Is religious speech more protected than free speech?

I'm glad to see that a student whose free speech rights were trampled upon by a professor has won her case against the university:

SPRINGFIELD, MO, November 14, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Emily Brooker, a student in the Missouri State University's School of Social Work, sued the university after being punished by a professor for refusing to lobby in favour of homosexual adoption. Only weeks after launching the suit, the university has settled out of court and disciplined the professor in question.
WorldNetDaily has more, but the case is not attracting a great deal of MSM attention. The professor's conduct in trying to force Brooker to sign a statement she disagreed with was outrageous.

Wendy McElroy had an analysis of this case before the decision was announced, but it seems to me that something is being taken for granted:

The ADF, a Christian legal group that advocates religious freedom, accuses tax-funded MSU of retaliating against Brooker because she refused to sign a letter to the Missouri Legislature in support of homosexual adoption as part of a class project.

Gay adoption violates Brooker's Christian beliefs.

ADF says the letter violated her First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of religion; the subsequent punishment violated her Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection.

There's no question that her First Amendment right to free speech was violated, but I don't see the freedom of religion issue in quite the same way. Is there a clear issue of freedom of religion? According to McElroy, it comes down to this:

Gay adoption violated Brooker's Christian beliefs.

I'm curious about the theological perspective. How might allowing homosexuals to adopt children violate Christian beliefs? I realize that Leviticus condemns the act of a man lying with a man like a woman (but not a woman lying with a woman) as a sin, yet that is certainly not the only sin listed in the Bible. For starters, there are the sins listed in the Ten Commandments.

I'm no theologist, but according to Christian doctrine, aren't all human beings supposed to be sinners? Unless there is something inherently more sinful about homosexuality (perhaps the concern is with the unrepentant nature of open homosexuality), I think it's fair to ask just where in the Christian doctrine is the tie-in to adoption found? If breakers of the Sabbath, makers of graven images or liars are not barred from adopting, from where derives any biblical view that only homosexuals are?

Just curious.

I think Emily Brooker is absolutely within her right to oppose homosexual adoption, and I'm glad she won her case, but I don't see how her religious views inbue her opinion with any more protection than anyone else's. But if we assume that that her views are more protected because they are religious in nature, that begs the question of what they are. (Had the professor attempted to compel her to assert that homosexuality was not a sin and that Leviticus was wrong, it would be more clear to me.)

Are atheists who refuse to sign letters in support of gay adoption less worthy of protection?

Let me switch to the less inflammatory issue (well, less inflammatory for now) of eating pork. Certainly, no one has the right to compel anyone to eat pork, and compelling a person to eat pork in violation of his religious views would violate his First Amendment rights (plus a lot of other rights). While compelling someone to be in the presence of others who ate pork might violate the right to free association, could it be seen as religious discrimination? Absent a religious prohibition on associating with pork-eaters, I don't see how. It seems only fair to me that people making claims based upon freedom of religion ought to be able to explain how their religious freedom is being curtailed. So, while it is wrong to force anyone to sign a petition in favor of the right of pork eaters to adopt, I don't see how even those who refrain from pork for religious reasons can say that advocating adoption by pork-eating parents violates their religious beliefs.

I know I sound picky, but I think some of these folks are just plain fudging.

posted by Eric on 11.21.06 at 01:26 PM










Comments

The way I see this is that she had certain beliefs which she felt she was being forced to betray. And those views come from her religious values.

Her right to her views is what needs to be protected.

Clearly an Atheist would be entitled to the same protections.

Perhaps someone believes that all adoption is wrong - again, they should not be forced, or coerced against that opinion.

If you were asking which Christian teaching holds that adoptions by homosexuals is wrong, sorry can't help you there.


Certainly we as a society have held that certain actions had to be curtailed, even though they were held as religious beliefs. You just can't go around sacrificing animals, for example.

The issue, can you have negative consequences for holding to your religious requirements, will need to be debated further. Should we require that all drivers license photos be taken free of any head covering - whether a habit or burka, or ski-mask? Will some then not refuse and have to give up the privilege of driving? Would the ban apply to all forms of state issued ID?


From the news story, I think the professor was wrong for having forced the issue by having a negative outcome for not writing/signing the letter. He was not wrong for offering the opportunity.

Ric in Oregon   ·  November 21, 2006 2:42 PM

Eating poork only affects you. In the Old Old days, the prohibition protected you against trichinosis, without have to explain all that stuff about bacteria.

Adoption by homosexuals affects the child, perhaps permanently.

Ric makes a good point about driver's license photos. In Florida a few years back, a lady tried that. The way I look at it is, in this country's history, only outlaws wear masks. (Except, of course, for the Lone Ranger, but everybody knew he was one of the Good Guys.)

ZZMike   ·  November 21, 2006 2:59 PM

Well, Catholic teaching is that a child deserves a mother and a father, and that's pretty explicitly spelled out in the Catholic catechism. A child has a "right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage."

The thinking is also that God's intent is for a man and a woman to come together and create life, each makes a unique contribution to the marriage and to the family.

miss kelly   ·  November 21, 2006 6:02 PM

"I'm curious about the theological perspective. How might allowing homosexuals to adopt children violate Christian beliefs?"

This one is not clear, but there may be some linear logical pathway. I suppose that more conservative Christians believe that "parenting and rearing" of a child by an unmarried couple acting as if they were married...might offend their sensibilities. Since homosexuals can't marry, they automatically fall into the same category as "adulterers".

Since "living together" offends them...it doesn't matter about the sexual orientation after that.

This probably skirts the issue of what really lies beneath the aversion, homosexuality offends their sensibilities anyway. But, this issue is not as "gay" bashing wholly and solely as it is at least partially (perhaps even minimally) "non-married couples" bashing. Kids should START with a married mom and dad...or so the emotional/religious debate goes. Divorce, separation and death may change that, but it's the "ideal".

"I realize that Leviticus condemns the act of a man lying with a man like a woman (but not a woman lying with a woman) as a sin, yet that is certainly not the only sin listed in the Bible. For starters, there are the sins listed in the Ten Commandments."

Yet, in some sects of Christianity there are mortal sins and cardinal sins and venal sins. If you tell a lie, that is fundamentally different than if you commit murder. I think most Christians would probably be a bit hesitant to have murderers freely adopting children, but you can't get off the church steps without somebody lying about something in some parishes.

This is a bit like Olympic scoring in diving or gymnastics. Depending upon the individual judges, the "degree of difficulty" and how they view the event...the score goes up or down.

For those Christians who even continue to view homosexuality as a "sin" against the Creator's intentions...the score is anywhere from very low to very high. This is not a static issue, where one could or should expect uniform results.

"I'm no theologist, but according to Christian doctrine, aren't all human beings supposed to be sinners? Unless there is something inherently more sinful about homosexuality (perhaps the concern is with the unrepentant nature of open homosexuality), I think it's fair to ask just where in the Christian doctrine is the tie-in to adoption found? If breakers of the Sabbath, makers of graven images or liars are not barred from adopting, from where derives any biblical view that only homosexuals are?"

"Honor thy Mother AND Father"? Thou shalt not commit adultery?

Possibly, but a bit far-fetched perhaps. It's not in the Ten Commandments any more than the separation of church and state is in the Constitution.

It's subsumed by the overall advancement of procreation, is the best guess.

"I think Emily Brooker is absolutely within her right to oppose homosexual adoption, and I'm glad she won her case, but I don't see how her religious views inbue her opinion with any more protection than anyone else's. But if we assume that that her views are more protected because they are religious in nature, that begs the question of what they are. (Had the professor attempted to compel her to assert that homosexuality was not a sin and that Leviticus was wrong, it would be more clear to me.)"

THIS...is a different issue. Entirely, I think. The FACT that homosexuality MAY (or may not) be a sin against "the Creator" is entirely different than the question of whether homosexuality is a sin against man.

I have not once seen a compelling argument for the former and I believe absolutely none exists against the latter.

However, a state actor may not force an individual to undertake acts (under the threat of duress or punishment) which violate her right to practice her religion in private.

That is, the state has no compelling reason to FORCE her to act as if she holds a religious belief system that encourages homosexuality, if she believes that homosexuality is an offense against her Creator.

They can't force her to denounce her religious beliefs or take actions against those beliefs, without some compelling STATE reason for doing so.

Absent a COMPELLING STATE REASON, the professor threatening her with punishment or placing her under duress for HOLDING HER POSITION BASED ON RELIGIOUS BELIEFS...is a violation of her freedom to practice her religion.

We may agree or disagree that it is a "sin" against her Creator. We certainly don't have to agree at all that it is a sin against man...but we absolutely MUST defend her right to practice her religion in private without state interference.

"Are atheists who refuse to sign letters in support of gay adoption less worthy of protection?"

Under religious grounds? Possibly. They are not asserting any religious belief upon which protection may be granted. Under free speech grounds, there is no difference.

"Let me switch to the less inflammatory issue (well, less inflammatory for now) of eating pork. Certainly, no one has the right to compel anyone to eat pork, and compelling a person to eat pork in violation of his religious views would violate his First Amendment rights (plus a lot of other rights). While compelling someone to be in the presence of others who ate pork might violate the right to free association, could it be seen as religious discrimination? Absent a religious prohibition on associating with pork-eaters, I don't see how."

I see where the analogy is heading, not sure it's a great one. She was not complaining that she was forced to be in the COMPANY of signers of the pro-homosexual adoption petition...she was complaining that she was being FORCED TO PARTICIPATE under threat of duress or punishment. It's the state action of THREAT for practicing her religion that needs protection.

If her complaint was merely that her class was told they COULD sign such a petition...her case weakens substantially.

In the pork eating case, no complaint would stand at being amongst pork-eaters...but if there was a threat for NOT participating in the pork eating, indeed...a case could be made. A solid one.


"It seems only fair to me that people making claims based upon freedom of religion ought to be able to explain how their religious freedom is being curtailed. So, while it is wrong to force anyone to sign a petition in favor of the right of pork eaters to adopt, I don't see how even those who refrain from pork for religious reasons can say that advocating adoption by pork-eating parents violates their religious beliefs."

It all depends upon the State Actor and what is the compelling reason of the state to undertake such action. Absent a compelling state reason, then the threat of punishment or adverse consequences...makes all the difference.

"I know I sound picky, but I think some of these folks are just plain fudging."

It's a slippery subject and easy to lose the way, because so much of it seems unfair from all sides.

So goes justice. We must defend the victims, and yet take them as we find them.

In my own personal view...we ought to be defending BOTH the homosexual adopters AND the religious practitioners...for each has a right that is being abrogated.

cfbleachers   ·  November 21, 2006 8:03 PM

These are really good comments. Please bear in mind that I am not arguing for or against gay adoption. I just don't see a clear biblical standard, and I object to the idea that because someone opposes something for religious reasons, that opposition should "count" any more (or cloak the opinion with more authority) than opposition for other reasons.

My ultimate worry is that this may it tougher and tougher to debate things without being accused of "religious discrimination." Identity politics has already led to activists claiming "discrimination" in the face of "threatening" opinions, and what I'd like to see is an ability to discuss anything and everything without fear of these constraints.

Eric Scheie   ·  November 22, 2006 10:43 AM

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