Bossange: Weaponizing “religious freedom”

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by John Bossange

It seems like every day we hear a politician from the Republican Party talking about the loss of religious freedom.  I have yet to feel like anyone is taking away my constitutional right to practice what I wish, where I wish, and when I wish.  In return I have no desire to take away another’s freedom of religion to practice the same.  

So why has the call for religious freedom become so popular within the Republican Party?  Does the Party feel as though Americans like me have lost their right to worship freely and have been denied this sacred American right, enshrined in the first amendment of our Constitution?

Like many Vermonters, I have friends who attend a place of worship regularly, while others seek and find their spiritual guidance and support in others ways, at different times and in different locations.  That’s been my definition of religious freedom: The freedom to practice as we wish, and that’s one of the many attributes that make America a great nation.

But that’s not how the value of religious freedom is being used today.  More and more Republican Party leaders are using the idea of religious freedom as a weapon against other American’s right to religious freedom.  It’s now about using the word freedom to prevent others from exercising their personal religious beliefs.  In short, they are using freedom to deny and discriminate wherever their religious beliefs take them.  

Case in point:  Reproductive and abortion rights.  Although already decided by the Supreme Court, for many Americans bringing an unwanted child into this world remains a much greater sin than aborting a zygote, embryo or an early stage fetus.  Theirs is a strong, personal, religious and moral belief that an unwanted child will more than likely lead to a life of social, emotional and economic stress, living in poverty through a series of foster homes, adoptions and continuous identity trauma.  For many deeply religious people, the guilt of having brought that child into this world will last a lifetime.

The Republican Party is also energetically engaged in an ongoing use of religious freedom as a weapon to promote its own version of “cancel culture.”   School textbooks, public library reading materials, the study of history, movies and songs, and even the entertainment industry have come under attack.  The freedom to discriminate based on race, nationality, gender, gender orientation, and gender identity, and now to prevent contraceptive coverage, marriage equality, health care access, workers rights, racial justice, and LGBQT+ equality have also been attacked and in some cases, cancelled under the cover of “woke” and religious freedom. 

Week after week, we read about state legislatures passing laws restricting the lives of individuals and programs based on a collection of lawmakers’ religious beliefs.  Weaponizing religious freedom by using their own personal beliefs and practices to deny others their personal beliefs and practices is viewed as a blessed freedom and religious right to do so.  Governor DeSantos of Florida signing the “Woke Act” legislation and Governor Abbot of Texas signing H397 prohibiting any discussion of CRT in schools are two glaring examples of cancel culture weaponized by these governor’s religious freedom values.

When House Speaker McCarthy gave a speech on the House floor defending religious freedom he said, “As members of Congress, we made a commitment to uphold the freedom of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness equally for everyone.  To represent those values for all Americans, Congress must respect the rights of conscience, not disregard them.” Whose religious freedom and rights was he referring to?  

From the earliest days of our nation, religious freedom was weaponized to support white supremacy, slavery and segregation. As a nation we have struggled to move beyond religious-based discrimination of immigrants from the past, the new Americans of today, those who practice another religion, and others who have been viewed in marginalized communities and defined as “un-American.”

The Republican Party’s failure to understand that one’s freedom stops where another’s freedom begins is taking America down a painful path of divisiveness, intolerance and occasional violence.  In today’s America, this is a party that no longer serves the best interests of our Constitution, the spirit of our democracy, and the values that made America a nation for all.

The author is a retired middle school principal and resident of South Burlington.

Categories: Commentary

13 replies »

  1. It is difficult to know where to begin let alone know where to stop any comment on this middle school principal’s screed on religious liberty, a subject he knows little about and from what he writes doesn’t practice. I am thankful he is retired because our children are faced with too much dis and misinformation as it is.

    The list of those things that he says Republicans oppose with the weapon of religious freedom are the very things that leftist/progressives demand all accept and promote regardless of what their beliefs demand of them. It is pretty obvious that this is his way of attacking conservative Republicans and has little or nothing to do with his heart felt religious liberty values. While true Republicans are just human and make mistakes as all do, they generally are on the right side of most issues that are good for our nation and her people.

    I agree that people should be generally free to worship as they wish. I would defend their right even not to worship at all. . I would stand up in the public square with them to challenge the law if they were told otherwise. That isn’t what this is about. Faith without works is dead. It is the works that those of faith, the action taken as an exercise of freedom, which is being restricted, not because the law proscribes it, but because it offends someone who disagrees. Exercising freedom is not just something that one thinks. It is about action.

    So, if a child wishes to wear a religious T-Shirt at school, or a teacher wishes to have a Bible on his desk, or a teacher answers a question about her Christian faith, is that OK, because those things clearly fall into the area of “another’s freedom of religion to practice the same.” What about a coach who has a prayer huddle before the game with his football players? What about daily prayer over the intercom that years ago was the way schools practiced their religious freedom? What about a church that believes that marriage is a God given gift, between a man and a woman, and refuses to consider hiring a youth leader that is in a same-sex civil union with another? There are those who would deny that right. I would assume Mr. Bossange would think the applicant’s rights trump the sincerely held religious beliefs of those at the church.

    In our public schools, it’s not surprising that in such an academic setting which has harmfully evolved, that record numbers of parents have, with great personal sacrifice, given up on the public school system to send their children to private schools, are homeschooling or demanding school choice in the use of their tax money. Those who yearn to be able to grow their children in a Christian environment, and/or one that reflects traditional moral thought and action, decent, respectful, and safe, see clearly that public education has failed them in that regard. Considering the sexual agendas in public schools, much of which focuses on pornographic and dangerous lifestyles, is alone enough to cause caring parents to pull their children from such indoctrination. Where is academic freedom when it comes to the evolution debate? In so many situations neither teachers nor students can discuss any aspect of life that might offend someone’s concept of being free from such without any sympathy for those who have a God given and Constitutional right to exercise their religious freedom. Can you imagine the leftist screams you would hear if teacher were to respond to a student about Christian belief resulting from that teacher having a Bible on her desk.

    For those who believe the Constitution mandates separation of church and state, I challenge anyone to show me in the words of that timeless document, where that is. Those who lack understanding and an open heart to the truth push this false concept, wrongly blocking what are legally protected rights because public schools are government controlled. Yet those rights that get blocked by so many public schools never get tested in court because of the costly and complicated nature of the justice system. Parents need to get connected with those who know, like the Alliance Defending Freedom, learn and protect the rights of your children that you have in public schools.

    One only has to consider the writer’s thoughts on abortion. How convenient is it to call a human in the beginning stages of life as a “zygote, embryo or an early stage fetus.” Look up the meaning of those words. They connote the beginning stages of life. If Mr. Bossange’s test for terminating life were applied to our lives with the many failures and troubles we have, it could be justified to terminate any life so why limit it to an early stage of development? In fact, Vermont doesn’t, and abortions can be done without murder charges for an unborn child up to seconds before delivery. Why not terminate those below a certain economic level for surely their life will be one as he describes it of “social, emotional and economic stress, living in poverty…” No!

    Once conceived there is a person and then the discussion has to change from bringing a child into the world, to how best to raise that child in a warm and caring world that will nurture her until she is able to take care of herself and be able to repeat that process with another at the early development stage. But indiscriminate action that intentionally takes a human life is not protected by the Constitution. The preamble to the Declaration of Independence lists “life” ahead of “liberty” and for good reason for without life, there can be no liberty.

    Religious liberty should be free of politics, but the writer of this article cannot understand that.

    Bob Orleck

  2. And here is a prime example of why our state is failing, these are the people we have leading our children, these are the people that are teaching how our children should think, be it so shallow and self-centered it’s beyond belief.

    The whole abortion issue is not about rights, but about self Absorbtion and irresponsibility. There is banner in our town of Moretown, on the main drag it says, “pregnancy begins with a penis, regulate that”

    But a penis is heavily regulated, show it in public, go to jail.
    Unlawful entry, go to jail.
    If the penis leaves a deposit and it meets with an egg, despite the owner of the penis not wanting to make a “zygote” a “product of conception” then the owner has to make child support payments for the next 18 years. I thought it was a zygote?

    Women are taking zero responsibility for their actions, we have to stop giving them a free pass.

    If our laws said, heh, we have equality now, 50% of men get custody and women pay child support and 50% of women get custody and men pay child support, suddenly, suddenly things would drastically change. Nobody is calling for that. Why not?

    Sex is not love, the later is not taught in our schools but apparently there is suddenly a shortage of lustful thoughts and we need to start teaching our children at birth to be sexually liberated and they can decide if they want to have consensual sex with adults?…wtf?

    I’m sure this teacher is neck deep in cultural marxism, also known as hedonism, lust and love of money.

    If you are wondering why Vermont is so Marxist??? Look at what your children are being taught and by whom.

    Vermonters, here’s your sign.

  3. Well let me offer a counterpoint,Mr. Bossange. Social justice, radical, “anti-white”. Woke and etc. thinking and action has come to so thoroughly dominate and pervade many of our mainline Christian denominations and churches, that it has become impossible to exercise or apply thoughts to the contrary of, or in any way different from, the above-noted streams of culture inside the life of many churches, in any way whatsoever. So go ahead and indulge yourself and fulminate at length about your concerns with Republicans and religious freedoms etc. etc all you wish, and congratulate yourself on being so enlightened. But I am here to point out and assure you that the woke / PC stuff is a pervasive, speech and thought-limiting force within the USA and Vermont Christian community. And by the way, last I checked, abortion is legal in Vermont. Might you consider moving on to other topics?

  4. Despite everything else Mr. Bossange has written in his essay, he betrays his morally flawed position of ageism with this:

    “…aborting a zygote, embryo or an early stage fetus…”

    Does he think that by referring to a preborn baby with these terms or names, he can avoid his responsibility of holding a morally indefensible position which denies the following:

    1.) A zygote, an embryo, or an early stage fetus is a human being, albeit not yet fully developed.

    2.) It is never right to kill an innocent and defenseless human being—regardless of whatever circumstances surrounded his or her conception, the attitudes of anyone towards the pregnancy, or the supposed or predicted circumstances which might attend the birth of the child.

    But simply by calling a preborn child other names, this will never change the reality of his or personhood and inclusion in the human family, no matter his or her size, challenges, or stage of development. If Mr. Bossange insists on referring to a preborn child as a zygote, embryo, and early stage fetus as a rationale for aborting him or her before he or she has come to full-term, does he also support the killing of infants because they’re not toddlers, toddlers because they’re not teenagers, or teenagers because they’re not adults?

    If he does not support the choice to kill them after they’re born, why does he support the choice to kill them before they’re born? Is it because of their location on the inside of their mother’s womb where they are not visible to us without the aid of ultrasound technology? Is it the passage from inside the womb to outside the womb which then mysteriously confers personhood?

    Is it because of some arbitrary gestational age or stage of development at which a court or a mom or a dad or a grandparent or a physician or an abortionist or anyone else thinks he or she has the right to decide who lives or dies?

    Is it because he thinks that might makes right, and that simply because whoever is responsible for aborting a preborn child is bigger, stronger, and more powerful than the zygote, embryo, or early stage fetus, this somehow confers the right to end his or her life?

    Why does Mr. Bossange use the term “early stage fetus” in his defense of abortion? Why not late stage fetus? Does this imply that he is less comfortable with aborting a middle or late stage fetus? If so, why, and upon what criteria?

    • Why is it that a bacteria considered life on Mars, but a prenatal heartbeat is not considered life on earth. Why is it that people who think injecting cattle with hormones is evil, but injecting kids with hormones to change their gender is just fine.
      Why is it that your kid cannot pretend to be an Indian, but a grown man can pretend to be a woman. The lie you participate in today becomes the future you live in tomorrow. We are now living in a country our founding fathers fought to escape.

  5. I’m sorry, is this now part of the Digger? This screed is absolutely disgusting and this pig of a “retired principal”’s mother certainly should have used that reproductive health care he demands. Vt daily chronicle is failing, rapidly.

    • Dear Angered Christian: unlike some other media, the staff and readers of VDC are not threatened by ideas. The author shares his opinion – that’s why it’s listed under commentary, ‘not necessarily the opinion of the Vermont Daily Chronicle.’ Any and all are free to respond. And as always, VDC reserves the right to say no to all submitted commentaries. It will be a cold day at the Firefly Festival before opinion pieces like Mr. Bossange’s become standard fare here.

      • Guy, Thank You for publishing Mr. Bossange’s opinion. Even though I do not agree with anything in his opinion I believe he has the right to express it. And to Angered Christian you should be thankful that Mr.Bossange put his thoughts to pen as it gives insight to the enemy’s thinking and informs me of what we are up against.

  6. A simple vasectomy prevents abortion. If/when a man wants to be a responsible father, he can reverse or, better, adopt. Often it is men– the woman’s father, her husband, her boyfriend, her boss– who want the abortion. The woman expected to tidy up after his good time.

  7. Mr. Bossange states, “It’s now about using the word freedom to prevent others from exercising their personal religious beliefs. In short, they are using freedom to deny and discriminate wherever their religious beliefs take them.” He then proceeds to make his case by referring to abortion. Let’s use another example that to my knowledge, has not made it into the limelight of Vermont Politics. We are letting a great many refugee’s into this state who practice circumcision… of females. It is not talked about. Mr. Bossange, do you support that religious act? I’m not here to debate the details of female circumcision but I am asking you how would you respond? I would bet a pretty big sum of cash that you would be against it. Most people are. But isn’t that the expression of their religious freedom or as you put it, “The freedom to practice as we wish, and that’s one of the many attributes that make America a great nation.” Because your article is disingenuous. You don’t care so much about religious freedom, except when it suits your greater purpose. What are you going to do when a group of pedophiles makes their sexual practice a religion? Are you going to support them to continue to make America a great nation? Are you going to offer up your grandchild to this alter? Would that be okay? If they target your grandchild as a tool for a “minor attracted person” to practice their religion on? Yeah, I thought so. I guarantee you it is happening somewhere in this country. They will make the predilection of “minor attracted persons” into a religion.
    I find your article reprehensible and disgusting. But I will support and defend your right to say it. I took an oath 42 years ago which defends your right to say that heinous thing….
    So here is my declaration, I find your content not worth the time I just spent to read and respond. I am grateful you no longer work with children.

    • All these responses on V.D.C. are each masterful and steeped in stark reality, as opposed to the usual deluded and fanatical effluvium spewed by the leftist writer of the original article. But don’t expect that the masses continue to oppose female “circumcision”, Pam. First of all, its title is a misnomer, for unlike male circumcision – the brutal act is a complete & total amputation of the organ in question. Secondly, cries to protect this ghastly act under the banner of refraining from “racism” (what else is new?) began many years ago. Apparently, it’s like this: Once you can successfully convince the masses that women massacring their own babies is an act of empowerment & an inherent right, you can also very easily convince them of most anything under the sun including holding hysterical little girls down as you shear off their genitalia, painfully disabling them in a multitude of ways, for life – or that men themselves are biologically capable of pregnancy and giving birth. For those who might still fluff off the theory that there is a war being waged against women in these United States, much as there is and always has been in so many countries around the world, think again. There most assuredly is.

  8. “For many deeply religious people, the guilt of having brought that child into this world will last a lifetime.”

    I submit to you, Mr Bossange, that once the rubble and smoke of lies have cleared away, and the self-evident truth of common sense is revealed, it will be the exact opposite of your above statement which haunts those who bought into the false narrative that it is better to kill a preborn child than to experience whatever difficulties attend allowing the natural processes of gestation and birth come to full term. Regret over destroying an innocent life will always supersede regret over not ending that persons life, except in those who subscribe to the lie that a preborn baby is merely a clump of cells.

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