Where does freedom of religion end?

Is freedom of religion so prevailing that we can tell all women that just because they were born female, they must adhere to certain roles even in society? 

She was sitting on a row by herself reading when I saw her.  Actually she was hard to miss.  She had on her nun’s robe and wimple.  I had the strangest urge to go and strike up a conversation with her.  But I couldn’t do it.  It was a public place and we all have freedom from religion, as well as freedom of religion.

We give big variances for freedom of people’s religions.  But there are certain lines that we draw in the sand and say that even your religion cannot be extended to allow certain things.

  • You cannot withhold medicine and care from an ill child, no matter how hard you are praying for the health of the child.
  • You cannot take a young girl into your bed for sex even if your religion allows you to have multiple wives.

Today’s society has said that for the most part, your freedom of religion stops when it threatens the life and morals of children. 

Is that far enough? 

The nun mentioned above has freedom of religion, just as I do.  But certain religions seek to make women inferior to males.  Of course they wouldn’t agree with that statement and would use the Bible or Quran to back up their beliefs.  The family that withholds medicine from children and relies upon on prayer alone to heal the child, can find scriptures in the Bible to justify their belief.  Those groups that choose to marry multiple girls and women, can certainly find justification in the Old Testament for such behavior. Denominations of religions that deny women service as pastors, priests, and deacons can find scriptures to justify their behavior toward women.

France’s Sarkozy addressed the problem of freedom of religion. He issued a bill against Muslim women wearing veils in public.  Of course Muslims decried it as being their personal freedom and rights that their women wear veils. But Sarkozy said “it threatens the dignity of women.”

Another case of religion binding women to standards that have nothing to do with spiritual matters is in Saudi Arabia where they won’t allow women to drive.  They recently issued a new study that says that women who drive are likely to be sexually active and lose their virginity.  I have news for them.  It is not the steering wheel that causes a woman to lose her virginity.

Is freedom of religion so prevailing that we can tell all women that just because they were born female, they must adhere to certain roles even in society?  Every time we step into our church and are not allowed the full measure of service on the basis that we were born a woman, we lose our dignity.  We lose the relationship that Jesus intended for women to have with him because our church denies us that level of service.

Subjection of women is borne in the church and is nurtured among the religious, and bleeds out into society.  

What would happen if we told women that freedom of religion does not allow their church to make them second-class spiritual citizens? 

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About bwebaptistwomenforequality

Shirley Taylor writes with humor and common sense, challenging the church body to reclaim equality for Christian women.
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7 Responses to Where does freedom of religion end?

  1. Mabel says:

    Such a coincidence: last night (before I read this post this morning), my brother sent me a link to Economist’s special edition on Women and Work in america, and this is my reply to him:

    We have law of the land that says we cannot discriminate on race or gender. But that law stops dead in its track at the door of the “Church”. Whenever freedom of religion is mentioned, people do not realize that it also carries with it a right by that religion to discriminate based on their “religious beliefs”. Racism is denounced by the church, but not sexism. The 2 are one and the same, but people have a blind spot on sexism, hiding behind “equal but different” , “women were created as helpers” and Jesus chose 12 disciples, etc. I love to tell them Jesus chose 12 Jews.

    The Pharisees rejected Jesus mainly because (my opinion) Jesus threatened their power, position, and authority. Today, men see women in ministry as diluting their power, position and authority. Somehow, it is as if authority and power is a fixed sum and one must limit access to it, or it will be diluted.

    May God have mercy on us.

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  2. Retha says:

    I want to think about how this plays out in society, and where the line is drawn:

    1) Goverments say we should not discriminate on the basis of gender or religion. Would that mean that, say, Catholics should not be allowed by goverment to only hire male priests? But then, won’t that also mean goverment could interfere with a church that don’t want to hire an atheist or Hinduist as pastor/ priest?

    2) Sarkozy’s bill – would it have the effect of Muslim women gaining freedom for how they look in public, or to women who could previously appear in public having to stay home?

    Just thinking out loud. Ignore it if not meaningful.

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    • Actually, it is very meaningful. You ask some good questions. Gender is not the same as being an atheist or Hinduist. People are born either male or female, not atheist or Christian, or Hindu, so I don’t see the implication of Catholics hiring non-Catholics. I do not want government stepping in and telling churches who to hire, either. But I do think that the churches ought to speak out against gender restrictions. Instead, churches remain silent on other churches beliefs and restrictions. Mabel said in her comment: We have law of the land that says we cannot discriminate on race or gender. But that law stops dead in its track at the door of the Church. Whenever freedom of religion is mentioned, people do not realize that it also carries with it a right by that religion to discriminate based on their religious beliefs. Racism is denounced by the church, but not sexism. The 2 are one and the same, but people have a blind spot on sexism, hiding behind equal but different , women were created as helpers and Jesus chose 12 disciples, etc. I love to tell them Jesus chose 12 Jews. Very thoughtful comments. I would love to see more comments on this subject.

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      • Kristen says:

        I don’t think the government should interfere with church discrimination because, unlike in child medication issues, there are no lives at stake; and unlike the statutory rape situation, these are adults and there is (theoretically, anyway) no coercion. Women are free to choose a different church. That’s why we try to convince adult women of the truth of equality in Christ– because if they start “voting with their feet,” church leaders may finally start listening.

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      • Very good point. I, too, don’t want government involved in churches. Retha made some very good points. I would like to see churches stand up and speak up about this. The same way they should have spoken up about slavery, but didn’t. After all, we may be different denominations, but we serve the same Lord.

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      • Anne says:

        At the end of the day everyone is accountable before God, including Christians. If the big name patriarchal pastors don’t change their ways, our Lord will simply say to them: “Why did you my treat my daughters the way you did? MY very own children? Corrupting my Word and misleading my flock? False teachers, all of you!”

        Yes, it’s best for churches to point out the problems in other churches. Though the problem, as we’ve seen, is that both parties will use Scripture to insist that they’re right.

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