This may be a sign of where we’re going, as the definition of “freedom of religion” becomes more and more distorted by the right. It seems that Ling Chai, a former Chinese activist, now Republican Bostonian, is being sued by another former activist, who Chai fired from her human rights organization here in the states for being insufficiently zealous in practicing her religion, or, more accurately, Chai’s conception of what that religion should be.
The employee, Jing Zhang, is a Chinese activist who once spent five years in a Chinese prison for promoting freedom and democracy, according to the suit. In the United States, Zhang had already established her own nonprofit, Women’s Rights in China, in Flushing, N.Y., when she joined forces with Chai to develop programs to prevent forced abortions in China. Then, she alleges, Chai fired her for being insufficiently religious and for declining to engage in “weekly corporate worship.”
Attached to the lawsuit is a March e-mail that purportedly issued Zhang an ultimatum: She could either “seek the will of God in her life on a daily basis through study of God’s word and through prayer” or start looking for a new job.
‘You can discriminate in hiring and firing employees whose roles are at the religious core of your activity.’
That document asked Zhang to agree to statements, including, “I believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and apart from him nobody can receive eternal life and enter the kingdom of God.”
(via The Boston Globe)
Presumably the bishops would applaud. But wait:
Kevin Mintzer, another attorney for Zhang, said All Girls Allowed’s articles of incorporation show it was formed as a human rights organization, not a religious group.
He said that Zhang, a Catholic, never agreed to practice her faith in the same manner as her boss, who is an evangelical Christian.
(via The Boston Globe)
The Catholic Church demands the right to impose its religion on both its employees and on the recipients of non-religious services it provides with government funds (e.g., health care) so is it comfortable with another group demanding that a Catholic act like a fundamentalist? Presumably (if consistency means anything), yes, though I'm sure they’re capable of making some distinction without a difference.
There is literally no endeavor that could not be dressed up as a religiously motivated organization, therefore privileged to hire and fire, grant or withhold employee benefits, or impose arbitrary discipline, using any discriminatory criteria that might suit their purposes. In this particular case, the employer apparently requires more than mere faith; that faith must be expressed in just the right way. No doubt the next step (or is it even a step?) will be firing employees who profess to believe based on an employer’s subjective belief that their professions are insincere, or not of sufficient strength.
In many instances, this amounts to government outsourcing of religious tests it cannot impose directly. The government gives money to religious organizations to provide supposedly secular services (e.g., Catholic Charities) and then, if the Church has its way, steps aside and lets the Church impose its religion on employees and service recipients. The present lineup in the Supreme Court makes this backdoor establishment of religion a distinct possibility.