Thursday, April 2, 2015

Guaranteeing Religious Freedom

OK, what am I missing here?  This brouhaha over Indiana's recent new law to protect religious freedom has me flummoxed.  The law itself has me flummoxed.  Why does Indiana feel the need to write and pass a law to guarantee religious freedom?  Isn't the US Constitution and Bill of Rights enough for them?

I know, I know.  It's not unusual for states to pass laws that support federal laws, although it may not be necessary.  In America, the Constitution and Bill of Rights gives every individual the right to practice whatever religion he wants by preventing the government from establishing a state religion, to believe in whatever religion he wants, and not be discriminated against or persecuted.

Our laws do not give individuals the right to discriminate against others -- for any reason -- because of the individuals' religious belief.  Each of us has the right to equal protection under the law.  It also doesn't really encourage one religious group to dominate over all the others, and to impose that group's beliefs and religious practices on others.  That would breach the First Amendment of the Constitution.

So what is Indiana doing?  Or the other states that have passed laws to "protect religious freedom"?  Are they really about protecting Christianity as the dominant religion?  Even though there may be no words in the law instructing people to discriminate against gays and lesbians, there are Christians who practice the very "unChristian" belief that homosexuals exist against God's law.  At least, that's the way I understand the situation. 

I called the belief against homosexuals "unChristian" because, if I remember correctly, prophets and Jesus Christ taught that we should treat people the way we want to be treated, that God is love, that God does not discriminate in his love for his creations.

Certainly someone will point to The Bible and tell me most earnestly that it's there, in the good book, about how to deal with homosexuals.  Really?  And who wrote The Bible but fallible human beings influenced by the time in which they lived?  Why are we so intent on following writings dating back 2000 years?

Some of what is written in The Bible is timeless.  But I think a lot of what's written in that book exposes the ignorance of the minds who put pen to paper.  Humanity has evolved, grown, learned so much -- an incredible amount -- about the world and our place in it in the last 2000 years.  We have left this planet and landed men on the moon, sent probes to the edge of the solar system and beyond.

Photo courtesy of

In my humble opinion, homosexuality is NOT at all a threat to heterosexuality.  Ah, but we're still learning that women are not a threat to men but as equal partners together could truly make the world a better place.  I also believe that it's time for The Bible to be shelved as what it truly is -- a magnificent book that reflects the thought and practices of a time and people 2000 years ago and the influences they had.  It's time for a re-boot -- not just Christianity but all religions rooted in events and beliefs from centuries ago -- time for religion to join us in the 21st century and accept the knowledge that humanity has acquired.

Back to Indiana: I believe Governor Pence's claim that the law he signed to protect religious freedom in Indiana says nothing about discrimination against gays and lesbians, and that was not the intent of the law is disingenuous.  I don't know the wording of the law, but from what I've read in the media, it certainly sounds like this law opens the door to a dominant Christianity whose members impose their beliefs on others by discriminating against them.

1 comment:

Daughter Number Three said...

I took a U of M adult ed class on the history of the Supreme Court, and one of the cases it covered was the one that inspired the federal RFRA. In theory the Bill of Rights protects religious freedom, but somehow the Supremes of the 1980s found that two native American guys who used peyote in a religious ceremony weren't entitled to unemployment payments after they were fired from their jobs for drug use (if I remember correctly, they were drug counselors).

So that's an example where the state (by withholding unemployment payments) was discriminating against a religion. RFRA was passed in direct answer to that case.

My understanding is that RFRA only applies to federal cases, though, and so some states felt like they needed to pass their own versions. The state laws general mirror the federal wording exactly or very closely.

Indiana diverged by adding in that corporations of all sizes are people, my friend, and that people can sue each other -- not just the government. Both bad ideas, in my opinion.