Thanks for the info about the drug case.
: That would be Human Resources v Smith 494 US 872. That case overturned several decades of First-Amendment jurisprudence which held that the mere application of a neutral and reasonable law was not enough; the government must show a compelling interest in enforcing a particular law over religious scruples.
I applaud that decision. If people as individuals must obey certain laws, then people as members of organizations, and the organizations themselves -- including religious organizations -- ought to obey the same laws. Anything else is discriminatory and, I feel, violates the spirit evident in the writings of the American founding fathers, which means equal treatment under the law for everyone. Why should any person or group of persons be singled out for special privileges, any more than any should be singled out for special sanctions?
: (I should add that some could perhaps argue that a compelling interest was present in that case.
I think so, for reasons stated above.
: The court, however, explicitly threw out the compelling interest test, and adopted the 'neutral and generally applicable' standard instead.
Which I think was a very good idea, for reasons stated above.
: Legal scholars can endlessly debate the correctness of one view vs the other; personally, I think that Smith was a disgrace.)
So you disagree with what I said above? If so, please explain why. Include an analysis of why anyone ought to get special privileges from the government, especialy privileges to allow conduct that would otherwise land a person in prison.:: Thus, if someone is disfellowshipped for "apostasy", that would be a violation of individual religious rights by an organization.
: How can that be?
Because it's slander or libel. It would not be a violation of the constitution per se, but it would still be a violation of religious rights, just as it would be a violation of religious rights for, say, the Catholic Church to instigate mobs to disrupt assemblies of Jehovah's Witnesses. Just as courts in the 1940s ruled against various violations of the religious rights of JWs by government and other organizations, so should they rule against JWs violating the religious rights of those who JWs label as "apostates".
According to the Watchtower, an "apostate" is a vile person worthy of death by God. You only have to read Watchtower literature to see the horrible things attributed to all "apostates", who after all, often do nothing worse than disagree with JW religious leaders. One can hold such unpleasant opinions personally of anyone one likes, but one is not necessarily free to announce such opinions to others or to write publicly about such opinions, because such public statements usually amount to slander or libel. Public statements that are objectively true are not slander or libel, but a claim that someone is an "apostate" and fits everything that Watchtower claims for them is not. And when such an announcement leads to forced shunning and its consequences, such as total loss of family relationships and friendships, and even ability to earn a living, it certainly damages people unnecessarily.
It's like shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theatre. One can argue that prohibiting this is a violation of the First Amendment, but because of the damage it can do to others, such irresponsible behavior must be controlled by law, and those who do such damage with their words ought to be held accountable for what they do. So it is with irresponsible behavior in the religious arena. One should not be allowed to shout the equivalent of "Fire!" if it does massive damage to human relationships. It amounts to defamation of character. It can permanently damage relations between parents and children, brothers and sisters, etc. It should not be allowed by law, and it certainly should not be given special protection under the guise of constitutionally protected "religious freedom". When an organization puts in place procedures to ensure that people are forced to shun others, that amounts to conspiracy to commit defamation of character. It means that people are forced, on pain of punishment, to shun people they don't even know. This has nothing to do with individual freedom to practice religion as one sees fit. It is a gross overstepping of what ought to be the bounds of religious freedom.
: The bill of rights does not protect individuals from private organizations. It protects them from the government, and only the government. Any personal protections against actions by private organizations are a matter of statute, not constitutional law.
I don't believe that's right. At least, it ought not to be right. Discrimination of all sorts is prohibited, and equal protection under the law is guaranteed, by the constitution and by the Declaration of Independence. Statutes that a court holds to be discriminatory are usually invalidated. Furthermore, the U.S. government (as well as many European governments) usually will force various private organizations, and even state or local governments, to abide by non-discriminatory rules by withholding government money. In many cases this is a good thing since organizations are often run by people with private biases who misuse their power.
In any case, until relatively recently, as you pointed out, the courts got involved in the religious arena by specifically preventing people from collecting damages from religious organizations that had defamed them and damaged their relations with family and friends. This is one thing that I want to see reversed. Not allowing people to collect damages for this is like the government preventing people damaged by someone who shouts "Fire!" in a theatre from collecting damages.
: One can argue that a law forbidding disfellowshipping would not violate the free exercise clause. But one cannot argue that disfellowshipping itself violates the First Amendment, because it is not a governmental action, nor done under color of governmental authority.
I agree. But by the same token, courts never should have held that religious organizations are insulated from lawsuits brought by individuals who they damaged. If an individual can be held responsible for damaging someone, then a religious organization should be held equally responsible for causing similar damage.