There seems to be a prevailing idea that Christians are being persecuted in today’s society. Persecution is the oppression, harassment, mistreatment of people based on race, sex, sexual orientation, religion etc. So what exactly are these persecutions that Christians are enduring? What rights are they being denied? It turns out these ‘rights’ are the right to special treatment, and ironically, the right to persecute. In Britain, Christian workers have taken their employers to court as they were told they could not wear their Christian cross necklaces. If you read The Telegraph or Daily Mail, they report the issue as if it is the religious symbol itself that is objectionable, it was not. In both cases the employers had a no necklace rule for health and safety reasons (one woman was a nurse and they can’t wear necklaces for fear that a patient grabs it). So no necklaces are permissible, not just Christians ones; in fact, they were given the option of displaying the cross elsewhere such as on their collar. However, this was not good enough; they wanted their special treatment and went to court, not for all necklaces to be acceptable, but only Christians crosses. So the persecution experienced was having to obey the same rules as everyone else.
Another British Christian, a relationship counsellor, brought an unlawful discrimination suit against his former employers because he was sacked after refusing to counsel a gay couple. So he claims discrimination because he was sacked after discriminating, but his discrimination should be acceptable since it is based on his religious faith and he was merely expressing his religious freedom. If governments allowed religious beliefs to take precedence over civil liberties then there wouldn’t be any civil liberties to speak of, and societal equality would disappear. Are we persecuting Mormons by not allowing them to discriminate Black people, which they did until 1978, because they are believed to be cursed according to the Book of Mormon.
‘And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men.’ Alma 3:6
If I was walking down the street and witnessed a man beating up a woman should I allow this to continue because the man is a Muslim and it would be religious persecution to stop him? After all he is merely expressing his religious freedom.
‘Husbands should take full care of their wives, with [the bounties] God has given to some more than others and with what they spend out of their own money. Righteous wives are devout and guard what God would have them guard in the husbands’ absence. If you fear high-handedness from your wives, remind them [of the teaching of God], then ignore them when you go to bed, then hit them. If they obey you, you have no right to act against them. God is most high and great.’ Sura 4:34
In the Christian bible there is a wealth of sexism, in Old and New Testament. Particularly a famous passage from 1 Timothy 2:12, ‘I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.’ Therefore is it not persecution if Christian men are forced to be taught by a female teacher or have a female supervisor, does his religious freedom not give him the right to tell a woman to shut up purely on the basis of her gender? Thankfully, in most western societies, these scenarios can no longer occur because our civil liberties overrule religious freedoms. In the cases of racism and sexism it is now becoming ingrained in our society that these things are wrong, and we no longer look to ancient religious texts for what is right and wrong. This, however, is not the case for homophobia, as it is still alive and is being justified by religious texts. Why can’t religious people use the same reasoning for ignoring the racism and sexism etc. in the bible to ignore the homophobia? Because homophobia is not deemed as immoral as racism and sexism by society, it is basically acceptable and a mere expression of religious belief. If you have three people justifying their hatred by quoting the bible, one a racist passage, the other a sexist one, and finally a homophobic one, two will be admonished while the other is applauded. There is even an upcoming ballot in the US named the North Dakota Religious Freedom Amendment which states:
‘Government may not burden a person's or religious organization's religious liberty. The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief may not be burdened unless the government proves it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest. A burden includes indirect burdens such as withholding benefits, assessing penalties, or an exclusion from programs or access to facilities.’
In essence this is a law which will allow people to legally discriminate against homosexuals if it is their sincerely held religious belief. Well that is what the backers of the bill desire, but it also opens the doorway for the examples presented above to transpire. If homophobia is allowed to be legally expressed due to religious beliefs then why can’t racism or sexism, especially since the source for each hatred is the same.
For an institution that has persecuted continuously since its inception, and continues to do so, you would think they would recognise what true persecution is. Instead the religious are being ‘persecuted’ because we demand they obey the laws as everyone else, we are ‘persecuting’ them as we no longer grant them special treatment. Equality works both ways, it not only provides equal rights, it also ends special privileges based on sex, religion, race etc. We are also ‘persecuting’ them because we as a society no longer tolerate their religious bigotry and prejudices, by creating laws to protect people’s civil liberties we are preventing the religious from expressing their religious freedoms to discriminate. Religious freedoms should not, and should never be allowed to, trump civil rights.