Religious Discrimination in the United States

Religious+Discrimination+in+the+United+States

Kian Pfannenstiel, Editor

It’s a sad fact that though it is easily overlooked the United States has a bit of a problem with religious tolerance. From the unbased Islamophobia to the long-standing anti semitism to the and from there to the more modern backlash against parody religions, religious discrimination runs deep in the veins of the United States.

Before you get preconceived notions about what is to come, don’t go thinking I’m about to recount every instance of religious discrimination in the United States, don’t go thinking that I’m about to even mention every religion’s struggles within the nation. I’ll be describing for you a brief overview of various injustices that I have found, primarily for major religions and religions I am particularly aware of and I’ll describe a little about laws pertaining to religious freedom in the United States. I will do neither more nor less, so get neither your hopes too high nor your expectations too excessive.

To begin one must understand exactly what US law says regarding religion. The first thing one must look at is the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which states that Congress shall make no regulations to one’s religious practices (among other things). There isn’t a whole lot to dig into here, just keep it in mind for later. There are also regulations for workplace harassment and provisions pertaining to one’s religion, which can be found in detail at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website at https://www.eeoc.gov/religious-discrimination. What the regulations boil down to is that everyone is to be protected from harassment of all varieties, including religious harassment, and that the workplace must provide accommodation for religious practices where it isn’t excessive. To clarify that point, workplaces must allow adjustments to the dress code, for example, where it doesn’t increase workplace hazard and they must not assign people to certain positions on account of religion, like preventing a Muslim from working in a position with high customer interactions simply because it may benefit business. However, religious prejudice and acting on it such that it doesn’t do any physical damage is perfectly legal due to the protection of speech by that same first amendment that protects one’s right to practice a religion of their choice. This will come into play later, so remember that.

For many centuries now there have been tensions at the best of times between the different Abrahamic religions, with Christianity’s aggression directed dominantly at each of the other two at varying points in history. During the crusades, for instance, there was a much stronger anti-Islam sentiment, and during the bubonic plague many blamed the Jews. But the United States didn’t exist as a nation until long after each of those events. In the US, the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) was founded by Jews to keep track of and combat antisemitism, eventually spreading to combat all forms of prejudice and combating it around the globe. The ADL has an Audit of Antisemitic Incidents. The 2019 Audit recorded the highest count of violent antisemitic incidents since the Audit’s inception in ’79, with 12% more incidents happening than the year before. There had been two shootings at synagogues, one in Pittsburgh and one in Poway, and even a gathering in 2017 of five to six hundred people who were wearing waving Swastika’s, performing the Nazi salute, and shouting “Sieg Heil!” and “The Jews will not replace us!” Though most would admonish this kind of thing, it is perfectly protected by the first amendment (this is what you remembered it for) because it was a peaceful assembly at which people did little but speak, both protected under said amendment.

Predictably, the Muslims haven’t got it very easy either. An NPR article has reported on increasing discrimination at airports towards Muslims. O’Hare reported an increase by 25%, and Chicago has one of the biggest Muslim communities in the nation. Dallas, Texas dwarfed O’Hare with an increase by 50% and Atlanta puts both to shame (actually, it shames itself) by increasing a whopping 70%, and a church in Richardson, Texas, not far from Dallas,  released pamphlets that outlined dangerous “isms,” including Islamism, Judaism, and Atheism. Ironically, it is more dangerous to label any belief set, such as a religion, as dangerous than it is to hold those belief sets. Calling them dangerous is where discrimination comes from.

Abrahamic Religions aren’t the only ones suffering, either, though it is better documented towards them than most others. Atheists, as an example, are excluded from Scouts BSA and all of their programs. What’s more, all members must sign agreement to a Declaration of Religious Principle, which is a crude statement that boils down to “Atheists and agnostics are inherently less moral than theists, and Abrahamic monotheism is low-key better than other religions.” Due to their being a private organization, this is allowed and protected. Furthermore, modern parody-religions are faced with frequent adversity by longer standing, more traditionally religious people. On the website for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster are documented many of the hate-letters received by the church’s founder, several of which were overt threats to the safety of his self, his family, and his friends.

As it is clear that the United States has a long way to go before it is discrimination-free, and many believe that is a long way off, please bear in mind that improvement at the very least can be had, and the first step to improvement is by education. for more details on all that was here described, please see https://quipf.weebly.com. From there, it should be easy to conduct further research.