Two recent lawsuits seek to drag America back to the dark ages, FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew L. Seidel contends in an article for Religion Dispatches.
An anti-vax lawsuit filed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. claims that a DC law allowing children to be vaccinated without the knowledge of their parents or against the wishes of their parents violates their parents’ religious freedom. The right to life of D.C. children is apparently unimportant to Kennedy, Seidel points out.
Another lawsuit, brought by a Catholic elementary school, argues that requiring students to wear masks (for the sake of public safety and the health of students) violates the school’s religious liberty based on a strained, novel theological argument. “The theology that provides the basis for the religious freedom claim is a gibbering word salad,” writes Seidel.
Like Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac at the behest of the antagonist of the Old Testament (only to be stopped at the last moment), the legal principle at play is not a hard question.
Imagine that this had happened in America in 2021 and that Abraham had followed through. Would old Abe have had a right, based on the religious freedom protections of the First Amendment, to kill his son?
This isn’t a hard question, but it is a ridiculous one. In fact, more than 150 years ago the Supreme Court rejected the idea that the right to religious freedom could ever include the right to sacrifice another human. Literally. Of course, this makes sense. Your right to believe your god is telling you to do something is not a right to act on that belief — especially when the action would violate the rights of another human being.
This is what makes the current wave of religious freedom cases — discriminating against LGBTQ foster parents or customers — so frustratingly simple. Religious freedom does not include a license to harm others. But this Supreme Court, packed with zealots and ideologues, has walked away from this clear and long-standing rule. By turning its back on that constitutional principle, the court has encouraged waves of lawsuits (including the two above) that seek to place religious freedom for conservative Christians at the top of a hierarchy of rights, with every other right — except perhaps the personal right to carry a gun — subservient.
Seidel concludes: “It’s not too late for these children. And every other American relying on a future where we reach herd immunity. We need not sacrifice them on the altar of religious freedom.” Read the complete op-ed here.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is committed to fighting against the redefinition and weaponization of religious liberty. Seidel and other FFRF attorneys strive to both educate and litigate toward this end.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members and several chapters across the country. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.