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Using Religion to Discriminate

Society & Culture  (tags: abuse, activists, americans, culture, dishonesty, education, freedoms, government, law, media, politics, religion, rights, safety, society )

- 1856 days ago -
With increasing frequency, we are seeing individuals and institutions claiming a right to discriminate - by refusing to provide services to women and LGBT people - based on religious objections.


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Kit B (276)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 12:41 pm
Image Credit: Politics USA

With increasing frequency, we are seeing individuals and institutions claiming a right to discriminate – by refusing to provide services to women and LGBT people – based on religious objections. The discrimination takes many forms, including:

•Religiously affiliated schools firing women because they became pregnant while not married;

•Business owners refusing to provide insurance coverage for contraception for their employees;

•Graduate students, training to be social workers, refusing to counsel gay people;

•Pharmacies turning away women seeking to fill birth control prescriptions;

•Bridal salons, photo studios, and reception halls closing their doors to same-sex couples planning their weddings.

While the situations may differ, one thing remains the same: religion is being used as an excuse to discriminate against and harm others.

Instances of institutions and individuals claiming a right to discriminate in the name of religion aren’t new. In the 1960s, we saw institutions object to laws requiring integration in restaurants because of sincerely held beliefs that God wanted the races to be separate. We saw religiously affiliated universities refuse to admit students who engaged in interracial dating. In those cases, we recognized that requiring integration was not about violating religious liberty; it was about ensuring fairness. It is no different today.

Religious freedom in America means that we all have a right to our religious beliefs, but this does not give us the right to use our religion to discriminate against and impose those beliefs on others who do not share them.

Through litigation, advocacy and public education, the ACLU works to defend religious liberty and to ensure that no one is either discriminated against nor denied services because of someone else’s religious beliefs.

Using Religion to Discriminate Against Women

In medical care

Across the country, we are seeing hospitals, insurance companies, pharmacies, and other health care entities discriminate against women by denying basic care – like birth control, emergency contraception, and abortion – in the name of religion. Many of these institutions receive taxpayer funding. The ACLU works to ensure that women are not denied information and the health care they need because of the religious views of their health care providers.

Challenges to the Federal Contraceptive Coverage Rule

Promoting Equality: An Analysis of the Federal Contraceptive Coverage Rule

Birth control court cases (blog)

Morr-Fitz v. Blagojevich
ACLU of Massachusetts v. Kathleen Sebelius, et al.

In employment

We have seen a recent spate of cases in which religiously affiliated schools have fired women for getting pregnant while single or for using IVF. These cases are suggestive of a past when women were routinely pushed out of the workplace because of pregnancy. Such discrimination is now illegal, even if religiously motivated.

Fired for My Family (blog)
Religion isn't a Free Pass to Discriminate Against Employees (blog)
Inside Out and Pregnancy Discrimination
Using Religion to Discriminate Against LGBT people

In services

In many states, businesses are barred by law from discriminating against customers based on their sexual orientation, as well as based on race, religion, or other legally protected categories. Increasingly, we see business owners claiming that they do not have to follow these laws but can instead refuse to provide services – including lodging, wedding dresses, and photography services – because the owners object to same-sex relationships. In addition, we see social service organizations that receive government funding deny services to same-sex couples. Everyone is entitled to their own religious beliefs, but when you operate a business or run a publicly funded social service agency open to the public, those beliefs do not give you a right to discriminate.

Will We Sanction Discrimination?: Can 'Heterosexuals Only' Be Among the Signs of Today? (UCLA Law Review Essay)

Elane Photography, LLC v. Vanessa Willock
Baker and Linsley v. Wildflower Inn
Wathen v. Beall Mansion Bed and Breakfast
Catholic Charities v. DCFS
Recent Blogs: Wildflower Inn

In medical care

The ACLU has seen instances of students training to become mental health professionals and medical practices that have refused to treat lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. While we’re all entitled to our own religious beliefs, licensed medical providers should adhere to professional standards and not use their religion to discriminate against clients who come to them for help.

Ward v. Wilbanks
Keeton v. Anderson-Wiley
Benitez v. North Coast Medical Group

ACLU - End the use of Religion for discrimination
Each section has a list of references. Currently Kansas, South Dakota and Arizona are considering adding these religious discrimination laws.


David B (38)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 12:50 pm
About time religion was banned from the face of the earth... It is 2014 AD, not 2014 BC! --- It appears to acheive only 3 things. --- Stops the advancement of the human race (evolution) --- Ii is the cause of may wars. --- Creates mindless bigots...

David B (38)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 12:52 pm
AND blatantly denies women's rights!

Kit B (276)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 12:54 pm

Thanks for your thoughts, David.

Past Member (0)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 2:22 pm
Religion DISTORTS+POLLUTES the mind. Thx Kit

Cynthia Davis (340)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 9:51 am
Religion keeps us ignorant. Trust in God turn all you problems over to God he'll take care of don't even have to think of way to solve your problems.

JL A (281)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 1:10 pm
I just want to cry for all the people hurt in the name of religion when their religion supposedly tells them to love and help others.

Kit B (276)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 1:13 pm

The trouble with modern Christians is they want all the benefits without doing the work. Quoting a scripture does not make a Christian, condemning others that disagree with you is not Christian. Open hearts, open arms and open minds are the first meaningful steps to walking the life of a Christian.

Lois Jordan (63)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 2:15 pm
Noted. Yes, major religions are used worldwide to discriminate. Seems like the ultra-rightwing conservative branch of one of the major political parties in the US is taking a page from other fundamentalist religions in their hatred. I only wish these comparisons were made more often and loudly in the mainstream press for all to see and hear. Do they really LIKE being known as the "Christian Taliban?" They are akin to the very thing they claim to profess hatred for. And I'm sick of them getting away with it.

Vallee R (280)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 2:34 pm
True and sad -

Terry King (113)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 3:22 pm
Ahhhh Christianity... Spreading injustice, bigotry, intolerance and ignorance fro two thousand years. What a blessing!

Angela J (61)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 3:23 pm
Thank you.

Judith Hand (55)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 3:25 pm
Noted. A friend and I were discussing a large "Christian owned" business that shut down because they would not purchase health care for their employees that included coverage of abortion. Ultimately, my conclusion was that that was a huge shame that all of those employees lost work, and right before Christmas! Not what I'd consider a "Christian thing to do". If the employees didn't believe in abortion....then they shouldn't get one. I'm not an attorney and not familiar with all current issues re: health insurance quandries, though I read many of them on care2. As an American citizen, the ACLU decisions over the last years are ones with which I don't necessarily agree. Looking at the page with this article, I saw a few on this list that struck me as overkill. I thought the organization was the coolest I'd ever experienced when I was in high school; but I'm now 56. What the feds do is different from what privately owned stores do, isn't it? And do I want to waste my time raising a stink about a business just because, for whatever reason about my life, they don't want to serve me? Someone will want to serve me. These are tough times. And, even if our U.S. economy was thriving, would it be worth it to me? As an American, I have the right to raise a stink, if I want to. But maybe I don't want to. Maybe that kind of chicken or hobby or whatever simply is not important enough to me to make a big stink and that is my American right, too. Yeah, I see the 'relgious right' putting it's fingers into several pies that surprise or even irritate me. That's America. I see other religious groups of a very different belief doing the same thing. Uh oh, freedom of religion. That's America. What concerns me, however, is that religion is being repudiated in and of itself and individuals of some belief systems are being disrespected. That's not America. I'm seeing a lot of judgementalism on the side of those who can't stand religion, even in comments above. So, it's okay to talk about wanting to decimate all people of a belief system if you're a 'free thinking' individual? Huh? As time passes, I think we'll see it more. But that doesn't seem to be noted. In an odd way, it reminds me of those who talk about how they'd like to kill all of the folks who harm animals. So we kill humans to make up for that horrific behaviour? We're such a young country. We take a lot for granted. We screw up a lot. For some reason, we're frequently brought up to believe that we're better than everyone else Huh? And here we are with venom and hatred toward the religious who left other countries to be able to practice it freely.

Devon Griffiths (15)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 3:31 pm
There's just something wrong with that religion (although it's hardly alone in that). It does contain some sweet words and fine talk, to be sure. But one of the wisest passages is, "You shall know a thing by its fruits". If you apply that to the religion itself ... it becomes a sort of confession ... because it's not just an isolated incident here and there, or confined to a generation or the practitioners in one country. There is a consistent problem, in every country, over the entire history of the religion. There is something fundamentally wrong with it, despite some fine principles. Something in its structure is unwholesome.

Lois Jordan (63)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 3:31 pm
Separation of church & state is in the U.S. constitution Bill of Rights.

Louise D (44)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 3:32 pm
One of the greatest tragedies of modern society is the way religion hijacks morals, the old testament God is an appalling character who is mean, cranky, egotistical, and petty. To use it as an excuse to discriminate is to completely miss everything that Christ said, still these are the people who would not even listen to him as he is Jewish, looks like an Arab and dresses like a hippie. Still, it might be an idea to point out that using religion to discriminate misses the whole point of religious morality, lets see how they work round that metaphysical dichotomy.

. (0)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 3:35 pm
Hey Jude, thanks for a comment that sets you apart from the same old tired hatemongering.

Athena F (131)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 4:07 pm
Thank you

David B (38)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 4:32 pm
I really cannot see any point at all in religious 'faith'... As far as I am concerned everyone is an agnostic.

As there is absolutely no proof of the existence of god, gods or the supernatural, to believe there is a god is rather strange, is it not?... Proof is required, 'faith' is not proof... Therefore to believe there is a god is folly.

As there is no proof god does not exist is also folly as there is no proof of that.

Therefore to claim to be a christian or an atheist is absurd.

So having realised that we are all agnostics now, let's just dispense with religion and and atheism and get on with our lives, as they really are?


Robert B (60)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 6:34 pm
Religion does nothing but replace rational thought with superstition. We have brains and are meant to use them in order to move forward. We are a product of the Quantum field and we have but scratched the surface about what we know about the Quantum field.

Stephen Brian (23)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 8:10 pm
The behavior described is a problem, but I don't know if religion is really a driver of this or just a pretext. It looks to me like bigots have just found an out from condemnation through claims by hijacking discussions of freedom of conscience. If that is really the case, then the only viable way to address the problem may be through religious organizations.

Susanne R (236)
Monday February 17, 2014, 12:14 am
Unfortunately, there are people out there who use "religion" to further their own agendas. People who control and hurt others, and then hide behind the shield of their religious righteousness, are nothing more than self-serving cowards.

Alexandra G (250)
Monday February 17, 2014, 5:33 am
thanks you

Joanne D (37)
Monday February 17, 2014, 11:40 am
Religion is not a driver of hate, although it certainly can be used to justify and even to intensify hate. Karl Marx is famous for his comment that religion is a drug - and it's not a bad analogy - like any drug, it should be used responsibly by adults. Unfortunately that isn't what;s happening. But prohibition is not the answer either. David S, feeling as you do, maybe you shoukd drop "BC" and "AD" in favor of "BCE" and "CE." Just sayin'. Myself, speaking as a Christian, I say, Thank God for the ACLU, apparently the only organization capable of defending the church from itself.

Sherri G (128)
Monday February 17, 2014, 9:15 pm
TY for posting Kit Noted. Excellent comments here too. Sent lots of stars and couldn't state my position better than the many who gave theirs. Sent lots of stars.

pam w (139)
Tuesday February 18, 2014, 8:18 am
When does YOUR ''religious freedom'' get to trample MY rights? Do all you pseudo-Christians honestly think your Jesus would approve of your hatred?

Or is it nothing more than a control-driven POWER PLAY?


Craig Pittman (52)
Thursday February 20, 2014, 5:09 am
Religious foundations abusing the rights of others should have their tax exemptions removed. Intolerance apparently knows no bounds. Thanks for the story Kit.
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