What Are Religious Freedom Laws Without The Religious Freedom?

With the entire nation freaking out over what’s happening in Indiana with these “religious freedom laws”…I’ve been pondering what religious freedom really is. In conjunction with that…I’ve been pondering the meaning of agency, discrimination, and democracy.

religious freedom laws

From what I understand…there have been a few people in various professions, (photographers, wedding cake providers, pizza place owners, pastors, etc) that have refused to provide services for various gay or lesbian couples in conjunction with their wedding or marriage. As far as I am aware, these “vendors” will provide and have provided services to gay individuals and do not plan to discriminate based on their sexual orientation. However, because these vendors refused to be a part of a gay marriage ceremony, they had charges brought against them on account of discrimination. The religious freedom laws were concocted to protect people from being forced to participate in a ceremony that betrays their religious beliefs.

Barack Obama voted for a religious freedom bill in Illinois as a senator and Bill Clinton was the one who made it a federal law back when he was in office. 19 other states have these same state laws to protect religious freedom. So why is Indiana such a big deal right now?

There are 3 apparent reasons for the outcry (other than tweets from liberal celebrities):

1. The initial religious freedom laws were not driven by an LGBT community and Christianity wasn’t in question. The initial religious freedom laws were pushed by the liberal left in an effort to protect minority religions. The state and federal laws were formed and initiated by Democrats in response to a 1989 Supreme court ruling on two Native American drug rehab counselors that took peyote (a drug known for its psychoactive properties) and then maintained that it was based on keeping within their religious beliefs. Democrats successfully legislated laws that would protect these Native Americans and their ability to follow their beliefs.

Today, in 2015, The Indiana laws stem from Christians refusing to participate in events that are against their beliefs. So…why did so many people fight to preserve religious freedom for minority religions in 1993, but when it comes to Christian beliefs…those same rights are not extended in 2015?

2. Indiana’s religious freedom laws include protection for corporations/businesses. Other federal and state laws protect an individual but not an entity. Opponents to the law don’t want corporations to have the ability to refuse service to anyone.

So this begs the question; Are not businesses made up of people with religious backgrounds and beliefs and should those people be required to “check their religion at the door” when they go to work? The entity doesn’t exist without the people and it is the people that ultimately provide the service being requested. How does it even accomplish anything to have a law that provides religious freedom only for an individual but not for the entities they are a part of. It’s not as if a gay, or straight couple for that matter, is going to knock on a domestic door and require them to bake them a cake. It is only businesses that will receive requests to provide service anyway.

There are signs that say “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” in many establishments. Do those even mean anything? Is there anyone or anything that an entity can refuse without it being considered discrimination? Say a man walks into a restaurant with no shoes and no shirt. Can they kick him out? Would it be discrimination?

If businesses cannot choose who they do and do not service without explanation, how long until that same freedom is ripped from every organization in the country including churches. How long until Mormon temples and Catholic basilicas are turned into the Chapel O Love?

3. In many states, religious freedom laws are overruled by nondiscrimination laws.

So what is the point of having religious freedom laws at all?! If this is the case, then someone can always cry discrimination thereby rendering the religious freedom laws ineffective. This is where Indiana’s religious freedom laws vary from the rest of the country’s religious freedom laws. Indiana actually has a religious freedom law that protects religious freedom.

But here is what I don’t understand most of all…

Let’s use a photographer for an example.

Lets say I’m a  Mormon and I ask an Evangelical to take our wedding pictures at an LDS temple. She tells me that she thinks we’re a cult and that she doesn’t want to step foot on the temple grounds to take our pictures. Should I have the right to go sue her? No! It’s her choice! It’s like a bunch of kids in the school yard.

“Suzy doesn’t like me and won’t play with me so I’m going to go tell the teacher so that the teacher will force her to play with me”

C’mon! Who cares! I’ll just go find someone else to play with.

Why would you even want to do business with someone that doesn’t want to do business with you when there are plenty of vendors. There are pizza joints around every corner and an endless supply of photographers in any given city.

You see…it’s not about a person or a couple wanting a particular service. It’s about that person or couple forcing someone to endorse their beliefs…which is the very thing that person or couple claim to despise. The most outspoken people within the LGBT community are not trying to peacefully defend themselves against discrimination. They are aggressively trying prove a point. They’re the ones  picking fights, stirring the pot, and looking for press. They want to make everyone bow to their beliefs and accept their way of life while exhibiting relentless intolerance toward the beliefs of others on account of them being “conservative” and “out-dated”. I don’t believe that all LGBT advocates are like this. I think it’s just a small, yet very loud group of people within the movement that are actually more of a hinderance to their cause than anything else.

I just read about a gay woman named Courtney Hoffman that donated $20 dollars to an Indiana pizzeria that has been under vicious attacks for their refusal to cater a gay wedding. This wise and kind gay woman gave her reasoning for defending the pizzeria:

“As a member of the gay community, I would like to apologize for the mean spirited attacks on you and your business. I know many gay individuals who fully support your right to stand up for your beliefs and run your business according to those beliefs. We are outraged at the level of hate and intolerance that has been directed at you and I sincerely hope that you are able to rebuild.”

She continued on and gave her reasoning:

“My girlfriend and I are small business owners, and we think there is a difference between operating in a public market space and then attaching the name of your business to a private event,” she said. “Like, if we were asked to set up at an anti-gay marriage rally, I mean, we would have to decline.”

“The gay community that we know knows full well what it’s like to be condemned for doing nothing but living your life according to your beliefs,” she added. “We know so many gay individuals that fully support the freedom of living your life according to your beliefs and feel that freedom extends to everyone, even the people that we don’t agree with.”

This is one of the most logical and courageous things I’ve heard in a long time.

If someone didn’t want to service me because I’m a Mormon…then so be it. I’m not going to go and ruin a persons business and become like the person that discriminated against me. To think that the world will ever be completely rid of discrimination is foolishness. People will always discriminate. It doesn’t make it right…but there it is anyway. It’s a worse offense to force someone not to discriminate. That is a path that leads to the removal of agency and is the most dangerous predicament of all.

What good will come out of forcing a baker to make a cake for someone that they don’t want to? More resentment? A newfound hate?

I don’t have one hateful bone in my body for a homosexual. Gay people I’ve come across have been some of the nicest people around. I don’t understand how they can be gay…but I don’t understand a lot of things. That’s alright! I don’t need to understand everyone to love them. I don’t have the slightest desire to discriminate against them. I would serve them as freely as anyone else. The only thing I don’t want to do is participate in their “marriage”.

I don’t want to be forced to do something that is contrary to my beliefs. And I would never think of forcing someone to do something contrary to their beliefs. Coercion is not the answer to anything…and that is why we need solid religious freedom laws.


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