“Gender-Identity” Policies and Religious Freedom

Feb. 17 2017

Utah recently passed anti-discrimination legislation to protect the claimed rights of homosexuals and transsexuals while including certain exceptions meant to guarantee religious freedom. Now activists are pushing for similar proposals, known as “Fairness for All,” in other states and on the federal level. Examining proposals for such legislation, Ryan Anderson argues against the claims made in their favor:

The approach [taken by the Utah law and similar legislative proposals] creates new protected classes in anti-discrimination law based on sexual orientation and gender identity and then grants limited exemptions and protections, mainly to religious organizations. . . . Because the new laws . . . impose new penalties on people (in some cases, jail time), the burden is on their proponents to prove the need for such laws, the “fit” between the law and the harms to be addressed, and either the lack of infringement of a preexisting right or the sufficient justification for its infringement. The record indicates clearly that proponents have failed to carry their burden on all counts. . . .

These laws are not about the freedom of LGBT people to engage in certain actions, but about coercing and penalizing people who in good conscience cannot endorse those actions. . . . It is one thing for the government to allow or even to endorse conduct that is considered immoral by many religious faiths, but it is quite another thing for government to force others to condone and facilitate it in violation of their beliefs.

There is also a practical difference between proposals for new anti-discrimination policies and policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race or sex. . . . When the Civil Rights Act of 1964, [which proponents of “Fairness for All” laws often cite as precedent,] was enacted, blacks were treated as second-class citizens. Individuals, businesses, and associations across the country excluded blacks in ways that caused grave material and social harms without justification, without market forces acting as a corrective, and with the tacit and often explicit backing of government. . . . Resort to the law was therefore necessary.

But no such legal push is necessary today. . . . [Therefore], the legal response that was appropriate to remedy the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow is not appropriate for today’s challenges. Simply adding sexuality and gender identity to far-reaching anti-discrimination laws and then tacking on some exemptions is not a prudent strategy. The policy response to the legitimate concerns of people who identify as LGBT must be nuanced and appropriately tailored. Anti-discrimination laws, however, are blunt instruments by design, and many go beyond intentional discrimination and ban actions that have “disparate impacts” on protected classes. Policymakers therefore need to rethink how to formulate and implement policy in this area.

Read more at Heritage

More about: American law, Civil rights movement, Freedom of Religion, Homosexuality, Politics & Current Affairs, Transsexuals

Winning Islam’s War of Ideas, Saudi-Style

March 19 2018

Since September 11, 2001, U.S. policymakers have understood the need to confront jihadism not only militarily but also ideologically; yet, writes John Hannah, they have had little success. Now Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’ reformist crown prince, appears willing and able to take up the fight, and Hannah urges Washington to support his efforts:

By an order of magnitude, al-Qaeda in 2018 enjoys a larger presence in more countries across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia than it did the day the Twin Towers were felled. . . . What’s consistently been missing from America’s strategy have been powerful partners in the Muslim world who can reliably be counted on to speak out authoritatively on matters of Islamic theology in ways that the United States simply cannot. That’s where Saudi Arabia comes in. It’s the birthplace of Islam and host to the faith’s two holiest mosques. Combined with abundant oil wealth, these assets bestow on the Saudis a measure of soft-power influence unrivaled in the Muslim world. . . .

For months, the crown prince and his closest advisers have relentlessly hammered the theme that Saudi Arabia’s modernization requires an embrace of “moderate Islam.” He’s slammed the extremist ideology that the kingdom did so much to empower after the Iranian revolution and acknowledges that “the problem spread all over the world.” . . . At home, the powers of the kingdom’s notorious religious police have been scaled back. Prominent hardline clerics have been jailed. On the all-important issue of female empowerment, the pace of change has been breathtaking. . . .

Now the U.S. imperative should be pressing Mohammed bin Salman to take his campaign for moderate Islam on the road. . . . There should be multiple elements to such an effort, but some immediate tasks come to mind. First, school textbooks. The Saudis promised to eliminate the hate-filled passages a decade ago. Progress has slowly been made, but the job’s still not done. Mohammed bin Salman should order it finished—this year. Behind the scenes, U.S. experts should provide verification.

Second, working with trusted partners in indigenous communities known for their religious moderation, the Saudis should conduct a thorough audit of the global network of mosques, schools, and charitable organizations that they’ve backed with an eye toward weeding out radical staff and content. Third, [they should] initiate a worldwide buyback of Saudi-distributed mistranslations of the Quran and other religious materials notorious for propagating extremist narratives.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Moderate Islam, Politics & Current Affairs, Radical Islam, Saudi Arabia, War on Terror