In early 2004 I was afire with election fever. There was an excitement in the air for Republicans that I have not experienced since, even in 2010. It was my freshman year of college, and partisan politics divided roommate against roommate — though usually in a spirit of sportsmanship and good humor, such as when two of my friends drew a line down the middle of their door and let their stickers, articles, and posters face off.

I made phone calls and carpooled with friends to see the President; I attended College Republicans tailgates and bake sales. When the weather grew warm I took to my feet and led a flyering campaign around campus. Because I was equal parts zeal and naïveté, I sometimes said, did, and thought things that 2014 Nicole would find cringe-worthy. One politically naïve move I don’t regret, though, is a poster I created that read “Support the Muslim Women of France.”

At that time, the French parliament was poised to ban religious identification from public places. It is worth noting that, although the law was widely believed to target the hijab (the headscarf worn by some Muslim women), it was broad enough to include a yarmulke or an “excessive” cross. In government and in culture, France reached an extreme secularism long before we ourselves began to hear calls for faith to be shoved into a dark corner where it won’t perturb anyone else. It’s not entirely difficult to understand, given the divergent history and outcomes of two revolutions. Nevertheless, under the old lie that one can’t be both a patriot and a Godly person, France was prepared to expunge outward symbols of faith that Americans generally tolerate.

Even three years after the World Trade Center was destroyed by terrorists, it never occurred to me not to support the public expression of faith. Sadly, a vast majority of the French populace apparently favored the law.

Why do I bring this up now? The results of two UConn studies show that indicating a religious affiliation on a résumé can kill job prospects. Once again, this is true across a broad range of denominations, but is particularly true for Muslims.

If only liberal New England had been examined, I could easily put this down to the usual “villain” of the story — secular intolerance — and move on. The part of the article that raises my eyebrows has to do with how the results of the same experiment played out in the Bible Belt. There, I am compelled to follow the data where it appears to lead.

As I have railed against the federal mandate forcing my fellow conscientious-objectors to subsidize abortifacients, I’ve been painfully aware of the mockery and condescending assumptions directed at Catholic women: a minority of a minority…brainwashed by the domineering patriarchy, no doubt. If I added that some of my friends wear chapel veils, all you-know-what would surely break loose among the feministas. Now we stand at the cusp of a potential Supreme Court vindication, and I wonder, do we still need the oppressive government to defend us from one another? That would be a hollow victory indeed.

The Family Institute has defended Baptists, Catholics, evangelicals, and Jews against outrageous, unwarranted attacks on their faith and freedom. Why not Muslims too? Throughout the HHS Mandate battle, the refrain has been “An attack on one is an attack on all.” Now, I would not be a Christian today if I did not believe Christianity is true. In accord with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993), I also reject a complete, senseless lack of restrictions, because there are certain human rights concerns I share. However, I just cannot conceive of passing over an eminently qualified job applicant because of her faith. I sure hope I’m in a clear majority there.

As Franklin, with his typical wit, so eloquently put it: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

2 Responses to “Religious Freedom for All…Especially the Unpopular”

  1. on 21 Jun 2014 at 9:47 amBill

    The Christian ethic has indeed encouraged freedom of conscience and expression of faith for all. And by the same ethic Christians are to criticize abuses within the church. Likewise Muslims must seek relief for those who suffer an epidemic of honor killings & female genital mutilation, etc., in their communities. This was the subject which the recent film, Honor Diaries, addressed. I hope a common bond for human dignity can be strengthened across all religious lines, but do we have the basis for that in Shariah Law today? Or is Shariah the enemy of such efforts. Many Muslims say Sharia has to be reformed in order to support the sentiments expressed in this blog.

  2. on 23 Jun 2014 at 9:48 amNicole

    Honor killing is precisely an example of something that could invoke the “compelling interest” element of the RFRA. I do hope to see that film sometime, although so far my schedule hasn’t worked out…

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