July/August 2016 Church & State - July/August 2015

A False Narrative: Phony Claims Of ‘Religious Persecution’ Are Offensive

  AU admin

In parts of China, government officials are going around to Christian churches and pulling down the crosses. That’s religious persecution.

But being expected to mind your own business while people do things that your religion doesn’t approve of is not religious persecution.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, who heads up the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, seems confused on this point. Lori recently complained about “bloodless persecution” of religion in America.

What is the source of this persecution? According to Lori, it stems from the legalization of marriage equality and the federal government’s efforts to provide birth control to people who want it.

As we’ve said many times, nothing in the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision requires houses of worship to do anything they don’t want to do. Their clergy are not required to perform the marriages of same-sex couples. They don’t have to admit LGBT people as members. They are, in fact, free to rail against them from the pulpit.

The same holds true for birth control access. Under the Affordable Care Act, churches are exempt from the mandate to provide birth control in healthcare plans. A compromise has been forged that spares religious non-profits, including sectarian colleges, from paying for it directly. The only thing religious leaders must do is accept the fact that some of the people who work for them or attend their religious schools might want to use birth control.

When U.S. religious leaders assert that these things amount to persecution, they undermine their own argument. But they do more than that. They also belittle the sufferings of people who truly are facing religious persecution.

Religious freedom really is in jeopardy in many parts of the globe. The suffering Christians of China who meet in vandalized churches under the watchful eye of a state security apparatus know that full well.

Perhaps they could explain that to Lori. 


Americans United & the National Women’s Law Center file suit to challenge Missouri’s abortion bans.

Abortion bans violate the separation of church and state. Americans United and the National Women’s Law Center—the leading experts in religious freedom and gender justice—have joined forces with thirteen clergy from six faith traditions to challenge Missouri’s abortion bans as unconstitutionally imposing one narrow religious doctrine on everyone.

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