Civil Liberties

Religious Freedom and the Great Faux-Rights Arms Race of 2014: Elizabeth Nolan Brown at The Week

A crop of current religious freedom cases are more predicated on wringing special protections from the state than legit struggles for religious liberty.


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I've got a piece up today at The Week about several new "religious freedom" lawsuits and the nonsensical battle for faux-rights that's been heating up in 2014. One of these cases involves U.S. Bank teller Polly Neace, who was fired after continuing to tell customers "have a blessed day" after the bank asked her to stop. "I was upset with the fact they were stifling me and not allowing me to act on my beliefs," she told a local news station. She's now suing for employment discrimination.

Neace's case is among a crop of current religious-freedom lawsuits more predicated on wringing special protections and allowances from the state than legit struggle for freedom from religious persecution or discrimination. A version of this has been popular on all sides of late. From my piece at The Week:

Everyone's fighting not for actual access to things — wedding photographs, emergency contraception, nursing jobs — but for symbolic state sanctioning of their access, without compromise.

It's tedious, this balancing of faux-rights. Freedom of religion simply cannot mean the right to behave in any manner so long as it's religiously motivated and still gain or retain a job. And luckily, freedom of association (and the free market) means that those devout believers who can't bear not to tell every passerby they're blessed can seek out a job where this is appreciated. A nurse vehemently opposed to contraception could go into any health care arena other than reproductive medicine. A woman who resents her employer's exclusion of birth-control coverage can seek more liberal pastures elsewhere. You have to give a little, take a little, as the great Jimmy Durante says.

Go here to read the whole thing.