Human Rights vs. Social Justice – Is there Really a Difference?

It seems strange to me that in a country which opposes Human Rights abuses abroad, we still struggle with Social Justice issues here in the US.  Perhaps we have a double standard for human rights, one for us and another for everyone else.  We tell such countries as China that they have repression of political freedom and imprison those who oppose their government while here in the States we repress social equality for many and socially imprison and isolate those who practice outside social standards.  One may argue that these are two different things but they are only different in the degrees of oppression.  The American dream is not to own one’s own home but to own one’s dreams and be free to pursue happiness.  For many such freedom is still an aspiration.  For the few more fortunate it is a reality.

We are a country that respects free expression and individuality of religious, social, and political ideologies.  But in practice religious morality continuously infiltrates laws which restrict the practice of individual rights and free expression for those who don’t agree with that morality.  Where lies the separation of church and state?  Wasn’t religious repression in England the reason the Pilgrims came to the colonies to escape religious persecution?

Yet today in the Texas Senate Sen. Wendy Davis (D) had to filibuster the strongly Republican Senate for 11 hours trying to forestall the passage of an anti-abortion bill until the end of the special session at midnight which would have closed down most abortion clinics in Texas and limited poor women’s freedom to end a pregnancy.  If a poor woman does not believe, as fundamentalist Christians do, that abortions is a mortal sin doesn’t she have a right to exercise their personal belief?  Aren’t we supposed to have free will and be responsible for our own actions in the eyes of our creator?  Aren’t the laws of this nation supposed to protect our religious freedom to believe or not as we wish?  Or is it okay to impose a single religious belief on everyone else?  What would our founding fathers have said about this in relationship to the separation of church and state?

The landmark decision by the Supreme Court on June 24th to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is just another example of such a social justice topic in the denial of Same Sex Marriage where fundamentalist Christians were imposing religious morality on everyone through a law, removing choice from discriminated groups (LGBT).  Throughout US history there have been social, sexual, and racial inequities in this nation of free expression and equality for all, many based upon religious tradition and morality.  In most cases it has taken well over a hundred years to both acknowledge and correct these inequities.  Yet we are still struggling.

There are still people who believe that they are the standard bearers of moral righteousness and that all must live by their God-given rules.  It seems that God has granted these people the right to judge others about their morality and to impose by law their own moral standards on all.  If so then where lies free will and free choice?  Is this not a nation where all religions are free to practice?  That means people who believe differently are also free to practice their moral beliefs as well, as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others.

We are a multi-social, multi-ethnic, multiracial, multicultural, and multi-religious nation struggling to understand what it really means to be a melting pot with equal rights for ALL, not just for some white Christians.  Is that not what this nation is about?  I might be coming down hard on fundamentalist Christians but I don’t mean all of them.  There are fundamentalist Christians out there who seem to think that everyone MUST conform to their moral standards.  I feel that this is un-American because our nation was founded on the principles that all have equal rights to their own personal religious beliefs.  Our forefathers (Pilgrims) suffered religious persecution themselves and strove to make this nation a safe haven for all cultures and religions, not just white fundamentalist Christians.

Fundamentalist Muslim laws that prohibit drinking, the expose of women, and strict adherence to a long litany of moral conduct which probably makes divorce and abortions illegal isn’t that far from what many fundamentalist Christians also believe.  Fundamentalist Christians may even consider Muslims violating human rights because they are too restrictive in imposing such strict religious laws in their government.  So where lies the fundamental difference?  Where do you draw the line?  Those who believe that religious morality shouldn’t be part of our laws feel the same way about fundamentalist Christian morality laws and legislation.

We condemn human rights and the religious practices of other nations and want to impose our form of democracy and equality for all on nations we have strong influence or control over.  Yet we are fundamentally no better than they.  How can we as a nation show ourselves a shining example of that which we profess?

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