Reveal article: 6 ways religious exemption laws are exploited - Excellent!

by AndersonsInfo 7 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • AndersonsInfo

    By Amy Julia Harris / February 29, 2016

    6 ways religious exemption laws are exploited

    The religious freedom loophole

    Religious freedom is one of the basic rights guaranteed to Americans in the Constitution. But just how far should that freedom extend?

    Across the country, lawmakers have carved out exemptions from common rules for religious groups, ranging from immigration to land use. According to an analysis by The New York Times, more than 200 exemptions for religious groups were folded into congressional legislation from 1989 to 2006.

    These loopholes are meant to give church groups the freedom to practice their religion without government interference. But religious exemptions also can lead to problems, as we explore in our latest episode: Scam artists who claim to be religious have taken advantage of these exemptions, and children have been hurt.

    Here are a few troubling examples of these exemptions, several of which you can hear about in this week’s episode of Reveal.

    Some states exempt religious day cares from licensing rules

    In 16 states, religious day care facilities are exempt from some rules designed to protect children. At licensed day cares, all workers must be trained on child safety and must follow specific child-to-staff ratios. But six states give religious day cares a pass from some of these rules, allowing workers with no training and no staffing requirements to care for children.

    Our interactive map offers a state-by-state breakdown (click the image below for the full version):

    Exemptions for religious day cares

    Many of these church day cares aren’t inspected unless parents complain – and in a few states, regulators can’t even investigate allegations regarding inadequate supervision or overzealous discipline because those decisions are considered church matters. Hundreds of children have been injured and a few have died in preventable ways at the thousands of religious, unlicensed day cares around the country.

    In our new episode, you’ll hear one example of how a woman who was jailed for child endangerment started her own church and continued to run dangerous day care facilities free of oversight.

    And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We’re continuing to investigate the hazards at religious day cares in the coming weeks, so sign up for our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss the stories.

    Corporal punishment is allowed in many religious schools

    While physical punishment is banned in most public schools around the country, many private religious schools and residential care facilities are free to hit, paddle and spank children in accordance with their religious beliefs.

    On this week’s episode, reporter Abigail Keel looks at Heartland, a Christian school in Missouri, where children were punched, hit so hard that they dislocated shoulders, and were forced to stand in cow manure pits as punishment.

    The state raided and evacuated children from the facility in 2001 over concerns for child safety, but a judge ultimately ruled that the officials went too far. Today, Heartland can physically discipline children according to their religious beliefs.

    Employment discrimination laws don’t apply to religious groups

    Thanks to a legal doctrine called the “ministerial exception,” religious groups are exempted from anti-discrimination rules in hiring and firing.

    In a case that made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, a religious school was allowed to fire a teacher in 2004 after she was diagnosed with narcolepsy – which the woman claimed was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In a unanimous decision in 2012, the high court said the teacher qualified as a minister, so standard employment discrimination laws didn’t apply.

    Religious leaders in many states can withhold info on child abuse

    Clergy are mandated to report child abuse in 45 states, but 32 of those states have a loophole called “clergy-penitent privilege.” These exceptions allow them to withhold information from authorities if they hear about abuse from members of their congregation who are looking for spiritual advice.

    The Jehovah’s Witnesses are currently fighting lawsuits over failing to report child sex abuse.

    Churches can often circumvent zoning rules

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  • Simon

    All bad, bad laws that cannot be rationalized in any way as necessary for any religion to be exempt from.

    If your religion doesn't think basic health and safety or child protection laws should apply to it then there is something very very wrong with it.

    Instead of being exempted, such groups should be scrutinized even more closely.

  • Vidiot
    If the Justice System ever felt pressured into "making an example" of some particular religious organization (in order to, say, mollify public outcry), the WTS would be an ideal candidate.
  • Mad Irishman
    Mad Irishman

    You either get rid of all the religious exemptions or none of them. Nobody is going to be singled out.

    Seeing that those in control of Congress and the Senate are all religious nuts: good luck with any of that!

  • Vidiot

    @ Mad Irishman...

    Individual groups (secular or religious) lose their "charitable" status fairly frequently in the US, for legitimate reasons.

    There's been some anecdotal evidence that the WTS was quietly threatened with loss of tax-exempt privileges a few years back (due to noncompliance of certain standards), which was the real reason they pulled the plug on the Book Study in individual JWs' homes.

    And I think a pretty strong case could be made that the Org has been abusing their charitable/tax-exempt status for some time now. It just needs to be exposed enough.

    Nobody would feel sorry for them.

    Don't f**k with the IRS. These are the guys who took down Capone.

  • jhine
    This article is about American law . Does anyone know about the UK or Europe ?
  • Mephis

    In the Uk (and some of this stems from European law mixing with UK law).

    Exemptions in equality and employment law exist for religions when a role or service is solely about the religion or for adherents of that religion. There's been a lot of debate over whether these exemptions need to be narrowed down.

    Corporal punishment in schools is flat out banned regardless of who runs them. Some religious schools tried to challenge that ban and were reminded that freedom of religion didn't mean freedom to do whatever your religion told you to do.

    Child abuse reporting isn't the same as the US so can't really be compared. There is no right never to report, but the obligation to report is framed differently too.

    No idea on day care sorry.

  • jhine
    Thank you Mephis .

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