has long been the American habit to be more suspicious of
— and more repressive toward — religions that stand outside
of the mainline Protestant-Roman Catholic-Jewish troika that
dominates America's spiritual life. . . .
Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize
us not be blind to our differences
but let us also direct attention to our common interests and
to the means by which those differences can be resolved. If
we cannot end our differences, at least we can help make the
world safe for diversity.
in the United States (known worldwide for its religious freedom,
pluralism, and tolerance), there is still sometimes a vast difference
between religious freedom, pluralism, and tolerance on paper
and in practice. And those differences can be amplified in
times of national crisis (like post-9/11 in the United States).
of us tend to believe that, in this 21st century, particularly in
places such as the United States and Europe, prejudice has been
largely eliminated, educated out of our western culture, and socially
kept that way through "political correctness". Here in
the United States, we look back with pride at the women's suffragette
movement, the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, and
the gay rights movement. These days, a "Caucasian white"
person would not dare use "nigger" as a derogatory term
toward a person of color; and no man would dare pat a woman's rear
end in the workplace.
all is not quiet on the Western front. Things are not as rosy as
we would like to believe, even in the areas where we think we've
made the most progress. Consider the following:
1998. In a racially motivated hate crime, three white
men chained James Byrd Jr. to the back of a pickup truck in Jaspar,
Texas, and dragged him to his death.
A movement led by President Bush and others to eliminate affirmative
action (in the belief that is no longer necessary these days,
and that merit alone should suffice) in the University of Michigan's
admissions program was struck down by the Supreme Court.
2003. Similarly, in California,
voters rejected a proposition that would have prohibited law enforcement
and other agencies from collecting any data that might demonstrate
that discrimination was occurring. The proposition's proponents
argued that they were trying to assist the creation of a "color-blind"
society. But both the voters' decision here and the Supreme Court's
decision (see the last item) are suggestive of the following point:
until the society actually is
color blind, affirmative action laws, etc. are still needed.
The argument that eliminating affirmative action laws causes
people to not be color blind is simply fallacious.
A Supreme Court decision resulted in the repeal of the remaining
anti-sodomy laws (in 13 states). Same sex marriage, however, is
still only legal in Vermont.
the general elections, thirteen states passed constitutional amendments
banning same-sex marriage.
2006. The "Jena 6" incident: a group of six black teenagers were charged with the beating of Justin Barker, a white teenager at Jena High School in Jena, Louisiana. The beating followed a number of incidents in the town, of which the earliest that has been reported was when three white students hung nooses from a tree at Jena High School, after a black student asked permission from a school administrator to sit under the tree.
Discrimination against religious minorities
therefore should not be all that surprising to discover other "backwater"
areas, in which prejudice and discrimination are as blatant as if
the various civil and social rights movements had never occurred.
And discrimation against religious minorities
particularly as perpetrated through the "cult" myth
is one of the most notorious and enduring "backwaters".