People of faith aren’t exempt from loving their neighbor

Illustration courtesy of Dushan Wegner, Flickr Creative Commons

(RNS) — The recently released Department of Justice “religious freedom” order attacks religious freedom by allowing businesses to discriminate in the name of religion. As a Christian, I am dismayed to see some Christian leaders advocating for religious freedom exemption from Jesus’ highest command to love our neighbor.

The religious communities my organization, Faith in Public Life, works with have found ways to honor religious belief while not discriminating. This balanced approach is more consistent with our Constitution and our values.

In Jacksonville, Fla., we worked with religious leaders who held different stances on marriage equality to pass a human rights ordinance that prevented discrimination against LGBT people in housing, employment and public accommodations. While we do not all agree on what our faith says about marriage for LGBT people, we did all agree that if our laws failed to protect their rights and their dignity we were violating God’s commands.

Yet this administration’s guidelines would allow businesses and government employees to pick and choose who they will serve. As a pastor, I have to ask: What religion champions spitting in people’s faces rather than turning the other cheek? How is God’s love shown through public humiliation, hate or depriving LGBT people of a job or services?

The First Amendment of our Constitution protects our right to worship as we see fit and to practice our beliefs as long as we do not harm others. Conservative Christian beliefs on gay marriage are already protected by the Constitution. Our own particular religious beliefs though, should never be forced on others. This delicate balance of religious freedom and the rights of others has enabled diverse religious expression and beliefs to thrive in our vibrant democracy.

Let us not forget that for Southerners, discrimination in the name of religion is all too familiar from the days of the Jim Crow South. In the 1970s the Supreme Court took up the case of a restaurateur who claimed a right to turn blacks away from his establishment because his Christian faith legitimated his racist practices. The Supreme Court ruled against him.

Christians must not be on the wrong side of history. In my home state of Georgia more than 300 religious leaders of all political persuasions and viewpoints on sexuality joined in opposition to legislation that would have allowed discrimination against LGBT people and possibly others.

In his veto speech, Gov. Nathan Deal, who is Baptist and for “traditional marriage,” stated: “What the New Testament teaches us is that Jesus reached out to those who were considered the outcasts, the ones that did not conform to the religious societies’ view of the world. … We do not have a belief in my way of looking at religion that says we have to discriminate against anybody.”

At the same time, right and left supported the “Pastor Protection Act,” which reinforced the First Amendment protections for clergy in their houses of worship.

Our elected leaders would do well to examine these examples of unity exhibited not only by state faith leaders but by business leaders and advocates from every sector of society.

As Deal said: “We don’t have to discriminate against other people in order to (protect fundamental religious beliefs). And that’s the compromise that I’m looking for.”

We can navigate our differences and protect others while respecting religious freedom.

(The Rev. Jennifer Butler is the founding executive director of Faith in Public Life, a Presbyterian minister and former chair of President Obama’s White House Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

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Jennifer Butler


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  • “I have to ask: What religion champions spitting in people’s faces rather than turning the other cheek? How is God’s love shown through public humiliation, hate or depriving LGBT people of a job or services?”

    conservative Christianity? Posters on these very pages? PEople who think we should be jailed?

    Not all of them, but enough of them. You don’t hear it coming from ECLA, UCC, UU, DOC, ECUSA, PCUSA, and a very very long list anyone can find with a little web search.

  • Dear Ben,
    Parents love their children and choose to protect them from adults who advocate and promote immoral lifestyles, we are not “spitting in people’s faces,” we are just being good parents. We love our children and try to raise them to be good Christians, and there is nothing wrong with that. Upholding traditional morality is far better for humanity than the relentless attacks on all things good and Holy.

    It is better to walk with God than to live in sin, and to say that is not hateful nor bigoted. Rather it is righteous and our moral values should be respected. God is goodness and life, godlessness is despair and death. We object to anyone who teaches our children to reject God and disobey their parents.

  • Dear bqrq,

    Before Ben has a chance to say something he won’t regret later allow me to reply. I have nothing against anything in your post. I do not want to speak for Ben, he does a fine job of speaking for himself, but I have to believe if you had directed your comment toward let’s say convicted rapist as a group, Ben would agree with you. I have been a part of the churches that Ben is calling out, I knew the good they are capable of. I also know it took some intervention at home to keep my kids from being infected by what is defended as “traditional moral values”.
    I know people who honestly hold your your views. I say honestly because the view is based on a perceived reality that has been accepted as truth. I am all for protecting my children, I am for traditional type values, but mostly I am for truth, truth based on reality. My reality based on truth is that there are people that we need to protect our kids from, these would be dangerous people. Identifying as LGBT does not make a dangerous person, there is no data to back a claim otherwise. There are values we want to teach, but those values are only good and they only continue to make sense if they are based on reality. Non reality is a lie, you never find God in a lie. God, and the truth of God is only found in His reality. The right truth, which I believe your comment is, applied to the wrong reality, which I believe it is, is anti Christlike.

  • What Evangelical Christians are failing to take into account in their support for businesses turning away gay people is that the “weapon” they’re wielding can and will likely be used against them some day. Are they ready for businesses to decline to serve or sell to them? What will they do when businesses refuse to serve or sell to Evangelical Christians?

    Karma (or whatever one wants to call it) will kick in one day. All the injustice and mistreatment they have visited upon gay people may well someday be visited upon them.

    * Live your life in such a way that the Westboro Baptist, Sandi Luckins, Shawnie5, and floydlee picket your funeral! *

  • In general, the best policy is for people who openly identify as LGBT to avoid contact with other people’s children because this reduces anxiety and avoids suspicion.

  • I love my children and would prefer to protect them from adults who advocate and promote bigotry, discrimination, hatred and anti-science. But I still do not think that you should be denied housing, a job or a wedding cake.

  • Reduces whose anxiety? Maybe we should ban black adults from the presence of white children. And maybe Muslim adults and Hindu adults and Atheist adults. Then your precious innocent children will never see or hear of any person who looks, acts or thinks differently from you.

    Of course, your children may still be exposed to people who openly identify as catholic priests or protestant youth ministers. Those are the people who should avoid contact with other people’s children because that would reduce actual cases of sexual assault and rape.

    We live in a diverse world. If you lie to your children and shield them from the truth, they will reject everything you teach when they realize they’ve been lied to. This happens when a child taught creation science based on lies and misrepresentation of the Theory of Evolution finds out about the evidence for evolution. This happens when a child taught that gays, atheists, and all sorts of other people are evil incarnate actual meet people in those categories, and finds they are normal, kind, moral individuals.

  • We choose to protect our children from those kind adults who who openly oppose our moral values. We do this out of love, this is not bigotry nor hatred. Good parents love and protect their children. Instilling Christian morality in children is righteous and virtuous and should always be encouraged and supported. May God Bless.

  • Not bigotry or hatred, huh? It sure seems that way to me, especially when you say you “protect” your children from “those kind” of adults.

  • I was referring to “those kind” adults who openly oppose our moral values and teach our children to disobey their parents and reject God.

  • “…the best policy is for people who openly identify as LGBT to avoid contact with other people’s children…”

    You want “those kind” of people controlled. Should they sit in the back of the bus, too? Should they have their own drinking fountains and not be allowed to vote?

    Edit to add: Who teaches your children to disobey their parents?

  • You’re living in the wrong time period and time only moves in one direction until you are with God. You can not fight fire ants, they are impervious to most pesticides and their mission is to conquer, destroy and move on. First they came for your help with aids, then they came for your children, then they came for your neighborhood, city, school and your church. It is the time you are in, that you are trying to adjust to and only with God’s help will you find peace. Now you can see, this is not really the religion news service. P.S. no offense to the fire ants.

  • As I often say, 2/3 of the world rejects the Christian story. So 2/3 of the world is immoral, or so you would have us believe. Of the third that’s left, half of you are busy denouncing the other half for not being the same sort of christian you are. And fully each half of that third is probably no better than they ought to be.

    That makes a very small pool of “moral” people and “moral” lifestyles.

    Meanwhile, I want to protect children, too. From the blindness of some people’s religion. From the prejudices hiding behind religion. From devaluing other humans as “immoral lifestyles.”

    You should probably read what Jesus had to say on the subject. All of us may be sinners– that idea has yet to be proved. But it is certain, not all of us are throwing stones.

  • I disagree, in general that is not the best policy. While anxiety and suspicion toward people who identify as LGBT might be your reality, it is not mine. Before I had kids I probably would have agreed with what you just said out of ignorance. Raising my kids around a sister in law who openly identified as lesbian changed my perspective.

    My reality is this LGBT defines sexual orientation, not character. I want to protect children from people of bad character, bad character comes in all sexual orientations including straight. Orientation toward character is not exclusive to heterosexuality, your comment beginning in “in general” insinuates this and I think it fails to take into account the truest reality that is possible.

  • Interesting. You were rolling right along there with your sermonette, then suddenly you crash into a wall and accuse three posters who you’ve never met outside this discussion forum, of picketing funerals (of all things.)

    Tuesday, such accusations are semi-insane in the absence of evidence. We gotta do better. Meanwhile, let’s answer your questions.

    (1) Christians have NO choice but to prepare for big economic reprisals and revenge, even if the USSC gives us victory in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. You saw what happened to Mike Pence when he was governor of Indiana.

    (2) Some will courageously stand their ground, follow God and God’s Word, and suffer the reprisals. Others will ditch their Bibles and surrender to the Gay Goliath. It is what it is.

  • More reviling and slander. Of course.

    Statistics show– real statistics, not fake statistics, not statistics generated by antigay hate groups that make money off of hate, not the statements of people who actually know something about gay people and children– that gay men are at worst, AT THE VERY WORST– no worse than straight men when it comes to children.

    And a good deal of evidence from actual experts in the subject dictates that we are quite a good deal better when it comes to children. The most damning piece of evidence of all– fully half of the time, when a child is molested, it is done by the father of step father.

    Oh, you mean that gay people being around children might mean that those children don’t learn to hate people they don’t know, know nothing about, and who have done and intend no harm. A hate that is fostered by the kind of hate that hides behind religion, consistently.

    I want gay kids to learn to grow up without learning to hate themselves because of rabid bigots like you. I want straight kids to grow up to learn respect for people who are different from them, not merely parrot the rabid hate generated by their rabidly bigoted parents.

    And given your obvious obsessions about sodomy and children, I would certainly want to keep them away from you, from your church, and from people think like you.

    how did I do GJ? am I regretting it yet?

  • adults who openly oppose your moral values? Like three times married, openly adulterous and formicating Grabby McPussy?

    You don’t believe what you write.

  • I love talking to my Wing Chaplain about these issues over a beer. Anyway he shared two things with me on this article that I think were interesting, though I must admit not sure what I think about #2.
    1. Is it loving to facilitate someone doing behavior that they believe is bad? Now yes I know we get into the whole argument about is sexuality and preference good and bad, but religious bleiefs do have strong beliefs about good and bad in this arena. Personally I still fall back on the Constitution and can’t see how we are upholding freedom of religion if we force someone to go against their beliefs.
    2. And this one I’ll have to do some research on. 11 A woman[a] should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; He explained that this directive comes in the specific context of who can serve as a priest or clergy.

    How’s that for a grenade in the room. Not sure what I think about that but on first read it sure does sound like the book of Timothy is saying that. He told me that Timothy was a priest and Paul was one of the first apostles teaching Timothy how to be a priest.

  • No person should be deprived of a job or services because of behavior they engage in thais legal in their personal life (nor in my opinion for publically stating their opinion on their personal media). But I have sympathy for the person who says the law is forcing them to engage in behavior (such as baking a cake) that they feel endorses the behavior of another against their specific religious belief.

    Here I think if we truly want to be tolerant we have to respect one another’s rights to be different. The same gendered couple have a right to have a wedding and do what they want. But the religious person has a right to not have to be invovled in that wedding. It isn’t perfect but its the only way I can see where everyone gets some degree of respect without eroding the Constitutional freedoms we enjoy.

  • I think your approach is almost reasonable, and I say that with respect.
    But here are the questions:
    suppose someone says: I won’t service Jews, or Mormons, or interracial couples, or hindus, or atheists. My religious beliefs forbid it. Is that OK?
    and suppose someone says; I won’t service fundamentalist Christians because their views are abhorrent to me. Is that OK?
    and why is it only ok when gay people are involved?
    And why can’t these “professionals” do what everyone else does when they don’t want to do an event? “sorry, I’m booked.”
    I was a wedding photographer for 30 years. I was often very intimately involved in the entire day. but there was no way on earth that I was “participating” in anything. I was providing a service, for money. And I was well paid for it.
    Here is a solution that I would accept, though I believe even this goes too far in excusing bigotry and lack of professionalism. The vendor who has such objections must post prominently on all brochures, websites, contracts, and in store windows, in the store itself, and by a cash register: “These are the people whose weddings I will not provide services for, and this is why.”
    could you accept that?

  • Your welcome.

    Sometimes you call me a nice guy, this isn’t about being nice for me. For me this is about being a little more right and a little less wrong about people. I wouldn’t say a word of what I said if I didn’t believe it. A lot of people honestly believe the comments they post on here. Their honest beliefs need to be challenged with honest examples of different outcomes than the ones they suppose.

  • Dear Bruce,
    Ben in Oakland has a nasty habit of calling good parents and those of us who love God, “vile” and “bigots.” Don’t let it bother you, this merely indicates that you are right and Ben is just being Ben – angry, hostile and hopeless.

  • Replace” LGBT” with “Conservative Christian” in your post…Is that fair? A lot of people would think so…not me…Not all social conservatives are a Pat Robertson or Franklin Graham yet…but we are sadly getting there.

  • -> “Instilling Christian morality in children is righteous and virtuous…”

    Debatable at best…dangerous at worst.

  • Signage – yes I believe in truth in advertising.

    Perhaps “participation” was not a great word. “facilitating”

    But I still think it all boils down to finding a way for us to make space for one another with respect. I may not agree but I can respect. I may advocate for my positions and other may advocate for theirs and hopefully truth comes to the top. But at least respect. For example, (I learn a lot from my chaplains) they don’t always “provide” for a specific set of requests in that for instance my priest can’t do a homosexual wedding, but he will direct them to where the services can be provided. That way everyone’s constitutional right to practice their faith is somehow provided for in the best possible way in an imperfect world without us hating each other.

  • Participation is a word that a lot of people who seek to justify their bad behavior use. So, there is no problem with you using it in this context.

    Facilitation would be the officiant. Providing a cake isn’t even facilitating a wedding, and barely facilitating the party afterwards, for which the cake is made.

    I’d be willing to bet that just about anyone who posted such signs would soon take them down. A few would make money, but most would find that people get turned off by wedding professionals who exhibit wnything other than smiles, happiness, and a pleasant demeanor. One of the reasons I was so successful was that I learned this quickly. I knew a fair number of vendors who couldn’t understand that politics, religion, and bad manners should be left it of business.

  • Well floydlee, you, Sandi, and Shawnie5 exhibit nothing but pure hatred of gay people that’s just like Westboro Baptist. The three of you extend not once ounce of mercy or simple human decency towards gay people. It won’t be because of your faith, but rather your hatred that will bring karma (“persecution”) back on you. The mistreatment you three measure out to others will be measured out to you, Sandi, and Shwanie5. The three of you are infamous for your anti-gay hatred on this site. Maybe you should think about why you have such hatred toward other human beings.

  • Okay. As you know, I fully support Jack Phillips’ and Baronelle Stutzmann’s Christian-based refusals to: Participate in gay weddings or gay reception events via providing goods and services that help with affirming or celebrating the event.

    I affirm that their respective refusals were indeed the correct, Christian and even the loving, caring thing to do, plus they are in line with Bill of Rights religious freedom.

    Now, please tell me how my statements (or their specific words & actions) constitute ANY kind of “hatred”, let alone the WBC expressions of hatred. You asked for this challenge, so come right on here and explain ASAP. Thanks!

  • Tuesday, if you are ever asked to be in any way involved in some celebration of mine which troubles your conscience, I not only encourage you but heartily entreat you to let me know promptly so that I can go elsewhere and not be a stumbling-block to you. And have no fear of complaints, lawsuits, or even a bad review. I would get out my trusty piping bag and create my own cake (just like I made my own wedding gown) before I would forcibly violate the conscience of another, for that would insult both their dignity and mine.

  • Fake question. Not all bigotry is hate. So much of it was you and Cottonelle and StuMen demonstrate in spades: an abiding faith in your wholly imaginary superiority as moral people, as Christians of a certain type, and as human beings.

  • Agree with the first two paragraphs. As for the last, I have to question if, were the shoe on the other foot, where you were the one named on such a list, you would find it appropriate or acceptable. If so, your choice to play with that beehive, but if not, then why do that?

  • Here’s a thought: I’ll go along with those who object to “facilitating” same sex marriages (should the courts rule such objections legal) when they agree to let me legally withhold the portion of my taxes that facilitate wars which are against my religious views. Now that I think about it, I have religious objections to my tax dollars facilitating the way the GOP is governing. Or I could just agree that in a civil society there are times when my religious scruples need to take a back seat to the will of the wider community.

  • They are hardly good parents or those who love God if they are teaching their children to slander, revile and despise a class of people and think it is an important part of their religious faith.

    Nobody wants to be called a bigot, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t.

  • i, do not know where they find this unwritten law in TheTorah? to aid and abet the enemies, of ELOHEEM and THEIR Only Begotten Physically Born Son?

    no enemy of ELOHEEM, can be considered as my neighbor. when it, clearly states only those who love ELOHEEM are to be my neighbors.

    nor is there any way, THEIR Son is going to countermand The Laws of ELOHEEM.

    that is why there is no physical peace in the world today. from their enemies who think they have the authority to countermand The Word of ELOHEEM.

    there is, no redemption for crimes that carry the death penalty in The Word of ELOHEEM. failure to enforce the laws makes, you THEIR enemy. any law of men, that is contrary to The Word of ELOHEEM makes them the enemy of ELOHEEM and THEIR Son.

    ELOHEEM, shall never change THEIR Laws to be politically correct with the subtle talking devils of the fields.

  • ok! so you, want to be the enemy of ELOHEEM and THEIR Son.

    do you really think that is a wise decision to aid and abet, the enemies of ELOHEEM And Son with The Time of Appointment drawing so near?

    a very dangerous cliff edge, with loose rocks to support any sin that carries the death penalty. inviting even more, pestilence, plague, and famine. when not even the risk of cancer and alzheimers plagues are worth, being THEIR enemy.

    with millions of people, each year just inappropriately dying to be the enemies of ELOHEEM And Son.

    not a wise decision, to anger THE COMMANDER of all hell and death on earth to those who hate THEM…

  • do not expect me participate in anything that is a direct violation, of The Commands of ELOHEEM. what next, you want me to be forced into participating in committing murder, robbery, theft, and kidnapping too?

    nor shall congress, pass any law that forces people to participate in anything that is in direct violation of The Command of ELOHEEM.

    ELOHEEM, is more than angry enough without your supporting some occult abominable religion.

    there is no, excuse for inviting ELOHEEM or THEIR Son to command more pestilence, plague, and famine to this world of THEIR enemies.

    you! are never going to have physical peace on earth championing the enemies of ELOHEEM And Son.

    THEIR Son is physical here on earth, watching you all until The Time of Appointment for The Day of Rest.

    and i, can’t say THEIR Son is not highly disappointed in most all of you today.

  • Well, Tuesday has fallen silent, and you concede, “Not all bigotry is hate”, so that ends Tuesday’s original accusation. But you ARE accusing me of bigotry, so I offer you the same challenge.

    Given that Philips and Stutzmann have already displayed their willingness to serve gay customers, (and also given that I myself have served gay customers on occasion at my workplace(s) with the same ethical standards and caring that was given to straights, and have not claimed any less proclivity to human temptations),

    Please tell me how my specific statements given above (or Phillip’s or Stutzmann’s specific words & actions) constitute ANY kind of “bigotry” towards gays. Support your accusation.

  • Here are some things you might recognize as bigotry, being a black man and all.
    “sure you can ride on the bus. YOU get to ride in the back only. If you think you can sit in the front, guess again.”
    “sure, you can eat at our restaurant. Go to the back and get your food. If you think you can sit with the regular people, guess again.”
    “sure, I’ll sell you a cake (or flowers). As long as I don’t have to recognize that you are my moral, spiritual, faith based, human, sexual, legal and cultural equal.”
    “Sure, I am commanded to treat others as I would like to be treated. But that doesn’t apply to YOU, unless I think it does. And if you refused to sell me a cake for my wedding because you won’t do business with fundamentalist bigots, I’d rightfully call you a bigot.”

  • -I don’t have the right to shove my faith in your face. I don’t even have the right to want to. I cannot ask you to believe what I believe, either. In my study of theology, I came across two verses: Micah 6:8 and Leviticus 19;16. The former enjoins us to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God. The other tells us that we can’t stand idly by the suffering of your neighbor. It is possible that the second verse inspired Jesus’s parable of The Good Samaritan and Matthew 25. Those verses tell us who we are and who we should be.

  • Well said, Ben. I have a kind of radar that detects fanatics early. They set off warning bells and I back away much as I once backed away from a coiled rattlesnake I once nearly stepped on in Arizona. I don’t want to envave,

  • I’m an individual exercising my religious scruples. The baker is an individual exercising his scruples. Gay couples legally marry and buy cakes. Presidents legally take us to war. I can religiously object to being complicit in what I consider an immoral action through paying my taxes (bakers don’t attend the wedding, they just bake the cake that will be used at the wedding). However, I have little doubt a court would find the baker and I in violation of the law… unless someone can, through legislation or court action, carve out a place for conscientious objectors to baking wedding cakes or paying war taxes. Your turn.

  • Individuals act on their own behalf. Public servants in their official capacities act on behalf of all. You object to how tax money is spent by voting in officials who will spend in the way you prefer. Better get busy.

  • “I affirm that their respective refusals were indeed the correct, Christian and even the loving, caring thing to do…”

    Only in Evangelical Christianity is it considered “loving” and “caring” to mistreat a person, and to denigrate and humiliate them by telling them “I don’t serve your kind in my business”.

    That’s nothing but plain old prejudice and hate.

    How would Evangelical Christians like it if they were turned down by wedding businesses and told that they don’t serve their kind in a business?

    My point stands: what you do to others will be done to you some day.

    I’m so sick go hearing about cakes. I care what’s in people’s heart and mind. The REAL issue is the lack of simple human decency, the hate, and the homophobia that has become synonymous with Evangelical Christianity.

    That hatred helped Evangelicals pass a law in Mississippi allowing doctors, hospitals, and even emergency rooms to decline to give medical care to gay people. Bless their hearts, they put an exception in the law that says a physician or hospital can’t cause the gay person’s death, but anything up to that is legal. So, the ER doctor can say “I’m not fixing your broken leg” or refuse to do an operation to keep you from slipping into a coma. Evangelical Christians wrote the law. How much hatred do they have to deny medical care to someone that’s sick or injured? That’s inhumane, and Evangelicals ought to be ashamed of the law.

    Someday Karma is gonna come and it will be Evangelical Christian who will be denied medical care. What will they do if a law gets passed someday allowing doctors and hospitals to refuse to provide care for Evangelical Christians?

    I could have sworn the Christian holy book has something in it about “doing to others what you want done to yourself”

    In any event, my point still stands: the hate that’s in the hearts of floydlee, Sandi Luckins, and Shawnie5 toward gay people is not any different than what Westboro Baptist promotes. Their anti-gay hate totally destroys the chance that any one would listen to them, and it sure doesn’t bring any credit to the Evangelical Christian faith they claim.

  • So then moral truths held by faithful people must give way to legally arrived at requirements of the state. A baker’s moral conviction can not supersede laws of the state… such as antidiscrimination laws. Those who would stand on conscience must also be ready to accept the consequences… fines for bakers and jail time for tax resisters. So a baker’s only alternative to accepting the legal consequences is to change the law. Do you agree?

  • The state is severely limited by the constitution in the extent to which it may burden the individual’s right to exercise free speech or religion.

    Once tax money is collected, on the other hand, it no longer belongs to the individual but to the state ot national treasury. Public officials are accountable to the voting public as a whole for how it is spent.

    An individual person or business can’t be compelled to fund abortion directly, for example, but federal tax monies COULD theoretically be used to fund abortion — which is one of many reasons why so many people voted against Hillary and Co., who wanted to repeal the Hyde Amendment.

  • Ms. Butler writes:

    …we did all agree that if our laws failed to protect their rights and their dignity we were violating God’s commands.


    Our own particular religious beliefs though, should never be forced on others.

    Does anyone else see the irony here? On one hand, she wants to use the force of law to compel other American citizens to adopt God’s commands to protect the right and dignity of other people, and on the other, she says that we should not force our religious beliefs on others.

    We can’t have it both ways. Anytime we compel someone to do something against his or her will through the force of law, we’re forcing our beliefs on him or her.

    If you believe that God’s command to love one’s neighbor requires anti-discrimination laws just be open about it and say “yes, I want to force this tenant of my religious faith on other people who want to discriminate based on their religious beliefs.” But you can’t then criticize those others for wanting to force their religion on other people.

  • The federal government currently forbids places of public accommodation from discriminating against people based on religion. This is part of the Civil Rights Act passed in the ’60s. I highly doubt even the most vindictive people on the left will want to repeal that. For better or for worse, I don’t think Christians have anything to worry about in this situation.

  • It sounds like you’re saying this somewhat tongue-in-cheek, so I think you get that your proposal would result in chaos if we all got to pick and choose our level of taxation based on what proportion of it went to objectives we support.

    But that’s where you analogy falls apart. We force things on people when there is serious societal harm in not doing so (or serious societal benefit in doing so). If taxation was not compulsory, our government would fall apart. I can’t think of any serious societal harm if the few bakers and florists around the country who don’t want to provide services for gay weddings (seriously, what are there, like 5 or 6 documented cases?!) weren’t required to do so.

  • Tongue firmly in cheek. Two things. The argument is made that the first amendment right of religious freedom, as exercised in religious scruples, is somehow absolute. Thanks to the Supreme Court an employer can excuse his refusal to comply with the law requiring that birth control to be included in a health benefit for all his employees based on his scruples. Why couldn’t any citizen with religious scruples ignore any law? Secondly, birth control is unquestionably a societal good. It saves the government tons of money, generally improves the standard of living for everyone, and saves lives. The government saw fit to require it in all government mandated health programs. The employer’s scruples must be weighed against the greater good. Since the court ruled as it did in Hobby Lobby but a lower court ruled the other way in the baker case, we are in something of a muddle. The new Supreme Court, weighted as it is, could well side with the baker eventually. If religious scruples win, my tax argument could bring the chaos you imagined.

  • “Once tax money is collected” A tax resister does not pay that portion of his taxes that his religious scruples forbid; it never makes it to the treasury. Or as you suggest I could remember that since dollars are fungible, I could just imagine that my taxes are only supporting that portion of the budget that is not spent on unjust wars. I get double credit for supporting the needy. However, my religious scruples are severely “burdened” by unjust war. Should I not be as free to exercise my right to religious freedom as the owners of Hobby Lobby and the bakers? Over to you.

  • Here’s the serious harm.
    We have laws at every level of government which forbid discrimination on the basis of religious belief. The half a dozen cases of these so-called Christians is their attempt to claim that their religious beliefs– or rather, what they claim to be their sincere religious beliefs– trump the laws intended to protect all of us. And of course, it is in this ONE case, and this ONE case only that they claim to be an exception.
    For now.
    Of course, if a die-hard Baptist claimed the right to discriminate against Mormons because, you know, they are not REALLY Christians, the Mormons would howl bloody murder. Jews used to be excluded from membership in certain clubs or residence in certain neighborhoods by “Good Christians” who only believed that “GAWD Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.” But if Jews refused to let a Baptist into a club– we don’t because we’re better than that– the Baptist would be also howling.

  • The “left”, whatever that is, isn’t claiming a religious exception. It’s all on the “right”.

  • I wasn’t claiming the left wants a religious exception. I’m not sure where you got that from. I was responding to Tuesday’s warning that some day businesses are going to refuse service to Christians. I was explaining why this is highly unlikely.

  • We’ve created exemptions from certain laws for people of faith in the past (conscientious objectors to war can avoid the draft, for example). Each case should be taken on its own and the costs and benefits weighed. Saying that if we grant this exemption then the next thing we’ll know some parade of horribles will happen doesn’t square with the history of exemptions for moral objectors.

  • Thanks Tom. In regards to your first point, each individual who seeks an exemption from a law can’t just “ignore” it. It, presumably, would take a lot of legal effort, time and resources to bring a case through the court system. And each case would be evaluated on its own merits under the test provided by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In the specific case regarding birth control you cite, it was not argued that the religious freedom clause of the First Amendment is absolute, but that the government failed the test under the RFRA.

    In regards to your second point, the Court was asked whether the Obama Administration’s mandate (remember, the Democratic Congress did not include birth control as an essential benefit when it passed the ACA) met the test of the RFRA. If access to birth control is so essential, there are other ways for the government to provide it to people who cannot afford it on their own that don’t infringe on employers’ scruples.

  • Conscientious objection is very difficult to prove. And generally speaking, if I recall, it doesn’t exempt them from actually serving, but does exempt them from combat.
    Religious discrimination, on the other hand, is not. And no religious exemption can be declared and automatically given credence. There are a host of cases that indicate this, the most important one being the Native American claims for peyote. It didn’t fly.

  • You can read about the history of conscientious objection here and learn about the various ways in which our country did and didn’t make exemptions for people of faith who were opposed to war: https://www.swarthmore.edu/library/peace/conscientiousobjection/co%20website/pages/HistoryNew.htm

    You can read about current US policy here: https://www.sss.gov/consobj

    My point is, we’ve made exemptions for people of faith with objections to being forced into war in the past and we make them today. All hell has not broken loose with a myriad of requests for opt-outs for all sorts of other laws.

    We can take requests for exemptions case by case and balance them with competing needs. I never said that any religious exemption request should be “automatically” be granted. Our policymakers and courts have to decide. But saying that we can’t grant one in this case because doing so would require us to grant them in X, Y and Z cases doesn’t square with history.