Bible to your family at the dinner table then no outsider has the right to stop you. Not even if they are invited guests.

    Of course I need not point out why the United States of America is not like a house … and the majority is not like a homeowner … and religious minorities are not like invited guests. But if you understand his framework then you can understand what “liberties” he thinks he is standing on.

  3. Akira MacKenzie says

    The problem is, Ed, that you and Chuck aren’t operating on the same definition of “religious liberty.” To him, the phrase means the ability for Christians to say and do whatever they want, where ever they want, to whoever they want. Any attempt to limit the Christian’s ability to preach at and pester the masses, no matter how reasonable, is nothing less than the blackest of tyranny.

  4. Doug Little says

    Is Chuck writing his own columns now, or is it still someone else writing on his behalf?

  5. Doug Little says

    I heard a brilliant statement about Steven Segall the other day that I believe also applies to Norris.

    “He has that special kind of manliness that comes from excess preposterone”

    Well until he tries run anyway.

  6. AsqJames says

    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.

    I wonder under what rationale and from which group of people the founders of Buhler, Ken were suffering religious persecution prior to their flight? What are the odds it was some other group of christians using their reading of the bible?

  7. matty1 says

    No the running is a key example of preposterone, which in case it wasn’t clear is the hormone of preposterousness.

  8. says

    All I have to say is that if the 75 percent religious group is discriminated against by a minority made up of members of dozens of different faiths or non-faiths that represent the 25-ish percent,* then obviously they are a bunch of wusses. Or else their god is (or doesn’t exist).

  9. scienceavenger says

    As usual, the religious right …believes that if it is not allowed to impose their religion or get exclusive endorsement from the government, it has lost its religious liberty.

    Of course. This is consistent with their views that pointing out racism is itself racism, pointing out sexism is itself sexism, and shouting down someone trying to speak is an exercise of free speech.

  10. says

    “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.”

    The only people persecuting Christians when Kansas was being settled were other Christians.

    What the hell is preposterone?

  11. wscott says

    To (mis)quote Nick Fury: “You keep saying religious liberty; I think you mean the other thing.” [/samuelljackson]

    and shouting down someone trying to speak is an exercise of free speech.

    To be fair, the left is hardly immune to this either.

  12. Chiroptera says

    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.

    Whoa! Four decades is enough to make something traditional? ‘Cause outlawing state sponsored prayer in schools is older than that, and therefore is now a traditional American value.

  13. Artor says

    To be fair, I think if Bruce Lee kicked me in the head as hard as he did Chuckie, I’d have a hard time articulating coherent thoughts too. You could say that Bruce left his mark, and we’re seeing it today in Norris’s pathetic, failed attempts at reasoning.

  14. Ellie says

    The founders of Buhler (in 1888) were Mennonites who were being persecuted, but IIRC, Mennonites are not unhappy with the doctrine of separation of church and state, although the present day residents of Buhler may be.

  15. matty1 says

    Oh 1888, I read it as the city being founded in response to religious persecution in the 1970s and wondered who was persecuting Christians then. I had this whole scenario worked out about Chinese refugees fleeing the cultural revolution and converting to Christianity and you go and spoil it with facts.

  16. lofgren says

    Ed, in most cases those student groups are not being the denied the right to choose Christian officers. The problem only occurred when the clubs argued that they should also be allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexuality in order to prevent gay Christians from becoming officers (oh, but we’re more than happy to take their dues). The clubs are only not allowed to choose Christian officers if by “Christian” you mean “straight Christian.”

    In your analogy, imagine if the campus republicans said they didn’t want to allow Jewish officers, because being Christian is a core tenet of being a Republican. Then when the university, observing the reality of Jewish Republicans, said that a person could be Republican and also Jewish and therefore the club could not discriminate against Jews, the club went to the press and claimed that the university was forcing them elect Democratic officers.

  17. says

    How does this violate anyone’s religious liberty.

    In my religion, we celebrate god’s goodness with a mariachi band and gunfire. So a “moment of silence” is oppressing us.

  18. matty1 says

    If the University is funding a club in any way then it is entitled to set conditions on that funding. On the other hand there is little point making those conditions so detailed the club looses its distinct identity and becomes an extension of the University authorities. As a compromise I’d suggest the following.

    -Any club must either be open to all students or have a published membership policy that is followed consistently.
    – The same goes for any organised events on campus, either put on the posters “only those with a Republican party membership card” or let everyone through the door.
    -Applications for funding should be as specific as possible and followed up with an end of year statement showing the money was used for the stated purpose, but there should be no restriction on what that purpose is as long as its legal.
    -It must be possible for any member of a club to advance to any position in it, the example of taking dues from gay Christians but not letting them stand for election as club president should be grounds for cutting off funding.

  19. says

    I almost wish that wingnuts would just declare that demanding that the government endorse and grant special favors to their religion to be a sacrament.

    They’d still be wrong on the Constitution, but at least they’d be consistent. Right now, their argument is based on a willful misreading of the establishment clause.

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