At the Freedom From Religion Foundation, we fight to keep state and church separate and to educate citizens about what it means to be a nonreligious American. This battle to educate and separate is often a struggle against “Christian privilege.” The term has been around for a while, but concrete modern examples may be helpful to understand what we’re dealing with.
It’s Christian privilege that your holidays are enshrined in federal law; when politicians are expected to be Christian and to explain why they are not Christian or are not “Christian enough”; and when law enforcement personnel, who are supposed to protect all citizens, single out Christianity for favoritism with bumper stickers on their official vehicles.
It’s Christian privilege when you can refuse to do your job and be applauded by politicians and media for willfully defying a judge’s order because it doesn’t agree with one particular passage in your holy book.
It’s Christian privilege when the U.S. Supreme Court decides that “In God We Trust” has “lost through rote repetition any significant religious content,” while also deciding in the Hobby Lobby case that a completely false religious belief—that certain contraceptive methods are abortifacients—trumps not only science, but the law.
It’s Christian privilege when the Supreme Court declares that Christian chaplains giving Christian prayers at your legislature do not violate state-church separation because it’s an historic practice, even though James Madison—the Father of the Constitution and the Father of the Bill of Rights—wrote that “the establishment of the chaplainship to Congress is a palpable violation of equal rights, as well as of Constitutional principles.”
It’s Christian privilege when the Supreme Court says that the government can display nativity scenes depicting the birth of one particular religion’s savior as told in that religion’s holy book (and nowhere else) if it sprinkles enough secular symbolism alongside. This absurd outcome, known as the three reindeer rule, would be laughable in any other constitutional context, but the court uses it to preserve Christian privilege.
It’s Christian privilege when nearly every oath is written to cater to your god and that religious language must be opted out of rather than opted in to.
It’s Christian privilege when you expect to have your bible in every single hotel room in this country. And, when FFRF gets those bibles removed from government-run hotels, it’s Christian privilege to claim their removal is “eliminating religious freedom,” as Elizabeth Hasselbeck did on Fox News.
But it’s also Christian privilege when members of this entitled majority cry “persecution” as they lose that privilege. When Christians lose the right to impose their religion on students in public schools by distributing bibles for instance, they play the victim. When a bakery or florist, which happens to be owned by Christians, is forced to follow nondiscrimination laws, the owners act like martyrs suffering for their faith.
These are examples of parity, not oppression. And that is the crux of the matter: The erosion of unwarranted privilege is not persecution, but the steady march toward equality.
FFRF will not stop fighting until our law does not favor religious beliefs. If anything, beliefs that are based on faith not evidence—or worse, beliefs that actually contradict reality as in the Hobby Lobby case—should be treated with skepticism, not reverence.