The Problem With Excessive Religious Freedom

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A little boy lies on his deathbed because his parents refuse to take him to a medical doctor. Two men were fired and were refused unemployment benefits for smoking peyote, an illegal narcotic. One man looks to change part of a national recitation because two words of it offend him. A woman and her husband are trying to prosecute a man for a letter he sent to members of their church. These four situations may sound strange and unrelated, but all of them fall under the issue of religious freedom and the separation of church and state.

Everyone has heard about various religious issues in the news at one point or another. With all the controversy surrounding these issues, and whether or not they are constitutional, it seems that people are no longer able to settle things without the help of court systems. Whether it is a matter of parents' actions toward their children or a matter of people claiming that certain rights have been violated, it appears that people are almost using religion as a shield to hide their wrongdoing behind. "Pasting the name 'religion' on harmful behavior does not make it religious exercise protected by our First Amendment," (Thollander). Therefore, the legal system should be allowed to interfere with religious issues only if they infringe upon a state or federal law, or if they violate the rights of another person.

First is the case of the two peyote-smokers. The two men were Alfred Smith and Galen Black, who worked as drug counselors for a private drug rehab organization in Oregon. The organization fired Smith and Black when they discovered the two men's use of the hallucinogen peyote, which is outlawed in Oregon. The two sought unemployment benefits, but the state denied their request. Smith and Black...

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Caplan, Arthur. "Government Should Override Personal Belief." Bach, Julie S., ed. Religion in America: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc. 1989.

CNN. "Lawmakers Blast Pledge Ruling." CNN.com 27 June 2002. 30 Oct. 2003

Falkenberg, Steve. "Religious Freedom in America." New Reformation. 23 Oct. 2003

Talbot, Nathan. "Government Should Not Interfere with Personal Belief." Bach, Julie S., ed. Religion in America: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc. 1989.

Thollander, Joel. "Under Color of Religion: Smith, RFRA, Boerne, and the Decline of Religious Freedom in America." NeoPolitique--The Decline of Religious Freedom. Regent University. 22 Oct. 2003

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