The Constitution’s first amendment guarantees that Government will not restrict expression of religion. But what is included in this presumed freedom? Can mothers prevent their children from being vaccinated to guard against a communicable disease if their brand of religion believes god will safe guard their child? Or, what if ones religion rules out blood transfusions? Could an individual refuse a transfusion? Could that individual refuse a life saving transfusion for his spouse or child? Hmmm.
Many religion are associated with certain wearing apparel. In America, there is fairly wide acceptance or probably better daid, an indifference) to religious dress such as Jewish Kippah, Muslim Hijab, or Amish traditional dress. And underlying this acceptance (or indifference) is that no one else is forced to wear these items.
The operating principle over the years has been religious freedom means that an individual can believe what they want providing their beliefs do not hurt others.
The secular world is another place altogether. Here is where the economy and daily living takes place. One would nowadays never expect to see a door at Walmart which said “Christians Entrance”, or another which said “Blacks Only”. Over the years, secular laws have evolved to provide a commercial world open to all.
The rub arises when religious worlds cross paths with the secular world. Christians normally have religious services on Sunday while Jews hold services Friday evening. In the recent past, there existed a set of laws restricting commercial activity on Sundays. These so-called “blue laws” attempted to discourage most commercial activity on Sundays.
Today there are no laws requiring a commercial establishment to operate on Sunday but more importantantly there are no laws preventing them from being open. Commercial businesses, even those associated with specific religious groups have a choice. No one is required to shop on Sunday and no business is required to be open.
Now a new conflict has arisen testing freedom of religion.
Over the past few years as the Country’s social conscience has evolved to where a majority of Americans accept the LBGT community and recognize same sex marriage.Unfortunately many religious organizations have brought forward objections under the headline, homosexuality, changing gender identity, and same sex marriage violate “deeply held religious views”.
While the law of the land might be that same sex marriage is legal in all 50 States, certain individuals holding “deeply held religious views” believe they possess a right (from the first amendment) to withhold service (during their work) from those who are in some way in violation of their “deeply held religious views”.
There is a cartoon circulating which shows a number of grocery store check-out lanes. In the first lane, the employee tells the customer that due to his “deeply held catholic beliefs” the condoms the customers wishes to purchase must be taken to another lane. In the next lane, a Muslim tells the customer that due to his “deeply held religious beliefs” he can not ring up the bacon and that the customer must take the product to another lane. Sound ridiculous?
Consider then the recent move by some Republican majority States to pass laws nibble away at rulings by the Supreme Court. These individual instances are not isolated but reflect a broader effort by evangelical and fundamentalist religious groups to have it both ways. They want freedom of religion and they want the right to take certain freedoms from others. Hmmm.
These religious groups want the right to deny service to others whose life style they deem an offense to their “deeply held religious beliefs”. As private organizations, one might understand rules excluding others who can not meet religious tests but when members of these religious organizations are working in the public sector, this seems way over the line. What ever happened to “love thy neighbor as thy self”?
As disappointing as these religious groups behavior, even more disappointing, yet not that surprising, are the political leaders who are pandering to these evangelicals and fundamentalists.
So it should be no surprise that States like Indiana, North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama have all proposed or implemented State laws which in some way attempt to “guarantee” religious freedom and protect individuals who discriminate from civil suits… anyone, that is, who withholds services due to “deeply held religious views”.
For these religious groups, it takes very small people to think and act in a mean and discriminatory way.
For these political officials, the bar is even lower. Politicians only seek enough votes to remain in power while feeding off the public trough. Votes are just votes. Et tu Ted Cruz.