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MilkyWay's avatar

What are your legal rights concerning religion? (Details inside).

Asked by MilkyWay (13723points) November 13th, 2011

I’m talking about the UK and the USA. What are your rights concerning religion? What would happen if you are being forced into a religion? What would happen if you practised something in your religion that is seen wrong by society?

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15 Answers

marinelife's avatar

In the U.S.:

Whoever was forcing you into a religion could be violating other laws (for example if you were kidnapped or held against your will).

The only thing you can’t practice are thins that are against the law. For example, you could not set up a church and practice pedophilia.

Here is how the Supreme Court has decided it:

“While the ceremonial use of peyote is largely allowed since the Freedom of Religion restoration act (see below), its psychotropic ingredient mescaline is still a controlled substance, and in Employment Division v. Smith the Supreme court decided that employees (in this case from a drug rehabilitation clinic) may be fired for its use.”


zenvelo's avatar

Church “sanctioned” or encouraged behavior that is otherwise illegal is generally illegal unless approved in narrow circumstances by the courts. A good example is the Warren Jeffs’ offshoot of Mormonism, which focuses on polygamy, child brides, and sexual submission to the elders.

Freedom of religion in the UK is set by law, not as a constitutional right.

CWOTUS's avatar

I was forced into a religion, and I can tell you that it’s much more common than anyone will admit.

Don’t most parents do this with their kids?

I quit after I left home and moved out on my own.

JLeslie's avatar

I’m in the US. The laws of the land trump religion. Even though it is a basic right to have religious freedom, one cannot practice parts of a religion that go against our laws. People cannot endanger others, hold them against their will, physically harm people or animals, etc. In America even if most of society does not agree with a religion, or say cult, the religion can exist and people can belong, as long as they are not breaking any laws. I heard that Germany does not acknowledge Scientology as a religion (not sure if that is accurate) here in America we acknowledge religions with a wide umbrella, but many may make fun of, or dispute whether they are legitimate or not.

Children kind of fall under the power of their parents. Children can be basically forced to attend church with their parents, and perform religious ceremonies and no one will say anything, even if the child protests. The only exception again would be if it is deemed to cause the child harm, but harm would have a high bar. It would probably have to be criminally harmful.

MilkyWay's avatar

Thank you to everyone who’s replied so far :)

perspicacious's avatar

You can’t break the law because of your religion. There are a few exceptions.

You cannot be forced into a religion either. This is the USA.

gr8teful's avatar

I think it is wrong when people use religion as a Law; if someone needs a kidney but a person says they cannot be an organ donor because their religion forbids it.I think if there is a God he would want people to be organ donors.Also when people say religion forbids assisted suicide or even suicide. I think God would be merciful and humanitarian and certainly Jesus Christ was and if a person was suffering greatly with a terminal or even mental illness such as schizophrenia or bi-polar Jesus would be merciful and not judge them for choosing an assisted suicide or choosing to end their own lives. I know Jesus suffered terrible pain and did not take his own life but I don’t think he would judge someone who chose to do so. He might think they were not as strong as him but I think he would have compassion and forgive them.Jesus showed great mercy I think if someone went to Jesus and begged him to help them end their life no matter how lowly a person they were he might think they had not followed his teachings but I think out of compassion he would forgive them and help them.When I think of Jesus I think of someone so compassionate and forgiving that no matter if the lowliest person on earth crawled to him and begged him for help he would help them.Jesus would be an organ donor I am sure he would not say religion forbids me giving my kidney to help someone who needs one.

Nullo's avatar

@JLeslie It is worth noting that a religious person likely holds his faith in higher regard than the law. I, for one, would have no moral issues with breaking a law that hampers me in practicing my faith.
@gr8teful I think you’re projecting a bit. Jesus’ MO was to heal the sick, not kill them. Biblically, suicide is frowned upon. It’s completely silent on the matter of organ donation, though it is tempting to file it under loving one’s neighbor.

JLeslie's avatar

@Nullo I think it can be a very difficult topic. For me what I hope is that the law only tries to control religion when it comes to harming others. I don’t think you would be ok with an American man stoning his wife to death under some sort of Muslim law, and it would be the same with a Christian belief in America. I knew a man who said his Pastor advised the men to hit their wives. Are we supposed to accept that behavior because they ground it in religion somehow? What about medical care for a child? Very grey area in my opinion. Should we stand by and watch a child suffer dire consequences because a religion doesn’t believe in medical interference?

Nullo's avatar

@JLeslie A good hope. Sadly, there are those who would try to include any kind of religious observance under “harming others.”
No, I would not be okay with a husband stoning or beating his wife. That’s not because of any law, mind, but because of my faith and the culture that it molded. As you have probably guessed, I am less than universally tolerant of other religions. After all, when other roads lead to Hell, why would I want anybody to take them?
My worry is that we’d grant the authority to ban or limit evil religious practices, and that the aforementioned parties would use that to circumscribe our religious freedom. I understand that Stateside laws must apply to all relevant parties, but I don’t like it.

JLeslie's avatar

@Nullo The only part of this argument that I really observe in a large way in America is Christians feel they religious freedom is infringed upon if they can’t put crosses and bible passages up on public property, and also in the classroom. It isn’t enough to be free to practice the religion in churches, at home, and of course anyone can always pray as an individual, they need to be screaming their religion from the roof top on the “people’s” property. But, a lot of Christians would not be ok if it were a Muslim prayer in schools, or a Muslim symbol in a public place, so it doesn’t work, you have to allow all or none. Many Christians in the bible belt seem unaware at how diverse, and how big the numbers of other religions can be in a single community. We have to make the laws protect the Christians as if they are the minority. Do you think about it that way? As if you are the minority and want to make sure the law protects you if you lived in a 75% Muslim country?

Nullo's avatar

@JLeslie Sometimes, yes. I find turnabout to be a useful – if not always accurate – way to see things from another’s perspective. I wish that more people, especially here, would do the same.

I would like to see 100% protection of Christianity, even at the expense of other religions (as I said, I don’t want people wandering off into Hell) which I necessarily see as being invalid. I understand that they very probably feel the same way about Christianity. Nevertheless, this is a very important issue. But I realize that empowering a political entity to do that would, with the shuffling of persons that happens over time, likewise empower it to favor another religion at the expense of my own.
This suggests that a complete non-interference is best, but even that is not feasible because then the political entity is even now favoring the atheist/agnostic bunch. Their creed is being taught in schools – I was made to study evolution in high school, for instance, and was made to suffer some derision for my staunch Creationism. True neutrality would mean leaving the Big Bang theory on up through the goo-to-you evolution, and even the politically-charged elements of things like Health class (sex ed, for instance), for alternate or independent study. In short, there should be an Evolution class like there are already Religion classes. Or they could even lump evolution in with the religions.

JLeslie's avatar

@Nullo How about if evolution isn’t taught except in elective lasses? Then are you ok with no religion being taught in the schools?

I can’t think of one time a teacher in K-12 said or did anything against anyone’s religion in my upbringing. Religion pretty much never came up at all actually in school. Sex ed, I think learning about ones sexual organs is not different than learning about our digestive system, and brain, and so on. Understanding our bodies is important. The emotional aspect and decisions of when to have sex is a totally separate topic from what was taught to me in school.

Parents need to sign for sex ed classes as far as I know. So parents can opt out of them for their kids.

And, plenty of religious people believe in evolution. The Catholics have accepted it, some Mormons too I think? As far as I know Jews do, well I know Jewish people as a whole accept evolution, I just don’t know what the strictly religious and observant rabbis believe on the topic. I think the eastern religions are fine with incorporating it into their belief system.

I can tell you as an atheist, I certainly don’t want to push an atheist agenda, I would want to protect an individual’s right to practice their religion. I don’t care either way if a person believes in God or not, my husband believes in God, it is a total nonissue.

Evolution is not an atheist agenda from where I sit, it is a scientific theory. An atheist agenda would be wanting to convince people there is no God, who is sayingthat in public school?

Nullo's avatar

@JLeslie Sorry, “elective classes” was the term that I was swinging at, but not hitting. XD
If we could completely remove public education from the theism vs. atheism fight, we could pick up the slack elsewhere.

Were life a slice of toast, atheism would be the butter to theism’s assortment of jams and marmalades. Evolution is the atheist’s creation story, a gap-filler invented by people who don’t want God in their universe but have to answer the question of how we got here. They – you – accept it as truth, but I and mine do not. I don’t see why it should get preferential treatment. It has no room in the established religions save what people are pressured to allow for it.
Teaching an atheistic origin to kids in school, and by recognized authority figures, is laying the groundwork for an atheist life.

Those people, those groups, have accepted evolution for largely political reasons. The UCC champions gay marriage and pastorhood, even though those things are explicitly forbidden in the Bible. They’ve caved to the pressures of the world to conform.

JLeslie's avatar

@Nullo Because accepting evolution as truth or big bang as the most plausible beginning is like accepting antibiotics kill bacteria, scientific evidence supports it. Well, science is still trying to prove big bang from what I remember, it is the best working hypothesis right now. Back in the dark ages the religious believed the devil made people sick. Doctors also were misguided in some of their ideas on medical science, that is a work in progress. I really never understand the conflict between science and religion. If God created the universe, He laid the foundation for what happens in the universe and on earth. Science and religion are separate topics to me. It’s like saying learning math will destroy your learning of history. I don’t get it. I see that if you believe evolution is false, you would not want it taught to your children, but I don’t see how teaching it would destroy anyone’s belief in God. God is not mentioned in school.

I actually am fine making evolution an elective to try to shut down the ridiculousness of the fight. Have it offered as an elective in science class. There are plenty adults walking around not good at math or not good at history, and not knowing evolution is no great loss if they aren’t working in the science field anyway. IMO.

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