Muftic: Talking turkey about religious freedom |

Muftic: Talking turkey about religious freedom

Felicia Muftic
Courtesy Photo |

Hopefully not forgotten when we feast Thanksgiving is the reason the Pilgrims risked the dangerous passage across the ocean.

It was to find a place to practice their religion free of persecution by the English crown. It took another 160 years before the concept of religious freedom changed from just for protecting the practice of the majority group’s religion to Constitutionally enshrined tolerance of all to practice their religion free from government restrictions and persecution, prohibiting the establishment of a state religion that meant the separation of church and state. Those provisions were incorporated in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religions, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”

To reach an agreement from the desire of colonialists to protect only their own colony’s majorities’ religious practices to protecting everyone else’s took time and bitter experiences. The Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony hung Quakers for not going along with their concept of purification. Roger Williams left the Colony to found Rhode Island as a result.

Nearly every colony had established their state approved religion before 1776 and some, like Maryland, found themselves entangled in anti-Catholic turmoil.

Interpretation of the meaning of the First Amendment is constantly under pressure for revision by conservative religious groups who want to expand its meaning to suit their own brand of theology, sometimes to the detriment of others who hold different beliefs and values. A changing ideological makeup of the Courts will help the religious right find success for years to come

In our divisive partisan times there is a concerted fast track effort by the GOP majority Senate to approve young appointees to lifetime federal bench positions who demonstrate allegiance to a very conservative religious based ideology with less regard of their professional credentials and judicial temperament. In the last Obama administration years, the GOP Senate dragged its heels in approving Obama’s nominations, leaving 159 seats (one-eighth of the total) vacant for a GOP Senate to fill in 2017-2018.

Last week a GOP dominated Senate committee gave approval for a federal judgeship to blogger Brett Talley, a highly partisan Trump administration family member with no court trial experience and who was declared unfit to serve by the American Bar Association.

With the appointment of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court this year even past decisions could be in jeopardy of revision given the tilt of the Court to the right, including the reversal of Roe vs. Wade and the right to same sex marriage. It is likely to happen.

Could tax payer funded vouchers be issued for students to attend religious based schools? In Douglas County, an election of a school board that advocated such vouchers triggered suits claiming violation of the separation of church and state, resulting in stalled court decisions, and a successful counter revolution against the voucher advocates in recent school board elections this Nov. 7. Outside groups supporting vouchers plan to continue the legal fight.

Courts have ruled against state legislation banning Sharia law on Constitutional grounds .Federal courts overturned President Trump’s “Muslim ban” twice as religious discrimination.

With a third revision, the ban was given partial life by the Supreme Court on procedural matters, but other challenges on substance remain.

A Trump executive order in October permitted employers to stop insurance coverage of birth control on religious grounds. A court case to permit businesses to refuse service to gays because of religious beliefs, Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, will be heard and decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018.

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