Regrettably, I must say that it seems that Christians have a persecution complex. Now, how a group that comprises nearly two-thirds of the population of the United States, has places of worship almost everywhere you look, and often controls the public discourse on several key issues somehow sees itself as a persecuted minority is beyond my comprehension, but I’m going to take a stab explaining it simply: If you’re used to being given special treatment, then being treated like everyone else feels like an insult.
That’s it. Christianity has had such a prominent place in our national zeitgeist that, with the increasing pluralism in America (and the western world), it had no place to go but down when it comes to cultural influence, and it hurts to be dumped. So, like a heartbroken preteen who just got dumped by their first crush, that insular, contemptuous strain of Christianity that colors the “Christian Right” has been lashing out, sometimes violently, at anything that does not fit in to its narrow, uninformed, and bigoted worldview (repeat, this is only an excoriation of some, not all Christians).
Sure, they are just trying to restore the “rights” that they had before the Civil and Gay Rights Movements and the Sexual Revolution, but, as I’ll demonstrate, these invented rights are only coming at the expense of the real rights and freedoms of others.
A recent case (or cases) comes out of Jolly Old England. Several employees have sued their employers for, in effect, policing the behavior and attire of their employees while at work. In particular, some employers are prohibiting employees from wearing crosses visibly over their uniforms while others are mandating that employees do their job even if it involves giving equal treatment to homosexual and heterosexual couples. Let’s put aside whether or not there were “good reasons” for those employers’ policies (in the case of the nurse who was prohibited from wearing a cross on a chain, being grabbed at by delirious patients or the fact that the cross can carry bacteria constitute two very good reasons indeed), here are the basic facts of the matter: These employees are not being punished for adhering to any religion; these employees are not being punished for religious activities that take place outside of the workplace; these employees are being punished for breaking company policy that is probably specifically laid out in their employment contracts. In short, these employees want to infringe on the right of employers to decide how they do business, how they portray their companies to the public, and with whom they do business.
Back on our side of the pond, the Christian Right has largely taken over the military. Though this has largely taken the guise of soldiers being given the right to worship on base (which they have every right to), it has lead to they almost systematic harassment of atheists and religious minorities in the military. Essentially, the right of Christian military officers to “witness” has led to institutional barriers to promotion of atheists in a military that is supposed to be defending freedom of conscience.
Furthermore, the recent (actually, it has gone on a while, hasn’t it) War on Women’s Reproductive Rights in our country has highlighted several ways in which Religious Groups want a double standard when it comes to freedom:
- Religious Organizations believe they have a “right” to Federal Monies without following Federal Rules.
- Conservative Christian legislators are trying to give “rights” to blastocysts and fetuses while forcing women to undergo an invasive procedure (and forcing doctors to perform that procedure) in order to access a service that is completely legal.
- Giving doctors the “right” to act on the impulse to prevent abortion at whatever cost, the Kansas Legislature has now given doctors the “right” to lie to a patient if it prevents an abortion, depriving consumers the real right to make informed medical decisions about their own body.
In other news, creationists complain that they’re being censored (denied their “right to free speech”) because privately-run academic journals refuse to print pseudoscience. They are simply assuming that their right to free speech entitles them to force private organizations to print their garbage. You have a right to free speech (and creationists use the hell out of it); you don’t have a “right” to coerce others to repeat what you’ve said.
As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve used “rights” in “quotes” a lot, and there’s a reason for it. There are rights that actually exist, and then there are “rights” that don’t. Any “right” that requires someone to do something for you doesn’t actually exist. Any “right” that allows you to coerce people to take actions they don’t want to take doesn’t actually exist. Your right to swing your fist stops at my nose, and you don’t get to give yourself the “right” to punch me in the nose just because you want to.
The Religious (mostly Christian) Right doesn’t want equal rights, and they don’t want religious liberty. They already have those things in this country (regrettably, they don’t everywhere). The Religious Right wants special privileges. They want exceptions to be made for them. They want the world to revolve around them and their silly ideas. Fortunately for us, they don’t have those privileges or exceptions, and the world doesn’t revolve around them.
That is, unless we let them make it so.