Religious Freedom And Social Justice Are Not In Conflict

On Monday, a group of conservative Christian women gathered for a prayer rally at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to criticize feminist activists and church-state separation. 

“For years, the feminists lied to us,” author Lisa Bevere said during the event, as the crowd cheered, according to The Washington Post. “They said for us to be powerful as women, we needed to act like men.”

Aside from the fact that feminists do not tell women they need to “act like men” in order to be “powerful,” this group is spreading a misguided myth that women have to choose between their femininity and religion in order to consider understanding feminism.

According to The Post report, “Many [women] spoke about their reasons for coming to a women’s prayer rally on a muddy day on the Mall: their desire to bolster women in their God-given roles as wives and mothers, their belief that women’s activism should make outlawing abortions a priority, and their faith in the power of prayer to change the country’s culture.”

These women are certainly entitled to have their personal religious views on abortion, women’s roles and etc., but advocating for religion to be used to restrict women’s health care is wrong. Stripping a women’s autonomy to make her health care decisions in the name of religion is not true religious freedom.

Yet some women within the group continued attacking church-state separation and advocating for discrimination in the name of religion throughout the rally. 

Religious freedom is about fairness, not discrimination

“We believe our nation was founded as a Christian nation,” Linda Shebesta of Burleson, Texas, one of the women attending the rally, said. “The enemy is trying to take it in another direction, not Christianity… We believe God put Donald Trump in [office].”

Shebesta is entitled to believe that God is the reason that a thrice-married nominal Presbyterian who has bragged sexually assaulting women and getting away with it won the presidency, but her views, along with the views of her fellow protesters, are alarming.

America is not officially a “Christian nation.” The majority of Americans may be Christian, but the U.S. continues to build on its religious diversity. People have the right to believe, or not, and there is no established religion thanks to the First Amendment. Thankfully, a recent study showed that the “Christian nation” myth is collapsing.

Shebesta’s comment about the country being taken in “another direction” is telling. It shows that what really bothers these women is that members of the LGBTQ community, non-Christians, non-believers and others are making progress toward equality in the U.S.; this social progress is not in conflict with religious freedom. Religious freedom is about fairness, not discrimination. Discrimination disguised as “religious freedom” is still discrimination.

Views like these are why Americans United continues promoting true religious freedom.

Recently, the Trump administration released a guidance that’s a blueprint for using religion to discriminate against nearly anyone. They also released a new birth control rule that allows bosses and universities to use religion as an excuse to deny their staff and students health insurance coverage for birth control. We’ll be suing the Trump administration over its birth control rule and continuing to oppose efforts to use religion as an excuse to discriminate and harm others.

You can join us in one of those efforts. Americans United is a proud co-sponsor of tomorrow’s #HandsOffMyBC and #LicenseToDiscriminate rally outside the White House. If you’re in Washington, D.C., join us at 1 p.m. as we tell the Trump administration that using religion as an excuse to harm others is wrong.

To learn more about our important work fighting to ensure that religion is not being used to harm people, visit our Protect Thy Neighbor project.