"The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities." --Lord Acton, The History of Freedom in Antiquity
The Maetreum of Cybele is a 501c federally recognized tax-exempt organization, locked in a tax battle with the town of Catskill, who do not wish to grant a tax exemption to an "illegitimate religion." This legal battle has been drawn out for seven years, in an attempt to spend the Pagan monastery out of existence via legal fees. If you're not disturbed by this information, you should be.
The Supreme Court's decision in the Hobby Lobby case, allowing closely held for-profit businesses to deny access to contraception based on religious belief, opens up a huge can of worms. Or two. Or perhaps more.
The implications are widespread. For one thing, the court's ruling means the religious beliefs of the business trump those of the employee. The ruling was somewhat narrow in that it only affected businesses in which five or fewer people hold at least 50 percent of the stock, but it was still significant in that it essentially granted rights previously reserved for people to business entities.
The Maetreum of Cybele is seeking donations to fund its continuing legal fight to have its tax-exempt status recognized by the Town of Catskill. I was in court when a panel of appellate judges (New York's second-highest jurists) heard testimony which led to a ruling in the Maetreum's favor, one which was covered by the likes of Forbes and the New York Law Journal.
Like many small towns in this state, Catskill is apparently loathe to take a property off the tax rolls. Both state and federal governments continue to heap unfunded mandates on local municipalities, which must also manage rising health-care costs and a tax cap which ensures that the revenue will never keep up with the costs without cutting what the law will allow, such as programs for senior citizens and other "discretionary" expenses.
If you're old enough, you may remember a television cartoon series from the 1950's called "Crusader Rabbit." He was, as I recall, sort of a Don Quixote-type character - tending to tilt at windmills which most folks would judge imaginary or not worth the effort. Whether that memory is correct or not, it's the way I often feel. Very few people ever seem to share my sense of injustice at the little subtleties in our culture.
My wife and I receive healthcare in Arizona from the Banner Health organization. Banner is one of the largest healthcare conglomerates in the U.S., managing hospitals and medical practices all over the country. Yet, when we are admitted into the hospital for a procedure and are asked on the intake form to indicate whether we have a religion of choice, only certain ones are on their computer list and they do not include Pagan, Neopagan or Heathen. Most surprisingly, in light of recent acknowledgment by the Armed Forces and the Prison system, the Banner list doesn't even have Wiccan! (We are not Wiccan, strictly speaking, but it's close enough for Jazz. We'd take it.)
South Africa has come a long way in the last twenty years. In 1994 we had our first free elections, and from it we left Apartheid where it belonged- in the past. Then in 1996 we adopted a new Constitution; one which is heralded by many first world countries as being progressive. However, as liberal as our Constitution may be, South Africa is still a very conservative nation; especially when it comes to the topic of religion.