The War on Religion

You know the US is in the grip of a war on religion, right? Sure. That’s why there are all these religious exemptions cluttering up the place.

Alabama exempts church day care programs from state licensing requirements, which were tightened after almost a dozen children died in licensed and unlicensed day care centers in the state in two years.

Well that’s good thinking. State licensing requirements were tightened presumably to improve the safety of day care centers – but church day care programs are exempt. On what grounds? Because if children in those programs crack their skulls on the concrete under the swing set, they’ll go to heaven so it’s okay? Because the church needs the money? What?

In recent years, many politicians and commentators have cited what they consider a nationwide “war on religion” that exposes religious organizations to hostility and discrimination. But such organizations — from mainline Presbyterian and Methodist churches to mosques to synagogues to Hindu temples — enjoy an abundance of exemptions from regulations and taxes. And the number is multiplying rapidly. Some of the exceptions have existed for much of the nation’s history, originally devised for Christian churches but expanded to other faiths as the nation has become more religiously diverse. But many have been granted in just the last 15 years — sometimes added to legislation, anonymously and with little attention, much as are the widely criticized “earmarks” benefiting other special interests.

Some legal scholars and judges see the special breaks for religious groups as a way to prevent government from infringing on those religious freedoms.“Never forget that the exercise of religion is a constitutionally protected activity,” said Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Michigan who has written and testified in support of greater legislative protection for religious liberty. “Regulation imposes burdens on the free exercise of religion. Exemptions lift those burdens.”

The free exercise clause has some unfortunate effects, in my view – such as zealots suing for the right to post bible verses in their offices saying homosexuality is a sin. Run-amok exemption would be another. Regulation imposes burdens on everything, which is precisely why it should be universal.

Read it all. It’s intensely irritating.

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