(Not for the faint-hearted)
In late 2002, at the height of the war against Islamic extremism, the U.S. State Department issued an annual report that found that at least 80 organizations were classified as “terrorist organizations” by the United States . That is to say, as defined by law, a group in the U.S. government’s list would be regarded as a terrorist group, even if its goal was the overthrow of a government through nonviolent means. (Although it is unlikely the U.S. government would have classified groups such as Amnesty International and the Anti-Defamation League as terrorist organizations during the Cold War.)
Some might think that this could be interpreted as a denial of the religious rights of atheists, but that would be wrong. For starters, the U.S. government never denied religious rights to anyone. The idea is so absurd, and, at least until recently, has been so poorly understood, so poorly thought through and expressed, that there is no need for me to explain it further in detail.
But the government also never claimed that one group could be persecuted under a different set of laws. The idea is that it is not lawful to deny someone the right to hold a religious belief against their will. That is why it is illegal for government officials to discriminate against someone because they are a member of, or adherents to, a religion. It is not a crime to discriminate against anyone by denying them the right to be a Christian. And it is not a crime for the government to ban religious symbols, such as crucifixes, from public places and buildings.
As for the law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation (called Title VII of the Civil Rights Act ) (1953), the U.S. government never claimed that sexual orientation is a religious or humanist belief. Neither the U.S. State Department nor the FBI ever made any such claim. That said, while sex (in the broadest sense of the term) is not a religious or humanist belief, it is a belief that is fundamental to human flourishing. What’s more, one cannot deny that, as a human being, one is attracted to people of the opposite sex (sexual attraction); and so it is not unlawful for a person to be attracted to people of a same-sex (sexual attraction) orientation. The idea that these are nonreligious or humanist beliefs is absurd, and it goes against the very core of what defines a human being.
So, no one was persecuted.
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