I'm reading through The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, and his first chapter on "Undeserved Respect" has got me thinking about Free Speech and Freedom of Religion. On the face of it, Dawkins is a hypocrite, condemning a Christian boy for wearing an "Islam is a lie" t-shirt (p.23) when it is perfectly clear Dawkins might wear that same shirt - only, with a change to "all religion." But Dawkins still makes good sense: after reading what he's got to say, I'm not sure I believe in complete Freedom of Religion anymore.
Getting High on G.O.D.
Is it true, as Dawkins claims, that the religious get unfair advantages when it comes to draft dodging (p.21), using narcotics (p.22), and spreading hate (p.23)? Is it true that standard morality and the rule of law do not apply to any group who claims the right to something as a religious freedom? Even in Canada, it's possible for a group to traffic marijuana and then turn around and claim their activities should fall under "freedom of religious expression." That's wrong. Early Christians were killed in large numbers for their devotion to Jesus; now people are taking advantage of religious freedom to protect their right to get baked.
A License to Hate
The same goes with hate speech. You know what? Not everything that is called hate speech really qualifies as such: a pastor who tells his church that homosexuality is a sin isn't being hateful; he's disagreeing with a lifestyle. He's not advocating harm against anybody. But some people genuinely preach hate, and no one can bust them for it because these people claim it's a religious freedom to be fascists. Westboro Baptist Church members show up at funerals and hold up signs that read, "God hates fags.” That’s wrong. Those people need to be locked away.
When Your Church Is Your Pimp, Too
And in Canada, everybody knows that B.C. polygamist Winston Blackmore has 12-year-old wives. Do you know why that nut job isn't serving multiple life sentences in prison? Because he's not just a pedophile, but a religious pedophile - a leader of a fundamentalist Mormon community. Everybody knows about his child brides. Everybody. I can't defend total freedom of religion without defending the same law that allows Blackmore to be a sexual pervert.
Trusting In Jesus, Giving Up Freedoms
As a Christian I see the need for the protection of religious freedom. I do. I know all about the violent persecution of believers at the hands of Jewish leaders, Popes, and politicians of all ideological stripes (mostly communist, though) down through the last two millennia. But if we don't step forward and offer some limits to the freedoms that we enjoy, others will use those freedoms as a license to do evil. I don't want that. Here's a new/old method of dealing with the law: instead of invoking and protecting religious freedom, why don't you just obey the law (1 Peter 2.13-15) and accept the consequences when you have to break it (1 Peter 4.15-16)? Our fathers in the faith prayed that the Church would have times of peace (1 Timothy 2.1-2), but they needed no law of religious liberty. Neither do we. It will be a great day of witness to our countries when Christians no longer attempt to hide behind our religious exemptions.