In an earlier post, (With a Little Help from my Friends), I posed a number of questions seeking answers from the readers of this blog.
I received a number of interesting responses to those questions. Many of them well articulated and argued. I thought I would explore another issue in light of recent news events.
A number of states have passed laws most commonly referred to as Freedom of Religion Acts, the latest iteration being the Indiana Freedom of Religion Restoration Act.
The expressed purpose of this legislation is to prevent the government from imposing any laws restricting the free expression of religion or the ability to follow the tenets of one’s religious beliefs.
This seems harmless on its face. Although it is troubling that a governmental body feels the need to pass a law that prevents future governmental bodies from passing a law, but I digress.
It would seem unnecessary, in light of the well established right to freedom of religion that already exists in the United States Constitution. The language is clear and unambiguous.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
This language seems to protect the same thing. It seems to work well. We have not burned any witches or executed any heretics for quite a while.
However, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. Despite denials and artfully crafted defenses of these measures, the purpose is to allow discriminatory practices under the umbrella of religious freedom.
Now, if any religious group wants to prohibit members of the LGBT community from joining their congregation, getting married, attending services, based on the tenets of their scriptures, philosophy, sacred texts, or interpretation of messages received from god, so be it.
Here’s a good one I found in the Book of Mormon. A legitimate, recognized, and rapidly growing religion.
BOOK OF MORMON 2 Nephi 5:21
“…wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.
22 And thus saith the Lord God:”
There’s not enough time or space to display a host of similar discriminatory quotes from the Bible, the Koran, the Talmud, and on and on.
They are free in this country to practice their religion, but they cannot seek governmental authority to impose it on anyone else in the world outside their houses of worship.
It was not that long ago in our recent history that many private organizations denied membership to people of different races, religions, ethnic origin, or gender. Some excellent examples are the KKK and Augusta National Golf Club. In the interest of fair and honest dialog, Augusta National did always allow blacks in, as caddies. The KKK never invited any blacks to their club. Instead, they tortured them.
If a business owner, upon seeing the approach of a person of color, or an Asian, or a Native American, or a white person, runs to lock the door and refuses to provide services based exclusively on innate held racial biases, that is legally, ethically, morally, and constitutionally wrong.
So explain the difference, if the same business owner refuses to provide services to a gay or lesbian couple based on religious tenets.
Discrimination, whether based on learned prejudices or religious tenets, is wrong. It should never be tolerated, never promoted, and certainly never codified into law.
It is in direct opposition to everything this country stands for.
According to some estimates, there are over 4200 known religions in the world. Some have some rather unusual practices associated with them. Just because the majority of people in this country come from a Judeo-Christian religious upbringing, does not diminish the validity of all other religious tenets.
Be careful what you put into law.
You may find a people sacrificing a virgin, denying women driver’s licenses, marrying all your sisters, protecting all the sacred cows thus denying you that sirloin, or imposing prohibition to prevent the consumption of demon rum.