In our opinion: Free exercise of religion needs strong protection

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  • sashabill Morgan Hill, CA
    Jan. 23, 2019 3:21 p.m.

    liberal larry, While it is true that countries like Egypt, Somalia, and Yemen are among the most religious in the world, they are also among the LOWEST on the scale when it comes to religious liberty.

    This illustrates an additional benefit of religious liberty -- it not only checks the power of the state, but also allows religious groups to check and counterbalance eachother by competing in the arena of advocacy, and also by finding opportunities for cooperation and common ground in addressing social problems.

    Contrary to what the politically correct crowd may believe, separation of church and state does not mean separation of religion from society or of faith from life.

  • NoNamesAccepted St. George, UT
    Jan. 23, 2019 2:58 p.m.

    And we see more overt hostility to churches. Those who are fine with Planned Parenthood's tax exemptions, are upset at churches enjoying similar non-profit benefits. As if not paying taxes on income spent for one charitable purpose is any more a "subsidy" than if another charity benefits. Churches are made up of members who pay property, sales, and income taxes. The benefits to society from the service rendered, greatly outweighs any lost taxes.

    Hospitals are subject to rules whether they take tax money or not. Where hospitals do benefit from tax dollars it is their poor or elderly patients using Medicaid or Medicare. So some really say, "If you won't perform abortions, you can't help the poor or elderly."

    Me not attending your party to take flattering photors is no more "discrmination" than you not attending church with me is infringing my religious freedom.

    Adoption agencies get paid per placement. They forego money when they decline a case. Some would force higher costs on 99% just because 1% can't benefit from religious adoption agencies.

    It is clear that some really want to force religion out of society more than they care about anyone getting the help they need.

  • liberal larry Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 23, 2019 2:55 p.m.

    If you look at the benefits of religious contributions to society, and then weight the the amount of money they pull out of public coffers, my guess is that it is probably about a wash!

    The world's countries with higher quality of life rankings tend to be the least religious, while countries with low quality of life rankings like Egypt, Somalia, and Yemen, tend to be on the extreme low end of quality of life rankings!

    It's very hard to make a case worldwide that religion is a net positive to society!

  • 1covey Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 23, 2019 2:06 p.m.

    On the whole, the community benefits from having churches far more than the tax exemptions granted. Consider all the volunteer efforts and donations; employment programs, including training, which help bear the load of caring for the needy, saving tax dollars. There are other benefits. Another consideration is that were churches to be taxed, they could be targeted. Targeting groups is already manifested in tax brackets and has certain political organizations have been targeted in the past. It can happen to churches, too.

  • sashabill Morgan Hill, CA
    Jan. 23, 2019 2:00 p.m.

    Ranch, If you do not want to "subsidize" Catholic or Evangelical church properties, because of the beliefs of those denominations, then should I (or others) be excused from subsidizing denominations which advocate abortion or same sex marriage? I should perhaps also be excused from "subsidizing" other religious beliefs which I find objectionable (Original Sin, "sola fide," or predestination, to name a few.) It doesn't require the proverbial rocket scientist to see where that will lead.

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    Jan. 23, 2019 1:00 p.m.

    To "Ranch " so then, if I am a baker that is not getting money from the government, I should be able to discriminate.

    And those of us part of the local churches subsidize you by making the neighborhoods nicer to live in, more friendly, and providing social safety nets not supported by the Government. Some churches provide parks and places for families to go outside, taking away the need for the government to build and maintain a park.

    You are only looking at one side of the equation. You need to look at how the government benefits from churches.

    We get it, you hate the LDS church. The problem is that you don't see the good that having the church in your area does.

  • Ranch Here, UT
    Jan. 23, 2019 12:36 p.m.

    Final comment, since the moderators refused to print the first 2 (on topic) comments.

    @Red;

    If you are accepting taxpayer money then you should not be able to discriminate against *any* of the taxpayers providing that money. Also, as a non-believer, I'm being forced to subsidize LDS/Catholic/Evangelical church properties since they're tax exempt; I'm also being forced to subsidize the Mormon missionary program when Mormons deduct the cost of supporting their children on their taxes. (What is it you guys were saying about "forced labor" with Masterpiece Baker?)

    @sashbill;

    All churches. Make it a sink or swim policy; if they can't afford their own costs, they sink, if they can scare enough members into donating money, they swim.

    Finally; we all know that this "religious freedom" nonsense is just another gambit to allow discrimination against LGBT citizens.

  • sashabill Morgan Hill, CA
    Jan. 23, 2019 11:56 a.m.

    liberal larry,

    Speaking of religious groups entering the political arena, it is interesting that those denominations which have embraced liberalism and "political correctness" are the ones which have been declining the fastest since the 1960s, both in percentages and in absolute numbers -- some of them nearly in a state of free fall.

    Examples of this trend include the Presbyterians (PCUSA), Methodist church (UMC), the mainline Lutherans (ELCA), the Episcopal church, and the United Church of Christ (UCC).

    It's also interesting how those who complain about the mixing of religion with conservative politics don't voice any such objection to mixing religion with liberal politics (as happens regularly in the denominations just mentioned, as well as in the Unitarian Church and the National Council of Churches). Do I sense a double standard here?

    Ranch, Are all churches to be taxed across the board, or only those which are "bigoted"? And who defines what constitutes "bigotry"?

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    Jan. 23, 2019 11:54 a.m.

    To "3grandslams" and they would be very angry about how we are having the religion of Atheism forced on the US.

    To "Thomas Jefferson" you are wrong. The antagonism towards faith groups comes from your ilk and their push to make Atheism the official religion.

    To "liberal larry" what about the far left religious groups that supported Obama, do you denounce their actions too?

    To "Ranch" actually no. Even if a church pays entirely for the operation of a hospital or health clinic, they are still subject to laws that would force them to do things contrary to their religious beliefs.

  • ~ Angel ~ McKinney, TX
    Jan. 23, 2019 11:49 a.m.

    Polygamists should have their right to religious liberty respected as well.

  • THEREALND Mishawaka, IN
    Jan. 23, 2019 10:59 a.m.

    Catholic hospitals have expanded their capacity. From 2001 to 2016 Catholic Hospitals grew by 22%. One in six hospital patients are treated at a Catholic hospital. But if you need a vasectomy or a life saving tubal ligation or even a life saving abortion, you better look elsewhere. And yet the average hospital receives 40 to 50 percent of it's revenue from Government sources.

  • milquetoasty Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 23, 2019 10:49 a.m.

    @NoNamesAccepted

    "Starting late 70s, the left demanded these churches violate their doctrines by providing elective abortions. Churches disposed of hospitals."

    "Churches have run charitable adoption agencies. The left has insisted they violate beliefs and adopt to homosexual couples. Churches are getting out of the adoption services."

    "Christians are being forced out of business if they are not willing to attend or otherwise support celebrations of homosexuality."

    Let me be perfectly honest with you. I believe that this line of thinking is exactly the reason for "Declining religiosity in America," and "a decline in a majority trust that religion has a role to play in solving social problems."

    It is a self-inflicted wound.

    Some religions and some religious people demand a special privilege to not have to treat others the way the others are required by law to treat them. They will discriminate, but won't be discriminated against. They will demand protection for themselves while preventing the same protection for others.

    And all that charity? According to you, it has strings attached to the right to discriminate. Fair enough, but it does make one think.

  • Ranch Here, UT
    Jan. 23, 2019 10:35 a.m.

    @NoNames;

    Thou shalt not bare false witness against thy neighbor. (But the "religious" have been ignoring that commandment, along with the others forever now). You keep saying "the left demands" and forces, but you're lying.

    As long as churches operate their charities on their own dime, they can discriminate to their hearts content. When they operate on the government's dime they have to treat everyone equally. That seems fair.

    Christians want to use "religion" to discriminate against LGBT people. Go ahead in your churches, but forget it when it's in the public square. And churches should absolutely pay their fair share of taxes; I'm tired of subsidizing their bigotry.

  • NoNamesAccepted St. George, UT
    Jan. 23, 2019 10:00 a.m.

    @milquetoasty: "I read this opinion piece three times but was unable to see where the authors define an attack on free exercise of religion that needs protecting from."

    Let me connect the dots that the authors missed.

    Churches once owned and operated charitable hospitals across. Notice the origins of "LDS", "Primary Children's", "St. Mark's", and even "Shriners' Children" hospitals here locally. Repeat that in communities large and small coast to coast. Starting late 70s, the left demanded these churches violate their doctrines by providing elective abortions. Churches disposed of hospitals. Health care costs have soared.

    Churches have run charitable adoption agencies. The left has insisted they violate beliefs and adopt to homosexual couples. Churches are getting out of the adoption services. Want to guess where that leads?

    Today, Christians are being forced out of business if they are not willing to attend or otherwise support celebrations of homosexuality.

    Communities have tried to prevent churches being built where parishoners can actually attend.

    There are mounting demands to impose taxes on churches, or to deny tax deductabilty for donations to churches.

  • NoNamesAccepted St. George, UT
    Jan. 23, 2019 9:52 a.m.

    It is important to point out that religious groups have always been involved in politics, because they have always been involved in community and social matters.

    Many of the key meetings, speeches, and other events leading to the US Revolution and independence from England took place in New England churches. Laterns were hung in the tower of the Old North Church in Boston to warn of the movement of the British troops in their quest to seize privately own cannons and powder so as to disarm the American Colonists.

    Arguments against slavery in both England and the US were religiously based pushed by churches. As we have just celebrated Martin Luther King day we need to remember he was the Reverend Dr. MLK and the most compelling arguments for civil rights were his religious sermons that demanded both equality and peaceful protests until equality was achieved.

    Post sexual revolution, the religious right came into being as a purely defensive measure against what had become the anti-religious left. Nobody's trying to force religion on others. We're simply trying to preserve our rights, and to have our voices heard in terms of how to order a healthy, successful society.

  • UtahBlueDevil Alpine, UT
    Jan. 23, 2019 9:51 a.m.

    NoNamesAccepted - I second your comments. Well said.

  • NoNamesAccepted St. George, UT
    Jan. 23, 2019 9:17 a.m.

    Some make clear the truth of concerns about hostility toward religion. They don't merely want to be free not to participate in religious activities, but hope to end religion, to "get [society] away from faith."

    Contributions to religious causes are grossly under-estimated because so many are part of everyday life. The $5 bill droped into the collection plate probably doesn't get itemized on taxes. Neither does the tank of gas or other expenses incurred driving the youth group to camp and certianly not running them around town to help clean up the yard of an elderly resident.

    In many cases, those volunteering time with a church don't consider that their service has larger secular implications. Helping with a church youth program is similar to volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club, or tutoring reading. All might help a young person feel valued and loved and prevent risky behaviors like premarital sex, alcohol and drug use, or joining a gang. Benefits to society are obvious.

    Anyone who has been involved in church service knows immediately why a very large number of relatively modest contributions of money or time would not get reported. Seems some have never been involved.

  • liberal larry Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 23, 2019 8:37 a.m.

    It has been a huge mistake for religious groups to actively enter the political arena. Especially when they have so actively associated themselves with the far right!

    Evangelical christians have been some of the president's most avid supporters, and I feel that it has really damaged their reputation, especially among the young!

  • milquetoasty Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 23, 2019 8:27 a.m.

    "Free exercise of religion needs strong protection"

    I read this opinion piece three times but was unable to see where the authors define an attack on free exercise of religion that needs protecting from.

    "Declining religiosity in America affects more than just the size of congregations gathering to worship. It undermines foundations of social aid that much of the country — even the nonreligious — depend on."

    "...America also faces a rise of antagonism toward faith groups and a decline in a majority trust that religion has a role to play in solving social problems."

    "'There is more of a sense among some progressives of an antagonism toward faith or antagonism toward faith groups that don't totally buy into a progressive package of policies.'"

    What exactly are people looking for here? Protection against declining religiosity? Protection against generic antagonism?

    "Volunteer work is an obvious benefit of religious association"
    "Charitable giving"
    "Those religious causes feed and shelter the homeless"
    "Religious institutions also provide disaster relief"

    Okay, those are undeniably true facts but where is the attack? Who needs protecting, and from what specifically?

  • Thomas Jefferson Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 23, 2019 7:38 a.m.

    "Declining religiosity in America affects more than just the size of congregations gathering to worship. It undermines foundations of social aid that much of the country — even the nonreligious — depend on."

    Statement made without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

    "But America also faces a rise of antagonism toward faith groups and a decline in a majority trust that religion has a role to play in solving social problems."

    So? Religion has CAUSED social problems too.

    "One concern is partisanship and public hostility could make it difficult for faith groups to thrive."

    Good. The sooner we get away from 'faith' the better. I believe faith is just the excuse people use when they dont have good reasons to believe something. If you have good reasons, those are what you cite.
    You can believe anything and use 'faith' as the reason.

    "A full one-third of contributions go toward religious causes, but that fraction is grossly underestimated, notes Giving USA."

    And yet they give no reason for the supposed 'underestimation'. Strange.

  • 3grandslams Eagle Mountain, UT
    Jan. 23, 2019 6:36 a.m.

    Of course that other human basic right that our founders wanted to protect, the right to worship and believe according you’re own conscience, not to force a religion on you nor to force you into one.