07 November, 2011

American Intolerance

A former fellow-UD student posted this article earlier today.  The article itself says pretty much everything, and what's particularly interesting is that this is a Muslim perspective on the current controversy at CUA. As usual, it's members of the supposedly marginalized group who see little to complain about. No Muslim students have voiced any complaint about "intolerance" at CUA, and if crucifixes in prayer rooms offend anyone, they should jolly well realize that it's a Catholic school. If they don't like it, no one's forcing them to attend. Which the students seem quite open to understanding. Tellingly, Banzhaf has a record of suing over so-called "discrimination" issues. Which, as a lawyer, gains him a certain notoriety. I don't know about money, since I'm not familiar with such details about the workings of the legal system, but self-interest does seem to be playing a role here, since he's certainly not advocating on the behalf of any students.

One of the really disturbing characteristics of contemporary American litigiousness is its penchant for attacking free religious expression under the guise of supporting "separation of church and state". There are several problems with the situation. For one thing, there's the nagging question of how a private institution that is open about its religious orientation can legally be considered "the state". Last time I checked, Catholic U. was a privately-run university, and should have a right to express its religion freely; at least, it should if you're going to let the First Amendment mean much of anything. Generally the litigious types tend to get around this by confusing "state" with "public"...in other words, if it can be seen, it's tantamount to the state assenting to it, which does not mean that the state is merely tolerating it; it must mean that the state is actively forcing it on everyone else as the official religion. Risible logic.

Are we really willing to take the European route and opt for pure secularism? I.e. no, or at least very limited, public expression of religion? I have problems with that, but hey, at least they're consistent about it in Europe. The same standards apply to Christians, Jews, and Muslims when it comes to religious practices. The second big problem with the American situation is that it's always the Christians who have to pay. It makes sense. We like underdogs here, so minorities are pretty romantic things to have around. If you decide to make an easy buck suing someone over religious expression, it had better be Christians that you target, because they're the majority, and it's easy for everyone to forget that denying them freedom of religious expression is just as unconstitutional as denying it to minority religions. Just to clarify things for the record: I'm very happy to see a Happy Hanukkah sign in a store, but I think it's ridiculous that Merry Christmas has become a legitimate litigation target. Go ahead and wear the hijab or wear a cross to school: you should be treated the same either way.

Now, I don't think that there would ever be (not within a hundred years or so at least) a written law explicitly limiting public religious expression in America. The ideal of religious liberty is far too important to us even today, when more than half the population can recite two words of the Declaration.  What I'm more concerned about is the effect of litigation on the de facto law. If everyone knows that Christians can get into big financial trouble simply for putting a cross in a classroom because they have the misfortune to be a historical majority, then that's as much discrimination in practice as a written law would be.


Deniz Bevan said...

Ooh, you wouldn't believe what a hot button issue this is here in Montreal. You've got your English vs French, you've got your Catholic schools vs public school boards, you've got... well, it's a constant battlefield [g]

Therese said...

I'm really interested in Canadian (especially Quebec-area) politics, but I find it oddly hard to locate a good news source, and even more so to find much analysis. It's kind of ridiculous to live practically on the border and still go to Real Clear World to find articles on Canada alongside articles on Turkey.

Any suggestions?

Deniz Bevan said...

Hmm, well, I suppose you could start with our local English paper, the Montreal Gazette. I'm trying to think of actual analysis websites... CTV is our local news station (though there's always the nationwide CBC).
Will hunt for more specialised sources...