Religious discrimination

Religious discrimination

Religious discrimination is valuing or treating a person or group differently because of what they do or do not believe.

A concept like that of 'religious discrimination' is necessary to take into account ambiguities of the term "religious persecution". The infamous cases in which people have been executed for beliefs perceived to be heretic are generally recognisable as persecution; Other cases in which adherents of different religions (or denominations) are treated unequally before the law are sometimes difficult to assess. If behind laws, regulations or acts of authority perceived to be discriminating against a certain religion there is the intention 'encourage' people to abandon their beliefs, they are "religious persecution" nonetheless; But if they don't threat with the death penalty or severe imprisonment, they are in comparison described as "mild forms of religious persecution" or as "religious discrimination".

Furthermore, even in societies where Freedom of Religion is a constitutional right, sometimes adherents of religious minorities voice concerns about religious discrimination against them. Insofar legal policies are concerned, cases that are perceived as religious discrimination might be the result of an interference of the religious sphere with other spheres of the public that are regulated by law (and not aimed specifically against a religious minority.) Generally people are free to have these issues clarified through the juridical system.

While some authorities nowadays tend to stress that religion is something personal, others still practice religious discrimination. Many countries have one formal state religion. Practitioners of faiths other than the formal state religion sometimes face discriminatory rules and practices. The US state department yearly publishes an [ International Religious Freedom] report. It includes individual country chapters on the status of religious freedom and incidents of religious discrimination worldwide.

ituation in Western countries

However, cases of religious discrimination might also be the result of an interference of the religious sphere with other spheres of the public that are regulated by law. Although e.g. in the United States the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof", in "Reynolds v. United States" the U.S. supreme court decided that religious duty was not a suitable defense to a criminal indictment. In this specific case a law against bigamy was not considered to be discriminating against Mormons, who, at that time sometimes practiced Polygyny.

Similar current issues in the United States are about the policy towards drugs or environmental policy. Practitioners of one branch of the native American religion perceive the regulations regarding the use of Peyote and the eagle feather law in the United States as discriminating. Similar cases can be found in many other western countries.

Further Examples

Charges of religious discrimination have been applied to governmental, social, and educational policies.

*The Eagle Feather Law, which governs the possession and religious use of eagle feathers, was officially written to protect then dwindling eagle populations while still protecting traditional Native American spiritual and religious customs, of which the use of eagles are central. The Eagle Feather Law later met charges of promoting racial and religious discrimination due to the law’s provision authorizing the possession of eagle feathers to members of only one ethnic group, Native Americans, and forbidding Native Americans from including non-Native Americans in indigenous customs involving eagle feathers—a common modern practice dating back to the early 1500s.

*Charges of religious and racial discrimination have also been found in the education system. In a recent example, the dormitory policies at Boston University and The University of South Dakota were charged with racial and religious discrimination when they forbade a university dormitory resident from smudging while praying. The policy at The University of South Dakota was later changed to permit students to pray while living in the university dorms.

*Religious organizations such as the Seventh-day Adventist Church make it clear in their university catalog that they have the right to discriminate on the basis of religion. They discriminate against non-Adventists in hiring practices, disciplinary action, and promotions. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has made many anti-Catholic statements stating that the Bible identifies the Pope as the Anti-Christ. Today, the church has softened these statements, explaining that they interpret the biblical passages as referring to the papal institution and not to a specific person. Recently, they have also taken measures against church members who have publicly attacked the pope, especially those who claim that it is in the name of the church.

*During 1995-1998 Newfoundland had only Christian schools (four of them, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, and inter-denominational (Anglican, Salvation Army and United Church)). The right to organize publicly supported religious schools was only given to certain Christian denominations, thus tax money used to support a selected group of Christian denominations. The denominational schools could also refuse admission of a student or the hiring of a qualified teacher on purely religious grounds. Quebec has used two school systems, one Protestant and the other Roman Catholic, but it seems this system will be replaced with two secular school systems: one French and the other English. [ [ The Constitution Since Patriation] ]

*In Greece since the independence from the Muslim Ottomans rule in the 1800s, the Greek Orthodox Church has been given privileged status and only the Greek Orthodox church, Roman Catholic, some Protestant churches, Judaism and Islam are recognized religions. The Muslim minority alleges that Greece persistently and systematically discriminates against Muslims. [ [ Turkish Minority Rights Violated in Greece] ] [ [ The Turks of Western Thrace] ]

*According to a "Human Rights Practices" report by the "U.S. State Department" on Mexico note that "some local officials infringe on religious freedom, especially in the south". There is conflict between Catholic/Mayan syncretists and Protestant evangelicals in the Chiapas region. [ [ Country Reports on Human Rights Practices] ] [ [ The requested URL /articles/other/mexico.shtml was not found on this server.] ] [ [ U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999: Mexico] ]

*In some U.S. jurisdictions legal restrictions exist which require a religious test as a qualification for holding public office, for instance in Texas an official may be "excluded from holding office" if he/she does not "acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being." (i.e. God) [ [ Texas Legislature Online] ] thus atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, most Satanists, some Unitarian Universalists and New Age followers, who do not believe in a supreme being would be excluded from public office.

*In 2004, a case involving five Ohio prison inmates (two followers of Asatru, a minister of the Church of Jesus Christ Christian, a Wiccan witch and a Satanist) protesting denial of access to ceremonial items and opportunities for group worship was brought before the Supreme Court. [ [ NY Times: Justices Will Hear 2 Church-State Cases] ] The Boston Globe reports on the 2005 decision of "Cutter v. Wilkinson" [ [ (03-9877) 544 U.S. 709 (2005) ] ] in favour of the claimants as a notable case. Among the denied objects was instructions for runic writing requested by an Asatruer. [ [ The Boston Globe: Court upholds law on prisoners' religious rights] ] Inmates of the "Intensive Management Unit" at Washington State Penitentiary who are adherents of Asatru in 2001 were deprived of their Thor's Hammer medallions. [ [ Walla Walla's Suppression of Religious Freedom] Verify credibility|date=July 2007] In 2007, a federal judge confirmed that Asatru adherents in US prisons have the right to possess a Thor’s Hammer pendant. An inmate sued the Virginia Department of Corrections after he was denied it while members of other religions were allowed their medallions. [ [ First Amendment Center: Va. inmate can challenge denial of Thor's Hammer] ]

*Religious discrimination has also been documented in employment, such as an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) law suit alleging discrimination against an Iranian-Muslim employee by the Merrill Lynch company in US. [EEOC law suit against Merrill Lynch, [] ]


* Stokes, DaShanne. (In Press) [ "Legalized Segregation and the Denial of Religious Freedom"]

* Stokes, DaShanne. (2001). [ "Sage, Sweetgrass, and the First Amendment."] "The Chronicle of Higher Education". May 18, 2001, sec. 2: B16.

ee also

*Freedom of Religion
*Civil rights
*OUT Campaign
*List of anti-discrimination acts

Specific types:
* Anti-Catholicism
* Anti-Mormon
* Anti-Semitism
* Anti-Islam
* Anti-Hinduism

External links

* [ Religious Freedom with Raptors]
* [ Religious Discrimination Laws in the United States]
* [ Berlin Wall Between Church and State] - News and Commentary on the War on Christianity in the public square

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