The U.S. Civil Rights Commission issued a report recently that says “Religious exemptions to the protections of civil rights based upon classifications such as race, color, national origin, sex, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity, when they are permissible, significantly infringe upon these civil rights.”
In a separate statement the chairman of the commission, Martin R. Castro, said, “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.”
Roger Severino, director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said that a particularly troubling aspect of the report is what he called “the attempt to discredit sincere religious believers as being motivated by hate instead of faith and the implied recommendation that religious groups should change their beliefs on sexual morality to conform with liberal norms for the good of the country.”
Then he added, “I would expect to see such a slanted and anti-religious report come out of China or France perhaps, but am disappointed to see it come from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.”
The commission’s findings place the boundary of religious freedom where it conflicts with civil rights. In other words, religion has been demoted from pre-eminent to subservient in U.S. policy.
The commission also said:
“Religious exemptions from nondiscrimination laws and policies must be weighed carefully and defined narrowly on a fact-specific basis”
• “Third parties, such as employees, should not be forced to live under the religious doctrines of their employers”
• “A basic right as important as the freedom to marry should not be subject to religious beliefs.”
One of the commission’s own members, Commissioner Peter Kirsanow called the findings and recommendations “an alarm to liberty-loving Americans.” According to him, “the conflict between religious liberty and nondiscrimination principles is profound,” Kirsanow said the tension “appears most acute when religious liberty and sexual liberty conflict.” He argues that the commission elevates “nondiscrimination laws, which… are mere statutes, not constitutional provisions, over the provisions of the Constitution.” In practice, he added, this is “hostile to religion.”
But Castro said, “In the past, religion was cited to justify Jim Crow laws, and oppose women’s suffrage… Present day ‘religious liberty’ efforts are aimed at discriminating against the LGBTQ community…” he added, “and now it’s used to deny the use of public school bathroom facilities by transgender youth. Some supporters of ‘religious freedom’ or ‘religious liberty’ oppose American Muslims building mosques in their communities. True religious liberty and religious freedom should be about allowing Americans to freely practice their faith, and it is not, and should never be about preventing others from living their lives freely and equally.”
The United States “shall repudiate every principle of its Constitution as a Protestant and republican government.” Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5, page 451.