Lindsay Newland Bowker


This conversation is closed.

What are the limitations on freedom of religion?

In a recent Ted Conversation ( still ongoing) on the Israeli Palestine border, one of many side tracks led some of us to suggest that freedom of religions does not include advocating harm to others or teaching that harming non believers is not an offense. Do you agree that preaching and encouraging violence or harm to others is not protected under "freedom of religion"? Should organizations which use their places of worship to incite violence against others be afforded the full benefits under income tax law afforded to religious insitutions?

In addition to your thoughtful comments, I would invite you to vote on this at a google moderator set up to facilitate a Ted Conversation in common ground.

If you agree with that, what actions in law, remdies in law do you think should be taken. iwhen any religion uses its places of worship to incite violence and plan harm against others. Shoud those places of worship continue to enjoy the favorable tax status places o worship enjoy?

I guess a related question inextricably linked to this one is "Is tecahing of hatered for others based on gender, creed or , race protected under freedom of speech?

Closing Statement from Lindsay Newland Bowker

First thank you to all who contributed comment here. This question grew out of a grueling and deeply disturbing thread in a TED Conversation on the 1967 Palestine-Israeli Borders where the issue of Zionist and jihad teachings of violence justified by sacred text inevitably, unavoidably came up ( no matter how hard we tried to keep on topic) . After a few days ( or was it months?) of that I began to have zero tolerance for any preaching of hatred, any justification of killing, any urging to violence.
It was against that that I framed this question also thinking of the violence arising out of religious based anti- abortion against doctors, clinics and Planned Parenthood.
I framed the question because I wanted to work this through with others and thought it would be a long term discussion, so had posted it as “open –ended”. But it turned out it was quite simple really and that lots of good lead work had already been done so we found the answer almost immediately in Canadian Law, California Law and Australian Law. So I asked TED admin to close it as we had pretty much answered what we set out to answer.
Canada, as usual, was way out in front of the curve. Their law makes “hate speech” a crime..wherever it originates and makes it a separate crime ( and a double count) to engage in hate speech in public. End of story really. There’s the answer. There’s the model
In the U.S. California Law does not quite go as far but goes a lot further than what the courts had decided with reference to the constitution , but nevertheless consistent with the constitution. The California Law does not make “hate speech” a crime but does make inciting to violence a crime.
I learned that the history of “religious freedom” in the U.S. had rested on and was found within 1st amendment, the free speech amendment, and that dealing with hate speech and inciting to violence only came into play when an actual act of violence was committed as a further aggravation.
In all cases, quite soundly, the responsibility for the “hate speech” or “inciting to violence” is at the level of the individual.
We didn’t really get too far into the idea that tax payers shouldn’t fund ( through tax exemptions) place of worship or religious practice which teach hate and violence. We did learn though that the IRS exemptions of “churches” ( who are not required to file at all except for certain types of income) was intended to guarantee the separation of church and state. Inevitably , any attempt to remove the tax exemption for preaching “hate speech” would come too close to violating that separation. So we decided that avenue of removing beneficial tax status for “hate speech” wasn’t doable.
I learned a lot. I learned what I set out to learn. Thank you all.

I thank you all.

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    Jun 12 2011: Discussing religion tends to be a waste of time. In enlightened societies it is a private matter and everyone should practice his/her however they wish. But violence is violence whatever the pretext, and violence is against the law (in the same societies). To tolerate violent trends with the excuse that some societies are "different" is to invite further abuses, and this attitude seems to me to reveal hidden weaknesses and fears.
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      Jun 12 2011: Gustavo,

      straight forward, well said and fulyl consistent with how Canada has handled it as a matter of law.(links and discussion below)

      Thanks you for joining us.
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        Jun 13 2011: Thank you for reading me and for your comment. I guess that what I am advocating is simply strong democracies, neither extreme right or left nor weak liberalism. I remember a phrase, "la loi c´est la loi", repeated by Fernandel in an old French film. That is the whole argument and the bucket stops there. Kind regards.
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    Jun 14 2011: To comment on your first question, speaking as a U.S. citizen, I believe that freedom of religion is the freedom to choose which religion you prefer to practice as long as you don't make other people practice the religion that person has chosen. In other words, it is essential to allow people to believe in whatever they want to believe in but they must not be allowed to bring other people that do not conform to X religion simply because of the fact that they too have the freedom to choose/practice/not choose/not practice X religion. A person cannot take an active role in dragging another person to fit into their religious beliefs. So an absolute no, is the answer to the question, "Should organizations which use their places of worship to incite violence against others be afforded the full benefits under income tax law afforded to religious institutions?"

    As far as freedom of speech is concerned; the simple answer is a stout, no, "teaching of hatred for others based on gender, creed or race" should not be protected. However, this is a conversation that deserves its own debate/conversation.
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      Jun 14 2011: Wonderful to hear from you and that exactly is the conversation here.did you have a chnace tolook fover some of the laws that are alreday available as models (see below?)

      The way it has been dealt with in Canada, and In California is to make hate speech or inciting violanece a crime wheever it is done and in Canada it is a crime to to do that in public. What do you think of that approach. Seems to be agood resolution that protects both freedom ofreligion and free speech limiting it only where a danger is presented to others.

      We haven't yet gotten very far into whether its possible to recind tax advanatges where a religious insution has used its places of worship consistently to teach terrorism, invoke terrorism, or preach hatred or violence of any kind. See below for what has been said. I'd like to look into that a bit more.

      It's a bit tricky because of speration of church and state issues. Tax exmeption is the governmnets way of maintaining that separation. Recinding tax stsus for hate preaching would pout the governmnet in th ebusiness of dciding what is and isnt a church based on the content of the teachings..a major problem. Also fairness in implementation and reguatory oversight would be a nightmare. So I think it is not a fruitful avenue for transferring responsbility to the instiution when precahing violence is official insiutional policy .

      It is very disturbing though that we the tax payers fund and subsidize the preaching of violence and hatred, thorugh these tax exemptions, which is not at all what was intended. There may be no way arouynd that one however.

      I had started to do a bit of research on criminal accountability of coprorations that might have a bearing.

      At present the only control is through hate crimes laws which focus on the individual. Ther is no penalt for the insution itself which is funding and orgnaizing the practice of preaching hate and violence. Maybe you could help us shed some light on this.

      At present
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        Jun 14 2011: Well I'm afraid, at least in the U.S., that there really is no getting around it (tax exempt status) without major tax reform and setting a bright line rule that all churches of all religions should not have tax exempt status (TES).

        26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3) states

        "Corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes... no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual, no substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation (except as otherwise provided in subsection (h)), and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office."

        Well it is clear that Scientology is one religion that should not have TES, not because of invoking terrorism, hatred etc... but simply because it is organized as a business and makes its members pay fees.

        It would become a very grey area if the standard to take away TES was to determine if the church was invoking terrorism, hatred, violence. For example, just because one Christian church has hate speech sermons against homosexuals does not mean all of the churches follow suit.

        It's either all churches have TES or none do. I believe it should be the latter, and advocating on the side of they all make money would be the easy route. So I'll actually take the route written out in the code. If you simply look at the religious teaching of say, Christianity, it does lobby for the legislature to take certain positions such as abolish abortion, not to allow same sex marriage etc... so even if they don't specifically say a candidates name or party; it is apparent which candidate/position they are lobbying for.
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          Jun 14 2011: I think you are right adonis..the tax angle is a gonner.

          Corporate crime..that's what we have to check out. Whether an insitution can be held responsbile for a crime ( I think not..only individuals?).
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    Jun 14 2011: Carissima Lindsay you are cordially invited to participate in our new conversation about joy de vivre. We hope your experience in this typical mediterranean way of life.
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      Jun 14 2011: I accept with pleasure.

      Non un avvertimento a tutti il mio amico, solo un invito a proseguire le discussioni non inerenti a questo argomento altrove.

      Hai visto il mio invito ad avere parli alla mia conversazione su sistemi di credenza dei lavori del Reverendo Padre Nicolas? Ho già incollato un preventivo vi e indicò il suo importante lavoro.

      Buona Notte per me (Buongiorno a voi
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        Jun 14 2011: Yes, Lindsay, you are right. I just explained to you in another reply (that doesn't seem to want to leave my pc) that I realise we went off the subject and that I will put a stop to that. My regards.
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          Jun 14 2011: Gustavo .see you at the Cafe and hope that if you have input here on tis topic you will continue to be engaged here as well.

          The cafe wasa great idea..I'm about to stop by for a capuccino and a biscotti.
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    Jun 14 2011: Signora Lindsay, qui parliamo di liberta e di religione...bellisimo. Noi siamo molti contenti di trovare un posto dove si possa incontrare amici, idee, diverse parole. Vi preghiamo la sua considerazione e benevolenza per la nostra divagazione.

    Vi ringraziamo la sua avvertenza.
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    Jun 12 2011: Furthermore, Shakespeare was not antisemitic, as his works show (for instance, the famous quote from The merchant of Venice. Besides, he was a very wise man and a deep thinker, too enlightened for that. To draw the antisemitic conclusion from the general context of that play is to misread it.
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      Jun 13 2011: Caro Gustavo, permitame presentarme, soy el Conde Di Salaparuta Mordeforte y mi participacion aqui en TED es apenas muy nueva, pero nos parecio interesante debatir muy en el estilo americano sobre estos temas que nos parecen curiosos, muy del comportamiento tipico de los que estan acostumbrados a las republicas y democracias. Es un enorme placer para nosotros que Usted se digne acompañarnos con sus comentarios sobre Shakespeare. Me permiti citarlo acerca del Mercader de Venecia como un ejemplo de la diferencia entre justicia y ley y vea usted como se desenvolvio una madeja tipica de las fobias neo barbaricas. Aqui en la isola de mi querida amiga la Baronessa Di Val Taranto estamos animados por la conversa a larga distancia. Nos hace sentir, digamos, modernos. Nuestra vida se desenvuelve entre archivos Vaticanos, museos romanos y vides y olivares frente al Mare Nostrum. Celebramos con el corazon su arribo y le damos la cordial bienvenida. Vi ringraziamo tanti.
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        Jun 13 2011: Muy grato recibir su misiva, caro Conte. Según la describe usted, esa vida entre antiguos documentos y museos romanos es una cosa envidiable. Igualmente, su mención del espresso en ese café. También yo y mi esposa hemos pertenecido a esa cultura del café y sus asociaciones artisticas e intelectuales. Por cierto, conozco el de Venecia, pero aquí en Inglaterra no ha existido antes y apenas empieza hoy a intentarse como aventura comercial, aunque veo demasiados obstáculos como son la falta de costumbre entre el gran público, la prisa estúpida con que se vive aquí y el relativo alto coste. No obstante, el carácter de uno sigue igual y se aprovecha lo que se puede de la cultura local. Veo que usted le menciona Miles y Brubeck a Lindsay, me alegro también. Mi "pasión predominante" es la música culta, pero pienso y siento que el jazz es una gran invención. Estoy ahora escribiendo sobre el sentido de la música pero soy muy lento. Mi saludos.
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          Jun 13 2011: Hello Gustavo! What a pleasure to discuss Shakespeare with you. If I remember the Merchant of Venice, in the end Shylock loses his rightful property without any compensation after being portrayed as blood thirsty. It is on that basis plus the ongoing tone of the evalutation of Shylock's personality qualities, character and the strong beliefs of the era that I come to the conclusion that it has some seriously anti-semetic leanings.

          I did also point out that Shakespeare was far beyond his time in helping everyone to see that all people are human with the second passage that I quoted. You are right that we must judge a work within its time but there is nothing wrong with pointing our how thinking has evolved to a less prejudiced assessment of races and peoples.
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          Jun 13 2011: Carissimo Gustavo en su atencion hacia la musica seguramente conoce a Gesualdo el principe napolitano que compuso unos madrigales exquisitos y que dejo oscura fama por su crueldad inmensa. La delicuescencia de los semitonos usados por Gesualdo adelantan en cinco siglos a los dodecafonistas y a las secuencias tonales de Debussy. Lo clasico en cualquiera de las Artes es llamado asi, clasico, por ser lo mejor de su clase y comparto con usted esta dimension del verdadero gusto por lo trascendente. En literatura y poesia, Shakespeare, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Gongora o Lope de Vega, junto con Bernini, Caravaggio, y hasta Pierre Boulez, Gorecky y Chillida son parte de lo que hace mas bella y amable esta vida.
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          Jun 14 2011: Mio caro e più affascinanti amici Gustave e Conte, deliziose come tutto questo è in visita, una delle nostre regole qui a TED è quella di rimanere "a tema" .. così pregherei di cortesia in questo.

          Vi è però uno converstaion dove tutto è fuori tema .. che sarebbe un posto meraviglioso per incontrare e salutare e scambiare preferiti jazz. ecc

          Il vostro contributo continuato qui su questo argomento è anche nebbia benvenuto e molto apprezzato.

          Light & Benedizioni a voi due

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        Jun 14 2011: My Dear Conte & Gustave,

        Sarei molto felice se mi potesse unirsi alla mia conversazione su sistemi di credenze. Sono a conoscenza del lavoro del Reverendo Padre Adolfo Nicolas attraverso l'opera del fratello Antonio t lavoro de lavoro Nicolas ammiro molto pure. Sarebbe bello se si fosse in grado di parlare al lavoro del Reverendo Padre per portare la Chiesa e il suo accento più vicina agli insegnamenti. Il lavoro del padre reverendo sta facendo è quello che sto indicando, in parte nella mia conversazione.
        This quote of the Revernd Father's is excatly what my conversation is all about.

        "Nicolás has also expressed his wariness of missionaries who are more concerned with teaching and imposing orthodoxy than in having a cultural experience with the local people, saying, "Those who enter into the lives of the people, they begin to question their own positions very radically"

        A great man..doing truly great work.

        Benedizioni a tutti e due
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      Jun 13 2011: of the really great things about a forum like this is that there areidaes out there one has never encountered. I consider Shakepeare a wisdom master..a siritual guide in many ways. I had never heard anyone suggest Merchant of Venice was anti-semitic. It's great though, don't you think? To have tha out on the table and be able to speak to that?.
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        Jun 13 2011: Hi, Lindsay. Of course this is a great way to explore othr people's ideas, the Intrnet is the most marvelous invention of the 20th century (apart from radio and jazz). Well, I have heard people mention Shakespeare' s possible anti-semitism, but I am weary of any kind of posthumous psychoanalysis, I think it is silly. And our author is, as you say, a wisdom master and spiritual guide indeed. Myself, I am not what you may call an expert on his work, I simply wrote a book about what is called the controversy of his identity, book that the Conte was kind wnough to recommend here. The research was a lot of fun, and I have always been a good reader of his and of literature in general. Nowadays I am writing on the meaning of music, mostly of the type that is called classical, but also other types as well, because music is my deepest passion. Thank you again for your message.
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        Jun 14 2011: You are absolutely right, Lindsay, we went off the subject. It was because of the mention of Shakespeare, literature, etc. I'll put a stop to this and probably will start a thread by posing a provoking question. My regards to you.
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          Jun 14 2011: it was adelightful side trip and we can talk more about all time fvaorite play wright over at the cafe..with a glass of prosecco
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    Jun 12 2011: Cara Signora Lindsay...I discover that this subject is like a jam sesion. Many focuses, more thoughts, diversity above all, and harmony. Maybe like a philosophical aproach to Dave Brubeck or Miles Davis from the freedom and the religion. I feel very enthusiasthic about the flow of the posts. Im learning that we can choose any door to goes in. And if theres not any door, we can invent one. This is the real advantage, the traditional way as the culture is shaped by the individuals. Here in Napoli and all Italy we have a tradition in the coffee rites. The place is sacred for silence or conversation. And in the caffe happened very important things. In Venice we have the Florian in the Piazza San Marco , its an institution in coffee. Is like a temple of history and a focal point for mediterranean culture. TED is more or less the same. With a nice cup of expreso.
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      Jun 12 2011: are you up late or early?
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        Jun 12 2011: Very early signora. With the sun. TEMPUS FUGIT CARPE DIEM. The time goes, hold your day.
        We dont have time to loose.
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        Jun 13 2011: Cara Lindsay qualche religione e un complesso simbolico profondo. La liberta e soltanto una delle cose que si procurano, ma ce anche la verita , la bonta, la giustizia, la belleza e sopratutto la confidenza in Dio.
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      Jun 13 2011: A jamsession indeed, a bar talk, tea house talk. Some of us ended up wondering about this. On what to do the morning after. From a tea house talk; you can (a) forget, (b) one day realize it helped you forward on something (c) meet them again and really start to do something.

      On the one hand these conversations empower to do something, on the other hand it is great to let thoughts flow upon eachother and be active in the "global Symphony of Knowledge", a magical music peace, it is never quiet, as we all live in different timezones, always some people thinking deep and playing the typewriter instruments.... :)
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        Jun 13 2011: Signore Paul your metaphore is exquisite and very pragmatic. "The Global Symphony of Knowledge". A very bright approach to the validation of all this new media. Why you don't write some book about? We see your posts very well organized in structure, method, process and results. In the meanwhile we al continues to interpreting our own partitures and particellas. We expect your book. Auguri tanti.
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          Jun 14 2011: Being in the orchestra as just one player is all I can do, jamming away. A solo performance, I don't think I have enough partitures and I have a lack of constructive time as I am still in the system extraordinary houserents needs to be paid ;) Maybe in a few years I find a way not to have the system hanging around my neck.

          Thank for giving me trust that my words makes some sense to some of you, I guess that's progress already.
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    Jun 9 2011: Just a few observation son the California law that might be worth considering. It resticts what is criminal to inciting to violence carefully preserving 1st ammendment right sof free speech. Thus what is considered "hate speech" under Canadaian law and is therefore a crime is lalowed under the califirnia law, It seems a good standrd..inciting to violence.i.e. you can say whatever hateful things in church or elsewhere you wnat about any other group of people, including women who choose abortions as long as you do not urge violence against them.

    I am still looking for historyon implementtaion.of the california law.
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    Jun 8 2011: I don't want to derail what is developing as a very discerning exploration of the limits of freedom of religion, especilaly as it applies to "hate speech" or the urging to/sanctioning of criminal acts ..but I did frame this question to also visit whether these limitations should extend to federal tax exemption and local property tax exemption of church property

    .In both cases "we the people" absorb the cost of every tax exemption .In the U.S. the uneveness and occasional unfairness of that policy has been considered a necessary cost of maintaining a separation of church and state. On the whole I accept that."In its 1970 opinion in Walz vs. Tax Commission of the City of New York, the high court stated that a tax exemption for churches "creates only a minimal and remote involvement between church and state and far less than taxation of churches. [An exemption] restricts the fiscal relationship between church and state, and tends to complement and reinforce the desired separation insulating each from the other." The Supreme Court also said that "the power to tax involves the power to destroy." Taxing churches breaks down the healthy separation of church and state and leads to the destruction of the free exercise of religion."

    My question dosn't challenge this main body of thinking and practice, which I support as necessary to provide religious freedom, but I am questioning whether limits could be imposed within this framework to didiscourage "hate speech" or the urging to criminal acts.

    I am up for even a single use of any church property resulting in the permanent and irrevocable loss of tax exemption of all property of thta church. It would be a way of insuring that church and state truly are separate and that the freedom fo religion statutes are not abused at tax payer expense to promote criminal acts

    Such a financial action might encourage responsibility by religious leaders to keep religious teaching and practice away from "hate speech"
    • Jun 8 2011: Lindsay
      I think you need to clearly differenciate "hate speech", from promoting violent acts. Both are abhorent. However, it is the real "act of violence" against others that troubles me more. I still do not feel that the tax exemption route is the best way to do this. I understand your desire to punish the offender here.

      While religious leaders do have the right to promote social outcomes, the promotion of violence is a different thing. As I understand things, what you are calling for would be a state by state decision. The Federal government only grants tax exempt status in order that money given to the instituion is tax deductable. It does not tax property. Actually withdrawing their non-profit status, might do more good in the long run.
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    Jun 8 2011: For those interested in some serious reading on the topic of hate crime in Canada, I am attaching a site with synopses of academic articles on Hate Crime Research in Canada.

    If you click on hate crimes on the left hand bar it will take you to a list of prosecutions.
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      Jun 8 2011: Thanks for that posting Debra.

      . I am looking forward to perusing that and very interested to see how both Canada's and Californias "hate speech" are working

      .I am thinking global towards a global peace keeping framework where national hate speech is deemed a threat to the interests o the global community brain is churning away on that..on whether there is a place to house that The human rights initiaves of the U.N. don't go quite far enough in this direction and don't speak clearly to the international threats to peace emantaing from national "hate speech

      The heads of state of each nation should be saying that and backing it up with their national policies on trade, finace, political and military assistance.

      "A worthy consideration for the Ted Community I hope..
  • Jun 7 2011: Lindsay
    After thinking about your question, I believe it really has to do more with the idea of separation of church and state, a corollary to religious freedom. At stake is whether or not the government, after granting a status to a group, can withdraw that status if the group advocates violent actions in their teachings. There is a great deal at stake actually.

    As you stated in your post today, the 2nd amendment allows guarantees two things: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The US government and later extended to the States cannot through its laws establish any religion; it also cannot prohibit the free exercise of religion.
    The two judicial metaphors most used are “wall of separation” and “non-entanglement” to describe the relationship. This is a discussion fairly particular to the United States.

    The granting of the status of non-profit and consequently “free of taxation” is through the US Treasury Department in light of the amendment.

    These ideas are under attack from many sides in today’s world, both left and right. Your original question about advocating violence is very difficult. I do not believe that any religious group should be preaching or advocating violence or violent acts as a part of their worship, propagation or free exercise of their religion. Government has a legitimate right to promote peace and guard against violent acts. Should the punishment for not guarding the peace or inciting violence be a revocation of tax status? I don’t believe so. In the United States we do have laws that protect the innocent and protect the citizenry against hate crimes. Those are the laws that should be invoked.
  • Jun 7 2011: Besides, what about other non-profits and their tax status? Should theirs be revoked for the same behavior? What about state sanctioned violence like war? Religious leaders since the Revolutionary War have advocated violence in the form of war. It became a great deal worse in the 19th century with the Mexican War and the US Civil War. I totally oppose that sort of preaching, but I am not sure I wish the government to enter the discussion as to whether that is what should or should not be preached.

    Separation of church and state should guard both institutions against the entanglements of the other.
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      Jun 7 2011: Hi Michael..thanks for your further good thought and discernment on this.

      There is actually an emerging trend of "hate speech statutes"..Californias in the U.S. and Canadas discussed in some detail and with a link else where here

      .In effect the approach used makes hate speech a crime..and then makes all crimes punishable under law. ( in other words the limitation in law is not tied exactly and only to freedom of religion)..that would seem tot be the way to fact I think Canada's hate speech law is a model for the world.Making "haet speech" a crime..then applies equally and universally to all who engage in hate speech..whether in the context of a private home aming individuals or by members in the context of any organization.

      And, of course, that's the only way it could work in a democracy..I'd be interested in your comments if you have time to look at both the California and Canada statutes

      Part of the framing of my question dealt with the tax status and priveleges attended to places of worship or places for the teaching of spiritual practice. I so far haven't seen anything to guide our thinking on that. If you here of anything and can bring it here..that would be great. That would be further complicated in that Federal Law applies to income taxes..local law to proerty taxes.
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    Jun 7 2011: The "Free Exercise Clause" states that Congress cannot "prohibit the free exercise" of religious practices. The Supreme Court of the United States has consistently held, however, that the right to free exercise of religion is not absolute. For example, in the 1800s, some of the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints traditionally practiced polygamy, yet in Reynolds v. United States (1879), the Supreme Court upheld the criminal conviction of one of these members under a federal law banning polygamy. The Court reasoned that to do otherwise would set precedent for a full range of religious beliefs including those as extreme as human sacrifice. The Court stated that "Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices." For example, if one were part of a religion that believed in vampirism, the First Amendment would protect one's belief in vampirism, but not the practice. This principle has similarly been applied to those attempting to claim religious exemptions for smoking cannabis[6][not in citation given] or, as in the case of Employment Division v. Smith (1990), the use of the hallucinogen peyote. Currently, peyote and ayahuasca are allowed by legal precedent if used in a religious ceremony; though cannabis is not.

    Interesting to note that the phrease "freedpm of religion" is no where to be found in our U.S.'s mean has actually been built over the years in inyerpresting an displaying what is in the consitution. Gnerally, unitl California's law ( which must be consitutional as it still stands) beliefs and opinions have been protected as past of 1sr ammendement free seech ( in which religion is mentioned). Our courts have reasoned as James has that belief and opinions do not consitiute harm in and of themselves.
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      Jun 7 2011: So Lindsay, according to your understanding would it be possible for the USA to ban the wearing of the hijab as they have done in France?
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        Jun 7 2011: good question..that is a very disturbing you know anything about the theory..and why wouldn't it apply equally to nuns or monks or buddhists or indian sari's? doesn't rest easy in my soul.

        I am no consitutional scholar but I would saythat would be unconstitutional here. Until Andreas questionof "we the people" and our exploration here I hadn't really thought through the opertaing principles of our connsitution. I know understand as mainly intended to allow and protect individual curb the government ( not we the people). I am coming to love our constitution.

        The boundaries of personal freedom under our consitution, as applied to the construct "freedom of religion" seems to be the place where expressions of faith and acts of worship either violate civil law or interfere with the rights of another.

        I don't know wnaything about France's constitution...I can only say their constitution needs revamping ifa ban on hijabs is consitutional.
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        Jun 7 2011: wikipedia..which is a mixed blessing..sometimes excellent sometimes spurious , has a very useful overview on the ban of hijab in other countries as well

        Seems indefensible to me under standards of personal freedoms the U.S. Constituion upholds or any concept of " freedom of religion as a universal human right". The head of the EU has spoke against the ban and perhaps will exert influence to viist this issue.

        The ban on Hijab is to me a direct violation of freedom of religion in the first instance.

        It's very thin footing in security issues is just too thin to stand on or build wise governance on.
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          Jun 7 2011: A young Muslim man I met here on TED and with whom I have been coresponding emailed me to ask this question the other day.
          As I understand it, France was orginally a Catholic nation which limited the literal interpretations of its own national faith to allow the integration of people of other religions into their nation as citizens. France has a strong definition for what it is to be French. It goes so far as to have a group of people who decide which 'words' are allowed to be part of their language. For example: when people started using the Englilsh word 'shorts' the group banned its use. France has defined itself as a secular society which accomodates religious practice within strongly defined limits.
          I believe that the ban is not just on the hijab but on the wearing of any sign of religion thus wearing a cross in public places like schools is also banned. Of course, the actual issue is demographics. The far higher birth rate among Muslims and the influx of Muslim immigrants threatens to alter the balance of French (and many other European nations) and the thrust is to enshrine secular rights into their laws before a Muslim or other majority could reverse the basic tenents of their laws.

          I find myself torn on this. I have absolutely no objection to anyone wearing religious symbols BUT I find the very idea of women wearing niqabs or full burkas in Canada absolutely abhorant. It frightens me to my core because to me these chains, even if worn voluntarily are chains of oppression by people who are so oppressed that they think they are making free choices.
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        Jun 7 2011: I think we should have a whole other ted conversation on underlying theories o government and the feasibility of global democracy.

        It is not really part of this discussionbeyond where we have taken it and further discussion on the Canaduan Hate speech laws..which I think are an excellent model for establishing the limit sof freedom o religion.

        I find the french and broader euopean thrust toward integrtaion very disturbing..I could not uphold that value. The same arguement youmake about Burka might be made of nuns or monks.Reigious practices of modesty , humility, surrender of self often include expression of spiritual values in dress. It is not for others to judge or limit that in any way.
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    Jun 6 2011: I'd like to recommend to all the participants the "Venice Merchant" from Shakespeare. To see without doubt the real difference between law and justice, and morality in diverse religions. Of course this masterpiece is delgthfull to enjoy and learn.
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      Jun 6 2011: The words have stuck with me since I studied the Merchant of Venice in highschool and I repeat them to myself as a comfort.

      The quality of mercy is not strained.
      It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
      Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
      It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
      Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
      The throned monarch better than his crown.
      His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
      The attribute to awe and majesty,
      Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings.
      But mercy is above this sceptered sway;
      It is enthroned in the hearts of kings;
      It is an attribute of God himself;
      And earthly power doth then show like God's
      When mercy seasons justice.
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      Jun 6 2011: Another piece of literature that illustrates the concepts so well is 'Les Miserables'.
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      Jun 9 2011: Anyone have any comment on whether the Merchant of Venice should be considered an anti-Semitic work?
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        Jun 9 2011: It definately is Tim/
        While I love some of the verses above all others in Shakespeare- few schools in Canada will teach it anymore. Some of the passages are pretty brutal as Shylock embodies the qualities that people have attributed to the Jewish people in history.Unlike Huckleberry Fin where Huck is conflicted about the treatment of the slaves, everyone in The Mercahant of Venice is in complete agreement with the representation of Shylock's character so that there is no 'heads up', no condemnation of the representation and the reader is left with the impression that Shylock is a faithful representation of his kind. However, I also have to say that it helped me see the humanity in all people with this quote:

        I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands,
        organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same
        food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases,
        heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter
        and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If
        you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?
        And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the
        rest, we will resemble you in that.
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        Jun 9 2011: Caro Tim in a probono fide ponit of view and without any missunderstanding about religions, The Merchant of Venice also could be seen as a masterpiece about justice, love, mercy, greed, and all that virtues and vices from us the humans, and we think that Shakespeare go too far from narrow focuses in just one religion or way to believe about Divinity. Shylock is no more or less human than Basilio or any character in the play. Your very sharp comment has open here a great and deep moment of discussion about. Vi ringraziamo.
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        Jun 9 2011: Tim, I forgot to ask your opinon on it- Is it anti-semtic?
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          Jun 9 2011: Cara Debra, Io non posso immaginare a Shakespeare as antisemitic. First we have to discover if he really exists and after speculate about. Is very dangerous to see the past with the modern eyes, and the present with the past eyes. I reccomend to all the very interesting essay from Gustavo Artiles "Un enigma llamado Shakespeare. Also we have to see the history in the Eizabethan Era and the religious cisma from the King Henry VIII. The jews played a very obscure role in the rise of the Anglican Church. And all this is documentated in the historical archives. On the bottom who is against who, and what are the limitations on freedom of religion?
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          Jun 10 2011: I think Merchant of Venice is both antisemitic and counter-antisemitc.

          Elizabethan England was inherently antisemitic. The Jews had been expelled in 1290 (an act which would not be overturned until 1656). I've always been curious what the situation of the Jews in England was in Shakespeare's time. Couldn't have been many there. So Shakespeare was indoctrinated with the xenophobia of the time.

          But at the same time the work counteracts these forces.

          It has been said that literature has been the greatest force in culture at teaching empathy. And no piece of literature illustrates that better then Shylock's soliloquy.
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          Jun 10 2011: That's true Tim and thank you for Conte for holding the lantern up on th epath for us. Grazzie
  • Jun 6 2011: Lindsay,
    As usual a great question. I will get back to you when my answer is fully formulated, but in general first, what do you really mean by Freedom of Religion? Is it freedom of worship, propogation or freedom of belief?
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      Jun 7 2011: Good question Michael..What do we mean by freedom of religion?

      I guess I mean the right to hold and practice any religious belief without fear of persecution, interference or discrimination.. In America it is exended under the first and fourteenth ammendment to the constitition and its meaning and limits have been explored and tested in the courts ever since

      .I love this little bit of early american history ..pre consitution, declaration of independece, pre- american revolution because it shows how old the story is of persecition, bias, interference and discrimination based on religious choice. It also shows that there was no consensus on freedom o religion even at the time of the signing o the declaration of independence. There was not consesnus. It was not included by popular majority or any referendum of the colonists. It was a visionary expression of what the founding fathers hoped America would become not what it was

      ."Freedom of religion was first applied as a principle of government in the founding of the colony of Maryland, founded by the Catholic Lord Baltimore, in 1634.[2] Fifteen years later (1649), the first enactment of religious liberty, the Maryland Toleration Act, drafted by Lord Baltimore, provided: "No person or persons...shall from henceforth be any waies troubled, molested or discountenanced for or in respect of his or her religion nor in the free exercise thereof." The Maryland Toleration Act was repealed with the assistance of Protestant assemblymen and a new law barring Catholics from openly practicing their religion was passed.[3] In 1657, Lord Baltimore regained control after making a deal with the colony's Protestants, and in 1658 the Act was again passed by the colonial assembly. This time, it would last more than thirty years, until 1692,[4] when after Maryland's Protestant Revolution of 1689, freedom of religion was again rescinded"
      • Jun 7 2011: Actually I believe Rhode Island and Roger Williams atually pre-date Maryland in having religious liberty. (See William's work "The Bloody Tenet of Persecution") It was the work of many (then considered) religious dissenters, Baptists and Methodists for example, that pushed Madison and others to include the guarantees of the First Amendment.

        I believe it has to mean religious liberty for all, including those I do not agree with. It also must incude the freedom of propagation of faith. It is all based on the idea of "soul comptency" that all men are capable of making choices and responding to religious faith.
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          Jun 8 2011: Hi Michael..yes, Roger Williams 1644 book was indeed the inspiration to Thomas Jefferson for the separation of church & state.

          There was not consensus on that in early colonial life wjere many had come to form religious colonies.

          the free excercise of religious practices phrase of the 1st ammendmnet would most likely not have passed in a referndum vote.
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    Jun 6 2011: Freedom of thought - no limitation.
    Freedom of actions - contained / constrained by usual Legal context, rights etc.
    Thinking something is fine; acting on it is another thing all together.
    You're free to think what you like about Gays, Women, Muslims, Socialists, Abortionists, Catholics, Jews, Smokers, Drinkers etc, but just not turn any unpleasant thoughts into actions.
    Laws are not to stop people thinking, they're there to stop people acting.
    Indeed, you could say unless we are tested with bad thoughts, how do we resist them, and prove our morality?
    Can morality exist without temptation? I'd prob say no immoral thoughts, just immoral acts.
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      Jun 6 2011: I think you make valid points above James. However, neuroscience teaches us that our thoughts shape our actions. Does a society have any responsibility to work to change anti-social thoughts or do we just allow certain groups to express prejudices and vicious allegations against other groups based on their ancient religious texts with the hope or potential of inpiring violence?
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        Jun 6 2011: Hi Debra
        I think "expressing thought" falls into the category of action. And I don't think we allow freedom for bad action. Ie: Talking is an action.
        Ok to have Racist thoughts, like I don't want to employ black people.
        Not ok to have Racist action, like I am not employing black people.
        Not ok to express Racist thoughts, like All black people are stupid, aren't they?
        Ok to think all women adulterers should be buried to neck and stoned to death.
        Not ok to do it (unless allowed by law in your country, and we have to be a bit careful here of saying my country is better than your crappy medieval country, even if we think it) in the high street/main street.
        If you (i mean one) keeps ideas to yourself, they're fine, no matter how abhorrent the actions they represent, if turned into action. But Religious actions can be criticised, and I will criticise stuff I don't agree with.
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          Jun 6 2011: Thanks, That was a pretty satisfying answer. I agree that talking is an action and that we cannot police thought anyway so why try. I just have to wonder how often antisocial ideas that are part of ancient texts and believed by millions are actually kept to oneself and contained in thought alone. Tacit permission can start a great fire.
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          Jun 8 2011: James ,

          As you have reasoned, so have the deliberators of "hate speech " laws..Speech is action and tacit permission in the context of religious tecahing as yousaid "can start a great fire".

          In Canada hate speech is now a crime, where ever it is spoken and hate speechin public places is a separate crime. A very good system I think..makes the individual responsble under criminal law.

          Although California law is very similar to Canadas, and therefore must be constitutional," hate speech" is not a crime per se but is an aggaracvating factor after the fact for any crime committed by an individual. ( the law here is apparently doing something I know you don't apporve of....attaching value to motivation)
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      Jun 6 2011: Verissimi il vostro "focus" in this question. Miei complimenti Signore Walker.

      As aways your practical wisdom is clear and neat. Your economist profile from London is very valuable.
      I found a delicate sense of justice in your words. Bravo.
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    Jun 5 2011: Part of what came out of our discussion of the other question is almost the flip side of what we have posted below. My big worry in this world now includes religious groups who define the world according to their holy books literally interpreting the edicts within.

    How do we ensure that all people have freedom of relgion but also ensure that everyone who does not practice that religion is not judged or punished for not being part of that group?

    I guess I think that human rights are rights and that freedom of religion ends where it infringes on the rights of any other group.
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    Jun 5 2011: Canada has already passed legislation that defines and prohibits 'hate crimes." I have attached a link which desribes the legislation and shows the wording of the law. Violating our prohibition for crimes based on hate has serious penalities. It also covers 'hate speach'.
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      Jun 5 2011: Thanks for that..I was going to post the Canadian law which I believe was modeled on the 2005 California law

      .Don't know if either has been you?

      I gather that in the U.S. there is no prohibition against preaching or inciting violencce. Something is considered a hate crime only after the cat of the crime

      Still researching examples globally. And very interesetd here on what personal views are as well. What "we the citizens of the world".thinkit should be.
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        Jun 5 2011: Oh, yes. In Canada there have been several times when people have faced prosecution based on this law. I will see if I can find the outcomes and get back to you.
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        Jun 6 2011: Carissima Signora Lindsay, We see how you going very fine in your intelligent and sensible questions. Let me tell you that here in the house we start a nice discussion about your question with some friends, and we can be glad to announce you, that the Cardinale Marini and Father Delacourt from the Jesuit Company has done a very sensible comments on your considerations about this subject.

        Congratulations Signora Lindsay, and please be kind to continue with your intelectual labor. We are profoundly gratefull.
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      Jun 7 2011: Execllent article by the CBC (2004) Debra, thanks. It is two parts and centered again, as the U.S. Consitition is, on the acts of individuals (apparently)..Part 318 criminalizes "hate speech" which is advocating genocide or harm to any person or group of persons based on race, creed, religion ( and I gather sexual orienttaion has been added).
      Perhap swe can look together at how that has worked. It would seem to be that even in a private gathering in someone's home if someonestarted advocating the hanging of all GBT's ( Gay, Bi-Sexual or Trnsgender) Persons that would consitute a criminal act.That would seem to also mean that a place of worship or religious practice in Canada is not a safe haven for "hate speech"..that hate speech is not included in freedom of religion. The leader and all persons in such a gathering who engaged in "hate speech" would be criminally liable.

      I like the Canadaian standard. that It is a crime even if behind closed doorrs..even if the closed doors are of a place of worship or religious practice.even the hate speech is part o religious practice or belief.. Yeah Canada!!! Holding the light!!!!

      Part II, section 319 makes it a crime to take hate speech to public places. Inotherwords its already a crime to do do it private and a second criminal offense to do it in public places. I like that operation of law as well .

      Important to bear inmind that limitations on freedom of religion based on interefernce with the rights of other sor the rue of law must also work for all similar acts inall other circumstances..

      Canadian Law does this makes hate speech a criminal makes criminal acts punishable under law as criminal acts and religiious practice or belief may not be asserted as a defense.

      Perfect.. I see no flaws.

      What do others already here and ariving think of that?
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    Jun 5 2011: Austrailia has visited this issue

    The Crimes Act Amendment (Incitement to Violence) Bill 2005 (the Bill) is a private members Bill introduced by the shadow attorney-general, Ms Nicola Roxon MP. The purpose is to criminalise threats or the incitement of violence against racial or religious groups. Criminal liability will attach only to specific forms of behaviour – threats to cause physical harm, threats to cause physical damage, and incitement to commit violence or damage property. The Bill proposes criminal penalties of up to two years imprisonment for both religious and racially based offences if a causal connection between the conduct and element of race, colour, religion, or national or ethnic origin is proved"

    .California successfully passed a hate crimes law that is more stringent than that of U.S. courts interpreting the constiiution:

    "To criminalize the incitement to violence against a protected group if it is sufficiently serious that it can reasonably be expected to result in harm to members of the targeted victims.

    The bill was sponsored by Senator Sheila Kuehl (D) of West Los Angeles. It was passed by both houses of the legislature by healthy margins on 2004-AUG-24 and 25. The votes were 24 to 14 in the Senate, and 51 to 23 in the Assembly. A number of fundamentalist Christian groups and individuals tried to convince Governor Schwarzennegger (R) to veto the bill. However, he signed it into law on 2004-SEP-22. The law became effective on 2005-JAN-01".