A response to the LGBT anti-religion bigots

OK, now it's religion's turn.

People of faith who assert their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act enacted by Indiana have been pilloried as bigots, haters or worse.

Headlines blared that the act legalized homophobia. That Indiana passed a "hate law." A television reporter traveled miles to sniff out someone, anyone, who would dare defend her faith, and when she did at a small-town pizza shop, she was swamped with hate mail and death threats. Ridicule of sincerely held beliefs appears to be the order of the day.

It's been a storm of irresponsible, abhorrent stereotyping that should, but apparently doesn't, shame the haters.

It makes as much sense as people of faith calling anyone who opposes the religious protection law bigoted and hateful anti-Christians, without recognizing that there's a legitimate difference of opinion. This is not to say that people of faith don't have their own share of people who can sling hatred. But I dare say that that doesn't describe most people who are seeking protections against government abuse of their religious rights.

Basically the Indiana law implements the first right listed in the First Amendment, prohibiting government interference in religious practice. The act clarifies and elaborates on that prohibition by providing an exemption, allowing government to interfere with the practice of religion only when it has a "compelling" reason. And if government determines that it has such a reason, it can do so only in the "least restrictive way."

The law, as amended, also bars anyone from using his or her religion as an excuse to discriminate in housing, businesses, public accommodations and so forth on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, race and so forth.

The Indiana law and a similar one recently enacted in Arkansas are only the latest round in a long effort to balance two rights in conflict: equality and conscience. The history of that effort is too long and complicated to review here. That effort becomes especially difficult in a democracy, when two determined, muscular groups of Americans are pressing for full implementation of their rights. Even more so when the opposing groups demand that their rights are near-absolute. Disputes, often passionate and ugly and sometimes destructive, are inevitable.

But if the history of that struggle demonstrates anything, it's that few, if any, rights are absolute. Free speech isn't. Nor is a right to carry arms. Nor is the right to property.

Putting aside the legal and political details of that struggle, too often questions of compromise, decency and respect are ignored. Noticeably so in the past few weeks.

Everything within our lives doesn't have to be proscribed or prescribed by statute. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as some would have it, would force a photographer to take pictures at a same-sex wedding, in opposition to his religious beliefs. Or make a Christian baker create a wedding cake for gay nuptials. Or force a religious hospital to provide health insurance covering contraceptives and abortifacients for employees.

But who suffers the greater harm if such a law is enforced? Is it the same-sex couple who surely can find someone among the overwhelming number of bakers and photographers available who would be more than happy to provide the service? Would a gay couple have to forgo flowers at their wedding because no other florist within sight would serve them?

Have we forgotten the historic American respect for diverse opinions? How sacred we hold divergent beliefs? That embedded in our founding documents are the principles of reverence for minority convictions?

Or would the greater harm fall on the photographer, baker or florist whom the government would compel by intimidation or threats to violate his conscience? The harm caused to one side is possible inconvenience and on the other is a police state that crushes freedom of conscience.

For information on my award-winning historical novel, "Madness: The War of 1812," visit: http://www.madness1812.com

 

 

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  • Haven't you put the cart before the horse? Recognizing the possibility of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the Republican-majority Indiana legislature amended the RFRA and the Republican governor signed it. Public outrage against an unjust law is not the same as hate.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Jerry, your faith must be homeopathic in nature: so small that it does not really figure in your real life, and is effectively a placebo towards the moral evil that walks the earth. Sorry, I guess evil to you is just an abstract construct: the imaginings of zealots.

    What this amended law does is effectively stop any protestations of declining to participate in an act or ceremony that does not agree with a person's religious beliefs.

    Now, Mr. Gay Bakery Owner will now have to bake a cake as quick as he can for the KKK Guy whose Bible tells him all gays are an abomination, even though Mr. Gay finds in that same Bible tolerance. He bakes or is sued or fined out of business.

    Proud of that progress?

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    I didn't amend the law. The Republicans did. And a Republican governor signed on to it. Did they act out of hatred?

    What is the 'evil' you refer to? Don't you find discrimination morally repugnant?

    Your hypothetical case does not hold water. How would any bakery owner, gay or straight, deal with the business of a member of the KKK?

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    I would be much more sympathetic to your thoughts if they were actually based in reality. First point, in this country women are free to choose to have an abortion or not depending on their CHOICE, but Christians who don't like abortion have decided that they are all knowing and are dedicated to outlawing all abortion no matter what anyone else believes. They are true hypocrites when they decide for all what should be legal or not. They can dish out their particular prejudices and hatreds, but anyone who stands up to them is being cruel and unjust. If Christians want to tell people what to do than they need to suck it up when people tell them NO.

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