I wanted to point out two recent items that point to the fact that government entangled with religion discriminates against minority religions and the non-religious when they can get away with it.
On Monday it was announced that the Veteran’s Administration will now allow people of the Wicca belief to have their symbol – the Pentacle – inscribed on government-issued memorial markers for deceased veterans. The change in decision was made to settle a lawsuit filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Americans United’s attorneys uncovered evidence that the VA’s refusal to recognize the Pentacle was motivated by bias toward the Wiccan faith. President George W. Bush, when he was governor of Texas, had opposed the right of Wiccans to meet at a military base in that state. Bush’s opinion of Wiccans was taken into consideration when making decisions on whether to approve the Pentacle.
“Many people have asked me why the federal government was so stubborn about recognizing the Wiccan symbol,” said AU’s Lynn. “I did not want to believe that bias toward Wiccans was the reason, but that appears to have been the case. That’s discouraging, but I’m pleased we were able to put a stop to it.”
AU’s Khan welcomed the settlement.
“It is rank hypocrisy for this administration to claim publicly that it cares about religious freedom and equality but then to quietly and deliberately discriminate against a minority faith like Wicca,” she said. “Until now, this administration’s view has been that Wiccans are good enough to fight for their country, but not good enough to be acknowledged with a proper headstone.”
And there was an entry posted on Austin Cline’s blog over at about.atheism.com about a court case involving the Seven Aphorisms. Summum’s had requested a moment on the Aphorisms be erected next to one showing the 10 Commandments in Salt Lake City.
Based around Egyptian customs, the Summum faith teaches that after Moses brought the Ten Commandments down from the mountain top, he went back and retrieved a few “lower laws” that serve as minor additions. The “aphorisms” involve psychokinesis, correspondence, vibration, opposition, rhythm, cause and effect, and gender. Obviously such a belief is incompatible with the traditions of Christianity, so it’s no surprise that Christians fought hard to prevent their privileged status from being diluted by the presence of any other religious beliefs — but they lost.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Summum can indeed erect monuments to their Seven Aphorisms in places where the local government has already created a precedent by allowing monuments to the Ten Commandments.
This is what all the debates about the Ten Commandments come down to: are American society, law, and political institutions based on Christianity, Christian scriptures, and the alleged commands of the Christian god or are they instead based upon the consent of a free people? Conservative evangelical Christians are certainly free to believe the former, but should the government endorse this perspective? That’s what happens when the government allows monuments to the Ten Commandments to stand alone.
Time and time again when Christians talk about “religious freedom” what they really mean is special status for Christianity.