09 February 2012

"Special Rights" for Religions When They Operate Secular Businesses? No!!

First, I will say that religious institutions (e.g. churches, mosques, synagogues, other places of worship, seminaries, etc) do have exemptions from the laws that secular non-profits don't have.

Religious organizations can discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring and firing. In areas where sexual orientation non-discrimination laws are present, religious organizations are exempt from following these laws as well. They can discriminate on the basis of gender in their hiring. In other words, they get to do a lot of things that would be illegal and wrong if a secular business were to do them.

But this exemption from secular law should not apply when a religious body operates a secular business like a hospital or a school.

These secular businesses employ members of all faith traditions and even those who are non-believers. The same is true for their clientele - they may belong to other faiths or have no faith at all.

Basically, we're talking about hospitals and colleges that have religious decorations on the walls and statues in the lobby. These trappings should not give a hospital or school "special rights" to ignore laws that secular non-profit and secular for-profit corporations must follow.

9 comments:

Tom said...

Steve,

Religious organizations can discriminate on any basis they want when they hire ministers. When they hire non-ministers they have to abide by regular non-discrimination laws, except that they are allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion. Of course most anti-discrimination laws exempt very small organizations, but I think it makes sense to be principled anyway.

The more interesting question is whether non-religious organizations can discriminate on religion. For example, can the US government require that people employed as Muslim chaplains at Guantanamo be actual Muslims? I am pretty sure the answer is yes, although chaplain hires are often referenced to the approval of some religious organization, which is in turn free to discriminate.

Steve Caldwell said...

Tom - I think this side-steps the question about religions that operate secular businesses like hospitals and universities.

Can the religious leadership of a non-religious business legally engage in discrimination?

For example, could a Catholic-affiliated community hospital refuse to hire female doctors or Jewish doctors under the guise of "religious freedom"?

Why is "religious freedom" a "get out of jail free" card when it comes to obeying secular laws? We wouldn't accept secular philosophies as justification to ignore laws one disagrees with. After all, we wouldn't allow a Ayn Rand disciple to avoid paying his workers a minimum wage.

Personal philosophy isn't a "get out of jail free card" unless it's a religious philosophy.

Robin Edgar said...

This seems to be as good a place as any to ask you what you think of the Unitarian Universalist Association accusing me of the archaic crime of blasphemous libel for allegedly making "unfounded and vicious allegations to the effect that ministers of the Association engage in such despicable crimes as pedophilia and rape. . ."

Steve Caldwell said...

Robin - I'm not a lawyer and certainly not a Canadian lawyer.

However, from what I've learned from a brief Google search of the term "blasphemous libel" as it's used in Canadian law, the term isn't used to describe "blasphemy" as the layperson would understand it.

Rather, it's used to describe hate speech that is criminal under Canadian law. So it sounds like you're not being charged with a theological crime but rather a secular offense.

Here is what I have found on Wikipedia on blasphemous libel:

Because blasphemy appears to be an obsolete crime in Canada, Canadians complain instead of hate speech. The Criminal Code of Canada prohibits hate speech that targets an "identifiable group", which includes a religious group. Canada's provinces and territories have human rights commissions or tribunals which can award compensation in matters of hate speech.

Free speech law may be different in the US than it is in Canada.

If the letter from the Canadian law firm that you posted on your blog is factually accurate, then you may have committed "libel" (using the US legal term) or "blasphemous libel" (using the Canadian legal term).

And whatever hurt feelings you have don't give the right to libel others.

Robin Edgar said...

Steve,

A free and genuinely *responsible* search for the Truth and meaning of Canada's blasphemous libel law will show that it is in fact a law that prohibits insulting a religious group. Blasphemous libel is a criminal act, not a civil tort like ordinary libel, as you are trying to suggest here.

Here is a recent Ottawa Sun article about it -

http://www.ottawasun.com/2012/09/14/why-does-canada-still-have-a-law-against-blasphemy

Here is an academic paper on it -

http://digitalcommons.law.ggu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1141&context=annlsurvey

And there is more where that came from for anyone who bothers to run a free and *responsible* Google search for -

Blasphemous Libel Canada

So yes Steve, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations is in fact accusing me of committing criminal blasphemy against Unitarian Universalism by allegedly making "unfounded and vicious allegations to the effect that ministers of the Association engage in such despicable crimes as pedophilia and rape. . ."

As far as the above legalistic BS being "factually accurate" goes, I have repeatedly challenged the UUA's Canadian attorney Stikeman Elliott litigation lawyer Maitre Marc-André Coulombe to clearly identify those The Emerson Avenger blog posts that he and his "less than honest" client the UUA are pretending to contain "unfounded and vicious" allegations about U*U rapists and-or pedophiles. To date neither Maitre Coulombe, nor ANY UUA administrator, has identified one single TEA blog post that they ostensibly believe to contain "unfounded and vicious" allegations about U*U pedophiles and-or rapists. The comparatively few allegations that I have made about U*U rapists, including one who I described as a "pedophile rapist" because he was convicted of raping preteen girls as young as 9 or 10 years old at the time of the rapes, are by no means "unfounded" nor are they particularly "vicious".

Most ironically, even if it was "factually accurate" that I made made "unfounded and vicious allegations to the effect that ministers of the Association engage in such despicable crimes as pedophilia and rape" (which I deny), such ordinary libel would not necessarily amount to the criminal act of blasphemous libel as the UUA brazenly alleges via its Stikeman Elliott attorney. Doh!

Sorry Steve, but that cease and desist demand letter that I posted to the web is proof positive that *your* outrageously hypocritical religious community is engaging in cynical, and indeed shameful, legal intimidation and bullying in a deeply misguided effort to have evidence of the "less than excellent" behavior of "less than perfect" U*U clergy "memory holed".

Steve Caldwell said...

Robin wrote:
-snip-
A free and genuinely *responsible* search for the Truth and meaning of Canada's blasphemous libel law will show that it is in fact a law that prohibits insulting a religious group. Blasphemous libel is a criminal act, not a civil tort like ordinary libel, as you are trying to suggest here.


Robin - I never suggested that the "blasphemous libel" charges against you were civil tort. I simply said the charges against you were secular and not religious.

As I understand the Canadian blasphemous libel law, it is in effect a hate speech law that protects identifiable religious groups from hate speech.

Have you talked with a Canadian attorney to see if you are at any legal risk here? Remember you don't have the First Amendment free speech protections that US residents have in Canada.

Finally, your comments are not relevant to the original post. If you wish to write further on your blasphemous libel legal situation, I will suggest that you do so on your own blog sites and not here.

Robin Edgar said...

Knowing that you were once a member of a UU Free Speech group, I thought you might want to know about the UUA attempting to misuse and abuse the Canadian Criminal Code in yet another deeply misguided effort to censor and suppress a critic. This post was the most relevant one that I could find here. My concerns about the UUA accusing me of blasphemous libel are certainly quite relevant to "Special Rights" for Religions. No?

Since when are accusations or charges under ANY blasphemy laws of a secular nature Steve? Blasphemous libel is defined as "language used calculated and intended to insult the feelings of and the deepest religious convictions of the great majority of the persons amongst whom we live" in the Wikipedia page you cited. It should be glaringly obvious that the UUA is claiming "special rights" that apply only to religions in this matter.

The only people at legal risk in this matter are the moral morons at the UUA and Stikeman Elliott who had the unmitigated gall to falsely accuse me of the archaic crime of blasphemous libel on the *unfounded* basis that I have made "unfounded and vicious allegations to the effect that ministers of the Association engage in such despicable crimes as pedophilia and rape". If you genuinely care about freedom of speech within the so-called U*U World and care a whit for the reputation of Unitarian Universalism you *might* want to create a new blog post where this matter may be discussed on more detail. I have already posted a variety of new blog posts dedicated to this issue on The Emerson Avenger blog. In fact most of my emails to Maitre Marc-AndrĂ© Coulombe and top level UUA leaders responsible for this Big Fat U*U Fiasco are posted verbatim there.

Robin Edgar said...

One more thing Steve. . .

It's not my "blasphemous libel legal situation", it's *your* "blasphemous libel legal situation", as in the "blasphemous libel legal situation" that the Unitarian Universalist religious community has created for itself. . . I would suggest that you and other U*Us might be very well advised to help persuade the UUA to responsibly dig its way out of that Big Fat U*U Hole it dug for itself in June by withdrawing its ludicrous accusations and apologizing to me for bringing them against me.

Sola Aji said...

I think your speculation is seriously flawed. You fail to take into account that secular institutions based on religion such as hospitals and especially schools are PRIVATE! This means that they do not receive any federal funding or support. As a result regulations that apply to a federally funded institution may not apply to a private religious institution. These exemptions may include hiring based on religious orientation and acceptance.