A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: freedom of religion

Snake (Not So) Charmer

By Meghan Lalonde

Today’s Wall Street Journal features a nice little piece by one Jamie Coots, “pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name.”  The piece goes through many reasons why Mr. Coots believes his freedom of religion is being denied.

In fact, there’s just one reason: Poisonous snakes.

Mr. Coots claims that snake handling is an integral part of his religion based on two passages in the New Testament: Mark 16:18 (“they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them”) and Luke 10:19 (“Behold, I have given you power over serpents and scorpions…and nothing will injure you.”)

We have no problem with his worshipping the Lord any way he wants, but bringing snakes into the picture makes for a completely different story. And once constitutional rights violations are alleged, that’s where we step in.

LASIS enjoys responding to legal misunderstandings in the press.  And boy, do we have a slithering sucker of a story here. Oh, Mr. Coots. How do we love thee? Let us count the ways.

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Bless the Flying Spaghetti Monster. (R)amen.

By José I. Ortiz

Even those of us who consider ourselves religious must admit that some of our beliefs are probably a little far-fetched. Consider how some of these beliefs might sound to someone who had never heard of your religion before. A burning bush that speaks. A parting of the Red Sea. A virgin impregnated by God, whose child would walk on water, and later die — only to resurrect three days later.

Now, before I start getting hate mail, I would like to clarify that I believe the accounts as they are described above. But, we’re accustomed to them, so they might not strike us as bizarre as say, believing that a spaghetti-related item is a holy relic.

According to an article on NJ.com, Aaron Williams – who considers himself a Pastafarian – refused to take a pasta strainer off of his head in order to take his license photo in a Dayton Motor Vehicle Commission office. His reason? As a “Pastafarian”, the pasta strainer is a religious head covering.

Surprise, surprise! MVC staff told Mr. Williams that pasta strainers are not preapproved religious head coverings under state law. After the police were called, Mr. Williams reluctantly took the pasta strainer off of his head and eventually had his picture taken without it. He says, however, that he takes Pastafarianism “as seriously as anybody else when it comes to religious beliefs.”

Shouldn’t Mr. Williams’ right to practice his religion (no matter how obscure) be protected? Does the government recognize only certain mainstream religions? LASIS did some legal soul-searching.

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Losing My Religion

By José I. Ortiz

Considering how many talking points in the 2012 election have had to do with religion (Romney’s Mormonism, the morality of the Ryan budget, and Christian views  on abortion and gay marriage) it’s easy to forget that in some countries, religion and party-politics are considered a private matter, not to be discussed in polite society.

The United Kingdom is one of these countries; in the land of tea and crumpets, discussing politics or religion at dinner parties is considered cheeky.  And so it is surprising that religious liberties in the workplace have been brought center stage by four of Her Majesty’s subjects.

CNN’s Belief Blog brought my attention to Nadia Eweida, Shirley Chaplin, Lilian Ladele and Gary McFarlane, who allege that they were each reprimanded at work for upholding their religious beliefs. After losing on appeal in British courts, their cases were heard by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on September 4. A decision could take months.

Both Ms. Eweida, a nurse, and Ms. Chaplin, a flight attendant for British Airways, wore necklaces with hanging crosses to work, were told to take them off, and refused. Ms. Eweida was suspended; Ms. Chaplin was forced into early retirement.

Ms. Ladele and Mr. McFarlane both had government jobs. Ms. Ladele was a registrar who was disciplined for refusing to process civil unions involving same-sex couples. Mr. McFarlane, who has been spearheading the legal process for all four of these cases with the support of the Christian Legal Centre, was a couples counselor paid by the National Health Service. He was fired after telling his superior that because of his Christian faith he was not willing to work with same-sex couples on sex related issues.

How would their cases fare in the U.S.? How will their cases actually fare in Europe? LASIS investigates.

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