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Thursday, April 21, 2022

How To Make $400,000 By Being An A**hat; And, Are You One Of The Chosen?

 I had just read about the philosophy professor who claimed it was against his religion to refer to a trans woman as she/her, and then sued after he was disciplined. The college just settled for $400,000. This isn't the first case where an evangelical Christian has claimed that their religion prohibited basic human decency and manners. And that got me thinking.

I then went for a walk and went face-first into a spiderweb and had an epiphany. An enlightenment, if you will. A new religion. Maybe you'll want to join it. And before you say, hey, you can't just pull a religion out of a hat, first of all, I have Mormon clients you've just triggered. Second, all you need for a religion to be legally protected is a sincerely held belief, observance, or practice. Here's what EEOC says about religion:

Religion includes not only traditional, organized religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism, but also religious beliefs that are new, uncommon, not part of a formal church or sect, only subscribed to by a small number of people, or that seem illogical or unreasonable to others.Further, a person’s religious beliefs “need not be confined in either source or content to traditional or parochial concepts of religion.” A belief is “religious” for Title VII purposes if it is “religious” in the person’s “own scheme of things,” i.e., it is a “sincere and meaningful” belief that “occupies a place in the life of its possessor parallel to that filled by . . . God.” The Supreme Court has made it clear that it is not a court’s role to determine the reasonableness of an individual’s religious beliefs, and that “religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection.” An employee’s belief, observance, or practice can be “religious” under Title VII even if the employee is affiliated with a religious group that does not espouse or recognize that individual’s belief, observance, or practice, or if few – or no – other people adhere to it.

Here are the beliefs of this spiderweb-inspired religion:

Name of religion: The religion is called Church of the Chosen. Why? Because the Creator's chosen people have always been the downtrodden and bullied. The misfits. The Jewish people are a good example of the chosen people, as are everyone who has been looked down upon. So if you are are gay, lesbian, trans, queer, female, Black, Brown, ace, atheist, agnostic, nerdly, disabled,  wrong in all the right ways, an underdog, a nitty gritty dirty little freak*, or you celebrate Festivus, do cosplay, geek out on a hobby, expound on the glories of wine or beer, collect rocks or books, or ever played D&D, then you are one of the Chosen.

Creator: The Creator of all things does not care what you call them. You can refer to them as God, Jehovah, Allah, or Sue. However, they do want you to know that they are non-binary. They are neither male nor female, having no need for reproductive organs. All humans are made in their image, including male, female, intersex, non-binary, and all iterations of sexual identification and sexual preference. Their pronouns are they/them. They aren't saying if there are more than one, or none, of them.

Belief: The Creator does not care if you believe in them or not. They do not need any particular form of worship. You can be atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Santeria, Pastafarian, or any other religion and still be part of the Church of the Chosen. 

Pronouns: The Chosen believe that people should be given the courtesy of being called by their preferred pronouns. The Chosen also believe their religion demands** that those who deliberately misgender must, forever after or until they relent, be called by the opposite gender. So, in the case of Nicholas Meriwether, the Chosen shall now refer to the now-rich philosophy professor as Ms. Meriwether, and use she/her pronouns. For those who refuse to use non-binary pronouns, they shall forever after or until they relent, be referred to as they/them. This is our sincerely held belief, one of our core beliefs, and it must be respected. We fully expect the Alliance Defending Freedom to represent anyone who is disciplined for doing so. As their senior counsel, Travis Barham, said, “This case forced us to defend what used to be a common belief — that nobody should be forced to contradict their core beliefs just to keep their job.”

Science: The Chosen believe in science. The Chosen believe in following the recommendations of the CDC, the WHO, and their physicians. We believe in getting recommended vaccinations unless we have an allergy or our doctor otherwise advises us against them. We believe in using masks to prevent the spread of deadly diseases. The Chosen also believe that they should not have to sit next to anyone who is both unvaccinated and unmasked for a deadly disease against the recommendation of medical professionals.  While the Chosen believe it is anyone's right to believe that masking hides the face and is against the Creator's will, the Chosen also believe that their religion demands they, and their children, avoid such people, who will almost certainly contaminate their bodies. Thus, they must assert a religious exemption if they believe they are being required to be exposed to such contamination.

Bodies: The Chosen believe that their religion demands they have control over their bodies, and that any decisions related to their bodies be between their doctors and them. The religion demands that the Chosen claim a religious exemption from the dictates of any government or other authority which would limit their ability to choose birth control, abortion, gender-affirming treatment, gender-affirming surgery, or make other choices about their bodies. The Chosen in the medical profession also believe that they must assert a religious exemption and refuse to abide by any government restrictions on what treatments they may provide to patients who have chosen to utilize birth control, abortion, gender-affirming treatment, or gender-affirming surgery. 

Education: The Chosen believe that children should be taught about all kinds of families, and that children and teachers should be able to speak about their own families. The Chosen also believe that it is sacrilege to fail to teach all aspects of history, good and bad. Teachers who are Chosen must claim a religious exemption and refuse to abide by restrictions on discussing same-sex parents, gender dysphoria, science, critical race theory, math, or banned books. Parents who are Chosen must insist that teachers and schools exempt their children and abide by their religious beliefs in this regard. 

Prayer: The Creator is not a personal genie. They do not want to be bothered by football games, craps games, school functions, civic meetings, or other trivial matters. The Chosen believe it is sacrilege to engage in public prayer other than in places of worship, prayer groups, or other places where 100% of those in attendance actively want to participate. The Chosen believe it is your absolute right to bother the Creator with whatever you want to bother them with, as long as you do not force others to listen in or participate. The Chosen believe that, if forced to listen to the prayers of others, their minds and bodies will be polluted. Therefore, they must demand a religious exemption to participating in and listening to all forced prayer.

Voting: The Chosen believe that all citizens of a democracy should be allowed to vote and that voting should be made as easy as possible for those citizens. Therefore, Supervisors of Elections and other employees who work on elections have a duty to claim a religious exemption from any and all laws and regulations in which they would be required to reduce the number of voting places, ballot drop-offs, and/or early voting days; make absentee voting more difficult; or make voting in person more difficult.

These are just some of the core beliefs of the Church of the Chosen. I may have more epiphanies about the core beliefs of the Chosen the next time I run face-first into a spiderweb.*** If you also hold some or all of these beliefs, you are one of the Chosen. It is now your religion. You can demand that public accommodations, schools, and workplaces respect and abide by your religion. If one religion can exempt itself from complying with laws and regulations, so must the Chosen.**** It is the way.

* Okay, that last part may be because I was listenng to Pink when my face hit the spiderweb, but who am I to question the Creator? Maybe Pink is a prophet.

** Because the Creator is known to be vindictive as heck. Lot's wife is a little salty about this.

*** Which happens almost daily, because the little buggers are sneaky and we have a large yard.

**** While this is written with some tongue in cheek, I am dead serious. These are my sincerely held core beliefs. If they are yours, then fight for your religious rights as one of the Chosen.

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I appreciate your comments and general questions but this isn't the place to ask confidential legal questions. If you need an employee-side employment lawyer, try http://exchange.nela.org/findalawyer to locate one in your state.