Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

China’s Attack on Religious Liberty: A Model for Progressives?

The Washington Post reported last week that “Chinese authorities have ordered Muslim shopkeepers and restaurant owners in its troubled Xinjiang region to sell alcohol and cigarettes, and promote them in ‘eye-catching displays,’ in an attempt to undermine Islam’s hold on local residents.” According to the order, anyone who fails to comply with it “will see their shops sealed off, their businesses suspended, and legal action pursued against them.”

Hmmm, sound familiar?

This order, to be sure, is just one part of the aggressive campaign that China has launched against Islam. But it very much resembles the progressive effort in this country to dragoon religious believers to provide their services for ceremonies that violate their religious beliefs about what marriage is. It also calls to mind, as law professor (and Becket Fund attorney) Mark Rienzi points out in this USA Today op-ed, the HHS contraceptive mandate that the Obama administration tried to impose on employers with religious objections to facilitating contraception and/or abortifacients—and that, in the form of the so-called “accommodation,” it is still trying to impose on the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious ministries.

As Rienzi observes, when other means of providing the objected-to services are widely available, a “dogged insistence” on forcing religious believers to violate their beliefs “is no better than China bullying Muslims to sell alcohol: an effort to weaken a religious belief that the government dislikes.” Such an assault on religious liberty is something that all Americans should oppose.

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