Friday, March 20, 2009

In My Little World

As a follow-up to the previous post about a potential demise of evangelical Christianity, here's how I'd like to see the good 'ol US of A set up in relation to religion. Despite the fact it could be easily argued that I'm a rabid left winger, I would actually support allowing religious institutions to discriminate against people based on their own peculiar belief systems.

Let's say a fundamentalist Christian church decided it didn't want to allow gay marriage services to be performed within their hallowed walls. I'd be okay with that. Let's say this same church went even further; they decided they would not allow gays, blacks, Arabs or people with more than three hyphens in their name to join or take part in their religious activities. Again, I'd say "No problem."

If this church ran a college or owned apartment buildings, I'd be okay with allowing them to discriminate there as well.

What's the catch? If a church or other organization decided to enforce rules that ran contrary to federal or state statutes, they would lose their tax-exempt status. Why should they benefit from a secular arrangement if they choose not to uphold secular rules?

I realize some people will argue that a system such as this would foment the creation of religious-based discrimination enclaves. Folks, these already exist today -- I would just make them more overt. Religious groups would be granted the ultimate freedom; to live their institutional lives by their own precepts.

Of course, using history as a judge, we know that a lot of Christian institutions would SAY they uphold basic civil rights while discriminating all the while. In such cases, the institution would be judged both on their explicit and implicit behavior. If it could be shown that they were applying their own standards to situations and were not following civil rights law, they would again lose their tax-exempt status.

In addition, while this scheme would apply to each religion as an institutional body, it would NOT extend to the conduct of the individual members outside of the confines of the religion itself. If your church decides that people of color aren't allowed inside the building, you, as a private landlord or employer, would not be allowed to apply the same rule in your dealings with others within the secular society.


  1. I don't follow your reasoning. You are okay with religious institutions discriminating on the basis of e.g. sexual orientation, but the "catch" would be that, if they "decided to enforce rules that ran contrary to federal or state statutes, they would lose their tax-exempt status." I think you haven't developed your line of thought with much care.

    The first problem with your argument is that there do exist state and federal statutes against discriminatory behavior by institutions, so while you may have no objection to the practices you list (and I largely agree with you), that would be neither here nor there.

    The second problem is that there is a complex relationship between such statutes and the freedom of religion clause in the first amendment. So the very fact that such statutes may be on the books does not mean they will pass constitutional muster. This is part of the give-and-take dialectic of law.

    The third problem is the complication introduced when private, non-profit religious institutions receive e.g. "faith-based" funds from the state. What may be acceptable discrimination in a purely private organization may not be in a religious organization that receives monetary or other support from the state.

    Again, IMO, you have not really devoted much thought in forming your opinion on a complex topic. Either that, or you are contemplating a system in which current U.S. constitutional law doesn't apply, in which case much of what I have written is irrelevent. :)

  2. I see a pattern emerging I had not previously recognized...
    Confounded at the behaviour of many self-professed taoists, I had to disengage and consider.
    Religion explains all:
    Many "taoists" are - in fact - disenchanted Christians, feeling antagonistic towards Christianity.
    Still needing a label for themselves, they come up with "Taoism".
    Deciding that taoism does not recognize a God, they form their ideas of what a taoist is.
    I find all this bemusing.
    I am a taoist, yet I have a God. The same God as the Christian God. The same God banished to non-existence by these taoists:
    While rubbishing the Bible as the Word of God, they now hold up Tao te Ching as exactly the same thing, but with no God, and hold its teachings as absolute and inviolable. Hard to see the importance of a book based on nothing.
    I see Tao te Ching as the world's best Bus Schedule. A joke, really, in spite of itself, containing a great deal of wisdom.
    Lao Tzu wrote this as a way to escape the city where he lived.
    He had a great sense of humour, but even so, part of his great knowledge found its way into his words.
    Christian-bashing is shameful.
    It has nothing to recommend it.

  3. Anthony,
    I've read your comment several times, but I don't seem to understand your point.

    You can view God and Tao as one in the same. There is no one stopping you. For me, the two concepts are disingenuous.

    I know of few Taoists (me included) who hold up any Taoist text as the divine word of anyone. They were written by wise men (sages). Unlike the bible, none contains answers, only questions and points to ponder.

  4. RT:

    I've read your comment several times, but I don't seem to understand your point.

    I'm saying your proposal is a pipe dream completely unconnected to reality.

    I know of few Taoists (me included) who hold up any Taoist text as the divine word of anyone.

    I can think of about 20 million Taoists in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong who would beg to differ.

  5. Anthony,
    Of course it's a pipe dream!! I didn't suggest it wasn't.

    As to your other comment, I was referring to philosophical Taoists, not religious ones. It's my fault for not making that point more clear.


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