Religious Freedom Steven Waldman Asma Uddin Craig Parshall

Religious Freedom Under Threat for Christians and Muslims

on September 19, 2019

Religious freedom discrimination is an increasingly common threat against both Christians and Muslims, according to a panel of journalists, lawyers, and authors hosted by the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB).

The solution agreed upon was an increase in acceptance for Muslims, and a “level playing field” for all religions in America.

NRB hosted the September 11, 2019 event to discuss freedom of religion. NRB General Counsel Craig Parshall moderated the discussion, which featured Muslim author and lawyer Asma Uddin and Christian journalist Steven Waldman.

Although Parshall was candidly in support of Waldman, Uddin and Waldman had a lively discussion splitting hairs about the nature of religious discrimination in the United States, and what should be done about it. Parshall asked Uddin about her response to a hypothetical situation about Islamic religious freedom, from a legal perspective. Waldman was asked more intellectual and philosophical questions.

Parshall opened by asking each panelist about their platform for the debate: Uddin pointed out that religion is deeply politicized, and it must be less politicized to move religious freedom forward. She mentioned two kinds of religious conflict, major and minor: i.e., “Christians vs. Muslims,” and accommodations battles. Waldman focused on national media portrayal of religion, alleging a lack of objectivity by media outlets, mentioning the conservatism of Fox and the liberalism of CNN. The journalist started a website built around the idea of “multi-faith” conversation, rather than “inter-faith:” the idea that religious groups should work together for more objective media portrayal and religious freedom, rather than focusing on the commonalities among particular groups.

Both Uddin and Waldman agreed that hate speech codes, which “restrict free speech in public venues, like the kinds used by some public universities, are a bad idea.” All three agreed that Muslims face discrimination; Parshall agreed that Muslims are seen as “sympathetic victims.” Parshall argued that Christians are the victims, and Parshall pointed to judicial system wins for Christians as support. Waldman disagreed with the idea of taking religious disagreements to court, alleging that evangelicals are too interested in the Supreme Court providing religious exemptions for Christians, like in the recent Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (2018). Uddin, however, stated that the main problem lies in a misunderstanding of Islamic law and “overblown concerns about Sharia law.”

The conversation moved from the basic outlines of each members’ beliefs, and into a discussion of particular examples. Reynolds v. United States (1879), wherein the Supreme Court declared polygamy illegal (against Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints beliefs), was an interesting topic. Waldman declared it gave him “mixed feelings,” although he did not elaborate much; he chose instead to point out that before the 1940s, neither the Supreme Court nor Congress took charge of religious freedom: that job was given to the politics of vote-getting. Parshall argued that Reynolds was the right decision; some beliefs must be curtailed, citing Mayan child sacrifice as an extreme view. Uddin argued in response that, if Muslims were allowed the same freedom Christians have in America, they would not “take over America and institute Sharia law.” There should be “freedom for all, not a free for all.”

In the course of the debate, it became apparent that Waldman and Uddin disagreed over how much Muslims deserved focus in the religious freedom debate, although both agreed that Muslims are discriminated against. Waldman simply argued that a level playing field, without a lot of special regard for Muslims (although he noted that Muslims are denied some of the freedoms Christians have), was the way forward. Parshall pointed out that Muslims are perceived as the victims; Christians are the problem. Uddin returned to her “major/minor” distinction and said, “at most, conservative Christians get ridiculed – Muslims are told they don’t belong [in America] and are problems.” Unlike Waldman, Uddin said this debate is about rights, not freedom. Islamic beliefs, she said, get much more media coverage when a Muslim commits an act of violence.

Parshall asked for concluding thoughts and provided his own: “Much offends, but we ought to get over it and focus on the true, and share it on a level field.” Evangelical Christians, Waldman concluded, did the most to progress religious freedom from the Second Great Awakening on, but have now lost that progression. He stated forcefully, Christians must “take it back and defend in front of American Muslims, because that is the biggest threat to religious freedom right now.” Uddin simply stated that Muslims should be a focus (in agreement with Waldman), but more generally that religious freedom without politics was the best way forward. She concluded, “Freedom for all [is essential]… without which all religious freedom chips away.”

  1. Comment by David on September 19, 2019 at 6:27 pm

    Sharia Law is not all that different from Mosaic Law given the strong influence of Judaism in Islam. Jews and Christians overlook many of these laws and concern themselves with moral principles rather than animal sacrifices, etc.

    About 10 miles from the World Trade Center is Flushing, Queens. In 1657, the inhabitants of this then small village declared that love, peace, and liberty extended to “Jews, Turks, and Egyptians.” This tolerance has continued to the present day with a extraordinary range of 200+ houses of worship in the town. The whole world lives in Flushing and everyone gets along. “Flushing has become a model for religious pluralism in America,” says R. Scott Hanson, professor of history at the SUNY, Binghamton and an affiliate of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University.

  2. Comment by Hayne Hamilton on September 19, 2019 at 6:47 pm

    This panel is a dangerously partial examination of religious freedom and hate crimes. FBI crime statistics for 2017 hate crimes. Of the total of 1749 hate crimes, jews account for 56.1%, Muslims account for 18,6%, Catholics 4.3%. This omission renders this study meaningless.

  3. Comment by Ted R. Weiland on September 20, 2019 at 4:00 pm

    Religious freedom is well and alive in America and will continue to be until the First Commandment violating First Amendment is repealed.

    Christian liberty (who cares about Islamic liberty) is a different thing and always has been ever since the inception of the polytheism-enabling Free Exercise Clause. Christian liberty founded on the First Commandment was sacrificed in 1787 on altar of the First Amendment and its provision for religious freedom:

    “…Although the First Amendment does not allow for establishing one religion over another, by eliminating Christianity as the federal government’s religion of choice (achieved by Article 6’s interdiction against Christian test oaths), Amendment 1 authorized equality for all non-Christian and even antichristian religions. When the Constitution failed to recognize Christian monotheism, it allowed Amendment 1 to fill the void by authorizing pagan polytheism.

    “Amendment 1 did exactly what the framers proclaimed it could not do: it prohibited the exercise of monotheistic Christianity (except within the confines of its church buildings) and established polytheism in its place. This explains the government’s double standard regarding Christian and non-Christian religions. For example, court participants entering the United States District Court of Appeals for the Middle District of Alabama must walk by a statue of Themis, the Greek goddess of justice. And yet, on November 18, 2002, this very court ruled that Judge Roy Moore’s Ten Commandments Monument violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Despite many Christians’ protests against this hypocrisy, it was in keeping with the inevitable repercussions of the First Amendment….

    “Christians hang their religious hat on Amendment 1, as if some great moral principle is carved therein. They have gotten so caught up in the battle over the misuse of the Establishment Clause – the freedom from religion – that they have overlooked the ungodliness intrinsic in the Free Exercise Clause – the freedom of religion….”

    For more, Google online Chapter 11 “Amendment 1: Government-Sanctioned Polytheism” of “Bible Law vs. the United States Constitution: The Christian Perspective.”

    Then find out how much you really know about the Constitution as compared to the Bible. Take our 10-question Constitution Survey in the right-hand sidebar and receive a complimentary copy of a book that examines the Constitution by the Bible.

  4. Comment by Search4Truth on September 21, 2019 at 11:53 am

    I have to take issue with the following statement that Muslims would not “take over America and institute Sharia law.” Please review your world history. When Muslims are in the minority they are industrious, helpful and friendly. As they approach parity they become separate and aloof. When they become the majority, everyone not Muslim is degraded, held with contempt and treated as less than a second class citizen. They have a lot of history to overcome.

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