Al Qaeda has filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming that current airline regulations regarding what passengers can bring onto an airplane violates its constitutional right to religious liberty.
According to lawyers for Al Qaeda, the first amendment prohibition on Congress impeding the free exercise of religion implies that it has no authority to prevent Al Qaeda operatives from hijacking American airplanes for destructive purposes. These acts constitute the religious practices of this sect and, as such, Congress has a Constitutional requirement not to interfere with those practices.
Lawyers for Al Qaeda argue, "This is our religion, and Congress is impeding our free exercise of that religion."
Okay, there is no such lawsuit.
However, there are religious organizations in this country and around the world that are trying to defend a concept of religious liberty that, if we take them seriously, would make this type of argument appear sound. These organizations say that anything that their religion tells them to do constitutes a "religious practice" that is immune from government restriction - even when that practice brings harm to the interests of others who are not members of that religion.
If we accept this implication as valid, and since attacking infidels fits this definition of a religious practice, the logical conclusion is that Congress shall not pass any law that restricts this religious practice.
The current form of the argument is one in which Catholic bishops in Illinois claim that "religious freedom" means that the government must turn a blind eye to the organization's practice of actions harmful to the interests of other citizens when acting as agents of the government executing a government policy with government funds.
The policy that they are protesting prohibits money allocated for organizations that facilitate adoptions and foster care going to organizations that discriminate against homosexual couples. Because these Catholic organizations are all about hateful bigotry against homosexuals, they have been forced to make a choice. They can continue to act as government agents and give up the practice of conducting their affairs in ways harmful to the interests of homosexual citizens, or they can give up the practice of acting as government agents (and the government money that comes with it).
Forcing them to make this choice is, they say, a violation of their religious liberty.
( See New York Times Bishops Say Rules on Gay Parents Limit Freedom of Religion)
The fact is that their religious liberty is not being interfered with.
Nobody is going to arrest members of this sect simply because they are members of a hateful and bigoted religious sect. No attempts are being made to outlaw the sect or make membership a crime. The right to freedom of religion protects sect members from this type of action.
Nobody is going to arrest members of this sect for preaching their brand of hateful bigotry to the public. While the potential victims of their primitive superstitious hatreds have a vested interest in shutting them up, the rights of those who belong to this sect to freedom of speech and religious liberty prevent others from silencing them.
Nobody is going to prohibit members of this sect from engaging in private actions that express their primitive, irrational bigotry. In their private actions, they remain free to refuse to shop at businesses that are owned by gay couples and to refuse to watch shows with gay actors or that have pro-homosexual themes. They may freely use their hateful bigotry as a criteria in determining who gets their vote and who gets the benefits of their acts of private charity.
As citizens, they have a right to vote and to have a say in determining what government policies are. They have an opportunity to support candidates of their choosing and to lobby the legislative and executive branches for laws that they favor. They have the right to get these prohibitions on the use of taxpayer money to promoted bigoted policies repealed.
However, there is no prohibition on the government that gives people a right to engage in religious practices that are harmful to the interests of others - particularly when one is acting as a government agent charged with carrying out government policy. Those other citizens have a right to demand that the government - and agents acting on behalf of the government - treat them with the dignity due to peaceful citizens, even if certain primitive superstitious refuse to do so.
If these types of religious practices are given constitutional protection, then why not the Al Qaeda operative who wants to fly an airplane into a building filled with infidels? Or the anti-abortion opponent who thinks it is permissible to kill a doctor that performs abortions? It seems sensible that they, too, can argue that they are engaged in religious practices that the government must not interfere with.
Interfering with a gay couple's opportunity to adopt a child may not be in the same category as shooting them or blowing them up, but it carries a common element. They are harmful to the interests of others - such as the interests that homosexuals have in adopting a child. As such, it is not something that deserves special protection as a religious practice - not at the expense of those citizens who would be its victims. Particularly when these sect members are being paid to act in the capacity of government agents.