Columns Mark Silk: Spiritual Politics Opinion

Final exam: When should we limit religious freedom?

We’re coming to the end of term and here’s my final exam for Religious Freedom 101. You must give a reason for your answer to each question: A simple “yes” or “no” will result in 0 out of a possible 10 points per question. You may turn in the exam in the comments section. Grading will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

  1. You are a conscientious cannibal. Should the state be able to prevent you from eating someone?
  2. Your religion teaches that plural marriage (one man, more than one wife) receives the highest reward in Heaven. Should the state be able to prevent you from entering into such a marriage?
  3. You are the pastor of a church. Should the church’s tax exemption be lifted if you endorse (or oppose) a candidate for public office from the pulpit?
  4. You are the pastor of a church. Should the church’s tax exemption be lifted if it raises money, sets up phone banks, and/or canvasses for candidates for public office?
  5. You are an independent business owner who believes that same-sex marriage violates God’s law. Should you be allowed to refuse to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding? Provide a floral arrangement? Take photographs? Set up chairs and tables?
  6. You believe that interracial marriage violates God’s law. Should you be allowed to refuse to bake a wedding cake for an interracial wedding? Provide a floral arrangement? Take photographs? Set up chairs and tables?
  7. You are a Jew who believes that Jews should not marry those of other faiths. Should you be allowed to refuse to bake a wedding cake for the wedding of a Jew and a non-Jew? Provide a floral arrangement? Take photographs? Set up chairs and tables?
  8. You are a chaplain in the military. Should you be permitted to proselytize for your faith while on duty?
  9. You are a chaplain in the military. Should you be permitted to tell service personnel who do not share your faith that they are going to Hell?
  10. You are an officer in the military who believes that same-sex marriage violates God’s law. Should you be permitted to refuse to sign a commendation for the same-sex spouse of a retiring enlisted man or woman?

Extra Credit: You are in charge of an organization that opposes artificial birth control on religious grounds and thus excludes such coverage from the health insurance it offers its female employees. Should you be permitted to refuse to inform the government of the exclusion lest this result in the employees receiving birth control coverage from another source free of charge?

About the author

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service

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