October 10, 2022

Where do religious rights end and individual rights begin?

“CNN’s Christiane Amanpour Says Iran President Cancelled an Interview After She Declined to Wear a Hijab

“After weeks of planning and eight hours of setting up translation equipment, lights, and cameras, we were ready,” she explained. “But no sign of President Raisi. Forty minutes after the interview had been due to start, an aide came over. The president, he said, was suggesting I wear a headscarf because it’s the holy months of Muharram and Safar.

“Amanpour said that she politely declined. Raisi was in America now, where the laws about clothing give women the freedom to show things like their ankles, their arms, legs, and heads, which is illegal in Iran.”

So, here’s my question, when do someone’s religious beliefs dictate behavior to another person, not of that religion? I think I can guess how most Americans would answer in this specific situation. “Ms. Amanpour was right. He was on American soil, and she is not required to adhere to his religious beliefs here.”

Let’s make the question a bit more complex. I went to a Kroger store several years ago to shop. I had just returned to southern Illinois. Among my groceries was a bottle of red wine. It was Sunday morning, and the clerk refused to sell the wine to me. I asked her to call the store manager, and he explained it was illegal in Herrin to sell alcoholic beverages on Sunday mornings. I argued that church and state are separate in this country and how can this law be constitutional. My argument fell on deaf ears.

I was and am now an American on American soil, which claims to be a land of laws, the origins of which are the Constitution. The first Amendment of that constitution states, and I quote, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

I didn’t get my wine. My rights were infringed by an unconstitutional law written to conform to a particular, and I think peculiar, Christian belief that shouldn’t have been passed or enforced. Yet it governed how two other people and I behaved that day.

Was this event as serious as an Iranian president coming to America and insisting that an American respect his religious beliefs? Of course not. No major news outlet carried my story. But the conflict is the same. We have Christian Evangelical Extremists attempting to infuse their beliefs into our laws. I just recently watched an event that went viral of a Colorado Congresswoman asserting the government is subservient to the Church. (The church in her mind, meaning this peculiar form of White Christian Nationalism.)

I could point out the contradiction in our responses when we hear of a theocratic Iranian telling an American what to do and a theocratic American doing the same. Or when a baker decides he can’t bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. Or when parents raid a school board meeting and insist on censoring materials that don’t fit their religious convictions. Or when children can legally forgo a lesson in school that might contradict their faith traditions.

I’ve been saying and writing for a long time that the growing conflicts and polarization in our society have their origins in our confusion about our core moral values. Not only can we not reach an agreement on the facts, but we’ve gone off the rails when it comes to agreement on what’s right and wrong.

All one needs to do is examine the differing opinions on the January 6th Insurrection to see our problem. “It was an attempt to overthrow the results of an election. No, it was a group of tourists visiting the Capitol engaging in legitimate political discourse.”

Sometimes we need to examine a problem caused by an outsider to understand ourselves better.




  1. Blue Laws! When I was about Jr High age, the A&P grocery store in Carbondale announced it would be open for two hours on Sunday afternoon. I specifically remember listening to the Methodist minister excoriate the chain, the store, the management, and especially – ESPECIALLY anyone who would shop at a grocery store “on the sabbath”.
    Even as a young child I understood the hypocrisy (although I didn’t know what hypocrisy was at that time) of being in a church building with the electricity on, and a sermon that was being broadcast on the radio using electricity that required employees to be working to make electricity, and to operate the radio station. The previous week my family, and traveled to my grandmothers and head return on Sunday, a trip that would not be possible without purchasing gasoline from someone who was working on the sabbath.
    This is most likely the mildest, nicest thing I can say about religionists and their holy desires to impose their unsupportable untrue (silly) beliefs on others.

  2. Sorry about your wine. And you are so right about these nuts who think Jan..6th was just tourist upset. What has happened to the AMERICA we grew up in. Love your article

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