Four inmates in the UK are crying foul after their Prison Service has continuously refused to recognize their Star-Wars based faith. The story came to light after one of the inmates was denied the right to follow “Jediisim”.
One inmate doing time at HMP Isis, South London, was quoted in the in-house prison mag the “Inside Time” saying: “I put in an application asking that I be allowed to practice my religion freely — I am a Jedi”.
Despite the fact that according to a census conducted in 2012, Jediism is the 7th most popular (and recognized) religion in the United Kingdom, the inmate was still denied the right to practice his religion after the National Offender Management Service refused to recognize Jediism as a religion.
This sort of intolerance from the Dark Side should not be condoned. If the the National Offender Management Service accepts Paganism and Rastafarianism, there is no reason why inmates should be denied the right to practice their Jedi faith.
Sure, UK and U.S. policy differ, but at a time when the U.S. is recognizing the rights of corporations not only to have “deeply held religious beliefs” but to go so far as to refuse to comply with U.S. law as a result, how can we deny any human being the basic right to religious faith?
Of course, I am referring to the recent Supreme Court decision that allowed Hobby Lobby to refuse to cover some forms of birth control for female employees in their health plans due to the corporation’s ‘religious beliefs’. The Supreme Court went so far as to say that the corporation could be exempted from U.S. law based on those beliefs even if they had no basis in fact.
You might wonder how one would come to a conclusion of what is and what is not fact when it comes to religious beliefs. That is a valid point. However, in this case, fact really does seem to mean fact. Hobby Lobby argued that it believed that the birth control pill commonly known as the ‘morning after pill’ in fact caused abortions, although the true mechanism by which it works is to prevent fertilization of the egg. How can you have an abortion before you even have a fertilized egg? A potential pregnancy is being prevented here, no existing pregnancy is being terminated. Yet apparently it is the right of Hobby Lobby to decide what it believes is reality.
What if tomorrow a corporation decides that it would violate its deeply held religious beliefs to employ women or black people? Would anti-discrimination laws such as Title VII be set aside in deference to their beliefs? The Supreme Court has come out with many scary decisions in recent years (Citizens United, for example), and this decision is right down there with the worst of them.