Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Religious Freedom Versus Non-Discrimination - A Civil and Tolerant Approach

Sadly religious freedom is all but dead in America.  Religious discrimination is widespread and much of it is directed against evangelical Christians (see graphic).  It's a real shame that we cannot seem to have a civil discussion about this subject.  Instead, it seems that most on the left are intent upon transforming freedom of religion into freedom of worship - which is very different.  WE HAVE NOW MOVED FROM RELIGIOUS PEOPLE BEING INTOLERANT OF GAY PEOPLE TO THE ENTIRE PROGRESSIVE MOVEMENT BEING INTOLERANT OF RELIGIOUS PEOPLE.
Tolerance seems to be, in the eyes of the left, a one way street.  Everyone is required to be tolerant of their constituencies - in the recent controversy the gay community.  Hence, the uproar over the mere possibility that religious individuals might not be LEGALLY FORCED to violate their faith by participating in same sex wedding ceremonies.  As usual, the left has cranked up the "lie machine" to gin up their base.  There is ZERO CHANCE that a religious exemption to anti-discrimination laws would be granted outside of the narrow area of wedding ceremonies.  This is not about leases, admission to hospitals or any of the other issues brought up to scare people into opposing the new law in Indiana. 

Successfully claiming a religious exemption under any of the RFRA laws is extremely difficult.

1) It is an affirmative defense - the burden of proof is on the claimant.

2) The religious belief must pre-date the law for which the person claims exemption - you can't make up a belief to get out of the law.

3) Exemptions are narrow in scope - a person with religious objections to war can be exempted from military service, but not from paying taxes to support a war.

4) No religion I am aware of - and this is my field of expertise - generally prohibits its' members from doing business with gay people, to include serving them in nearly every capacity.  Additionally, once someone does serve gay people, it becomes nearly impossible to get an exemption after doing so.

5) The only possible exemptions that might be upheld - and so far everyone who has sought this has lost - would be participation in a same sex wedding ceremony.  In other words, a baker absolutely could not claim an exemption for generally baking cakes for gay customers - but might be exempted from baking a wedding cake.  A photographer cannot refuse to take a portrait of a gay person, but might be able to refuse to photograph a same sex wedding.  In order to claim an exemption, one must prove that one is being asked to ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE in something forbidden by their faith.
In short, the idea that anyone would be able to generally discriminate against gay people, in violation of an anti-discrimination law, is completely bogus.

IMHO, it is long past time for the culture wars to end.  However this will never happen as long as both sides want to crush the other.  That will only cause further division and discord.  It's time for real tolerance, tolerance that flows both ways.
Unless the intolerance is directed
at people of faith......

There is a simple solution to this problem.  Write specific and narrow religious exemptions into anti-discrimination laws.  Follow the example of the medical profession.  If a patient requests an abortion from a doctor who has religious objections to performing the procedure, he or she cannot be forced to do so.  However, he or she must provide a referral to a doctor willing to do so.  This preserves the rights of both doctor and patient.

I see no reason why this same solution could not be applied to the issue of same sex wedding ceremonies.  If a baker, a wedding planner, a photographer, or even an officiate like myself, has religious objections to same sex marriage, do not force them to violate their conscience - but do require them to find someone who will provide that service.  Again, the rights of all parties are protected.

I'm an evangelical minister.  I cannot do a same sex wedding.  No matter what government may do to me, I still won't violate my faith.  HOWEVER, I have attended a same sex wedding.  Why?  Because the couple were and are my friends.  They knew I wasn't there affirming their actions, they knew I was there because they are important to both God and myself.  I would rise in a heartbeat if gay people were generally discriminated against.  I have no objection to, and generally support in principle, anti-discrimination laws - provided that said narrow religious exemptions are provided.

I have not even mentioned the fact that countless people whose religious beliefs prohibit same sex activity have been persecuted, run out of public or private office, or generally had their lives ruined because of their faith.  Not to mention the fact that one city even tried to subpoena sermons from local churches, while others have tried to require permits for home Bible studies.  In short, there is a war on all conservative religions in America today. 

Our nation is more divided than at any time since the Civil War.  Religious freedom may not be important to many in the "blue states", but it is very important to nearly everyone in the "red states".  Crush it, eliminate it, or subvert it and the result will be even greater division.  Enough division, and you will split the nation apart.  Indexed to today population, over 5 million people died in the Civil War.  Please, let us not have a second one.

No comments:

Post a Comment