Monday, May 5, 2008

Religious freedom - what is it?

I continue to be shocked when I read newspaper articles and editorials on the Zion Ranch. There seems to be a continued theme - that the State should not be interfering in religion, or in family affairs. Both of these are inaccurate assumptions.

First, we all have religious freedom to think whatever it is we want to think, and to organize our religions. But this freedom does not translate to all religious actions, if they are actions that break state or federal laws. The Zion children are not in protective services because the State doesn't like the way the women dress, or anything like that. The children are in the custody of the State because the minor girls are pregnant. DNA tests are being run to help sort out what is going on.

Second, we have agreed as a community to protect our children from abuse. We have established services in our States which look out for those interests. In the case of the Zion Ranch, the children have been put into protective custody of the State of Texas because there was enough compelling evidence brought forth at the initial trial that the children living in this compound are at risk of abuse.

Will the children stay in State custody? We won't know the answer to this until the investigations are finished, and the court proceedings continue.


komfo,amonan said...

This may sound legalistic (and IANAL), but objections I've read stem from the fact that the initial call placed to the authorities by a girl inside the compound may have been a hoax. If so, and if the charges of abuse are borne out, we have a kind of happy accident.

Past history of the raiding agency can speak somewhat to its good faith or lack thereof, but whenever there's a well-armed raid on private property (e.g. MOVE, Waco, Ruby Ridge, Elian Gonzalez), there will be an outcry.

That being said, the law is the law, and family & religious arguments do not provide cover for illegal acts.

Leon said...

We give a license to religious people, or so-called religious people, that we do not give to any other group. We give them license to claim they have a pipeline to God and they know what God damns and curses. They will say this is this prerogative as religious people or as preachers, etc. But it is also a religious duty to point out the arrogance of this and that they abuse the name of God when they do so. How many people think of this as religious? Not many. We should really challenge the self-appointed spokespeople for God a lot more often.

Leon Zitzer

Judy Redman said...

I think that most people would agree that there need to be some limits to religious freedom. We would have no problem deciding that human sacrifice is not acceptable, regardless of one's religious beliefs. I am fairly sure that a group of Christians who started wandering into shops and taking whatever they wanted without paying on the grounds that the Bible says we should hold all things in common would be stopped very quickly.

We generally tend to believe that religious freedom, as with any other freedom, is relative. We are free to believe what we want as long as it doesn't cause harm to others. This is clearly a case where harm is being caused to other people who have little or no ability to protect themselves.

Phil Snider said...

I think that Judy is right here. There has to be some limitations on the freedom of religion, if only to curb the kind of abusive craziness featured in the Zion Ranch case (as far as I know of it). All freedoms can be abused and, as a result, need some reasonable limitation. You can't shout FIRE! in a crowded movie theater nor should you be allowed to abuse boys or girls and argue that one's religion tells you to.

Yet, I also think it is good that the question of religious freedom is raised in this case, extreme though it is. While all indications suggest that this case is a case of abuse in the name of religion, I think we have to continually ask the question about whether we are unduly breaching religious freedom or we will get lazy and fail to ask it when we are. At the end of the day, if we do decide to limit a freedom, we need to be careful to make sure that we are being just in doing so. Here, it seems, there is a legitimate restriction of a freedom.


Eric Rowe said...

It seems that a court now agrees with those foolish editorials you were reading that opine against a huge China-like government that seeks to control all that goes on among its citizens.